September, 2011

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Wildlife Enquiries

'Good morning, Wildlife Enquiries...' We take hundreds of calls and e-mails every day. Find out what everyone's asking this week
  • September so far = seabirds and squabs

    We occasionally get asked the question 'why do we never see baby pigeons?' Well if the last few weeks are anything to go by, most people have now got the answer, you have to wait until September before they are out and about, or thats what it feels like as we have been inundated with queries about baby doves and pigeons (illustration of a juvenile woodpigeon below).

     Many people have been tempted to take them in or to try to feed them but this is really not a good idea, the best thing to do is to leave them alone and let their parents sort them out. Young pigeons or squabs as they are known, are generally left alone for considerable amounts of time as the parents go off in search of a crop full of food. They will return every now and then to feed their young so our advice is not to worry, the pigeons have it sorted! One additional thing that needs a mention is that many pigeons and doves will be nesting at the moment, so any planned tree or hedge work, especially evergreens like Lleylandii should be checked thoroughly before cutting and delayed if nests are discovered. It may seem late in the year for nesting but doves and pigeons have got their timing bang on, the autumn is a time of natural abundance with lots of seed, fruit and berries available providing ideal conditions to raise hungry young.

    Migration is going on all around the UK with large numbers of hirundines heading south, despite many others still feeding late broods. Don't worry, these still have plenty of time to catch up and if we get a mild few weeks they should be plenty of autumnal flying insects for them to feed on. Keep an eye for the large gatherings on overhead wires and even on your house as was featured in the news recently, have a look at the article here. As well as our summer visitors departing, wintering birds are turning up around the UK with pink-footed geese among the returning species.

    The stormy start to September had a very worrying impact on some of our seabirds with many species such as manx shearwater (image below), gannets and guillemots being reported 'wrecked' on beaches. This seasonal phenomenon usually coincides with periods of rough seas and often involves young seabirds that are simply not able to cope with the challenging conditions. Of the reports many have been from far inland with records from the West midlands and a tragic case of a gannet on the north Yorkshire moors which unfortunately did not survive. If you come across a stranded seabird inland, contact the RSPCA for assistance.

    Images available from RSPB Images

  • September update

    A busy start to the month for us in wildlife enquiries with plenty of unusual birds for us to help identify as well as the continued stream of reports about avian pox.

    Of the many bird sighting queries we have been having in the last couple of weeks, the wryneck has perhaps been the most intrigueing. This cryptically camouflaged member of the woodpecker family, see below illustration (RSPB images), is a passage visitor our shores these days, often turning up during the late summer and autumn months as they make their long journeys from their breeding grounds in northern Europe and Scandinavia back to their wintering grounds in Africa. We have spoken to a few people who have been watching these 'brown, woodpecker-like birds', most of them chuffed to bits when we identify them. As they are quite a scarce bird to the UK, please report them via the Birdtrack website. Let us know if you've seen one or any other interesting migrants on this blog or via RSPB Communities.

    Natural food has been a topic of many conversations recently, with many species of tree and shrub producing lots of berries and fruit. Some of it will already be attracting birds and other wildlife but some although looking nice and ripe, it will take the first frosts to soften it up for other birds. One tip is to save any apples or pears that have fallen for later in the winter so that birds have a high energy snack when other foods are difficult to find. When our wintering visitors like redwings and fieldfares arrive hopefully they will still have plenty to choose from. As for garden feeding, the autumn is a great time to think about getting back into the habit of regularly cleaning bird feeders. Despite the plentiful natural food around, a clean and well stocked bird feeding station is still likely to attract the residents like house sparrows. Make sure bird baths are kept clean at this time of year as well as there are some nasty diseases about, more information here.

    For those of you who are keen to get out and make space for anture in the garden, this time of year is great for adding climbers to patches that need greening. Honeysuckle, ivy and clematis can be great for wildlife as well as looking stunning so well worth considering if you have a wall or fence that needs that natural touch. Another labour saving tip for the early autumn is to think about leaving some areas of the lawn uncut through the winter, swathes of long grass can be great for invertebrates and expect to see birds making full use of them for foraging. Check out for our Homes for Wildlife project for tips on lawn management for wildlife and if you really feel like a challenge have a go at creating your own wildflower meadow.

    Many species are moulting right now so expect to see a few tatty looking birds around. This signifies the end for the seasons breeding behaviour for many species but some species are still getting frisky! Of course i'm mostly referring to the woodpigeons and collared doves who seem to be nest building, cooing and battling over mates all over the place. Anyone planning tree or hedge work on evergreens take note, there could be an active nest nearby so be sure to check prior to starting. As many of our prickly friends will be hibernating soon, try to create some wild corners that could attract a hedgehog, a few logs, twigs and raked leaves could be just the ticket for these gardeners friends.

    Enjoy the Indian summer whilst it lasts!