September, 2013


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
  • Pigeons and wigeons

    Given the surprised reaction we get when we tell concerned members of the public that it is normal to find baby pigeons at this time of year it would seem that many people expect all bird breeding to be done and dusted by now! Not so, the pigeon family especially capitalise on the abundance of seed at this time of year to raise young at a time of natural plenty. From personal observations it looks like woodpigeons and collared doves have had a great year this year, I was watching a recently fledged woodpigeon this morning, it flew straight at the kitchen window, veering away at the last minute. Whether this was the result of window sticker or the huge garden spider web I couldn't say, but it was good to see him land safely on the fence! So if you are tempted to do some tree pruning now, take care to have a check for nesting birds before you get started.

    Another group that may still be breeding are the hirundines, swallows and house martins specifically. Is it too late for them to make it south, hopefully not! In a good summer they try to raise at least two broods but this year may have enabled some to have three and many that arrived late will still be on their second. Whilst many have already moved south, there will be a steady flow out of the UK over next month or so and any recent fledglings will be feeding up and hoping to join other stragglers on the mammoth journey south. It is normal for the parents to ship out before the young, they often stick around, roosting at the nest site feeding as much as they can before heading off when they feel the time is right.

    Whilst the swallows are heading away, the wintering birds are starting to be seen and heard. I was out at Fen Drayton last week and it was great to be out in brilliant sunshine with the whistling of wigeon filling the air, fantastic sound! It was great to see a great white egret there among the wildfowl and waders as well.

    As September comes to an end and we move into October, what was your wildlife highlight of September and what are you hoping to find in October?

  • What to do on a wet September weekend?

    So it looks like a bit of a washout for much of the UK this weekend, at least part of it. So what to do when it's raining, stay in and watch the football, read a book or brave the threatening showers to get out in the garden or venture out to spot some critters? I plan to be doing the latter but from a slightly different perspective than normal, i'll be floating about on a surfboard, which can be a good way to see seabirds and seals! What are your plans? How about these ideas?

    Go Birding! So what would be worth looking out for this weekend? Migrant birds pinned down by stormy weather should provide plenty of excitement at coastal and wetland reserves. Wader movements are well underway and a day spent trying to decipher one from another is a day well spent! Keep an eye out in grazing pasture as well, you might just spot some yellow wagtails, wheatears and even in gardens you might possibly spot one of the wrynecks that have been turning up in recent weeks! If we get a bright spell between the showers keep an eye out for clouded yellow butterflies, it's getting late in the season now but there is still a chance.

    Go plant shopping! At this time of the year many garden centres have reduced various plants that have finished flowering so it's a great time to save a few pennies whilst adding some great features to the garden. September is a decent time to be planting climbers so keep an eye out for varieties of honeysuckle and clematis in the bargain sections as when they establish and grow up walls and trellis they will provide an attraction to birds and various insects. It's also a good time to think about planting bulbs for spring so that early emerging bees have got some nectar to feed on. Crocus are very attractive and very popular with bees so adding some to your lawn or flower beds comes highly recommended!

    Make some jam! This year has been a bumper year for many berries and fruits, it's such a good year the birds stand no chance of them getting around to eating them all so get out there and take a few and make something tasty!

    All the rain will bring out the slugs and snails, why not get out with your torch one evening, and an emergency poncho just in case, and see if you can spot any hungry frogs, toads or hedgehogs snuffling out a slimey supper!

    Have a good one whatever you get up to!

  • What lies ahead

    In between blogging and moderating forums i'm in the thick of answering all of the emails, calls and letters that come to the RSPB. We're a small team here in wildlife enquiries and we are generally busy all year round. However we have peak busy times and quiet spells just like any other job and we usually look forward to a chance to take stock, catch up and prepare for the next big effort as summer turns to autumn, I don't think we are going to get a chance this year! Why not I hear you say, well because there are loads of big issues going on such as these 3 below for a start!

    1. Giving Nature a Home - Hopefully all of you will know of our campaign, we're fielding loads of enquiries from keen nature enthusiasts looking for ways to help improve their gardens for wildlife which is fantastic and we hope this continues! It is one of the best parts of our job to be able to speak with and help fellow nature enthusiasts deliver positive steps for nature. When we hear back from people we have helped and they have had success, it's the best reward we can have! Interested in finding out more check out our advice pages here.
    2. Fracking - To be precise, hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. We have publicly raised concerns about this relatively new form of fossil fuel exploitation given the potential impacts on sensitive sites for wildlife, the efforts to combat climate change and the suitability of our planning structure to assess such developments. We think this precautionary approach is vital to ensure that these issues are given the correct attention. More information can be found on our website here.
    3. Badger cull - Despite overwhelming public opinion against the cull and major doubts over the scientific validity of it, the governments trial badger cull is now underway. We maintain our position of not allowing culling on our land and continue to vaccinate badgers at our site near to the cull zone. To find more about the RSPB's stance on this please read here.


    We're also preparing ourselves for the onslaught of queries that occur every autumn which are pretty varied. From the lack of birds, which I covered in the last blog, to where to watch rutting deer, what migrants are doing, what can we do to help bring our birds back, to my favourite queries at this time of year, which shrubs to plant as autumn to winter is the best time to get out there and plant some bare rooted plants that will give nature a home for years to come!

    What are your plans to help wildlife this autumn?