This year sees the first RSPB Big Wild Sleep Out! Basically this weekend we are holding loads of events and encouraging as many people as possible to spend a night out under the stars (or cloudy skies which may be more apt!). Spending the night outside is a great way to connect with nature, you hear and see things which just don't notice at other times. Tempted to join in? Have a look at the sleep out site here for more information.
If you cannot bring yourself to spend the whole night out, why not just take a torch with you and go for a late night safari around your garden, don't worry about what the neighbours will think, get out there and have a look! I've been popping out after dark this week to see what is about, the lavenders and rosebay willowherb have been attracting macro and micro moths, the star of the show being the silver Y, at one time I counted 8 on a single bush! The frogs have also been around at night, patrolling the borders chasing the healthy slug population (good job lads!).
This weekend is also the National Moth Night (although it's over 3 nights 8, 9 and 10 August) so get out there with a torch and a white sheet, a moth trap or a tasty (to moths) sugar or wine solution and see what you can tempt down. Ideas on how to do this can be found here.
Listen out for the strange sounds of the night as well, you may hear the hoots of tawny owls, the snuffling and grunting of hedgehogs or the eerie barking of the neighbourhood foxes. You could try putting a dish of dog food down to see if you can tempt one of your local hedgehogs in for a tasty snack, although the more dog food they eat, the more snails and slugs will be left to munch your veg!
Enjoy the weekend and let us know what you get up to and what you see or hear!
This July has been great for wildlife watching and we have been really busy talking about where to go to see various spectacles as well as the usual July gull fledging shenanigans. Earlier this month my colleague and I went up to Scotland to deliver some training to our teams in Scotland, we managed to fit in a trip to Fowlsheugh before the long trip back. This was a good call, the cliffs were jampacked with kittiwakes, many feeding young as well as razorbills, guillemots and fulmar. We spotted a few 'jumplings' (this years young that have grown to a stage where they are ready to leap into the unknown to continue their development at sea) in the sea far below with their parents in close attendance, ever wary of the patrolling gulls. We also managed to spot some puffins as well, you can't help but smile whilst watching this clown of the sea! If you are up in the Aberdeen area please pop along to the reserve and also drop in and say hi to the staff at our Dolphin date with nature at the Torry Battery by Aberdeen harbour, you get some great views of these awesome creatures as well as some seabirds such as sandwich terns, eider ducks and shags.
We also came across this busy yellowhammer doing it's best to feed it's young tucked away nearby in a gorse thicket...
...which brings me on to another frequent line of inquiry we have had this July, insects, especially butterflies and moths. These chicks were eating well with plenty of fat green caterpillars heading their way, given the proper summer weather over the last few weeks it has been much easier to spot some of our other winged wildlife, what have you noticed this summer? If you can spare some time over the next few weeks, make a note of the butterflies you see and record them as part of Butterfly Conservations Big Butterfly Count. I was lucky enough to spot some white admirals recently as well as loads of the more common species like meadow brown, gatekeeper and ringlet.
The storms have eased concerns for many about the impact of the heatwave on wildlife. Our advice is to make sure that a shallow bowl of water is made available to give birds and other wildlife somewhere to drink and bathe when necessary if the hot conditions continue.
This is a question we always get asked at this time of the year and its one with a few possible answers!
Firstly, for many birds we are coming to the end of a hectic breeding season. After all of the battling for territory, courting mates, finding nesting material, gathering food for young and chasing off predators, it is no surprise that some of the birds are looking a little worse for wear. Late summer is the time to moult all of the worn and damaged feathers to be replaced with a shiny new set that will keep the birds well insulated through the cold winter months. During the moult, which takes a number of weeks, birds change their ways, becoming quiet and reclusive. They don't want to expose themselves to predators whilst they do not have a full set of flight feathers which would make them much more vulnerable. They will still be around but skulking under hedges.
Another major event for birds at the end of the breeding season is their change in distribution. Many birds that have been holding a territory now have no need to secure this as their young have departed. This enables birds to leave their breeding haunts and head to areas where they can find food, possibly joining feeding flocks and being very mobile. You may see flocks of finches in open land, tits and warblers in mixed flocks in woodland and hedgerows and mistle thrushes can often be found in large flocks. Some of our migrant breeders may have already completed their breeding season and are now heading south, stopping off at sites to feed as they prepare for the long trip to the wintering grounds.
Natural food is also a key reason why many garden birds are not venturing into gardens or taking food that has been provided. During the late summer and autumn months there is a huge amount of food available for wild birds which is an irresistible attraction to even sedentary birds like house sparrow. The trusty spadger rarely moves more than a mile or two from its home range but in the summer when harvested crops create lots of seed and many shrubs are producing berries and seeds, short movements to local hedges and fields are common. Other species like blackbirds and starlings are also elsewhere as they take advantage of the fruit, berries and insects that can be found. If you have a hedge with a crop of berries coming, make sure you don't trim it until the birds have had a chance to eat the berries, late winter cuts are the way forward.
These seasonal changes occur every year but changes in the bird world can be subtle. However, in some years these changes are highly visible and it can be worrying for all garden bird lovers. Don't panic, you have not done anything wrong, they are doing what comes naturally and they will be back in the next couple of months when they have a full set of feathers, have found their winter ranges and the natural food has started to decrease. In the meantime, provide some food for any birds that stick around or pass by, keep the bird bath full and clean and look out for the other garden wildlife that the autumn brings in abundance such as butterflies and spiders!