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.
...it's oh so still!
Or is it? We've been having a pretty varied array of enquiries recently regarding garden birds and their activity. Whilst there are many people out there who are calling to say they are filling their feeders many times a day to feed bands of species, often sparrows, we are also speaking to many people for whom bids are hard to come by, even the ever presents species have done disappearing acts. Are either unusual for this time of the year we have been asked, our answer has been the same for both, not at all!
I remember writing this blog here a couple of years ago discussing the reasons why birds can be hard to spot in gardens during the late summer and autumn months, this year we are looking at bumper berry crops, loads of fruit, healthy acorn supplies and many insects are having a good year. In short, birds have plenty of natural food to have a go at and they instinctively know to take advantage of this. Don't worry though they will be back later in the year.
However, for those who have not seen this drop in activity, don't worry, your birds have not forgotten how to behave naturally, they are just taking advantage of a source of food and a safe place to eat it. Whilst many birds adopt a roving foraging approach post breeding season (blue and great tits for example), some of them will stay close to home range where they know their is sufficient food. Even really sedentary species like the house sparrow adopt different foraging approaches depending on where they are. In some places you will see some using the hedgerows as corridors to take them a mile or two away from their home range to forage on seeds spilt in farming processes or insects in the margins whilst others stick around the garden area using bird feeders and feeding on the insects found in most gardens. I was watching the local sparrows, robin and chaffinches splitting their time between the seed feeder and the emerging flying ants!
We often get asked about the dawn chorus and why birds are not singing anymore, often people are concerned that something bad has happened to them. Thankfully in most cases it isn't something to worry about. The peak time for birds singing to proclaim ownership of territory and to attract in mates is between March and June. After this period things go very quiet as birds are busy tending young or have completed their breeding season and moved off to foraging grounds where they have no need to sing over territory and are not thinking about mating anymore! However, not all birds are quiet, i'm listening to a robin at the moment! They can sing through the year as they hold a permanent territory, maybe going quiet for a time during the late summer and autumn moult but otherwise they are one of our most prolific songsters. Have you heard any other bird song recently? Let us know who is singing where you are!