Birds signal the first hints of Autumn

The dew glistens on the grass, the combine harvesters have done their work and the black bound silage bundles sit silently in the fields, the feeling of summer has lessened, and the first hints of Autumn tinge the leaves on the trees.

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipits are preparing for their long journey south

Flocks of Meadow Pipit flutter along in front of us as we walk along the beautiful Dava way, the young fresh plumaged birds, hatched just a few weeks ago stand out amongst the more faded and worn adults, their bedraggled and scruffy plumage a result of what appears to have been a very successful breeding season.

This group of birds are gearing themselves up for their long journey south for the winter, building up their fat reserves before heading off as one when the right weather conditions prevail.

Yellowhammer – “a little bit of bread and no cheese”

Chemical reaction – Yellowhammer

A male Yellowhammer blasts out his “Little Bit of Bread and no Cheeeese” song in a late flourish of passion, however this will fall on deaf ears as the time for nest building, eggs and chicks has long passed for the female and she sits in a nearby bush looking very uninterested.

At this time of year, the shortening daylight hours resemble the length of daylight encountered in Spring, this sets off a chemical reaction in the brains of some birds and they enter a “false” breeding season, hence why you will start to hear some birds in full song as we head towards Autumn.

Nothing will come of their efforts but for us it is lovely to hear again before the long winter days return.

Osprey – a firm favourite

Osprey scanning the shallow feeding grounds of Findhorn Bay

Findhorn Bay is the place to be to see Osprey for the last time before they too head south for the winter, the shallow tidal waters make the idea hunting grounds for these fish eating raptors (amazingly they survive their whole life exclusively on fish)

The best place to watch for them is either standing by the Bird hide or sitting on one of the benches looking over the bay nearer to the village.

Scan out over the bay, taking time to check all the post, poles and large bits of driftwood as birds will often be perched, eating their catch on one of these.

You may be lucky and see one dive in their famous outstretched talons pose before plunging into the water, a real spectacle of nature.


A gannet soaring the skies and (right) mid-dive

Staying in the location of Findhorn the newly repaired car parks (with height restrictions in place) offer easy access to the dune system and are an ideal place to view out into the Moray Firth, at this time of year have a look for Gannets as they feed in the bay, another bird with a breathtaking way to catch their prey.

Unlike the Osprey, Gannets still dive for fish, however they go in head first! Watch as they circle high above the water before plunging like a white arrow into the water, a truly amazing sight, they have developed special “shock absorbing” air sacs behind the bill to absorb the massive impact of this feeding technique.

Off to the Sahara!

Sand martins ready for the off

As we sit and watch the flocks of Swallows, House and Sand Martins feeding over our houses and gardens, building up their fat reserves before migrating down through Europe, across the Sahara desert to their wintering grounds we wish them well and “haste ye back” in 2022 whilst in the meantime my bird books lie open at the pages of sea ducks and waders as we enter the season of “Birds from the North” but more of that next time!

Until then Good Birding

Dave Slater, Birding Ecosse

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