Autumn is the season to watch one of nature's most
intriguing birds - the Capercaillie.
It's also a good time to watch bats
before they disappear for their winter hibernation when they enter a state of
Image - RSPB Images/Desmond Duggan
Capercaillie is a member of the grouse family which depends on Scotland's Caledonian
Pine Forest for its survival.
The bird's numbers have been dropping dramatically
with a decline of 20,000 to less than 1,000 birds since 1970.
The bird feeds
mainly on blaeberries which also provide important spiders and caterpillars.
these birds are rare, there is a chance that you might see them in their natural
habitat if you follow our top tips.
place for Capercaillie watching include Glen
Tanar (Cairngorms, Scotland).
worth a visit: Rothiemurchus estate (Cairngorms), Abernethy
Forest and Loch Garten RSPB Reserve (Cairngorms).
* Join a Caper Watch
in a forest hide. Abernethy Forest reserve in Scotland runs a Caper watch.
Look out for a very big turkey-sized bird - the Capercaillie is the largest grouse
in the world. Its name means 'horse of the forest' in Gaelic.
Walk or sit quietly and don't forget to use binoculars to scan the landscape.
Watch for the bird's large black shape and a flash of its white rump.
Watch for the birds crashing their way through the woods at great speeds.
Capercaillies can sometimes be seen eating Scots Pine needles in the trees.
Watch out for the Capercaillie 'lek' or dance when male birds strut their stuff
in the hope of getting a mate. The best time to see the 'lek' is during the season
* The Capercaillie can sometimes
be seen on the forest tracks at Glen Tanar estate (Cairngorms) indulging in dust-bathing.
Don't forget to stay on designated tracks and don't disturb the birds unnecessarily.
are 16 species of bats which can be found in Britain, coming from two main families
- Rhinolophidae (Horseshoe Bats) and Vespertilionidae (Vesper or Evening Bats).
are unique in that they are the only mammals that are able to fly.
also use echoes from their high frequency ultrasonic calls (echolocation) to locate
their prey and to communicate.
Autumn is a great time to watch bats before
they disappear for their winter hibernation when they enter a state of torpor.
During the winter bats hibernate in trees, caves or buildings, sometimes
coming out to eat and drink.
Good places for
Bat watching include Dalby
Forest (North Yorkshire).
worth a visit: Lost
Gardens of Heligan (Cornwall), Crom
(Northern Ireland), and Cheddar
main species of bat in Britain are:
* Common Pipistrelle Bat
- one of the most common varieties renowned for its fast and erratic flight and
small size. Look for them flying at about six feet along habitat edges. Nests
in trees, bat boxes and buildings. Emerges about 20-30 minutes after sunset.
Daubenton's Bat - also common but medium in size and distinguished by its fast,
straight flight, sometimes over water and along habitat edges. Emerges 40-50 minutes
* Natterer's Bat - another medium sized bat with a fast and
agile flight pattern, flying over habitat edges and sometimes low over water.
Noctule Bat - relatively common, large bat with fast, straight flight above trees.
Common in open habitats and characterised by its steep dive when hunting for food.
Emerges 5-10 minutes after sunset, occasionally before.
* Greater Horseshoe
Bat - a rare species found mainly in the south of England. This large bat has
a slow, fluttering flight close to the ground. Its calls are hard to detect, even
with a bat detector - but listen for a loud warbling. Tends to emerge about 40-50
minutes after sunset.
* Serotine Bat - this bat is found commonly in southern
England and is large in size with a fairly slow flight pattern. Look for them
above roof height, sometimes flying in a loop close to vegetation.
Bat - a small bat found rarely across England and southern Wales. Watch for it
flying fast near vegetation and along habitat edges. Emerges 30-60 minutes after
* Brown Long Eared Bat - common throughout Britain, this medium
sized bat with large ears roosts in trees and old buildings. It is characterised
by its slow flight pattern - look for it occasionally hovering in vegetation.
Tends to emerge about 45-65 minute after sunset.
* To watch bats and
identify them, you'll need to do your homework or join a bat guide on a specially
* Look for the size of the
bat, its flight pattern, level of flight, habitat and time of emergence.
Common bat habitats include woodland, country estates with wooded areas, and habitat
edges close to vegetation and smooth water.
Caves, old buildings and tunnels are also popular with some species of bat including
the Greater Horseshoe Bat (old buildings and caves) and Daubenton's Bat (tunnels,
stone buildings and bridges).
* Bat detectors are important devices in
helping to identify bats in the wild because each different species has its own
* There are several different
types of bat device including the heterodyne detector which can be used tuned
to the frequency of the ultrasound used by the bat.
* Another listening
device is the time expansion bat detector which records the ultrasound of the
bat, then slows it down to assist audibility, and enables the information to be
displayed on a sonogram or graph.
* Join a
bat watching group - the Bat Conservation Trust can provide details of over 90
local groups across Britain.
* Find out more
about bat behaviour - the Field Studies Council produces a bat guide with detailed
information on flight patterns and call frequencies an durations:
* Remember never to interfere with a bat and its habitat. It is illegal to
disturb or handle a wild bat.
image copyright and courtesy of RSPB Images and Desmond Duggan.
Bat copyright of RSPB Images and Chris Shields. Greater
Horseshoe Bats courtesy of Natural England and Martin Hammett.
image courtesy of Glen Tanar estate.