Spectacular autumn in Scotland

Today we’re highlighting some of amazing wildlife spectacles you can see in Scotland in autumn, including the fierce deer rut, thousands of migrating geese and much more. Of course, many of us aren’t able to get out and about to see all these wonders this year. So if you’re one of those number, these autumn wildlife wonders are especially for you!

Pink-footed geese at Loch Leven NNR. Copyright Lorne Gill/SNH.

Geese – Several species of geese migrate as far as 3,400 miles to reach Scotland for their winter feeding, before returning to more northern climes in the spring to breed. At Loch Leven, October sees a mass migration of pink-footed geese from Iceland, with as many as 20,000 to 25,000 geese at peak times, while at Caerlaverock, the entire Svalbard population of 40,000 barnacle geese stay on the reserve for the whole winter.

Barnacle geese at Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve. ©Lorne Gill-NatureScot

Red deer – The roar of red deer stags across a Highland glen is one of the most evocative sounds of the season. Red deer are Britain’s largest land mammal and stags can be seen and heard roaring from late September onwards on nature reserves from Ben Wyvis in the north to Cairnsmore in the south. The fierce rivalry between stags to mate with the hinds usually starts with roaring, posturing and thrashing the ground, before moving to a shoving match with clashing antlers.

A red deer stag roaring during the deer rut. ©Lorne Gill-NatureScot

Red squirrels – Who can resist watching red squirrels, as they prepare for winter, hiding food in scattered places to prevent it being pinched by other animals? At this time of year, red squirrels are on the ground more as they collect and bury fallen nuts and seeds. They also eat fungi, brambles and rosehips in autumn. Red squirrels are diurnal mammals, so with the shorter days we more likely to see them as we are out and about at the same time as they are scavenging for those nuts. These charismatic characters grow their bushy winter coats in autumn, ready for the cold nights ahead.

Red squirrel. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Grey seals – Autumn is an important time for grey seals, as large groups of pregnant grey seal females return to traditional breeding sites on rocky coasts to give birth. Grey seals are only found in the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea and the Barents Sea. As one of the rarer seal species worldwide, its entire population is around 400,000 individuals. About 40% of all grey seals live in UK waters – and about 90% of this number breed at colonies in Scotland. Grey seals pup on the Isle of May form October to December with almost 2,500 pups born, making it among the most significant grey seal nurseries in the UK.

Grey seal pup, Tentsmuir NNR, Forth and Borders Area. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Salmon run – Part dweller in freshwater, part traveller in salt, the Atlantic salmon is a true survivor. It starts its life in the headwaters of its natal river, before eventually venturing to sea. It then travels thousands of miles to its feeding grounds in the North Atlantic off Greenland, evading predators at all stages before eventually returning to the same river in which it was born – and even the same stretch of the river with amazing accuracy, to spawn in autumn.

A male Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) leaping up a waterfall, River Almond. ©Lorne Gill-NatureScot

Fungi – With autumn comes cooler nights and frequent showers, making it the best time of year for fungi to thrive. Fungi like huge penny-buns, golden chanterelles and bright red fly-agarics appear like magic overnight in the damp woodlands. Learn more with our guide to Scottish fungi.

Fly agaric, a fungi growing in woodland. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

There are plenty of ways you can help nature this autumn as well. We have lots of practical, easy tips in our Make Space for Nature campaign to help wildlife thrive in autumn and all throughout the year. Spending time in nature is also a wonderful way to help take care of your own mental and physical health; it’s proven to reduce stress.

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