I am writing this month’s edition of the Wildlife blog from a very windy isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. I’m here for a week with Ross & Buddy Dog. We drove up through Skye which was showing signs of autumn colours: crispy brown ferns, swathes of faded bownish-purple heather across mountain-sides, slate grey seas. Tree-less Harris, though, is more barren making it harder to see the obvious changes I’d normally associate with September in the Scottish Borders. Before we left there were red rowan berries dripping from trees, tinges of yellow and orange on the outermost leaves of some trees, the first piles of fallen leaves, and blackberries and rosehips in the hedgerows. There were green acorns on the trees promising future feasts for squirrels and jays (grey squirrels are happy to gobble up the green acorns, whereas the red squirrels prefer to wait for the nutty brown ones). I imagine that by the time we return there will be more of these colourful changes.
There were still a fair few pesky midges going about on Skye, but the strong winds driving in from the sea on Harris have more or less driven them away. One good thing about the change from Summer to Autumn is the end of the midges for another year. I always forget just how irritating they are in between experiencing them!
I’ve been learning about the differences between Common Seals and Grey Seals since we’ve been here. We’re staying just south of Tarbert in an area called The Bays. Lots of the little bays have frankly enormous, very chilled-out-looking seals basking on the rocks. We’ve also seen quite a few friendly faces bobbing above the waves. Yesterday when we were talking round a headland on the west coast there was a very persistent, big-eyed, friendly looking fellow who tracked us the whole way round. The coastlines of Harris and Lewis have both Common and Grey Seals. I think our friend from yesterday was a Common Seal. He was very handsome with a pale grey coat mottled with darker patches and rings. The Common Seals are at the end of their breeding season (June – August). Their pups are born slinky and dark grey, ready to take to the seas. The Grey Seals are just gearing up for their breeding season which can start from mid-September and lasts through to November. Their pups are fluffy and white. They stay above the tideline for the first four weeks of their life as the stormy autumn seas rage out of reach.
The Autumn Equinox happens later this month. This is the time when night-time and day-time are roughly equal in length. From that point we tip into the dark months and summer becomes a distant memory. We are closing the curtains noticeably earlier in the evening already. September also brings that wonderful fresh clean autumn air that feels like tonic for the lungs.
Here on Harris we are battling strong winds and the wettest rain I’ve ever experienced, bookmarked by spells of bright sunshine, so I hope you are all enjoying some more moderate September weather wherever you are!