Autumn in Ardnamurchan
Autumn in the Ardnamurchan is a magical time, full of glorious colours, wildlife on the move and the rutting of the red deer. The rutting season is truly amazing with magnificent stags competing for the attention of a harem of hinds; the air is filled with roaring, grunting and clashing of stags. A great time for walking in Ardnamurchan, Moidart and Lochaber, or simply enjoying the stunning scenery blazing gold in the Autumn sunshine.
Stunning September and October - The Arrival of Autumn and the Rut
September heralds in the first signs of Autumn. The hitherto verdant landscape becomes tinged with the reds, purples and golds, whilst the heathland glows pinks in the Autumn sunshine.
The resident woodland birds crowd onto the feeders as they start to feed intensively during this period to build up reserves for the winter. Coal tits flit back and forth from the feeding stations as they cache food in secret hiding places. Screeches echo throughout the woods as jays as collect and cache numerous acorns. The red squirrels are busy foraging for hazelnuts, acorns and beechnuts.
Further afield, swallows, house martins and sand martins are seen initially swirling in small groups and then later in larger and larger groups in preparation for their migration to wintering grounds in trans and sub Saharan Africa.
The breeding season for red deer begins at the end of September and peaks in October. The stags return to the home range of the hinds and start to engaging in combative displays of dominance which involves roaring, parallel walks and fighting.
Redwings, fieldfares and Continental blackbirds arrive in late autumn swelling the local population of thrushes. The redwings and fieldfares form mixed flocks and are frequently seen in fields or devouring rowan and holly berries on mass.
September and October are great months for a fungal foray as the mild, damp weather promotes the emergence of an array of fruiting bodies. Fungi can be found in a variety of habitats but are well represented in the coniferous and deciduous woodlands of the West Highlands.
By the end of September, most of the summer migrants have departed, including the warblers (whitethroat, wood warbler, willow warbler and grasshopper warbler), wheatear, whinchat, tree pipit and spotted flycatcher, as well as whimbrel, common sandpiper and the hirundines.
By October, Autumn is in full swing as evidenced by the increasing dominance of yellows and oranges which gradually replace the hitherto palette of greens as leaf senescence takes place involving the breakdown of chlorophyll in deciduous trees to reveal other pigments. The rich greens of holly, Scots pines and other evergreens stand out sharply against the reds and purples of berries providing a sharp contrast in this glorious golden landscape.
Flocks of geese and swan are frequently heard honking overhead as the winter migrants, including whooper swans, white-fronted geese and barnacle geese arrive in the local area, and the summer migrants depart. Flocks of goldeneye and tufted duck appear on Loch Shiel.
Towards the end of the month, leaves start to drop off like confetti in the wind as the deciduous Atlantic oak woodland transforms into its winter attire. Acorns and beech nuts patter down from the trees.