There’s plenty of wonderful wildlife to enjoy in Scotland and each month of the year can offer you something different. This blog is all about the sights you could see across the country in January.

What to see in Scotland this month

Throwing your head back and suddenly kicking out your feet while whistling loudly is certainly one way to get the attention of the opposite sex.

I probably wouldn’t recommend you try it on your average Saturday night out, but it works well for one of Scotland’s more showy species - the goldeneye. 

Goldeneye male displaying, Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

This striking and pretty unique behaviour is part of the courtship display for the male goldeneye and is best seen in Scotland in winter (usually January and February). The male duck will throw its head right back while letting out a loud rasping whistle and kicking out its feet to churn up surface spray – all in the hope of impressing and attracting a mate.

A good place to spot this species is on our Abernethy nature reserve and they’ve also been seen at RSPB Scotland Mersehead.

Goldeneye male displaying, Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

But it’s not just courting ducks that are out in force in the chillier months - January is an excellent time of year to see gannets in Scotland, as they start returning to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. Gannets are Britain’s largest seabird and numbers here peak at over 150,000 making it the single largest gannet colony in the world.

Gannet adult with chick at Bass Rock, Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

Not only is the sheer number of these birds impressive, but did you know that when diving for food gannets can hit the water at more than 60 mph?! They have specially developed neck muscles and a spongy bone plate at the base of the bill to reduce the impact, as well as special membranes to guard their eyes. 

Red squirrel, Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

Red squirrels are also a good species to try and spot in January – these mammals don’t actually hibernate they just become less active in winter. Next time you’re out on a woodland walk cast your eyes skyward and you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of red squirrels in their ‘mating chase’ with several males scurrying after a female.

Estimates suggest there are roughly 121,000 of these charismatic little fellows in Scotland, many of them in Aberdeenshire and Tayside.

So all in all January is a great time of year for spotting some of Scotland’s most special wildlife and if you fancy braving the recent weather it’s definitely worth seeking out!

And don’t forget we have our Big Garden Birdwatch coming up on the weekend of 24 and 25 January which is an excellent way to spend a spare hour counting the birds, mammals and reptiles that visit your garden. Sign up here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/

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