After a few weeks volunteering at RSPB Sandwell Valley, usually on a Tuesday, I found that this was the day when, once every few weeks, the tanker comes to collect the waste from the septic tank! That got me thinking, what does all the wildlife make of the smells on the reserve? I love going round the reserve smelling the flowers, but do all the animals and plants smell things as well?

(oystercatcher and coot)

Through their sense of smell, squirrels can detect which nuts that have been invaded by insects. They will eat these nuts, but the do not hoard them in caches.

Scientists do not all agree about birds’ sense of smell. Some think that birds as diverse as sparrows, chickens, pigeons, ducks, shearwaters, albatrosses, and vultures are able to smell. However they have found that starlings deliberately place the green leaves of certain aromatic plants in their nests specifically, it appears, to keep parasites such as lice at bay.

(ring-necked parakeet)

A butterfly's antennae, legs and many other parts of the body are studded with sense receptors that are used to smell. The sense of smell is used for finding food (usually flower nectar), and for finding mates (the female smelling the male's pheromones).

(comma butterfly)

Snails and slugs have a sense of smell. The lower tentacles (which are on either side of the mouth) stretch out in front of the snail as it moves enabling the snail to find food. They also use their sense of smell to find their way home, following their slime trails.


What about plants, do they have a sense of smell? Well, they have receptors that allow them to respond to chemicals in the environment. So this means they can coordinate their fruit ripening and their change of leaf colour in autumn.

So why not have a sniff around when you are next at RSPB Sandwell Valley. You will not be the only one!

- Sue