October is a month when change is in the air.

That’s actually a bit of a daft thing to say, since in nature things are varying constantly; however, at this time of year the changes can be very obvious.

The nights are drawing in, the air seems to be just that little bit cooler and sharper, and our wildlife is getting geared up for the coming winter (sorry, but winter is on its way).

Many birds migrate between their breeding grounds and wintering areas. Some, like Arctic terns, will fly thousands of miles on migration. Others are less ambitious – there are species of grouse in the US which basically walk a few hundred metres down the road.

Slavonian grebes fall somewhere between these two extremes. These birds breed around shallow lakes in northern Europe, including a tiny breeding population in the north of Scotland, and then move to sheltered waters on or near the coast for winter.

If you’re lucky, you might spot a Slavonian grebe still in its brilliant breeding plumage, with red-brown and black body and outrageous golden-yellow tufts on the side of the head.

These latter features give rise to the alternative name of horned grebe.

However, you’re more likely to see them in their drabber winter colours of black and white; although this plumage does have the advantage of emphasising the bird’s bright red eye.

Slavonian grebes are underwater experts, having evolved a streamlined shape and feet placed far back on the body.

These features enable a sudden dive in order to catch the fish and invertebrates that form the bird’s diet.

Many wading birds have a (sort of) similar approach to migration.

Knot breed in high Arctic tundra, but many thousands spend the winter around UK coasts, where they feed on worms and other invertebrates.

Like the Slavonian grebe, a summer plumage knot is a sight to see, with its brick red chest and face, and speckled upper parts.

Sadly, like the grebe, most knot we see will be in winter garb. This means that they will appear as smallish, roundish, greyish birds; rather difficult to spot on a rainswept Scottish shoreline.

The knot has a habit of feeding close to the water’s edge. As a result, its scientific name is Calidris canutus, since it seems to defy the incoming waves – in the style of King Canute.

It may be that the name knot has the same derivation, although this may also refer to the bird’s call.

Knot have incredibly sensitive organs in their bills which enable them to detect invertebrates in sediment simply by detecting changes in water pressure. This means that they can effectively sneak up on their prey.

Imagine having all that and being named after a Viking warrior king – that’s pretty impressive.

Forthcoming Ranger Service Events: Autumn Goose Watch – Wednesday, October 11 (5pm to 7pm), Aberlady. Join the ranger as thousands of pink-footed geese return to the coast to roost. Booking is essential and the event is for those aged 16 and over. For details, see eastlothian.gov.uk/rangerservice