With the kids back at school and the nights drawing in, it’s fair a conclusion that “summer” has had its day.

Indications that autumn is just around the corner can be seen along the coast, with many wading birds that flew north to breed in the Arctic now making the return journey.

Places such as the Hunterston sands make good vantage points to see a build-up in shorebird numbers. In fact, some species like knot, dunlin and sanderling have been arriving since July.

They head north in May and don’t hang around in these northern parts once the important business of raising a family is complete.

Some will stay here for the winter, while others continue their southwards migration and end up in Africa or even farther.

Among the long distance migrants is an attractive wading bird called the ruff.

It gets its name from the flamboyant ruff-like neck plumage which the males grow prior to the breeding season.

In late summer, ruff start to appear in Scotland and seem to like muddy pools where they use their long beaks to probe for food. According to reports from the last few days, many are already being seen in suitable habitats and numbers of these southward-bound migrants are likely to increase during September.

Hunterston is also a wintering ground for another migratory wader, the bar-tailed godwit. Godwits are larger than ruff, and have a long, slightly upturned beak, ideal for probing in the soft mud. My colleague Calum Corral took the accompanying photograph of a ‘bar-tail’ with a group of oystercatchers on Cumbrae on Tuesday evening.

If you want to get to know the various wader species, which are sometimes tricky to tell apart, anywhere along the shore to the south of Fairlie is a good place to start getting to grips with this fascinating group of birds