Now’s a great time of the year to get out and see some won­der­ful au­tumn mi­gra­tion

Bird Watching (UK) - - Marvels Of Migration - WORDS: MATT MER­RITT

As in spring, east coast sites can be par­tic­u­larly good places to look for mi­grants, as birds stop off on their way south from Scan­di­navia and the Arc­tic, or from east­ern and cen­tral Europe, and oth­ers are blown ashore by sea­sonal gales. But there are great au­tumn mi­gra­tion sites through­out Bri­tain. Why not try one of these?

1 Ynys-hir RSPB

Renowned as a site for spring song­sters, this re­serve on the Dyfi es­tu­ary can also be spec­tac­u­lar in au­tumn, with the ar­rival of White-fronted and Bar­na­cle Geese (pic­tured above) along­side Teal, Shov­eler and Wi­geon. Waders will in­clude large swirling flocks of Golden Plovers, plus Lap­wings and Curlew, and keep an eye out for pass­ing or win­ter­ing rap­tors – Ospreys breed nearby but also fish along the es­tu­ary and nearby pools while on mi­gra­tion.

2 Mins­mere RSPB

An­other East Anglian clas­sic, with scarcer birds such as Wry­neck and Red-backed Shrike al­ways more than pos­si­ble, along­side reg­u­lars such as Ruff, Curlew, Brent Goose, and Bewick’s Swans (which tend to ar­rive in late Oc­to­ber). There are of­ten impressive Star­ling mur­mu­ra­tions over the reedbeds, and Bearded Tits roam the reeds – lis­ten for their tell-tale ‘ping­ing’ call. All this, and rut­ting Red Deer, too!

3 Spurn

Bri­tain’s most renowned au­tumn mi­gra­tion hotspot – look for com­moner species such as Pied Fly­catcher and Red­start, which can pour through in large num­bers, plus ‘falls’ of passer­ines, in­clud­ing rarer birds, in the right weather. These can in­clude the likes of Barred War­bler, Hoopoe and Red-backed Shrike. Large num­bers of waders such as Knot and San­der­ling will be present, too, and seabirds pass by, so take a scope.

4 Port­land Bill

Jut­ting out into the English Chan­nel, this is a great place to watch pass­ing seabirds such as Arc­tic Skuas and shear­wa­ters, as well as passer­ines who are fun­neled down the nar­row neck of land be­fore mak­ing the dan­ger­ous flight across the sea. Great re­serves nearby in­clude Radipole Lake and Lod­moor, and there’s a bird ob­ser­va­tory, too, visit: bit.ly/2btizyy

5 Pagham Harbour

Fancy a change from the bet­ter-known (and ad­mit­tedly won­der­ful) Dun­geness? This site, in West Sus­sex (and nearby Church Nor­ton and Si­dle­sham Ferry) has la­goons that at­tract waders, in­clud­ing scarcer species such as Curlew Sand­piper, but it’s also ter­rific for passer­ines, with the likes of Red­start and Wheatears paus­ing here to wait for the winds that will carry them across to the con­ti­nent. Selsey Bill, nearby, is an ex­cel­lent seawatch­ing spot.

6 Cley Marshes NWT

The north Nor­folk coast, of course, is leg­endary for mi­grants, thanks to its ge­o­graph­i­cal po­si­tion. The scrapes sup­port large num­bers of waders, such as Dun­lin and Black-tailed God­wit, and search among the for­mer for the likes of Pec­toral Sand­piper. Marsh Har­ri­ers will be over the reedbeds, which in au­tumn and winter are home to Bit­terns and Bearded Tits. But any­thing can turn up, both on the re­serve or just off the ad­join­ing beach (look for Snow Buntings and Shore Larks).

7 Loch of Strath­beg RSPB

This north-east Scot­land site is a great place to see huge flocks of Pink-footed Geese and Whooper Swans ar­riv­ing – some stay put, while oth­ers grad­u­ally spread fur­ther south dur­ing the winter. But look for other wild­fowl, such as Pochard, Wi­geon and Gold­en­eye, plus Bit­terns, and rap­tors are at­tracted, too – ex­pect Pere­grine, Mer­lin, Hen Har­rier and Short­eared Owl.

8 Strang­ford Lough

Huge num­bers of pale-bel­lied Brent Geese are among the main at­trac­tions here – up to 90% of the global pop­u­la­tion winter here, ar­riv­ing from Arc­tic Canada, and check among them for Black Brants, which of­ten tag along. Look for the likes of Black-throated Diver and Slavo­nian Grebe out on the water, too, plus scarcer ducks such as Red-breasted Mer­ganser, Pin­tail and Scaup. Grey Seals and their pups should also be vis­i­ble on is­lands in the lough.

9 Slim­bridge WWT

Pec­toral Sand­piper, a transat­lantic va­grant, is a reg­u­lar au­tumn vis­i­tor here among the more fa­mil­iar species, such as Dun­lin and Curlew Sand­piper, while a va­ri­ety of war­blers plus Wheatears and Whin­chats use the grass­land ar­eas. Bewick’s Swans may start to ar­rive from the end of Oc­to­ber (de­pend­ing on the weather), while equinoc­tial gales can drive all sorts of seabirds up the Bris­tol Chan­nel and Sev­ern – from Gan­net to Leach’s Pe­trel.

10 Your own patch!

If you can’t get away from home this au­tumn, don’t worry! The thing about mi­gra­tion that gets over­looked by many bird­watch­ers is that it takes place all around us. Gath­er­ings of hirundines are likely to be the most ob­vi­ous signs, but look for larger than usual num­bers of common birds, such as Black­birds and Robins, as birds ar­rive from Scan­di­navia and the Con­ti­nent. Bet­ter still, go out and do a vis­i­ble mi­gra­tion watch – turn over to find out how…

Pale-bel­lied Brent Geese

View­ing tower

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