FIVE TO FIND in Novem­ber

Bird Watching (UK) - - Your Birding Month -

IN SOME WAYS, Novem­ber is nei­ther one thing nor the other. It is still au­tumn, but mi­gra­tion is much slower than in Oc­to­ber. And it is on the cusp of win­ter, but with­out the po­ten­tial freeze of the turn of the year. Birds are still com­ing and go­ing, though, so there will be a few good­ies to look out for. Here are five.


Golden Plovers are up­land, north­ern breed­ers in the UK. In the au­tumn and win­ter, how­ever, num­bers are greatly swollen by birds from the con­ti­nent, un­til there are ap­proach­ing half a mil­lion in the UK. Like many waders, they like to feed in groups. Un­like many waders, though, they are of­ten found in large flocks in­land on agri­cul­tural fields (of­ten with Lap­wings). Smaller than the sea­side hug­ging Grey Plover, Golden Plovers are also no­tably ‘golden’. Search­ing through large flocks can pro­duce one of the rare ‘lesser’ golden plovers (Pa­cific and Amer­i­can).


Scaup are rel­a­tively un­com­mon win­ter vis­i­tors to the UK (c12,000 birds), with most birds com­ing to the north, such as the Mo­ray Firth, the Firth of Forth, and the Sol­way Firth. Smaller num­bers win­ter else­where and odd in­di­vid­u­als or parties may turn up at in­land water bod­ies dur­ing the month. Slightly larger and more rounded headed than Tufted Duck, with no crest, re­stricted black on bill tip and of­ten a white blaze on face, as well as grey feathers on the back, all help iden­tify out of place Scaup.


No­to­ri­ously se­cre­tive, the Water Rail is, like the Cetti’s War­bler, one of those wa­ter­side birds which are vastly more of­ten heard than ac­tu­ally seen. This is a shame, be­cause Water Rails are de­light­ful lit­tle char­ac­ters, beau­ti­fully marked but also very pleas­ingly shaped. They are much smaller and slim­mer than Moorhens and may oc­ca­sion­ally creep out from con­ceal­ment among the reeds, par­tic­u­larly in the cre­pus­cu­lar hours, re­veal­ing their sub­tle and beau­ti­ful colours. Oth­er­wise, you are more likely to sim­ply hear the weird and won­der­ful screech­ing calls, which can sound un­nerv­ingly like some­one is pes­ter­ing piglets in the reedbed.


Novem­ber is a time when ju­ve­nile Shags tend to go wan­der­ing and may turn up at un­usual sites, such as in­land lakes, reser­voirs and rivers. Ju­ve­niles are brown all over with a small white throat patch and rel­a­tively fine bill (com­pared to a Cor­morant’s) and usu­ally a steep, high fore­head. They are much smaller than Cor­morants which helps pick them out; and they are usu­ally much less in­clined to flight when they see hu­mans, of­ten be­ing pos­i­tively ap­proach­able and fear­less.


Con­sis­tently one of the na­tion’s favourite birds, the Barn Owl is an in­stantly recog­nis­able beauty. The Barn Owl is the only white owl you are likely to en­counter in the UK and even a glimpse in your car’s head­lights can be enough to iden­tify one. How­ever, they may also come out when there is plenty of day­light, so you may get to watch one pa­trolling field edges and rough grass­land in the mid­dle of the day.

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