Richard Birch, from the Chilterns Group of volunteers at the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust has itchy feet
WHATEVER the calendar says, it’s autumn! That means migrant birds are on the move and I’ve got itchy feet to go and see them.
It’s a particular point in the year when the birds that visited us for the summer to breed are departing, while those who come to enjoy our mild winter climate are about to arrive.
Then there are those who just wander around the country, possibly sussing out potential new territories; and others just passing through on the way from their Arctic breeding grounds to their tropical wintering areas.
Any of them can turn up at a Wildlife Trust wetland reserve such as College Lake, and anyone can see them with a little patience and perhaps some guidance from the helpful birding volunteers who are there at weekends.
Large flocks of swallows and martins are heading south, often feeding over the open water, though some may linger for a few more weeks. Less visible are the warblers like blackcaps and chiffchaffs. These little birds gorge on hedgerow fruits to sustain them on their trans-Mediterranean adventures. Look out for the acrobatic hobby snacking on dragonflies before heading south as well.
This is the time when passage migrants can turn up, literally passing through. These could include waders such as dunlin, ruff (pictured at College Lake) or greenshank that may stay for a day or two, or as little as an hour for a quick refresh before flying onward to their wintering sites.
From late September the first winter visitors will arrive: small groups of snipe quietly moving into the muddy margins of the islands, and bustling groups of wigeon bobbing their colourful heads and whistling merrily as they upend in the shallows.
Late October brings redwings and fieldfares in from Scandinavia to devour rose hips in the hedges. If the weather turns really cold, waxwings will make their dramatic appearance in our gardens and car parks to feed on rowan berries.
With luck you’ve had your fill of sunny days and snoozing in the garden, on the beach or by the holiday pool – now’s the time to migrate to a BBOWT reserve near you. Visit www.bbowt.org for ideas and information.