Summer fly-by

Summer fly-by

As the days get shorter and colder, you might notice the birdlife in our local habitats is changing. Many species are heading south now their breeding season has finished. For some, this might mean a short hop to sunnier climes, while for others this is a mammoth journey halfway across the globe.

While this means the departure of some of our iconic summertime species like swifts and some warblers, the changing season also heralds the arrival of other birds that breed in the far north. Now is the perfect time for a trip to the coast or nearby wetlands, looking out for waterfowl and wading birds beginning to arrive back on our shores.

Some of the species moving around at this time of year can be a bit of a surprise. Many starlings fly in from further north, adding to numbers already present here throughout spring and summer. This jump in numbers helps produce the fantastic murmuration displays, as huge flocks fly as one, twisting and turning before dropping down to roost.

For other species, our coastlines may just be a stopping off point. Some may stay here for the winter, while others look for warmer weather in southern Europe or Africa. Look out for turnstones, dunlin and grey plover on rocky shorelines, feeding on small invertebrates in the seaweed and amongst the pebbles.

Look out for smaller birds heading south, including flycatchers, redstart, whinchat and wheatear. The latter has two races which are seen in Britain. The local race will already be leaving, but Greenland wheatear will be passing through from their breeding grounds further north for another month at least.

Our lakes and ponds begin to fill with ducks and geese, ready to spend autumn and winter here. Smart-looking pintails, red-headed widgeon and striking black and white goldeneye will all be back with us soon. Numbers of tufted ducks, teal and shelduck all swell as breeding populations are given a boost.

On wetter farm fields, you might see lines of pink-footed geese grazing on grass and winter cereals.

Strong winds from the east can also bring unusual bird species that do not breed here, and only a few are seen each year, such as Pallas warbler or royal tern. So why not dust off your binoculars – you never know what you might find waiting for you as the seasons change!