Welcome to this, the first of my regular e-mail newsletters for subscribers to Birdwords. In this October 2011 edition you will find:
- A competition with the prize of a free copy of the recently re-released “Teach Yourself Bird Sounds” – a 2-CD set.
- Some birdwatching suggestions for October.
- Trip advance offer
- Recent trip reports
Would you like to win a free copy of the double CD set “Teach Yourself Bird Sounds – Gardens and Broad-leaved Woodland“? This series is generally regarded as the best birdsong tutorial available, with its detailed commentary, mnemonics and direct comparisons. There is nothing else quite like it.
Part of the ethos of Teach Yourself Bird Sounds is sharing innovative ways of remembering bird songs or calls. So the idea of this competition is simple. Just e-mail me your own favourite memory phrase, tip or other way of recognising any British bird song or call – the newer and more wacky the better. The best entry will receive their free CD set direct from me.
BIRDWATCHING IN OCTOBER
October is a great month for birding. The last summer visitors, often Chiffchaffs, Wheatears and Swallows depart, to be replaced by migrants from the north that are going to winter here, the comings and goings leading to a really excellent mix of characters around for everybody to spot. The best known immigrants are Redwings and Fieldfares, but continental Blackbirds, Skylarks, gulls, ducks, Chaffinches and even Robins and Song Thrushes come over in large numbers during October. Our benign winter conditions, with little frost or snow compared to the Continent, make Britain the wintering place of choice for a large number of species.
Birdwatching wise, one of October’s biggest delights is so-called Visible Migration, or Vis Mig as it’s often known. Visible migration is the daytime (hence “visible”) movement of birds overhead. Generally October migrants travel for the first hour or two after first light, during which time they fly in flocks on a very broad front, so can be seen almost anywhere – even your garden or local patch. The main species involved are finches, thrushes, pipits, wagtails, larks and buntings, while other Vis Mig specials include Merlin, Golden Plover and Lapwing. Once they have travelled for a short time, these migrants simply settle down until the next morning, meaning that they migrate in short hops, maybe just 50-100km.
The reason birdwatchers love Vis Mig is that you can see birds in incongruous places. Last week I was at Hengistbury Head, a coastal headland, and a flock of Crossbills flew over. Meanwhile, I have seen Siskins flying over shopping centres and have heard Grey Wagtail flying over my son’s school. I honestly sometimes wish that October could go on forever.
Being a transition month, October often features late summer visitors at its beginning, but by the end winter birds dominate. The first Bitterns and Water Rails arrive on winter sites, while geese and ducks increase in nunbers almost day by day. In the garden, the doldrums of September finally give way to a little more activity on the bird table by month’s end.
Have a great month.
FORTHCOMING FIELD TRIP OFFERS
New Forest Finch Safari – Friday February 10th 2012
A search of the New Forest for the 10 species of finch that usually winter there, including Hawfinch, Brambling, Crossbill and Redpoll. 10.30am-4.00pm, meeting at Cadman’s Pool, near Fritham.
This trip is limited to 10 participants usually paying £25 each. This offer for e-mail subscribers is the same trip at £20.
RECENT TRIP REPORTS
These reports refer to the trips that I run commercially. For more info, click on the Events section of the birdwords.co.uk website.
Blashford Lakes – 23rd September 2011
This trip took place during the recent warm snap, and both butterflies and dragonflies were out in force, among them good numbers of Red Admirals.
The mild conditions were also good for migrating Swallows and House Martins, of which hundreds passed over. Birds on the largest lake, Ibsley Water, were plentiful, and included a single Black-necked Grebe (in winter plumage), plus Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Yellow-legged Gull and plenty of wildfowl. Later on in the day we spent some time at the North Hide, where a Kingfisher perched for some time in full and extended view, and where we also get excellent views of
Green Sandpiper and Teal. We waited a considerable time for a Water Rail to appear, but it never showedd, possibly because a quite magnificent Red Fox was stalking around the same area.
Hayling Island, 30th September 2011
It was just too warm today for this trip to work well, and overall it was a little disappointing. It started well enough at The Ship pub car park, with several Sandwich Terns and Common Gulls sharing the mud with a large flock of Redshanks and a few Black-tailed Godwits; the Little Egret roost also contained 20+ birds. We walked to the Oyster Beds area and eventually got good views of many waders, including Grey Plovers in full summer plumage, plus a Bar-tailed Godwit. Oystercatchers were numerous here, and we were well entertained by 3 Wheatears in first-winter plumage. However, our trip to the south-west end of the island was notable for the large flocks of tourists and not many birds – the tea at the cafe was good, though!
Alresford area, October 4th 2011
This area turned out to be a treat, and our day total of 60 species would be good at any inland site, let alone a pretty unheralded one. Starting out at Alresford Pond, the main surprises were the astonishing number of Common Gulls (200+) and an early Redwing, along with lots of Shoveler and Gadwall and other wildfowl. Breaking out along the River, we got great views of Grey Wagtail, while nearby farmland had Red-legged Partridges and a large flock of Linnets. Some fish-watching revealed lots of Perch, Brown Trout and Grayling, and a Weasel took a short cut over the river by using an overhanging branch. Highlights along an afternoon circuit included Green Sandpiper, some excellent views of Yellowhammers, Bullfinches and an astonishing roosting gathering of some 22 Grey Herons.
Dinton Pastures Country Park, October 13th 2011
Fabulous weather contributed to an excellent day graced by no less than 61 species, again a very good inland tally. The clear skies allowed for a really remarkable moment in mid-morning, when above us, all at the same time, were 6 Buzzards, 4 Red Kites and 1 Peregrine, along with 3 high-soaring Grey Herons. Yes, in Berkshire! Other highlights included a flock of early(ish) Fieldfares, Skylarks and plenty of Siskins. Lavell’s Lake in the afternoon scored a hit in that a Barn Owl was sitting in a nearby nest-box in full view, and the sun was so strong that it made every bird, not least the subtly-patterned Gadwalls, simply looked soaked in bright colours.