Welcome to Birdwords e-mail update for September 2012. In this message:
- Birding in Late September and Early October
- Details of forthcoming field trips
- Details of forthcoming lectures
- Brief trip reports
- A blog from South Australia and Tasmania
Birding in Late September and Early October
Now is one of the most interesting times of the whole year to go birding, so do get out if you can. As I write, here on the south coast, there are reports of large numbers of Swallows and House Martins migrating over purposefully, and if you look up you will probably see some overhead too, just above rooftop height. It might be interesting to remind you that, while our Swallows are known to be going to the Cape region of South Africa, where exactly in Africa House Martins go is still a mystery. Somewhere, in the African sky, 30 million or so seem to vanish on their journey from Europe to Africa, only for them to return here in the spring. In recent years the mystery of where Cuckoos and Swifts go has been solved, but the whereabouts of winter House Martins are still unknown.
Most mornings from now until late October you could well hear the brisk “sipp-sipp” calls of Meadow Pipits as these, too, begin to move. Nobody is quite sure these birds come from, but they may be individuals from uplands in Wales, Northern England and Scotland moving south. Another species moving a great deal is the Pied Wagtail, and at least some of the birds you detect are probably Continental “White” Wagtails coming over from Iceland – and if you’re lucky you can see and hear both Grey and Yellow Wagtails passing over, too. In the next few weeks, there will be movements of Chaffinches, Linnets, Goldfinches and other seed-eaters almost every morning pretty much everywhere in the country, so look and listen out for these.
Of course, once October strikes, some classical winter birds will begin to become widespread. Once you have seen your first Redwing or Fieldfare, or the first Brent Geese or Red-breasted Merganser on an estuary, there is a feeling of inevitability to the colder and shorter days coming. However, you might be surprised to learn that some birds are in the breeding mood. Rooks and Sparrows, for example, frequently pair up in October, and will form lifelong bonds. Song Thrushes, too, sometimes pair up this early, although that happens less often.
Despite the decent to shorter days, bird song will actually increase now after its late summer lull. Apart from Robins and Wrens, you will probably hear Dunnocks beginning to sing soon, and some of the individuals performing will be females because, like Robins, both sexes hold territories. Other singing birds include Starlings, Woodpigeons (which can breed all year), Collared Doves and, towards November, Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes too.
Details of Forthcoming Field Trips
I shall be running a number of day trips this autumn, which are open to all. If you are interested in coming then hurry, because most are nearly booked up. For more details, click What’s On:
Day Trips – open to all, £15 per person. 10.30am to 4.00pm
Hook with Warsash, Hampshire – Thursday 8th November
Hayling Island, Hampshire – Thursday 15th November
The Vyne, Basingstoke, Hampshire – Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd November
Burton Mill Pond, West Sussex – Friday 30th November
Wisley RHS Gardens, Surrey – Thursday 13th December
Wednesday Mornings in Dorset and Hampshire – open to all, £7 per person per session. 10.00am to 12.00 pm
November 7th – Tarrant Rushton Airfield, Wimborne
November 14th – Thorncombe Wood, Dorchester
November 21st – Radipole Lake, Weymouth
November 28th – Moors Valley Country Park
December 5th – Fritham area (New Forest)
Details of Forthcoming Lectures
I am giving a variety of talks in different locations this autumn. If you are in the area, it would be wonderful to see you. Copies of my books are available at all lectures. With Christmas (almost) approaching, it could sort out one or two gifts! (See also below).
The dates and locations are as follows. For details, please click What’s On.
Tuesday October 23rd – Birds Behaving Badly – Painswick Bird Club, Gloucestershire
Wednesday October 24th – Encounters with Remarkable Birds – Chesterfield RSPB, Derbyshire
Thursday November 1st – Birding a Local Patch – Camberley Natural History Society, Surrey
Friday/Saturday November 2nd/3rd – TBA – Wimborne Book Festival, Dorset
Monday December 10th – TBA – Arundel WWT Supporters’ Club, West Sussex
Brief Trip Reports
Summer is now a memory, but here nevertheless is a very short summary of what we have seen on some recent(ish) trips.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the spring and summer was a local Wednesday morning trip to Radipole Lake on May 23rd. After getting great views of Reed, Sedge and the local speciality Cetti’s Warbler, plus Bearded Tit, we happened to be there on the right day to superb views of the rare visiting Great Reed Warbler, singing its usual fitful, throaty song. While waiting for a singing Lesser Whitethroat, we then looked up to see 4 White Storks sailing over – an incredible sight. Stodmarsh on June 1st was a very different trip, but also spectacular. The undoubted highlight was seeing food-passes between male and female Marsh Harriers, the latter bringing food in. The female rose from the nest, flew under the male and, just as the provider dropped the offering, the female turned on its back in mid-flight and grabbed the food in its talons. This we saw several times, while simultaneously up to eleven Hobbies were feeding at once in the sky.
Otherwise a number of trips were quite damp, to say the least. Cheesefoot Head on May 10th was wet, windy and foggy, with a summer plumage Golden Plover almost making up for it. Other good birds included several Hawfinches at Fritham on June 13th, Woodlark at the Devil’s Punchbowl on June 19th, and both Goshawk and excellent Honey Buzzards at the Raptor Rapture trip in the New Forest on July 19th.
Blogging from South Australia and Tasmania, October 2013
I am setting off on a press trip to Australia on October 1st, taking in some pretty spectacular wildlife. If you are interested, do please follow my blog, which will be on the front page of the website. It will be updated regularly, but not every day – the sites we are visiting will sometimes be remote. It should be fun, so do feel free to follow it.