−−− BY LINDA JENKINSON −−−
It’s the start of autumn migration and, over the next few weeks, birds will be flying to their winter feeding grounds from as far north as the Arctic circle. Some will pass through the UK, many will remain here for the winter months and those that travelled to Britain in the spring to breed will make their way back to southern Europe and Africa.
Also moving are species that we class as residents to the UK. The term ‘resident’ only means that a species is found throughout the year; it doesn’t mean that individuals are sedentary, although some are. Each year, during autumn migration, many of our breeding robins, thrushes, goldcrests and finches move south for the winter. Some may only move a few yards while others may go as far as France. The reason why we notice more resident birds during the autumn and winter months is that there are a lot of juveniles around and some of our resident species are migratory in northern Europe. Look closely at your garden blackbirds this winter. Male migratory blackbirds have a darker beak, slightly longer wings and a more muscular appearance than our British born blackbirds.
As smaller birds move, they tend to latch onto feeding parties of more common birds, such as tits and finches, which gather to feed in the autumn and winter months. Therefore, it is possible to find something unusual feeding with other birds in your garden or on your local patch.
Make sure that you look at all the birds in the flock. It is possible to come across species such as chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap, goldcrest, firecrest, redstart, spotted flycatcher and lesser spotted woodpecker. In wetland habitat, scan the edges of ponds and lagoons for small, sleeping wader species sitting amongst moulting ducks.
Good luck and I hope you find something special over the next few weeks.
Linda Jenkinson teaches people about birds in and around Leeds. For details of classes email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07778 768719. Visit www.startbirding.co.uk or Start Birding on Facebook and Twitter.