Autumn bird migration

Fieldfare (c) GLA
Fieldfare (c) GLA

This lovely photo of a fieldfare illustrates beautifully the sorts of sights we can expect to see over the coming months. Flocks of swans and geese arriving at our shores and the disappearance of swallows are among the events we may witness this autumn, with many of these processes already well underway. Overall, it is thought that around half of the bird species in Britain migrate at some point throughout the year.

Autumn migration of birds in the UK involves saying goodbye to our summer visitors, which will find much higher numbers of insects in their southern destinations. These include swallows, which leave us around September/October to return to South Africa after breeding over here. House martins, raptors, redstarts, nightingales, cuckoos and swifts also head south. As pointed out in BTO’s Bird Migration Blog, migrating birds tend to prefer to travel along the coast for as long as they can during their migration, before they are forced to cross the open seas, a very convenient phenomenon for bird-watchers.

The autumn migration also involves greeting species that will move from colder parts in the north to the milder UK for their winter, such as pink-footed geese, Bewick’s and whooper swans and winter thrushes (such as fieldfares and redwings). Passage migrants may also be seen. They stop off in the UK during their long journey to other destinations and include species such as green sandpipers.

Many sites across London provide a good platform to witness these migrations. The London Natural History Society (LNHS) run lots of walks in search of birds, with a few coming up that will head to Crossness, Wandsworth Common and Hampstead Heath. Take a look at their website for further details. The Thames in general also provides a highway for many birds. It may not have the same expanses of floodplains and marshes as it did in the past, but it is still a vital habitat for numerous bird species. And do remember to let us know what you see on our website, bird or otherwise!