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Autumn migration of birds provides a wonderful spectacle for twitchers, says Rippingale naturalist




At the risk of depressing you, I have to inform you that the autumn migration of birds is in full swing, says Rippingale naturalist Ian Misselbrook.

For birdwatchers this is a very exciting time of year and it can produce some wonderful spectacles as well as the possibility of finding a rarity.

You will have noticed that most of the swifts have already departed. They were late arriving this spring and when they finally appeared, they faced a shortage of insect food due to the cold and wet weather that we endured in May. In some years most of the swifts will have gone by the end of July, but this year the late start to the nesting season led to many still feeding young in the nest well into August.

Wood sandpiper
Wood sandpiper

The migration of wading birds is one aspect of migration that we can easily witness. We are fortunate in having a number of sites close to Stamford and Bourne where migrating waders can be observed. Flooded gravel pits are excellent and many can be viewed from roads. In addition, there are a number of nature reserves such as Deeping Lakes and Baston Fen which are managed to attract both migrating and breeding birds.

Venture a little further and there are the two excellent reserves on Rutland Water; Egleton Bird Watching Centre and Lyndon Hill. Egleton is particularly good for migrating waders and wintering wildfowl. If you head east the RSPB’s reserve at Frampton Marsh, five miles south of Boston is widely acknowledged as the best reserve for wading birds in the whole of the UK. On a recent visit I saw 21 species of wader in just a few hours and on another day the wardens recorded 26 different waders.

Migrant hawker
Migrant hawker

So, what can you expect to see? The gravel pits and remnant fen areas close to us will have oystercatchers, lapwings, redshank and little ringed plovers some of which will have nested there. Their numbers will be augmented by dunlin, godwits and several species of sandpipers. Common and green sandpipers are almost guaranteed, but with luck you might find something less common such as a beautiful wood sandpiper.

A little ringed plover
A little ringed plover

Late August and September is not too late to look for insects either, butterflies such as comma, speckled wood and painted lady can be abundant and day flying moths such as the hummingbird hawkmoth and silver Y might visit your garden flowers. Dragonflies are still active too and early autumn is an especially good time to see the migrant hawker.

Ian Misselbrook
Ian Misselbrook


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