Oct-Nov: It’s all about migration

I must admit I tend to get drawn away from Herefordshire during October as visible migration on the Severn really gets going however great things can be seen in the county during this period.
The Redwing and Fieldfare invasion has begun! These two northern berry eaters usually start to make landfall on the east coast of Britain in the last few days of September and early October with the main push for redwings in the middle of the month and fieldfares a little later. This year the 12th October signalled a change. High pressure over Scandinavia and light north east winds carried the first of these strong migrants to the east coast with Yorkshire and East Anglia seeing good numbers.
A frontal system bringing rain down from the north reached Flamborough Point in east Yorkshire mid-morning on 14th just as the main Redwing parties started to arrive from across the North Sea after their overnight haul. This concentrated them along a narrow band and during the morning and afternoon around 32,000 of this russet arm-pitted migratory wonder poured through alongside around 4,000 of their larger cousins.
By mid-week there were counts of up to 6,000 at two locations on the Severn estuary with many birds passing over into Wales. On Wednesday morning I managed a brief count from Sellack with around 340 redwings and 20 fieldfares over within 1 ½ hours.
Keep an eye to the skies in the early morning for high flying flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares that have recently arrived from Scandinavia and even Russia. You may occasionally notice much darker birds amongst the flocks if you get good views, these may be the north Icelandic race Coburni. The Redwings you see in October and November may continue to Ireland, France or even Iberia if food runs short or prolonged hard weather arrives. This can trigger mid-winter hard weather movements.
Another species pouring into the U.K. in numbers in October and early November is Starlings. The large murmurations seen over Hereford and Wellington may well include a high percentage of Continental birds. Flocks can regularly be seen flying east to west over Herefordshire during this period often having made landfall around east Yorkshire and the Wash.
As I write this on 17th October I have just come back from a morning on the east bank of the Severn near the old bridge having watched over 2000 Chaffinches with a few Bramblings moving through. Give those winter Chaffinches around your feeders a second look, and wonder at the fact many of them could have been hatched or bred in Scandinavia, travelled south along the North Sea coasts of Holland, Belgium and France, crossed the channel into East Anglia, Kent or further along the Channel coast before moving north west across Britain to the relatively mild climate of the west of the U.K.
These are truly fascinating months so get out and look to the skies, the Woodpigeons will be starting soon and not much beats migrating woodies!

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