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Autumn Diary 2017

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I always say that, depressingly, autumn for me commences with the return wader passage which gets underway in earnest as early as July. This year the autumn weather started in July too and we have had very few really warm summer days since then. I suppose the feeling of autumn was compounded by the early cereal harvest with most of the wheat here in Lincolnshire cut before the end of August with Winter Barley and Oilseed Rape all harvested much earlier than usual.

However, despite August being so cool, rainfall in this area, was about average, which seemed to encourage our Swifts to stay a little longer. In the wet summer of 2012 I hardly saw a Swift after the end of July, but this year there were still a few Swifts in my village on the 26th of August and stragglers on the coast in early September.

Autumn wader migration is always eagerly anticipated by birders with some returnees still sporting colourful breeding plumage. If you visit some of the wader hotspots such as the RSPB reserves at Frampton Marsh and Titchwell or the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Reserve at Gibralter Point, you can expect to notch up a tally of over a dozen wader species in a day, with a good chance of finding a rarity. Frampton, as usual hosted its fair share of rarities including on one day two Pectoral Sandpipers as well as Red-necked Phalarope, Curlew, Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers.

Great White Egret

A variety of Heron and Egrets seem to be colonising Britain. Little Egrets are already well established and the much larger Great White Egret is now a very regular visitor to the eastern counties and it is breeding in the Somerset levels. Cattle Egrets are breeding in some localities too and Spoonbills nest in North Norfolk. After the breeding season Spoonbills disperse and can be encountered almost anywhere on the east coast of England.

Great White Egret


Autumn is also great for migrant passerines and I managed to catch up with several of the "chats". Wheatears pass through from July right through the autumn from their nesting grounds on northern moorlands and mountains. Stonechats, a heath and moorland specialist, winter in this area and usually arrive in pairs. A Whinchat in my local fen was a nice surprise.

Black Stork

It is always good to find birds on your own patch. Unfortunately, I did not find the real rarity of my local patch, but I did manage to see it during its' brief stay. The bird I allude to was a Black Stork. I believe that this was only the second record for Lincolnshire and this one appeared only a mile or so from my house.

Rare Black Stork causes excitement
for tractor drivers in the Lincolnshire Fens!

Most rarities don't excite non-birders, but something as large as a Black Stork is bound to attract attention and even the local tractor drivers could not resist trying to get a photograph of it with their mobile phones. The nearest population of Black Storks is in eastern Germany, but I am more familiar with this spectacular bird from holidays to Greece and Bulgaria.

Bearded Tits

A reedbed specialist which is easier to see in autumn is the Bearded Tit or more correctly named Bearded Reedling as it is not actually a Tit. These birds nest in reedbeds and for the spring and summer months are mostly hidden from view. However during the autumn family parties can be located by their metallic "ping ping" calls and with a little patience they can be watched feeding at the top or flying rapidly over the reeds. Don't wait for them to sty still if you want a photograph as these energetic birds never seem to stop moving!

Migrant Hawker

September and October can be good months for dragonflies and butterflies if we get some warm sunny weather. The Migrant Hawker is one of my favourites and fortunately, still very common. Southern Hawkers and Common Darter Dragonflies could still be seen in my garden during warmer days in late September and today in mid October there are still Common Darters around my garden pond. Of the butterflies both "Cabbage" Whites and Red Admirals are lingering and freshly emerged examples of Comma and Speckled Woods can still be found.

Ian Misselbrook

October 2017

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