The pied flycatcher. / PETER JONES

A time of transition

Some wintering birds are already arriving in southern Spain and others are expected en masse very soon

PETER JONES

After the excitement of bird migration during August and September, this month can produce the ultimate in anticlimax for those with a penchant for observing our local avifauna. It is a time of transition, a time when many of our summer visitors have left for their winter holidays in Africa and a time when we anxiously await the arrival of those northern migrants that come here to spend the winter with us.

Of course, we have some spectacular resident birds to keep us satiated, but it feels like our birding landscape is strangely empty of birds. Still, those of us in the know will be comforted in the knowledge that many birds will arrive en masse very soon. Robins will be appearing in gardens, white wagtails will be here in big numbers and spreading throughout the region and black redstarts arrive in large numbers occupying not just open areas in the countryside, but also favouring urban areas.

Whilst I am filled with an optimistic anticipation and excited for the arrival of some of my most favourite birds, I am also worried for the arrival, usually in big numbers, of such seabirds as the gannet. Will these large and magnificent birds be here in anything like their normal wintering numbers? Or will the devastation caused by avian flu in their breeding colonies mean we will not see them as regularly in big numbers as in past winters?

Certain wintering birds are already arriving; most notable in my garden is the blackcap and we are involved in a cat and mouse game of who can get to ripening figs first, me or them. Since they are active earlier in the day than me, they are winning the battle! And as I write, there are still some migrants passing through and pied flycatchers are keeping me entertained in the garden and the surrounding area. Soon large flocks of finches will be filling the void left by our departing summer residents and my landscape will once more be filled with the sounds of gathering birds.