Autumn migration

Pink-footed Geese by Dawn Balmer

Migration is often not so obvious in the autumn as it is in spring with summer visitors ‘disappearing' gradually, often without notice. Winter visitors tend to arrive over a longer time period and are not in such a rush as spring migrants; the urgency of the breeding season is not there. It's a really exciting time though, with winter thrushes, flocks of geese and swans arriving and the dispersal of raptors to their wintering grounds.

Recording the departure dates of migrants is often considered more difficult than noting arrival dates. By submitting lists regularly to BirdTrack we will be able to get a clear picture of the timing and pattern of departure of summer visitors. The table below gives the latest departure dates for summer visitors in Hampshire, West Midlands, Leicestershire, Lancashire and Shetland. For up-to-date information on a wider range of species and regions see Maps and Reports.

Table 1: Selection of latest departure dates of summer visitors  

Species
Hampshire
West Midlands
Leicestershire
Lancashire
Shetland
Garganey
27 September
2 October
19 October
-
-
Montagu’s Harrier
2 September
-
-
-
-
Osprey
13 October
-
15 September
-
-
Hobby
9 October
7 October
12 October
-
-
Quail
24 August
25 August
1 August
-
-
Stone Curlew
5 October
-
-
-
-
Little Ringed Plover
18 September
3 October
20 September
16 September
-
Wood Sandpiper
23 September
-
19 September
20 September
-
Arctic Skua
26 October
-
-
-
2 October
Sandwich Tern
26 October
-
-
10 October
-
Common Tern
25 October
10 October
5 October
22 October
30 September
Arctic Tern
6 October
-
14 September
12 October
13 October
Little Tern
2 October
-
-
15 September
-
Black Tern
9 October
-
3 October
8 October
-
Turtle Dove
6 October
25 September
16 September
-
21 October
Cuckoo
15 September
6 September
10 September
1 September
6 September
Nightjar
9 September
24 August
-
-
-
Swift
4 October
27 September
25 September
9 October
17 September
Wryneck
23 September
-
-
-
22 September
Sand Martin
15 October
12 October
6 October
3 October
25 September
Swallow
27 November
4 November
2 November
13 November
17 October
House Martin
21 November
2 November
20 October
3 November
13 October
Tree Pipit
3October
23 November
-
-
9 October
Yellow Wagtail
21 October
12 October
5 October
5 October
1 October
Nightingale
23 August
1 August
-
-
-
Redstart
15 October
27 October
25 September
11 October
26 October
Whinchat
31 October
8 October
30 September
18 October
25 October
Wheatear
9 November
18 October
8 October
3 November
1 November
Ring Ouzel
29 October
27 October
-
31 October
24 October
Grasshopper Warbler
16 September
28 August
17 August
-
-
Sedge Warbler
12 October
29 September
7 October
30 September
24 September
Reed Warbler
20 October
28 September
27 September
12 October
7 October
Lesser Whitethroat
3 October
23 September
26 September
21 September
25 October
Whitethroat
6 October
29 September
22 September
16 October
6 October
Garden Warbler
1 October
14 September
16 September
24 October
23 October
Wood Warbler
25 August
27 August
-
-
26 September
Willow Warbler
8 October
7 October
12 October
11 October
20 October
Spotted Flycatcher
3 October
29 September
27 September
5 October
7 October
Pied Flycatcher
28 September
11 September
-
26 September
14 October
 

There is a paucity of information regarding the arrival dates of winter visitors and this is where your contributions to BirdTrack can really help. Few bird reports give long-term average arrival dates, those for Hampshire and West Midlands are shown below but you will see there is no information available for scarcer species.

Table 2: Average arrival dates of winter visitors  

Species
Hampshire
West Midlands
Bewick's Swan
2 November
-
Whooper Swan
-
-
White-fronted Goose
15 November
-
Scaup
28 October
-
Long-tailed Duck
6 November
-
Velvet Scoter
1 November
-
Hen Harrier
27 September
-
Merlin
28 August
-
Purple Sandpiper
9 October
-
Jack Snipe
30 September
28 September
Water Pipit
16 October
31 October
Fieldfare
2 October
2 October
Redwing
28 September
28 September
Great Grey Shrike
20 October
-
Brambling
6 October
11 October
 
Olive-back Pipit by Dawn Balmer 

For many birdwatchers, autumn brings with it excitement and anticipation. If the winds blow from the east during September and October will there be a good arrival of far eastern species like Pallas's Warbler, Radde's Warbler or perhaps something rarer like a Pechora Pipit? Birdwatchers in Ireland and the west of Britain will be closely following the weather maps looking for fast moving depressions moving across the Atlantic that could bring an arrival of American vagrants like Red-eyed Vireo, Buff-breasted Sandpipers and rare thrushes and warblers.

Birdwatching inland during the autumn can also produce some good birds with Pied Flycatchers, waders and terns moving through. It's worth spending some time looking at tit flocks as these often harbour warblers like Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Even rarer species like Yellow-browed Warbler are sometimes found amongst tit flocks in October and November.

Spring migration 

Seasonal movements