The beginning of October can prove either incredibly exciting or very frustrating if you happen to be a birdwatcher. While it is the time of the year when most of our migrants are on the move, the prevailing weather conditions ultimately dictate where and when they might turn up. If the winds are from the west then Norfolk’s east coast is unlikely to turn up anything unusual. If, however, the wind is from the east and there is overnight rain or fog on the coast, then huge numbers of migrants may make landfall, delivering a veritable feast for the birdwatcher.
This autumn has got off to a good start and there have been some good numbers of migrants reported from across the county. Most have been familiar and expected species, like wryneck, yellow-browed warbler and red-backed shrike, but there have been one or two less common species. More of the action has been taking place further north, however, particularly in relation to rarities, and it has been the Northern Isles, Shetland and Orkney that have hosted the best birds so far. Included in these have been a number of American species, transported across the Atlantic within the fast-moving tracks of autumn storms.
October is traditionally the month when many birdwatchers head west, journeying to Cornwall and on to the Isles of Scilly. These small islands provide the best opportunities for catching up with some of the rarest vagrants and they also provide the added benefit of some late season warmth, extending the summer for a few more weeks. For the more hardcore birdwatchers – those seemingly more interested in the number of species they have seen – the autumn migration becomes a bit of game. Should they remain on the mainland, ready to dash to Norfolk or head to Scotland, or should they base themselves on the islands, where a rare bird might only make a fleeting visit before disappearing, never to be seen again?
As someone who is more interested in watching the birds on my local patch or in engaging with a bird within its wider landscape, autumn is a less pressured, more enjoyable affair. I can savour what happens to come my way and if it does come? Well, then it doesn’t matter.