Autumnally Speaking

Officially we have entered into the autumn season. The leaves on the trees are beginning to change colour and fall – hence the American word for autumn.

Summer has gone and the birds have shaken off the responsibilities of parenting and partnerships (or brief marriage). From autumn onwards every bird has to fend for itself, find its own food and shelter. Each species finds its own salvation, some join flocks and other migrate to a warmer climate.

The Autumn Migration is a great natural phenomenon. On a clear day swallows and house martins can be seen lining up on overhead lines ready to fly to Africa. The great exodus or flight south is not a spectacular fly-by. Although it is worth watching the show in Gibraltar, if you have a fortnight to spare. Normally migrating birds fly over a ridge or small range such as Combe Gibbet in dribs and drabs over about 3 weeks..

All birds give great pleasure even when they leave or enter the country and autumn (and spring) is the season when the great changeover takes place. Winter thrushes should arrive in September.

Everyone should be able to identify these visitors to farm land in the Hungerford area.

On the right is a picture of a redwing. It is smaller than a fieldfare and has a patch of red under its wing – hence the name. If you are lucky and see a flock in a field then the eye stripe makes recognition easy.

The RSPB state 13 redwings bred in England this year and 9 million are expected to visit us this Autumn. The redwing is about the size of a song thrush.

The picture on the left shows the fieldfare. It has a grey head and back. Both sexes are identical. This bird is about the size of a Mistle thrush and is often found on grass land in autumn.

It spends the summer and spring in Scandinavia where it breeds.

Apparently there are less than a million due to visit this year but I think this statistic is only a guide.

Actually I question the accuracy of this statistic because of all the fieldfares I see on the Lambourn Downs throughout the Autumn and Winter. Incidentally, they will eat fruit in your garden, if there is a harsh winter, so leave some on the ground.

Richard Barker aka Hawkeye

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