Chris Farthing’s Woodberry bird highlights: October 2018
October can be a frustrating month for birding here at Woodberry Wetlands. Whilst it is the month when more very rare birds turn in the UK than any other, these birds are almost all around the coast and especially on the more remote British islands. Though things are more mundane on a small inland site, bird migration during October usually brings in a few interesting sights.
One unusual spectacle which has been seen frequently here this month has been the sight of two pairs of great crested grebe (main picture above) courtship-displaying very close to one another. One pair will start to display and it sets the other pair off, who then display as if they are involved in some sort of dance-off.
Factors which affect bird migration such as fullness of the moon, clearness of the sky, and favourability of the wind often come together to create a bumper day for migration. The morning of October 28th was one such day. Many flocks of thrushes came through, with around 700 fieldfare and 150 redwing (picture 1 below) being counted as well as large flocks of migrating woodpigeon and starling. We even had a flock of 48 lapwing fly over, only the second sighting of this species here in 2018. Other migrating birds seen were two flocks of jackdaw totalling 140 birds on the 20th, and a small flock of meadow pipits seen on the 19th which were the first of the year for this species.
Amongst the water birds, the first wigeon (2) of the winter were a pair seen on the 8th, and (presumably) the same pair were back again on the 29th. Teal (3) were present all month with a high count of seven on the 25th. The generally high water-levels through October meant that water rail were more often heard than seen, and snipe (4) were only seen a handful of times.
The only unusual gull this month was an adult yellow-legged gull which was seen frequently on the gull pipes. Numbers of common gull (5) increased through the month from occasional single birds at the start of the month to a regular 20-or-so at the end.
One bird for which October is the major month here is the jay (6), a few of which were seen every day as they collected and cached acorns for the winter. Cetti’s warblers (7) have been at their noisiest this month, probably as a result of new birds arriving following post-breeding dispersal, giving rise to territorial disputes and plenty of singing. Finally, two surprise birds this month were a sedge warbler seen on the 8th, long after most birds of its species will have headed off to Africa for the winter, and a wheatear (8) seen on the 16th. Wheatear are a relatively common passage migrant in the London area, but are quite scarce here because they favour open areas of dry land with little vegetation.
The total number of bird species seen in October was 65, beating the October 2017 total by two but being five behind the bumper total of 70 in October 2016.
[All photos by Chris Farthing]