Look out for wonderful wildfowl

This month’s guest blog from Paul Stancliffe of the BTO…

This is the month when the Ouse Washes comes alive again. Wildfowl that has spent the summer months further north and east will be making their way to the UK for the winter months, with many heading for the Ouse Washes.

Whooper Swan by Andy MasonWhooper Swan by Andy Mason

The first Whooper Swans from Iceland, could arrive any day now, although the end of the month is more likely. Wigeon, Pochard, Teal, Shoveler and Tufted Duck, largely from western Russia and Eastern Europe, should begin to increase from mid-September on, with numbers continuing to build throughout the month.

Bird Track reporting rate graph showing the increase in Wigeon

BirdTrack reporting rate graph showing the increase in Wigeon

The fields around the Ouse Washes are also good places to look out for Corn Buntings, that can form quite large flocks, particularly as the autumn progresses. During the last twenty-five years Corn Bunting has declined by 65% and become quite a scarce bird in our countryside but Bird Atlas 2007-11 shows the Ouse Washes as one of the few remaining strongholds left in the UK.

September and early October is also a good time to keep an eye out for Short-eared Owls and Hen Harriers as they arrive back for the winter months. Both can often be seen hunting over fields adjacent to the washes, often alongside the odd Barn Owl or two.

Short-eared Owl by Amy Lewis

Short-eared Owl by Amy Lewis

Several species of wader spend the winter months in and around the Ouse Washes, and these will also be arriving any day now. Birds such as Golden Plover, Lapwing, Snipe and Ruff can occur in impressive numbers and can be seen roosting on the washes during the daytime, moving out to the surrounding fields as light begins to fade.

The last month has also seen a few scarce birds using the washes which have included a Spotted Crake on 14 September, seven Spoonbills on 13 September and several Curlew Sandpipers from mid-month.

Spotted Crake by Kevin Carlson BTO

Spotted Crake by Kevin Carlson/ BTO

Now is a great time to get out and about around the Ouse Washes, with so many birds on the move, you never what you will see.

Paul Stancliffe

British Trust for Ornithology.

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