At this time of the year it is all about waders and warblers. Many adult waders are now at the end of their breeding season and are making their way south – for some it might only be as far as a UK estuary, whilst for others this is only the first leg of a very long journey that could take them to a beach in West Africa, or even further in the case of Ruff; a 10,000km (6,000 miles) journey to South Africa.
The Ouse Washes is ideally placed to see some of these waders as they pass through the area, and that has been the case this month. Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers have been reported at several sites, along with the first Greenshank of the season. Rarer waders often get caught-up in the movement of the regular waders that pass through and winter in the UK, and mid-summer is probably the best time to keep an eye out for any of these.
During the last few weeks the Ouse Washes has been graced with the odd rarer wader. Having arrived in the north-east in mid-June, the Black-winged Pratincole that slowly made its way down the east coast, was found on the Ouse Washes RSPB on 19 July. The same location also hosted a Temminck’s Stint. The former breeds no closer to the Ouse Washes than the Black Sea, whilst the latter breeds in Arctic Scandinavia, and very rarely in northern Scotland – the last confirmed breeding here was in 1993. The Ouse Washes also played host to a Glossy Ibis – a freshwater wading bird from the Mediterranean.
Warblers are also beginning to make their way out of the country, their final destination will be south of the Sahara Desert, largely in West Africa. Currently it is mostly Sedge Warblers that are on the move, and the reed-fringed ditches in and around the Ouse Washes seem to be full of them right now. Willow Warblers are also being seen and numbers of these are beginning to be recorded at south coast watchpoints and observatories. Swift migration is also well underway and the drop in numbers around breeding colonies will be very noticeable in the next few weeks. So, whilst we are still in mid-summer mode, for quite a few of our birds Autumn is definitely underway.
All of the BTO satellite tagged Cuckoos have now left the UK and seven of them are already in Africa. Six of these have successfully crossed the Sahara Desert and are resting and feeding before making their final push to the winter quarters in Congo. There are still another twelve tagged birds spread across southern Europe – follow them as they too make their way south.
We are currently unsure of the whereabouts of another four; they haven’t transmitted for over ten days and are no longer on the map but this doesn’t mean that we have lost them for good, they could pop-up again. The next month should see waders passing through the area peak, as young birds join the adult birds, the almost complete disappearance of Swifts, and a few ducks turning up on the washes. One thing’s for sure – there is always something to look out for.
Paul Stancliffe – British Trust for Ornithology