Will one of these autumnal treats turn up on your patch this month?
The bulk of the autumn’s migration rush is through. But there is still plenty of movement and action in November. Wintering birds are settling in and there are still some dribs and drabs of returning migrants and off course waifs. Here are four birds to enjoy this month. See if you can bag the lot.
Never very common, this elegant wader is largely a passage bird through the UK, mainly at coastal sites, with perhaps 500 or so passing through. Some also winter at favoured sites. It is larger and slimmer than the Redshank, with a longer, finer bill with just a hint of a down curve and red only on the base of the lower mandible. The wings lack the white trailing edge of Redshank, but there is a clear white rump forming an ‘oval’ on the back. Winter birds are very pale grey with a prominent supercilium. Spotted Redshanks are often inclined to wade quite deep on their long legs. The call is a very distinctive ‘chewit’.
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
A very scarce, bordering on rare, visitor from the east, the tiny Pallas’s Leaf Warbler is only a little larger than a Goldcrest. Similar to the Yellow-browed Warbler (which usually peaks in the previous month), the Pallas’s is even stripier, with a bright yellow supercilium, bold crown stripe and a yellow rump. The latter feature can be seen while the bird undergoes one of its Goldcrest-style hovers, in search of tiny invertebrate morsels.
Great Northern Diver
All divers are the sort of charismatic birds we all love to see and the Great Northern is a big one as well! In breeding plumage, they are unbelievable, but by November, most will be winter birds or juveniles, with fundamentally black and white plumage. The bill is big and heavy, the crown often looks bumpy and there is a ghost of the neck band to help distinguish smaller birds from often similar-looking winter Black-throated Divers. A few thousand winter every year off the UK’s coasts, particularly in the north. A handful also stray inland, particularly to big inland sea-like lakes, such as Rutland Water or the London reservoirs.
A rare breeding bird in the Scottish Highlands, the Slavonian Grebe is also a scarce winterer around our coasts, with just more than 1,000 birds around the coast, though some areas, such as the Moray Firth or parts of the Sussex coast, have more than their fair share. Very scarce inland. In winter, this small grebe is black and white (losing the spectacular orange plumes of summer), with some similarity to the scarce Black-necked Grebe but with a straighter, pale tipped bill, less black on the cheeks and a flatter crown. Even in this plumage, though is remains a very beautiful bird.