October is the month of movement in the natural world as migrating birds arrive in Yorkshire from colder climates abroad. Yorkshire is full of nature reserves and wild open spaces to witness the drama of these new arrivals.
The annual autumn bird migration is a true spectacle: Yorkshire’s coast, estuaries and wetlands welcome large incoming bird flocks – a mass movement of birds arriving in the UK from colder countries in northern Europe and Siberia. Geese, ducks and waders put on some of the best aerial shows with thousands filling the skies, honking and whooping, as they head for their winter feeding grounds.
The V-formations of brent geese fly in from the Yorkshire coast – feeding on crop fields by day and resting on mud flats by night; inland marshes and wetlands provide food and shelter for an influx of wildfowl – attracting whooper swans, lapwing, golden plover and teal.
Smaller redwings and fieldfares also arrive in Yorkshire; these members of the thrush family seek out the hedgerow fruits to fuel up after their epic journey, moving from tree to tree in chuckling flocks.
One of our most colourful visitors is the bohemian waxwing which can be seen feeding on autumn berries and apples; in some years they arrive in particularly huge quantities known as ‘irruptions’; these tend to occur only in colder winters. Look out too for starling flocks, known as ‘murmurations’. Starlings begin to form large groups in autumn as they roost for the evening, creating different shapes as they flow through the air before dropping out of view for the night. The large gatherings are thought to deter predators due to confusion of so many birds. For a good chance of starling mumurations visit Potteric Carr at Doncaster and Blacktoft Sands near Goole.
Arrive a couple of hours before sunset and wait for the birds grouping together.
Visit Wheldrake Ings in the Lower Derwent Valley for whirling flocks of whooper swan, wigeon and shoveler.
For a wilder experience try Spurn Point on the Humber Estuary – in October, Spurn sees huge numbers of birds arrive from across the North Sea and down the east coast with a number of rarities also getting blown in.
Redwing, fieldfare and waxwing can turn up virtually anywhere there are berries and can also often be seen in supermarket car parks!