The Joy of Autumn Migration

 Ring ouzel in juniper, one of the birds that disappear from Britain every autumn and return in the spring. Painted in acrylic

Ring ouzel in juniper, one of the birds that disappear from Britain every autumn and return in the spring. Painted in acrylic

Autumn is often perceived as the season of death and decay. The leaves, once green and glistening, fall into the earth and rot to pieces, while our hearts ache for the unrequited love we hold for the clouds of screaming swifts who, by September, have abandoned us without hesitation for distant lands. But I have never felt closer to nature than when walking through the woods in early October. The vibrancy of summer might have faded, but with fewer leaves on the trees the autumn sunlight pours into the heart of our woodlands and casts the world into golden shadow, and the barest branches glitter with dewdrop cobwebs. Autumn can be a time of deterioration, but it is also the season of rejuvenation - a time to observe the cycle of nature in its entirety.

My favourite autumn hobby is to watch the influx of birds arrive during their annual migration. When the swallows and swifts leave us for the warm south, in come the redwings, waxwings, fieldfares and blackbirds from Scandinavia, Finland, Iceland and Russia, falling from the sky to spend the winter in a milder climate.

To spend a morning watching birds is one of the most relaxing and invigorating ways to bring in the autumn season. A pair of binoculars and cup of tea is all that's required, as well as a guide book to help identify any lesser known species. 

 Redwings will arrive from September onwards, recognisable for their rust-coloured underwing and speckled chest. Painted in acrylic.

Redwings will arrive from September onwards, recognisable for their rust-coloured underwing and speckled chest. Painted in acrylic.

Most new arrivals won't appear until September and October, but the first flocks will start to 'fall' from the sky from the end of August onwards - especially thrushes like fieldfares, redwings and Nordic blackbirds. Step outside on an autumn night and listen out for the seep seep seep sound of redwings on their nocturnal migration, moving about the country in search of food and shelter.

Arriving species: Fieldfare, redwing, waxwing, great grey shrike, brambling, hen harrier, merlin, jack snipe, water pipit, purple sandpiper, Bewick's swan, whooper swan, white-fronted goose, scaup, long-tailed duck, velvet scoter.

Departing species: Ring ouzel, wheatear, chiffchaff, sand martin, swallow, swift, willow warbler, blackcap, redstart, tree pipit, yellow wagtail, house martin, grasshopper warbler, nightjar, nightingale, common sandpiper, sandwich tern, whitethroat, sedge warbler, whinchat, cuckoo, pied flycatcher, garden warbler, turtle dove, lesser whitethroat, spotted flycatcher.