Bedfordshire Birding in August
August sees the start of the autumn birding season as passerine migrants from northern parts of Britain and Scandanavia mix with locally fledged youngsters in our scrub and hedgerows while waders from further north can be found moving through where suitable habitat exists.
The beginning of the month starts off where July finished with Green Sandpipers, maybe Black-tailed Godwits likely while numbers of Lapwing and gulls continue to build including the annual peak number of Yellow-legged Gulls.
Swifts are often the first departing migrants to be noticed with most breeding areas deserted by the end of the first week though migrants will probably be seen throughout the month and a sighting of a Cuckoo in August would be unusual.
Please keep a record of the last dates on which you see our departing migrants, this data helps to build a picture of the effect on birds of recent changes to weather patterns and climate. We have already seen the effect of arrival times and breeding of birds in the county over recent years.
Crossbills are often on the move this month when there is a good breeding season combined with a poor harvest in the northern forests. Good places to look for this species are around the Woburn area and at The Lodge.
The middle week of August shows a peak for sightings of Pied Flycatcher, with a later peak in mid-September. These August birds are presumably from breeding areas in Britain. With a little good fortune, an exploration of hillside scrub in the south of the county may prove fruitful for this species and particularly for Redstart, some of which have stayed for a number of days at this time of year with some multiple sightings of both adult and juvenile birds, maybe accompanied by Whinchat or migrant Spotted Flycatcher. These may be joined towards the end of the month with the first visitors from northern Europe, when an early Wryneck or maybe another Red-backed Shrike to follow the 2010 record would be an excellent find. Local birders would likely be mobilised very quickly for a first county record of an Icterine or a Greenish Warbler over the Bank Holiday weekend!
White-winged Black Tern
Stewartby Lake © Martin Green
Three of the six White-winged Black Tern records for the county have been found in August with Stewartby Lake the prime location. Black Tern and Little Gull are more likely finds with potential for Sandwich and Little Tern possible in suitable weather conditions.
Later in the month is historically a good time for some of our scarcer waders such as Little Stint and Curlew Sandpipers with occurrences no doubt associated with good numbers arriving in Norfolk.
For a real county rarity, August does not present the greatest opportunity but there are a few species that would prove popular and surely near the top of the wish list, at least for the realistic birder, would be a North American wader (shore bird). A Least Sandpiper nearby at Tring in Hertfordshire in 2003 demonstrates the potential.