Bedfordshire Birding in September
© Andy Whitney
September is an excellent birding month in Bedfordshire with a large diversity of species on the move and plenty of opportunity to find scarce birds. Many of these birds will linger long enough around our wetlands or scrub to be accessible to observers who are able to take the opportunities. Time in the field will be certain to bring rewards.
This month represents the final opportunity for more than six months to see the majority of our summer visitors. Please share records of the last dates on which you see our departing migrants to increase the data we are collecting on the effect on our birds of recent changes to weather patterns and climate.
Throughout the first half of the month, most of the commoner warblers, martins and swallows can be easily found but early departing species such as Swifts are noteworthy. This is a time when Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff, Blackcap or Whitethroat are likely to be found in suburban gardens as young birds on their first migration seek feeding opportunities and shelter after an overnight movement.
In areas of scrub, particularly around hillsides, Redstarts, Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat are regularly found with Wheatear in more open areas and always the chance of a Pied Flycatcher, or more excitingly, a Wryneck. Chances of these scarcer species increase significantly with an easterly component in the wind and generally follow shortly after arrivals of birds on the coasts of Norfolk or the North-east.
A sharp eye, and a ear, to the sky will be rewarded with wagtails and pipits particularly in the first hour after sunrise.
Raptors on the move are also notable in the month with Marsh Harrier and Osprey the most likely of the scarcer species to be seen.
Around the county’s wetlands the full range of wader species on the county list is possible where suitable habitat becomes available. Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint should all be found with a bit of luck or effort and six out of ten Pectoral Sandpipers have been found this month.
There is a very exciting list of species that have appeared in neighbouring inland counties in September within the last ten years that can raise the hopes of anybody with the desire of finding a county first. Solitary Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, even Red-necked Stint why not Bedfordshire next time ?
A look back in the record books for the month shows waders at the top of the rarity list.
Both modern Purple Sandpiper records were in September in 1990 and 1993; also the most recent of our two Wilsons Phalaropes in 1972 and our only Bairds and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper records in 1961.
There is also a peak of seabird sightings in the month, almost two-thirds of the records of Manx Shearwaters and a scattering of skua records, some of which were not identified to species. Also an addition to the two Storm Petrels records in the last 30 years would be most welcome.