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Birdlife in the Autumn

Autumn sees the passage of birds that have spent the summer elsewhere, but fly to the coast to find a point to hop across the English Channel.  A handful of wheatears, bold distinct little birds, can be seen at this time of year as they move south and stop off at various points around the Common before continuing their journey south. Dartford warblers take up temporary residence again on the common amongst the gorse, hunting spiders and insects as they disperse from their breeding grounds on the heaths of the New Forest.

Late autumn is the best chance to see large mixed flocks of goldfinches and greenfinches near the shore line.  Small flocks of meadow pipits arrive and if you are lucky you may witness an evening departure of hundreds of pied wagtails that have congregated near the Hamble Point Marina to hop across Southampton Water to Fawley Oil Refinery to roost for the night.

Also along the foreshore look up for passing swallows and house martins following the shoreline of Southampton Water and beyond, until they take the plunge and head off across the Channel. There is something quite stirring about watching these small birds heading out to sea heading ultimately for Africa.

Late autumn starts to see curlews and oystercatchers drifting back to the foreshore from their breeding grounds inland to re-join the non-breeding birds that have stayed through the summer.  At this time of year there is also a chance of seeing a peregrine falcon patrolling the shoreline of Southampton Water for a hunting opportunity.

A quiet wait at the edge of the creek at low tide may throw up some rarer visitors in the form of a kingfisher, greenshank or green sandpiper as well as the first returning black-tailed godwits feeding in the silt at low tide.   When the tide is turning little egrets can often be seen hunting the large numbers of small fish that follow the tide in and out of the creek. At high tide you may see little grebes fishing further out and the islands at the mouth of the creek harbour roosting waders such as lapwings, oystercatchers and grey plovers.  This is the time of year when looking out from Hamble Point towards the spit at low tide you may be rewarded with the sight of a small flock of visiting avocets.

The common is now full of life especially insect life. There is a chance to see kestrels hunting across the common during the day and in late evening time in the wooded fringes you may happen upon a Tawny owl or more probably hear the classic twit twoo call.  Most of you will know that this is a two bird call with the female owl calling and the male owl responding.

Once the common starts to bring on the warm autumn hues it produces blackberries, seeds and acorns before becoming a little more desolate in deepest winter.  For such a small patch of countryside surrounded by built up areas, the Common supports a multitude of plants, animals and birds and can still at times feel quite rural with good views onto the Hamble river and Southampton Water.  On clear days there are vistas of beautiful sun rises and sunsets year round over water.