It’s a wonderful time of year to get out of the garden and discover some of the birds in your local area that may make it into the garden over the winter. If you have any hedgerows nearby these can be super mini-corridors for birds and other wildlife to move and feed safely.
Hedgerows are at their very best in Autumn, filled with colour the burnt orange and ginger of autumn leaves contrasting with the deep reds and purples of rose hips, blackberries and elderberries. Many of these hedgerow shrubs provide great feeding for the birds we think of as garden birds. Dunnocks and Wrens will shuffle about low down, often feeding on the floor beneath the hedge, Robins often flick out from mid-hedge, they could be fly-catching or just having a look at what’s passing.
Best of all can be the mobile mixed tit flocks that move along hedges calling and feeding; there can be several species in a mixed flock and occasionally something more unusual. October sees many migrants arriving from the continent and many of these may move through Britain and leave again for France or further south, as a result birds like Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs can often get swept up in mixed tit flocks and journey with them for a time. Out in the wider countryside hedgerows can hold big Autumn flocks of sparrows, buntings and finches feeding on spilled seed or weedy areas on farmland. These too can make for some interesting bird-watching, look out for Yellowhammers with sparrow flocks or maybe Brambling, a winter visitor from Scandinavia with Chaffinch flocks.
We are not the only ones to understand the value of hedgerows though. Where birds feed predators lurk hoping to snatch a meal and these too can make really interesting and exciting wildlife encounters. I have frequently come across a stoat or weasel jumping about the bottom of a hedge, occasionally stopping to peer about before darting on. Sparrowhawks use hedgerows to hunt too, hurtling along low and fast sending waves of panic among the birds ahead of them before flipping over to the other side hoping to surprise an unwary bird and catch lunch.
Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.