The autumn migration definitely seems to have slowed down this week. Fieldfares and redwings are still passing over in small groups, but they now seem to be roaming, rather than moving with conviction in any set direction. There have been a few more mistle thrushes and skylarks passing over than usual, but they too seem to be drifters. The only birds definitely going south have been the odd pied wagtail, the occasional small charm of finches and this morning a group of 7 reed buntings. These were the first reed buntings I’ve seen at Brandon Hill, which I thought might be the start of a passage movement, but shortly after a few more passed over heading west in 1s and 2s and no more south. I haven’t seen any swallows or meadow pipits at all since the last CTBSG watch on Friday 14th. I expect that there will still be a few opportunities over the coming weeks to catch the tail-end of the autumn migration when the conditions are right and the wood pigeons start to move and maybe if and when the waxings start to arrive in the south-west.
Over the last couple of weeks there has been some sneaky shuffling in the undergrowth and it hasn’t been uncommon to catch a glimpse of a slender naked tail disappearing down a hole or a pair of small black eyes and pink ears poking out of one. It seems that the brown rat population have had a busy summer as although they will have always been here, they are now starting to come out quite often in the daylight, which often means that the colony is large enough that the low ranking individuals have to feed diurnally. Or it could just be that there is more food about in the daytime, left behind by people feeding the squirrels or leaving their leftovers littered about the place. Either way, they aren’t causing too much of a problem at the moment, but unfortunately for the rats, they aren’t well known for being chaste and it might not be long before they are as populous as the squirrels and people start to object to their presence..
Elsewhere at Brandon Hill, things are pretty normal for this time of year. The nights are drawing in and I’m seeing less of the foxes, now that they can wait until it’s dark to emerge. I’m sure they will have noticed the increase in the rat population too and are making the most of it. The days are getting colder and the leaves are really turning now, but there have been some lovely sunny days and I’ve enjoyed watching the parties of resident long-tailed tits and goldcrests making their way through the conifers, keeping in contact with their thin piping calls.
The redwings that stopped at Brandon Hill at the beginning of the week seem to have moved on for now. They were getting chased all over the park by the blackbirds who were putting a lot of effort into discouraging them from stopping permanently to feast on the abundant winter berries growing on the trees and shrubs around Cabot Tower. Blackbird numbers seem to have increased in the last month, now that a few extra northern or perhaps even Scandinavian migrants have arrived to make themselves at home. The fieldfares and redwings are still about though – I saw a few in Berkeley Square today, so it won’t be long before they come back to the hill.