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Latest migration news 23rd October 2009

Martin Hughes-Games Martin Hughes-Games | 11:59 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

Here's the weekly news from the bird world direct from our friends at the BTO.

Dabbling ducks are underrated! Perhaps this is due to the ease with which mallards can be seen on or near all manner of water bodies throughout the year. Or it could be the identification difficulties posed by dowdy-looking ducks in late summer.

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Teal have splendid autumn plumage (photo copyright John Harding/BTO)

However, a trip to any wetland from now on is likely to produce views of a range of spectacularly-plumaged 'dabblers'. Most will have moulted their 'eclipse' plumage (a covering of drab feathers to conceal them whilst they moult all their flight feathers after the breeding season). Males in particular will be in splendid attire. Teal and pintail are some of the most impressive. Your chances of seeing them are increasing by the week, as birds arrive here from further north and east.

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Pintail, impressive autumn colours (photo copyright Jill Pakenham/BTO)

Late October is a great time of year to see skylarks. Having spent the summer months quietly raising their young, some resident birds begin to sing again at this time of year. What's more, flocks gather in suitable feeding habitat and can be heard giving their liquid 'chirrup' calls as they move about the countryside.

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Skylarks flock this time of year (photo copyright Jill Pakenham/BTO)

As well as our local birds becoming more conspicuous, large numbers of migrants arrive from the continent to spend the winter in Britain and Ireland.

These patterns show up really clearly in the BirdTrack reporting rate graph.

The BTO's Garden Ecology Team has received numerous calls from people concerned at the lack of blackbirds in their gardens this autumn. The absence of these birds at this time of the year is not unusual. In fact, the BTO Garden BirdWatch reporting rate for blackbird shows an autumn trough every year.

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A lack of blackbirds in the garden? (photo copyright John Hardin/BTO)

This year, however, has been more dramatic than usual. While some blackbirds may be less obvious because they are undergoing their annual moult, others will have left gardens to take advantage of the bumper crop of fruits in hedgerows and along woodland rides. The annual pattern evident within the Garden BirdWatch records suggests that we can expect increasing numbers of blackbirds to return to gardens throughout November.

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