Q and A: Autumn Migration Talk

On Wednesday 10th February, Matt Eade gave a very interesting talk on Autumn Bird Migration in Sussex. If you missed it you can still watch it on our YouTube Channel.

We ran out of time for Matt to answer all the questions that were submitted but he has subsequently provided answers for them and they’re listed below.


Question Answer(s)
1 Could you explain a little about migration in general? Autumn migration is the movement of birds, in this case, from their breeding grounds in the UK or Northern Europe, to their wintering grounds, which are generally in sub-Saharan Africa.
2 How long have you been birdwatching Matt? I’ve been birdwatching since the age of 8; I still remember my first visit to Rye Harbour and seeing my view spring-plumaged Yellow Wagtails!
3 Many thanks Matt – really interesting. Surprised just how early Autumn migration starts – is it getting earlier? I’ve not noticed a drastic change in my birding years; the first week of July is the norm, and more obvious to see this when living near water as this is where the early-migrating waders would turn up.
4 When you get a fall of waders after bad weather, what direction does the weather normally come from. The direction of weather rarely plays a part, as long as there is weather, the birds will drop as long as they are moving in the first place. These waders fly at extreme heights so we need the weather in order to see them.
5 Extraordinary photos. Do you see use of the dune at Climping – you mention the gap – I wonder what the particular draw is? I would believe the River Arun plays a part in attracting migrants to Climping Gap. Birds migrating at night use landmarks, such as rivers, to guide their way to the coastline.
6 What is best time of day for seeing most species on autumn migration? Presumably very early morning? The first few hours of the day are ideal for viewing warblers and other passerines. Generally, early morning is best, but early evening when birds become active again as they feed-up before their flight at night, can be a good time too.
7 Sorry please can you advise again after the meeting Matt’s camera that he uses? I use a Canon 7d Mark ii with a 100-400mm lens
8 Wonderful talk, thanks Matt. Can you recommend any further reading on Autumn migration? Not sure there are ones that are specific to autumn, but there are lots of good general ones that you can find by searching online, such as Bird Migration by Ian Newton, in the New Naturalist series.
9 Are there any places that you think could be great for autumn migration in East Sussex, but just aren’t that well monitored at the moment? You mentioned Tide Mills for example… Yes, Tide Mills can be good but lacks the tree element. Crowlink is underwatched and always looks superb! Other sites further east may include sections of Hastings CP.
10 What would your dream find in the autumn apart from RF Bluetail? A dream find would be… White’s Thrush!
11 When do Curlews migrate? Curlews tend to arrive from their breeding grounds in late August. Cuckmere Haven is a great place to see them after their migration.
12 What do you think is likely to be your next new autumn patch tick?! Could be something as simple as a Grey Partridge, or I hope, to claw back Red-breasted Flycatcher and Radde’s Warbler.
13 A fascinating talk, thank you Matt. You have an amazing knowledge of birds. Thank you for sharing with us.

One question, if a lone migratory bird gets blown off course will it try to rejoin the others or just head back in due course?

Thank you. A lone migratory bird will rarely find its way back to others of its kind and it’s a mystery as to whether they make it back to where they have come from, or where they wish to end up. Reverse migration is a ‘thing’, but many rare migrants that end up on our shores, sadly keep tracking west and presumably into the Atlantic.
14 Do you have thoughts about intertidal and sea level rise you could convey from such long experience? Sadly, it’s something I’ve yet to notice on the patch. Cuckmere Haven has been interrupted massively by human activity, therefore this has been difficult to ascertain.
15 What’s Matt’s blog? seafordbirding.blogspot.com