Every autumn our coastline is an exciting place. Week by week we see increasing numbers of migratory birds returning here from their distant summer breeding grounds.
They arrive exhausted and hungry. By allowing them to rest and refuel without being disturbed, local people help them thrive.
Dark-bellied brent geese travel thousands of miles from Arctic Siberia and black-tailed godwit return every year from Iceland: just two of the species that make extraordinary journeys every year to our shores.
So what other migratory birds will be arriving over the next few months? Where have they come from and where can we expect to see them?
Here’s some insight into the extraordinary journeys of eight of the migratory birds which spend the winter on our coastline: black-tailed godwits, dark-bellied brent geese, dunlin, grey plover, sanderling, teal, turnstone, and wigeon.
Black-tailed godwit are often one of the first birds to return in the autumn and plenty have already been seen this year, particularly around Warsash and the River Hamble.
Male and female pairs reunite in the summer in Iceland, and then spend winters hundreds of miles apart, many of them along the Solent coast.
Thanks to the efforts of an international band of observers, about 1.5% of the Icelandic black-tailed population is colour ringed, and we know where more than half of these birds spend the winter.
Find out more about black-tailed godwit.
Dark-bellied brent geese
Dark-bellied brent geese fly at over 40mph in their 2,500 mile journey to and from Siberia and cover more than 100,000 miles in a lifetime.
The Solent coast is home to 10% of the global population of these wonderful birds over the winter. Their glorious ‘crrronnking’ call is one of the most joyous sounds to listen out for on the coastline.
The number of brents will continue to build over the autumn and the early part of the winter, but Septembers will have seen a fair few early arrivals.
Several have already been spotted at Hill Head, Lepe and Weston Shore in Southampton, and in Rye on the Isle of Wight.
Find out more about dark-bellied brent geese.
These small waders can be very hard to spot, but despite their diminutive size, they travel enormous distances to get to our shores. They’ll be heading back to our shores from their summer breeding grounds of Scandinavia and Russia.
Find out more about dunlin.
Grey plover also spend their summers in Siberia – an extraordinarily long journey for a bird weighing only around 240 grams.
The easiest way to identify this species is by their behaviour since they move quite differently than other small wading birds: rather than continually probing the mud, grey plover can be seen wandering around, then suddenly ‘pecking’ the ground.
By September there have already been some early sightings of grey plover including at Hill Head and the River Hamble.
Find out more about grey plover.
Who can resist a sanderling? They are possibly the most photogenic of our overwintering birds!
Much smaller than even a grey plover, this species is another that spends its summers in Siberia, and also in Greenland.
Look out for early arriving sanderling at Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve.
Find out more about sanderling.
This species of duck, the smallest in the UK, spends its summers in the Baltic and West Russia.
Bold little turnstone are another much loved overwintering species on the Solent. We love watching them tip over pebbles and seaweed in the hunt for a tasty snack. You might be surprised to know these little birds travel here all the way from Northern Greenland, Canada and Lapland.
By September, quite a few turnstone have been spotted along the Solent shores: at Cowes and Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, at Lepe, around the River Hamble, Titchfield National Nature Reserve and Weston Shore in Southampton.
Numbers will continue to build over the next few months.
Find out more about turnstone.
Whistling wigeon are much missed over the summer months and we love to see their return in the autumn and winter.
We hope to see hundreds more along our coastline later in the year, but look out for them early in the season around Warsash.
These ducks travel from Russia, Scandinavia and Ukraine to spend the winter on our mudflats and grasslands.