As the days grow shorter and the air turns crisper, an exciting phenomenon takes place along the Solent coast as migratory coastal birds arrive, finding refuge here for the colder winter months.
The return of these birds is a testament to the unique habitats the area provides. It also means it’s vital we support them by giving them the space they need after their long journeys to feed and rest without being disturbed.
Here’s a guide to where some of our winter migrants have come from: black-tailed godwits; dark-bellied brent geese; dunlins; wigeons; teals and turnstones.
Black-tailed godwits 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.
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 build over the autumn and the early part of the winter.
Find out more about dark-bellied brent geese.
Despite their diminutive size, dunlins travel enormous distances to get to our shores. They head back to our shores from their summer breeding grounds of Scandinavia and Russia, arriving in September and October.
If you see them in flight, you might get lucky and see dunlin perform a murmuration – a group aerobatic display they use to confuse predators.
Find out more about dunlins.
Whistling wigeons are much missed over the summer months and we love to see their return in the autumn and winter.
These ducks travel from Russia, Scandinavia and Ukraine to spend the winter on our mudflats and grasslands.
The male has a chestnut head with a characteristic creamy-yellow ‘punk’ crown stripe, grey back and sides with a pink chest and white wing patches that can be seen when they fly. The female is light brown and looks quite similar to a female mallard.
Like many other ducks, wigeons don’t quack: instead they make a memorable whistling call.
This species of duck, the smallest in the UK, spends its summers in the Baltic and West Russia and begins to arrive back in the Solent from August through to October.
The males of this species have a beautiful green eye stripe – from where we get the name of the fashionable greenish-blue colour – and a dapper chestnut head, although these can be difficult to spot unless you’re using binoculars or the light is good.
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 and numbers will continue to build over the next few months.