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It’s that time of year, tinged ever so slightly with sadness but enlivened with occasional moments of great excitement, when bird populations begin their autumn migration. My local Swifts have headed south for the winter and I shall miss their dawn and dusk screaming, the sound of summer for me, and there have been good numbers of Swallows and House martins swirling above Cardiff Bay, in a final feeding frenzy before they too head south.

I’ve spotted small flocks of Willow warblers and Chiffchaffs, moving through my local nature reserves and parks, stocking up on nutrients before they also begin their long flights. And, this week, a Spotted flycatcher became my 186th bird species for 2018, when I saw it passing through Cosmeston.

180811 3 Spotted flycatcher

As well as those birds that are departing for sunnier wintering spots, there are also birds returning from their colder breeding locations to spend the winter in Britain’s relatively warm climes. I saw my first two returning Turnstones, still in their summer plumage, during a wander along the Ely embankment on Wednesday.

180811 4 turnstone

Also at Cardiff Bay this week have been a couple of those birds that provide birders, local and distant alike, with a quickening of the heart rate. First, a first summer Arctic tern arrived to join the Cardiff Bay bird population, and then a juvenile Little gull also joined the party, though neither bird has been welcomed by the local gulls.

180811 5 arctic tern

I saw both birds being chased and mobbed on Wednesday, and a little later that same day my friend John caught some amazing shots of a Black-headed gull almost drowning the Little gull – luckily, it escaped. (Bird xenophobia? No one seems to know why the local gulls are being so aggressive.)

180811 8 arctic tern being chased

Above, Arctic tern being chased; below, Little gull also being pursued

180811 9 little gull being chased

Let’s hope further newcomers are given a warmer welcome to our local waters and, indeed, let’s just hope for further newcomers – there’s nothing quite like an exciting sighting to quicken a birder’s pulse!