• Rachael Bentley

If birds did Brexit

Updated: Oct 2, 2019


Thankfully, the birds aren’t having the Brexit debate, the skies hold no hard borders. Look up, and you’ll see free movement is the order of the day – the Autumn migrants are arriving.


40% of the world’s bird population are migrants, wanderers.

If birds did Brexit, we wouldn’t have the masses of knots from the Antarctic which are now gathering at Snettisham like shifting sands. We wouldn’t see the short-eared owls with faces like dinner plates, whose quiet wings have carried them from Scandinavia, Russia or Iceland, neither the fieldfare, redwing or waxwing.


These birds didn’t breed here, they weren’t born here, they arrive on our shores looking for warmth, for food and for the chance of a better life.


Head to the Norfolk coast this October and you’ll be greeted by big skies and big flocks. Incomers arrive as huge waves of birds, lapping our shores and spreading out across the land.


I'm always a bit obsessed with the first honking party of new geese in my skyscape. A few nights ago, I watched a sickle skein of geese flying towards the nearby reservoir. They flew noisily, announcing to all below that they had ‘arrived,’ their wings creaking in unison. Vast flocks of Canada geese fly in, in large ‘V’s written across the skies, to triple the numbers here in the UK, they’re joined by Pink-footed, Greylag, Brent and Barnacle geese; so named because when they disappeared in the summer months, it used to be believed that they turned into barnacles, returning to the water they love.


It’s not all about geese. As the saying goes, ‘birds of a feather flock together,’ the autumn migration sees our resident birds joined by their continental neighbours too.


An irruption of jays has been seen in the UK, as thousands stream in from Northern Europe. Their arrival a sign of cold weather in their homelands, or a failed acorn harvest, with large numbers of oak galls spotted in the UK this year, I hope they find what they came for.


Finally, the mesmerising murmurations of starlings witnessed in winter months would be thinner, lighter, of less substance without the huge influx of birds joining our home-grown flock from Eastern Europe and Russia.


It’s a time of year to enjoy the sheer diversity which nature has to offer and to dig out the binoculars. We can all benefit from the spectacle that is migration, improving our mental health and wellbeing. Watching these birds could be the perfect antidote to the stresses and negativity we see everyday on our small screens – and who wouldn’t want a little bit more of that?