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Nature Notes: Listen out for foreign skylarks!

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WELL, the swifts flew south around August 8 and swallows will follow soon, with house and sand martins lingering until early October.

Nobody is quite sure exactly where in Africa house martins spend the winter and little is known about sand martins’ destination apart from the fact that they overwinter sub-Saharan but they may roam around a bit all over Africa until they return to Britain next March.

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Many birds are now trading places, with our summer visitors departing and winter migrants soon to arrive, including redwings and fieldfares. Chiff chaff, willow warbler and common terns, the latter gracing the riverside at Kingston in summer, also fly south.

Until a couple of decades ago, blackcaps would have departed our shores in autumn but many now remain in Britain as climate change takes hold.

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In very cold weather skylarks (pictured) fly here from the continent to join our resident population and can be seen in the wide open spaces of Richmond park. Skylarks don’t sing in winter but utter ‘chirruping’ calls and it is easy to tell the visiting skylarks apart as they ‘chirrup’ in a foreign accent!

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I’ve hardly seen any blackbirds this summer and both they and thrushes must have suffered in the drought being unable to find earthworms which dive deep in hard ground.

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