If all things go to plan, I will descending upon Dungeness next weekend. For a month. Yes, I know, that's terribly indulgent, but why not. As the Specials sang, "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think..." After my bold proclamation that I wasn't bothered about not seeing the Acadian Flycatcher (see here), I now find myself very restless indeed, scouring the twitter feed for news on what is being seen along the Kent coast. A conveyor belt of easterlies has dumped a load of scarce and rare species from Shetland to Scilly, including a Pallas's Warbler at Dungeness. Today there are a few thrushes making landfall on the shingle and no doubt by the day's end one or two other goodies will have been winkled out. It feels good - it is sounding good.
And my birding paranoia has returned - mildly, but it is definitely there.
This isn't about rarity, it's about migration. It's about spectacle. My angst is down to the belief that it'll all happen this week and the rest of the autumn will be drained of happening. This is, of course, bollocks. If a week is a long time in politics, then a month is an awful long time in birding. That is time enough for several weather systems to form, do their thing and die. This is not unusual amongst birders - I wish I had a pound for every time that I'd heard one fretting about getting their timing wrong. If a commitment has been made to venture to Scilly or Shetland (usually booked months before), and then a raft of rarities or a large arrival has been dumped on the venue days before you're due to arrive, it can feel like a knife to the heart. It's hard to not take such things very personally indeed!
When I used to spend the last two weeks of October at Dungeness Bird Observatory as a matter of course, there seemed to be a run of predictable weather. These weeks were dominated by south-westerly airflows, which sometimes lasted days on end (force 4-6 winds) plus rain. But when it abated, something always happened. Out of nowhere, normally on a NW breeze, up would pop a Yellow-browed, or a Pallas's. One year it was a Rustic Bunting. On another occasion it was a massive dawn arrival of thousands of thrushes. I can only assume that the avian world is so shaken-up by late October that anything is possible. Stuff is already displaced, or gathered waiting for a window of opportunity to move.
With all the easterlies that have been enjoyed so far this autumn, even if the weather gods decreed a shut-down and a switch to predominantly westerlies for the rest of the autumn, there is so much in the mixer that stuff will be popping up for a while yet. The impetus to migrate will not have dissipated. There will be birds...
So, deep breaths, calm down, and enjoy the moments when they come. For come they will.