Visible migration is but one of the joys of birding. To be able to watch flocks of birds moving overhead, with intent and purpose, is exhilarating - it's as simple as that. And, to make things even better, you can take part in these observations anywhere you can see some sky. A balcony on a city-centre block of flats; a hilltop; a coastal headland or a suburban back garden, they will all do, admittedly some will produce more birds and a wider spread of species than others.

Our Banstead back garden would most probably come two-thirds of the way down a 'Visible migration' league table. It has clear sky, although mature trees and houses get in the way in certain directions; it is at elevation (in Surrey terms): it is close to open downland. Even though I've lived here for over 30 years, attempts at visible migration from the garden have been patchy, even though successes are sometimes forthcoming and some big movements have been witnessed. This autumn a bit more effort has been put in and it has been worthwhile, with three days that could be described as 'busy' with a few bonus species being in the mix, such as Golden Plover and Crossbill.

What is fascinating is comparing the results of others who are practicing this ornithological 'dark art' nearby. The numbers, and species composition, can wildly vary. Sometimes a movement can be underway a couple of miles away but not where you are stood, and vice vera. This birding conveyor belt in the sky is addictive. Even a poor day can throw up a surprise. If you haven't tried it yet, give it a go - you will not be disappointed.


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