As the days get shorter, millions of birds take flight and leave the UK ahead of winter.
Here’s our guide to some of the more impressive bird migration routes, from swallows and swifts to Arctic terns.
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) ©Getty
This common warbler is a short-range migrant that winters in southern Spain and Morocco. But in recent years, breeders from Germany and Austria have been flying west to spend the winter with us in Britain, and these birds often visit garden feeders.
An osprey flying overhead ©Getty
Now thriving in Britain, these fish-eating raptors make a leisurely migration to the coasts of West Africa. Tourists visiting Gambia or Senegal for some winter sun might well see Scottish ospreys fishing along the beach.
Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) male ©Getty
Adult cuckoos don’t have to rear their young so leave Britain as early as June, with the juveniles following in autumn. They head to the forests of central Africa via three routes, crossing the Mediterranean at Gibraltar, the Balearic Islands or Italy.
Common Swift (Apus apus) ©Getty
Young swifts that fledge in Britain will be entirely airborne for the next two or three years – feeding, drinking and sleeping on the wing. They head to tropical skies over central and south-west Africa, before finally returning to breed.
Atlantic Puffin in flight ©Getty
What puffins did in winter was a mystery until recently. By tagging these tough little members of the auk family with geolocators, scientists have shown that they head far out to sea, braving several months in the stormy North Atlantic.
Swallow (Hirundo rustic) ©Getty
Until the 19th century, many people still thought swallows hibernated in mud at the bottom of ponds. We now know they migrate to South Africa, a trip of up to 9,500km. Most cross the fearsome Sahara Desert, while others skirt around it.
Male common whitethroat (Mannetje Grasmus) in song flight ©Getty
In the weeks before it migrates, this hedgerow warbler switches from insects to sugary berries to rapidly put on weight as fuel. It spends the winter in the arid, scrubby region known as the Sahel, to the south of the Sahara.
Arctic tern in flight ©Getty
Nicknamed ‘sea swallows’, these graceful, long-winged seabirds are true globetrotters. They swap our northern winter for the permanent daylight of the Antarctic summer, looping around the Atlantic Ocean to get there in an epic journey up to 35,000km long.
Bird migration routes map
Words: Ben Hoare
Main image: ©Getty