Birdwatching Guide: August

Osprey in flight against blue sky

Like July before it, August can sometimes get a bit of a bad rep for birdwatching. As one of the quieter months for garden birds, it may seem like our avian friends are off on summer holidays of their own. However, if you head out into the countryside or down to the beach, you'll soon find that there are still plenty of species around to tick off your spotting list.

The big thing to mention here is that August is the last month for spotting most summer migrants. The last of the swifts has long symbolised the end of summer, and while the exact time that they start to leave varies from one year to another, it's usually early on in August. Peak migration season for most species, though, doesn't hit until next month, so you've still got time to catch a glimpse of other seasonal birds before they leave our shores.

With the breeding season now firmly behind us, birds will start splitting off from each other to prepare for the harsher months ahead. This means that you might see them pop up in unexpected places- so it's a good time to keep your binoculars with you whenever you're out and about!


Ospreys are only found in Britain in the summer, and even then, you'll need to go pretty far out of your way to find them then. There are only about 200 breeding pairs that visit our shores, and these are mostly concentrated in Scotland. However, come August, and like many migratory species, you're more likely to see them elsewhere as they head for warmer climes. Since they feed on fish, you're most likely to spot them around lakes and reservoirs.


Summer wouldn't be complete without a trip to the seaside, and wherever you are in the UK, you're almost certain to spot at least a couple of oystercatchers while you're there. True to their name, they are often spotted circling around over the sea before swooping down when they spot some food- although they're more likely to go after cockles than actual oysters. They also have quite a distinctive "peep" call, too.

Thanks to their fairly large size, oystercatchers are easy to spot with the naked eye, and simple to track even with low-magnification binoculars. If you want to let the kids have a go with your binoculars, then oystercatchers make for great practise!


Like oystercatchers, crossbills are resident birds, so you'll have plenty of other chances to spot them if you miss them this month. For most of the year, though, they are typically found in conifer forests, whereas in August, flocks of them can often be spotted flying about looking for food. You don't have to be an expert birder to tell the difference between male and female crossbills. In fact, you don't even need a pair of binoculars, since they're completely different colours. Males are brick-red, as pictured above, whereas females are more of a greenish-brown.

If you happen to be up Inverness way, then you might be lucky enough to spot the much rarer Scottish crossbill in the woods up there. While this breed looks much like its more common cousin, it's actually the only species which is completely unique to Britain!

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