THIS is an exciting time of the year for bird watchers, with an estimated 30 million birds crossing the UK on their way south in the great autumn migration, but scientists still want to know more about this ancient annual exodus.
So yesterday, the British Trust for Ornithology appealed for volunteers to help them compile statistics to build an important data bank which, amongst other things, could check survival rates amongst young birds making the arduous trek to southern Europe and Africa for the first time.
One of the reasons for this relative lack of knowledge is that amateur enthusiasts eagerly await the northern migration in spring - but are not so keen on the autumn event because it means so many interesting species leave our shores.
Now, Dawn Balmer, the BTO's BirdTrack Organiser, wants birdwatchers to keep an eye on departing migrants, preferably on a daily basis, and to take part in BirdTrack, a new project to plot their movements.
"This is an ideal project for people who regularly watch birds on a particular patch, or take the dog for a walk in the local park. All you have to do is keep a list of the birds you see and hear whilst out bird watching.
"Back at home register as a BirdTrack recorder (www.birdtrack.net) and enter your records online. The website is updated daily so you will see your own observations on the web the next day".