With high pressure on the continent and low cloud over much of the UK for periods of time last week, a good visible migration showing was always going to be on the cards, so it was with great anticipation of the spectacle that was to unfold that myself, and BTO colleague Ieuan Evans, made our way to the Spurn Migration Festival this weekend; and we weren’t to be disappointed.
Thousands, well over a thousand anyway, Meadow Pipits made their way south along the Spurn Peninsula, joined by hundreds of Swallows and House Martins, with a smaller showing of Sand Martins and a single Swift with them.
Whinchat by Mike Weston
Of the grounded migrants, Whinchats seemed to be everywhere, as did Yellow Wagtails. Spotted and Pied Flycatchers occasionally shared the same lookout perch, and the odd Redstart added a splash of colour. Warblers were well represented, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs frequented the many hedges that criss-cross Spurn , along with a small number of Sedge and Reed Warblers.
Wryneck by Jill Pakenham
Scarce migrants were found too; at least three very showy Wrynecks were around, along with two or three Barred Warblers. Not ignoring the sea, although the conditions weren’t ideal for good seabirds passage, a small number of Arctic Skuas, Sandwich and Common Terns and Red-Throated Divers and Gannets were on the move. However, top-billing has to go to the juvenile Long-tailed Skua that flew north along the beach.
So, was this a fair representation of what was happening at other migration watchpoints? Well, pretty much. Meadow Pipit migration is well underway (BirdTrack graph shows this well), large numbers of hirundines were seen during visible migration watches on the south coast, and unprecedented numbers of Blackcaps moved through the western half of the country. There were lots of chances to catch-up with Wryneck and Barred Warbler around the counter, which in some east coast locations were joined by the odd Red-backed Shrike.
BirdTrack Meadow Pipit graph
With mid-September looming, the start of the peak migration period – mid-September to mid-October – what is on the cards for the next week? High-pressure is forecast to extend from southern Britain to northern Scandinavia, with resulting light easterly airflow. This means more of the same but it could be even more spectacular with large numbers of birds on the move. Pipits and hirundines will dominate again but we could see an increase in Wheatears, and Skylarks joining in. The timing is also good for Honey Buzzards to be drifted out across the North Sea too. On the scarce migrant front, Red-backed Shrikes might outnumber Barred Warblers, and we could see a few Common Rosefinches, Icterine Warblers and the odd Bluethroat. On the rarity front, Great Snipe has to be favourite. The east coast has to be the place to be this weekend, my personal choice of venue being Blakeney Point, Norfolk.