The period from mid-September to mid-October is one of the most exciting times of the year for anyone interested in bird migration. Summer visitors that have spent the breeding season here begin to head off in earnest, whilst their counterparts in mainland Europe often get blown or drifted across the
North Sea and add to the migration spectacular.
During the right weather conditions, rare birds from both the extremes of west and east can also form part of these movements. So far this season has lived up to expectations and provided something for everyone.
Siskin by Edmund Fellowes
There have been record counts on the east coast of Siskins on the move. 2,129 were counted at Carnoustie, Angus, during the morning of 7 September. In Hampshire, 867 Grasshoppers Warblers have been trapped at one site and over forty thousand Swallows were counted over-flying Hengistbury Head, Dorset on 16 September.
Sabine's Gull by Joe Pender
The westerly gales have provided a seabird bonanza on the west coasts. 900 Sabine’s Gulls flew past Bridges of Ross, Clare on 17 September and birds also turned up on waterbodies in land-locked counties, with one Sabine’s Gull staying eleven days at Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire.
American waders are also widely distributed, with the largest arrival of Buff-breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers for many years. Seven species of North American landbirds have also been found in Britain and Ireland. Red-eyed vireo, Black-and-White-Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Baltimore Oriole on the Isles of Scilly, and Buff-bellied Pipit, Swainson’s and Grey-cheeked Thrushes on the Northern Isles.
And it is far from over yet! This weekend saw a large movement of Black Terns through inland counties, involving several hundred birds. A single flock of 100 birds were seen at Standlake, Oxon. Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails (Pied and White), Swallows and House Martins were all counted in three figures at several sites along the east and south coasts and goose counts are beginning to increase.
Things should be a little quieter for visible migration watchers during thesettled weather over the next few days. Migrating birds fly over at a greater height, often not visible from the ground, during these conditions.