BTO migration blog

Spring and autumn are exciting times for anyone who watches birds. Here on this blog we will make predictions about when to expect migrant arrivals and departures, so that you know when and where to see these well-travelled birds.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Autumn migration steaming ahead

Autumn migration is well under way and many summer migrants are now on the move. The main thrust this week has largely involved hirundines, with decent movements being observed of Sand Martin, House Martin and Swallow, particularly through the Pennines and along the east coast. Passerines have been thin on the ground at coastal observatories though,  with the exception of Chiffchaff and Blackcap, and to a lesser extent Wheatear, probably as a consequence of the strong westerly and north westerly winds we have been experiencing. The BirdTrack reporting rates for these species reflects this nicely. However, many species have been notable by their absence at coastal watchpoints.

Blackcap by Tommy Holden

This strong westerly airflow has brought American birds with it though, the most notable being two Short-billed Dowitchers, the second and third ever to be seen in Britain! One was found in Dorset and the other on the Isles of Scilly, whilst Britain's third Semipalmated Plover was found on the Western Isles. These American waders have had a good supporting cast of at least fifteen Buff-breasted Sandpipers from eleven different counties, and a Monarch butterfly on Portland, Dorset.

Fieldfare by Tommy Holden

Winter visitors have also been on the move with the first push of Pink-footed Geese into the north and east, and a record movement of Teal off Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, where 2,600 were counted passing south on the 10th. The first Whooper Swans arrived at the Ouse Washes on the 11th and small numbers of Fieldfare have been seen in at least five east coast counties.

The first arrival of Redwing could happen any day now. In some winters almost three-quarters of a million Redwings and Fieldfares spend the winter months in the UK. Clearly Britain is important for wintering thrushes. This winter the BTO are hoping to find out how our winter thrushes use the British countryside and are asking people that see these birds to report their sighting through the Winter Thrush Survey.

Red-eyed Vireo by Joe Pender

With the wind stubbornly set in the west what can we expect over the next few days? Well, more of the same, really! Northwestern Britain might be the place to be as the winds crossing the Atlantic will be at their strongest here, but the whole of the UK will be in this westerly airflow. With conditions like this a North American wader could turn up almost anywhere.  What might prove to be the vanguard over the next few days, the first American passerine of the autumn, a Red-eyed Vireo, was found on Unst, Shetland this morning.

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