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.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Look to the east this weekend

With the UK seemingly stuck in a westerly airflow it is not surprising that the focus has very much been on birds from that direction. Over the last week there have been impressive numbers of transatlantic waders found on this side of the pond. Up to 16 American Golden Plovers, 75 Pectoral Sandpipers and at least 30 Buff-breasted Sandpipers provided the backdrop to the two juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers, still present from last week, and a scattering of Baird’s, White-rumped, Semi-palmated and Spotted Sandpipers.

Spotted Sandpiper by Peter M Wilson

With the strong westerly winds, movements of common migrants have been patchy with most coastal watchpoints experiencing some very quiet days. However, during periods of relatively calm winds hirundines made their move. On the 19th, an estimated 3,000 House Martins, 2,300 Swallows and 210 Sand Martins were in the skies over Christchurch Harbour. Slightly smaller numbers of the same species were counted at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire on the same day. Meadow Pipits have also begun to move with similar numbers reported from several sites along the east and south coasts.

With the promise of easterly winds for the latter part of this weekend, the focus ought to be on birds from that direction. With a Blyth’s Reed Warbler arriving on Orkney and an Arctic Warbler on Fair Isle this morning, things look good for migration watchers along the east coast.

Blyth's Reed Warbler by Andy Mason

As the wind turns, more easterly showers are forecast to move through during Saturday so ‘vis migging’ (observing visible migration) should be the order of the day. Meadow Pipits and Siskins should begin to move overhead in good numbers, accompanied by smaller numbers of redpolls and Goldfinches, along with a possible large movement of Swallows and House Martins. Showers overnight Saturday and early on Sunday morning could also ‘ground’ good numbers of other migrants that ought to include Whinchats and Stonechats. It will be worth checking out the latter for Siberian Stonechat.  An intriguing report from the bird observatory at Falsterbo, Sweden, tells of a very early movement of Nutcrackers through the site. We can dream!

Nutcracker by Stephen Menzie

We could also see the first noticeable arrival of Goldcrests to the east coast, and, if Goldcrests turn up then the first Yellow-browed Warbler of the Autumn is always a possibility. At this time of year a ‘fall’ of migrants is likely to contain a wide variety of birds that will include flycatchers, warblers and a few early moving thrushes. The first few Redwings were reported to BirdTrack earlier this week.

 So if you’re anywhere near the east and south coasts this weekend, particularly on Sunday morning, get out and enjoy what could be one of the busiest days of the autumn so far.

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