I spent last weekend with BTO’s Head of Membership & Volunteering Ieuan Evans, at the Dorset Birdfair, in the spectacular setting of Durlston Country Park. As we left our accommodation there was light drizzle in the air and lowish cloud and a light, warm south-westerly breeze blowing but on arrival at the park, the ‘rain’ had stopped and the cloud lifted and the day turned very summer-like. Setting up our stand, overlooking the sea, hundreds of Swallows were pouring over our heads, interspersed with flocks of Goldfinches.
Linnets by Martin Cade, Portland Bird Observatory
As the morning progressed the Swallows continued to move and were joined by smaller numbers of House Martins and a few Sand Martins. The finches became more varied with flocks of Chaffinches and Linnets joining the Goldfinches. During the early afternoon, Skylarks began to move, in flocks 20-30 birds strong, and three Woodlarks arrived from the east. The movement continued all day, and involved around 2-3,000 Swallows, 3-400 House Martins, 500 Goldfinches, 100 Linnets and 2-300 Chaffinches. A small number of Mediterranean Gulls were moving offshore.
We were also treated to some fantastic southern insects, the highlight of which had to be nine Convolvulus Hawkmoths, two Crimson-speckled Footmen and a Bloxworth Snout. The bonus was that one of the BTO guided walks coincided with a swim-past by a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins that were moving east close inshore.
Ieuan photographing Convolvulus Hawkmoths
Fast forward a week and we are back in Norfolk, the temperature has dropped around 10 degrees, the wind is storm-force and coming from the north-east. With high-pressure over Scandinavia and easterly airflow across the North Sea, Redwings have begun to move in force – over 33,000 were counted moving over the Pinnacle, Sandy, Beds during the morning of the 10th. The high-pressure is forecast to settle over Scandinavia for the next few days, so this figure could be eclipsed as more Redwings make the move south. It is estimated that around three-quarters of a million Redwings spend the winter here, so there are plenty more to come. Blackbirds and Starlings should also begin to arrive in number, along with the first real flush of Fieldfares. The finches will continue to move but there could be some good sized flocks of Brambling and Siskin to count.
Little Auk by Andy Mason
Along the east coast a seawatch should also prove fruitful. Skuas; Great, Arctic and the odd Pomarine should weigh-in, and we could see an arrival of Little Auks in the north-east. On the duck front, Wigeon and Teal could put on an impressive show this weekend as they arrive from the continent.
If I were to predict a rarity, Red-flanked Bluetail would be favourite, although nowadays it is more a scarcity than a rarity. There could be one-or-two Radde’s Warblers found and although it is a little early, Pallas’s Warblers could put in reasonable showing. Ieuan has suggested Nutcracker, and he is definitely in with a shout.