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, 28 February 2014

Spring might be back on hold

The short spell of warm southerly airflow that we experienced last week did bring a small number of summer migrants to the UK. A handful of Sand Martins were seen at a couple of south coast locations, a Swallow was seen in Somerset, a pair of Garganey were seen in Buckinghamshire and a Great Spotted Cuckoo got as far north as Ouessant, Brittany There was also some evidence of a small arrival of Chiffchaff on the south coast.

Garganey by Dawn Balmer

The return to, at times, strong westerlies put paid to further arrivals from the south this week but it didn’t stop some of our departing migrants from moving. Small numbers of Pink-footed Geese have been seen moving north along the east coast, and Greylag Geese have also been seen on passage over Fair Isle.

There has also been some auk passage past west coast watchpoints, mostly involving Guillemots and to a lesser extent, Razorbills. There have also been a few Puffins on the move but it seems that a large number of Puffins were caught up in the severe storms that lashed the Bay of Biscay last week. A coordinated count of dead Puffins on the beaches of France, between Finistère to the Spanish border, found over 12,000 individuals, amongst over 21,000 seabirds. Most of these birds would be just about to start the return journey to their breeding colonies, Ringed birds recovered so far have come from colonies in west Wales, northern Scotland, Orkney and Shetland.

From much further south, we received a report of Pomarine and Arctic Skuas on the move, along with a small number of Grey Phalaropes, in fact these birds were observed on passage from a research vessel 20 nautical miles off the coast of Ghana. With a bit of luck these birds could be flying past a British headland in a month or so. See here for more.

Pomarine Skua by Joe Pender

One of our satellite tagged Cuckoos has begun the second leg of his return journey to the UK and is now in Ghana, just north of Lake Volta. It won’t be too long before some of the others join him there.

The weather forecast for this weekend doesn’t look too promising for much migration to take place, however, there will be a small window during Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning when the winds in southern Britain will be light and from the south, courtesy of high pressure over France. If there are any migrants holding-up in France, Sunday morning might see them arrive here. It is still very early though so it would only involve a small number of birds. Wheatear has to be favourite with perhaps the first flush of Chiffchaffs.

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