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, 9 October 2014

You know it's October when birds begin turning up from all points of the compass. The first real westerly storms of the autumn brought more North American birds with them, with the cream of the crop being a Scarlet Tanager on the Outer Hebrides. This is the eleventh to be found in Britain and Ireland. The second Swainson’s Thrush of the autumn was found on Loop Head, Clare, there was a Solitary Sandpiper in Wexford and a couple more Red-eyed Vireos made it across the Atlantic, one to Northumberland and one to Mayo.

As predicted, birds also arrived from the east. A Steppe Grey Shrike arrived in North Norfolk over the weekend, a Blyth’s Pipit was identified on the Isles of Scilly and the first 2 Radde’s Warblers of the autumn were found on Shetland, while a Little Crake graced Minsmere, Suffolk. At least four Rough-legged Buzzards were reported and the northern islands saw the largest arrival of Redwings, although we are still waiting for the main arrival of winter thrushes.

Song Thrushes, Robins, Starlings and Goldcrests have begun to move through coastal watchpoints on the Continent but the low pressure system that has been wheeling around off our west coast has largely blocked a crossing of the North Sea. However, the stormy conditions will abate over the weekend and there will be light south-westerly/westerly airflow across the North Sea, light enough to perhaps encourage a few birds to attempt a crossing.

Brambling by John Harding

So, we should see the first big movement of Starlings and thrushes. Bramblings should also feature in visible migration counts, and we could see the last flocks of Swallows and House Martins heading off. The latter species is of particular interest to the BTO; we have lost over half of our breeding House Martins during the last twenty-five years and whilst we know that they are faring better in Scotland and Northern Ireland than they are in England, we don’t really know why. Is it a loss of complete colonies or a general reduction in colony size and why are losses greater in certain parts of England compared to others. To help find this out we will be launching a special survey in 2015 & 2016 to gather further information. Find out more here.

House Martin by John W Walton

The early part of next week will see the next low pressure system cross the Atlantic, so birds from the west are on the cards once again, but just like this week as the front/fronts pass through we should see the arrival of birds from the east too. It is anyone’s guess what might turn up but Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Radde’s Warbler would fit the bill.

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