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.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Still summer-ish

The weather has been very much a mixed bag but on the whole relatively warm. So, it is probably unsurprising that there are several summer migrants still around. Swallows are still a long way north, with a handful of reports coming from Scotland, House Martin was also seen north of the border over the weekend. There are still a few Wheatears around and a Redstart thought to show characteristics of Ehrenberg’s Redstart (samamisicus, eastern race of common Redstart) is still present in Yorkshire, and a Common Redstart was seen much further north on Orkney. A Whitethroat is still being seen in London and there are still a couple of Lesser Whitethroats around. With the temperature dropping it will be interesting to see if any of these birds attempt to stay around for much longer.

Wheatear by Simon Gillings

With the temperature remaining relatively warm and very little sign of any frost, there hasn’t been any cold weather movements; it will have to get much colder before there is. However, Bewick’s Swans were reported flying over several parts of eastern Britain during the last few days which might hint at a small arrival of this species.

Bewick's Swans by Andy Mason

The forecast is for it to remain mild for the rest of the week and into the weekend. However, we are in for some easterly airflow, if this combines with falling temperatures on the continent we might see a few more birds on the move. Thrushes are always favourite this late in the season but we might see some finches arrive, Brambling in particular.

Monday, 17 November 2014

All quiet on the migration front - but maybe not for long.

Unsurprisingly it has been fairly quiet on the migration front this week and, with the exception of a reasonable showing of Pomarine Skuas moving through, there has been nothing much to report. However, as we are now into the winter period any serious drop in the temperature on the continent could result in a series of cold weather movements.

We could see a further arrival of Rough-legged Buzzards and Short-eared Owls and, who knows, maybe a Snowy Owl or two.

The BirdTrack reporting rate shows what an exceptional year it already is  for Rough-legged Buzzard. If it is cold enough, and waterbodies in Eastern Europe freeze over, we ought to see wildfowl on the move, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Goldeneye numbers could swell, and we might even see a good showing of Smew. Bewick’s Swans have been thin on the ground the last few winters but this could change with freezing conditions on the continent.

BirdTrack Rough-legged Buzzard reporting rate

In these conditions Woodcock and Snipe can also be forced across the North Sea. In some years more than a million Snipe make their way here. For more on this read the Demog Blog.
A small number of Waxwings were found in the north and east during the week and a small number of Little Auks were on the move, hinting at what might be if we do get a sudden cold snap further north.

Little Auk by Andy Mason

The forecast for at least the next few days is for it to remain mild, with a largely easterly airflow, which is good news for the handful of Swallows, Wheatears and warblers that are still in the country, we should also see further arrivals of Starlings and winter thrushes (Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds) on the east coast. There is a hint of things cooling down for the latter part of the week, and if we do get any ground frosts we might see Lapwings and Golden Plovers on the move.

I received an email this morning from a friend who is working on a survey vessel 100 miles out in the North Sea, showing just how difficult the North Sea crossing can be even for the toughest of birds.

Hi Paul - a couple of hours ago 3 Bean Geese flew past my ship - we are more or less stationary- just riding out a nasty easterly F8/F9 gale. I lost the birds from view but 20 minutes later after battling the 33 knot easterly they returned. After circling the ship 3 times they managed a very rough and dangerous landing on the deck- after clattering and skidding into some stowed kit they shook themselves off, inspected their feet, did a brief preen then started roosting! I'm amazed they managed such a difficult landing in such a small deck space in 6-8 metre seas as well as the gale force winds!

Tundra Bean Geese by Andy Williams

I have some concerns about takeoff with lots of obstacles in the way but hopefully the weather will settle down tomorrow- I imagine they will stay put overnight as no one is allowed on deck on these seas.

These geese were extremely lucky and fingers crossed, they make it off the deck and on their way as soon as conditions improve - there must be lots of birds that get caught out over the sea that are far less lucky.  Check out Pelagic Birder's blog for more.

Paul Stancliffe

Friday, 7 November 2014

Woodpigeons are go!

The crisp, clear conditions and light easterly airflow earlier this week was perfect for a Woodpigeon spectacular, and the Woodpigeon fans among us weren’t disappointed. Woodpigeon migration pretty much signals the end of the autumn migration season, often beginning during the first week in November and petering out during the third week of the month.

Woodpigeon by Jill Pakenham - a truly dynamic bird

It can however, be spectacular , and to have been on the other side of the North Sea earlier in the week must have been the things that dreams are made of (for the vis-migger that is). Earlier in the week an amazing 3,000,000 (yes there are six noughts) Woodpigeons were counted migrating through the Netherlands and Belgium, and on Wednesday morning (5 November), 202,000 were counted in three hours, moving south-west over Portskewett, Gwent.

Other migrants weren’t left out. Starlings, thrushes, crests and Robins featured at some coastal watchpoints, and the predicted Desert Wheatear duly turned up, in fact three were found, a male each in Suffolk and Kent, and a female in Norfolk.

Kittiwakes passing Portland Bill by Martin Cade

The weather over the next few days is forecast to be unsettled and a little stormy, so there will probably be little movement, although the sea is worth a look for divers, seaducks, Kittiwakes and a few late skuas and a few early Little Auks.. However, if we get a return to clear, cool conditions, Woodpigeons will certainly begin to move again, and we could get a small influx of Great-grey Shrikes.