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, 23 October 2015

Migration continuing apace

Starlings by Jill Pakenham

As is to be expected at this time of the year, it has been a busy time on the migration front.
Redwings have continued to arrive and have been seen across most of the country, the BirdTrack reporting rate shows this strong arrival well. Compare this to the reporting rate for Fieldfare which historically has a later peak time of arrival – there is still plenty of time to them to flood in too.
Song Thrushes and Blackbirds have been more obvious in the last week, along with Starling but all three of these should peak in the next week or so and we could see big arrivals of all three during breaks in the weather, particularly during periods of lighter winds.

Fieldfare BirdTrack reporting rate

Redwing BirdTrack reporting rate

Goldcrests continue to arrive in incredible numbers and at times the Norfolk coast, at least, seemed to be inundated with these incredible little migrants. Robin numbers also continued to impress at some east coast sites. On the finch side, Redpolls began to appear at migration watchpoints and following on from the incredible Yellow-browed Warbler autumn that we have experienced so far, Pallas’s Warblers have shown a slight return to form, having been quite scarce for a few years.

Great Grey Shrike by Trevor Codlin

As mentioned in our previous blog post (, Great Grey Shrike was one of the species to look out for this month and they certainly turned up. The reporting rate for this week was well over 2% of all BirdTrack lists, which dwarfs the historical average of around 0.5%. Most records so far have been from the east and south-east, with a few reports from Wales as well.

Great Grey Shrike BirdTrack reporting rate

Generally, wildfowl numbers are still on the low side, with the exception of Teal, but with low temperatures in Eastern Europe and western Russia this could change as and when waterbodies start to freeze.

The rare migrant highlight of the week is the Chestnut Bunting on Papa Westray, Orkney which was seen very briefly on Monday and Tuesday. There have been several previous records of this species, but so far all have been placed in Category E as escapes/releases from captivity could not be ruled out. Given the prevailing weather conditions in recent weeks and associated movements of birds with similar breeding ranges, it is possible this individual may be accepted as a first for Britain if the identification is confirmed.

Ovenbird by Bryan Thomas

 Looking ahead to next week, the weather at the moment looks set to be dominated by several low-pressure systems sweeping across the Atlantic. Grey-cheeked Thrush and Blackpoll Warbler are very typical late October vagrants from North America and SW Ireland and the Isles of Scilly look like the best places to find them. Outside bets include Chimney Swift, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Ovenbird, all of which have multiple records in late October.

Paul Stancliffe and Stephen McAvoy

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