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.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Black-billed Cuckoo - not quite!

The depression that tracked across the Atlantic and arrived on the west coast this weekend didn't bring the predicted Black-billed Cuckoo with it. It is twenty-two years since the last Black-billed Cuckoo graced our shores; that bird was found on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly on 10 October 1990.

There have been fourteen accepted records of the species in Britain and Ireland, with the dates ranging from August 29 to November 8. It is thought that the population is declining in North America but their populations vary considerably from year to year as they follow fluctuations in the abundance of their caterpillar prey. The fifteenth record is long overdue; will this be the year?

Black-billed Cuckoo (Ontario) by Luke Delve

The low pressure system did bring a few other North American birds with it, however. Three more Buff-bellied Pipits were found on Shetland, four American Golden Plovers arrived, one on Orkney, one on Shetland and two in Ireland, and a new Buff-breasted Sandpiper was seen on the Isles of Scilly.

Common migrants were also in evidence, with the general exodus of Swallows and martins still underway. Finches began to move, with Bramblings, redpolls, Siskins, Linnets, Goldfinches and Chaffinches well represented at migration watchpoints.

Rather curiously, Jays seem to be on the move and there is some debate as to whether these might involve continental birds or whether they are our own birds that are moving in search of food. The latter might explain the steady westerly movement out of Thetford Forest, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border on Saturday morning. The acorn crop here is patchy at best this year. However, there is also evidence of birds arriving from the continent. During a large movement of Jays on 29 September at Bockhill, Kent, a group of thirty-four were observed arriving in off the sea. The BirdTrack weekly reporting rate for Jay shows this upsurge in observations well.

Jay by Tommy Holden

The winds will be largely from the west and southwest this week but they will be fairly light midweek, so Wednesday morning could see the first big finch movements of the autumn.

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