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 4 October 2013

It's all happening out there!

Sitting behind a desk, gazing at a computer screen, it can be hard to get a handle on what's happening outside the window, let alone further afield! However, having immediate access to the powerful combination of BirdTrack, Twitter, the bird news services and a range of weather websites – not to mention the plethora of BTO staff 'bird brains' and thousands of volunteers ready to share their observations – does have its advantages. This week's news has been as interesting and varied as ever, ranging from tales of House Martin chicks still in the nest in north Cumbria and Ireland to the first Radde's Warbler of the autumn, on the Isle of May in Fife.

House Martin chicks still in a nest in Co. Fermanagh, Ireland on 2 October
David Morrow

High pressure was settled over the continent to the east and north of Britain into the early part of this week, with light easterly winds continuing to drift scarce passage migrants like Yellow-browed Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher in our direction. Conditions were also reasonable for the departure of hirundines, warblers and other small passerines at the start of the week, though the wind increased in strength as the week wore on and is forecast to swing to the southwest, offering less conducive conditions for birds departing across the Channel. However, as the high pressure to the east meets the low pressure from the west and creates more unsettled weather, it may ground any migrants that have left the continent onto the east coast of UK, and the conditions may still be good enough for some slightly bigger Redwing arrivals.

BirdTrack reporting rate for Redwing... due any day now!

It is worth looking out for White Wagtail too; they should also be on the move and can often migrate with thrushes. With Song Thrush and Redwing already beginning to appear and Fieldfare not too far behind, now is a great time to plan your first BTO Winter Thrushes Survey visit of the autumn.

A couple of low pressure systems are moving east across the Atlantic over the weekend and whilst they aren't particularly deep, could still bring a nearctic vagrant or two with them. Friday saw the discovery of a mega-rarity on Shetland, a Thick-billed Warbler, a species that breeds no nearer than the banks of the river Ob' in Russia, along with belated news of an equally rare species from at least as far to the west, a Cedar Waxwing that spent the last week of September in a garden on Tiree. On the basis that predictions are only remembered if they come true – and spurred on by Shetland's rare warbler (not to mention Norfolk's false alarm about a Rufous-tailed Robin) – I'll stick my neck out and say Siberian Blue Robin on Spurn and on the back of those low pressure systems crossing the Atlantic, a Least Sandpiper (or two) in Cornwall.

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