This week has seen migration step-up a pace. Swallows have been pouring out of the country. On the south coast they were on the move in what was described as ‘biblical proportions’. 34,000 were counted moving through Christchurch Harbour alone on the 22nd, accompanied by 2-3,000 House Martins. Pink-footed Goose flocks increased throughout the week, the first Redwing flocks began to arrive and finches also started to move, mainly involving Goldfinch and Linnet, albeit in small numbers. Bramblings and Lapland Buntings also began arriving bang on cue.
Lapland Bunting by Dawn Balmer
On the rarity front it really was a case of east meets west, with top drawer birds arriving from both directions. Top billing has to go to the North American Eastern Kingbird on Inishbofin, Galway, shared with the Wilson’s Warbler on Dursey Island, Cork? Whilst from the east the White’s Thrush on Fair Isle, Shetland, and the two Brown Shrikes, in Hampshire and on Orkney were not too far behind.
Almost putting these in the shade, however, was the sheer number of Yellow-Browed Warblers that arrived. On Unst, Shetland, 80 were counted on 26 September alone, and birds made it as far south as Kent. With 40 on Fair Isle, Shetland and double figure counts from other sites too, there could be as many as a thousand in the country, surely one of, if not the, biggest arrival of these fantastic little birds ever.
So what of the weather over the next few days? High pressure is pretty much settled over the continent east of the UK, putting us in a fairly constant easterly airflow, at least for the next three or four days. So, this is where most of the action should come from. It is hard to believe that more Yellow-browed Warblers could arrive but a further arrival is definitely on the cards, and it is inevitable that they will bring something rarer with them. A showy mainland, east coast Lanceolated Warbler would be too much to ask of this supreme skulker but it is one to look out for.
Brent Geese by Andy Mason
Brent Geese should really begin to move this week, along with Wigeon and Red-Throated Diver, particularly for those seawatching from the east coast, and for visible migration watchers, Meadow Pipit could put on quite a show, whilst finch numbers should also build through the week.
Black-billed Cuckoo by Su Gough
With everything pointing to arrivals from the east it would be easy to forget the west, and, although the lows tracking across the Atlantic won’t be quite as deep as those of last week, they could still quite easily bring the odd North American bird with them. Black-billed Cuckoo is long-overdue and would be guaranteed a lot of attention if one did arrive.