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 25 April 2014

Mixed weather could make for an interesting week

White-winged Lark and Rufous Bushchat was always a long shot but a Sardinian Warbler and Blyth’s Pipit did their best to represent southern and eastern overshoots this week.

It has been very much a stop-start week as far as visible migration is concerned, with a few days when both grounded migrants and birds moving overhead occurred in good numbers.  Reed Warblers turned up bang on cue, whilst early in the week 400 Wheatear and around the same number of Willow Warbler were grounded at Portland Bill, Dorset. These birds occurred in classic fall conditions, clear skies over the French coast, prompting them to leave and a bank of drizzle on the South coast of England, forcing them to land.

Willow Warbler by Neil Calbrade

It seems that there is a good chance of these conditions being repeated again at times this week, although the banks of rain may occasionally span the whole Channel and bring migration on the south coast to temporary halt. This will not be the case across the whole of the country though and there are some promising conditions for arrivals on the east coast. Easterly winds and showers forecast at least through to Monday/Tuesday on the English coast, and clear conditions on the other side of the North Sea, could result in migrants grounding from Norfolk to Shetland – where and when exactly will be determined by the local conditions on each day. If I could choose where to be over the next few days, in anticipation of a fall of spring migrants, I would choose Shetland on Saturday morning, Spurn Point, Yorkshire on Sunday morning, and the Norfolk/Suffolk coast on Monday morning.

Sunday morning on the west coast could also be interesting too. As a front moves in from the south-west it could also bring some skuas and terns with it, so, seawatching could be the order of the day.

So what might we expect? Well, pretty much more of the same. Swift numbers remained low this week but should increase rapidly next week. Spotted Flycatcher and Garden Warbler numbers should also increase but Hobby ought to be the bird of the week.  We have had our first Montagu’s Harrier, with the easterly airflow this week we could see a few more of these too.

Hobby by Jill Pakenham

The surprise rarity of the week has to be the male Northern Harrier that was seen over Portland, Dorset. Presumably this was a bird that arrived last autumn and wintered somewhere on the continent, and is making its way back north for the summer. It is interesting to think where this bird will spend the summer; maybe it will try to pair up with a Hen Harrier north of the border.

With the conditions forecast to be changeable it is difficult to say what we might get in terms of any rare or scarce migrants but Bluethroat, Wryneck and Red-rumped Swallow should be in the mix and, maybe an early Black Stork will put in an appearance.

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