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, 26 September 2014

East meets West

After almost a month of easterly airflow that resulted in and amazing autumn for visible migration and the arrival of large numbers of scarce migrants along the east coast, the winds became westerly earlier this week, and as if by magic a Red-eyed Vireo  was found in the garden of the Sumburgh Hotel at the southern tip of Mainland, Shetland.  The first Semi-palmated Sandpiper of the autumn added to the westerly feel of around twenty Pectoral Sandpipers and up to half-a-dozen Buff-breasted Sandpipers.

Red-eyed Vireo by Joe Pender

However, it was still scarce migrants from the east that dominated and Wrynecks and Red-breasted Flycatchers continued to arrive, along with the first multiple arrival of Bluethroats, however, these were just the supporting cast for Britain’s third ever Masked Shrike that was found at Spurn, East Yorkshire on 20 September, overshadowing the Pechora Pipit on Mainland Shetland and the Lanceolated Warbler on Fair Isle.

Common migrants continued to arrive in force but as numbers of Whinchats began to fall during the week, Stonechats began to rise. Stonechat migration tends to peak around a month later than Whinchat, so there are plenty more of them to come yet. The first real movement of Linnets began mid-week joining the increasing number of Siskins on the move, and hirundines continued to pour out of the country but as is to be expected, in lower numbers than the last couple of weeks.

BirdTrack reporting rates for Whinchat (top) and Stonechat (Bottom)

It is a sure sign that autumn is moving on apace when the first Reed Bunting movement of the autumn occurs, 50 grounded on Hengistbury Head, Dorset and 65 at Spurn on 23 September give a flavour of things to come. Alba Wagtail (Pied and White Wagtails are difficult to separate on fly-over views so are often lumped as Alba’s) is also a late September migrant and records of these picked-up this week too.

So, what does the weather promise this week? It is going to be a game of two halves, at least until early next week, where there will be westerly airflow in the north, strong at times, and very light south-easterly airflow in the south. So from the Humber north, we might see a few more American waders, and possibly the odd landbird – historically, late September has turned up a few North American wood warblers. South of the Humber we can probably expect a few more scarce migrants from the east, which might include Red-flanked Bluetail and the odd Bluethroat. Late September is also a good time for the arrival of Short-eared Owl and Great Grey Shrike.

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