So far, this autumn has seen the largest arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers for many years, possibly ever! The record day count at any one site in Britain was broken on 21 September, when 53 Yellow-browed Warblers were present on Fair Isle, Shetland. Being on Fair Isle at the time, I was immersed in the experience. It began just after lunchtime when four Yellow-browed Warblers were seen chasing each other on the island’s most southerly beach; as we were watching they were joined by a fifth. A look in the garden behind us produced another three, which were joined by a fourth that seemed to fall out of the sky.
Yellow-browed Warbler by Trevor Codlin
Walking back up the island towards the Bird Observatory during the afternoon, Yellow-browed Warblers seemed to be everywhere, three together on the road; several in the roadside Angelica’s, birds on the walls and fences, and every garden seemed to have one or two – Yellow-browed Warblers were everywhere! The record day count only stood for a short while; a week later 76 Yellow-browed Warblers were counted on the same island.
The last week has seen Redwing and Fieldfare numbers increase, however, the numbers are still small and we might have to wait for easterly winds before we see a large arrival of these birds – it is worth listening out on still nights for the characteristic, high-pitched ‘tseep’ call of these nocturnally migrating thrushes, nocturnal recordings at Portland, Dorset have shown that even though they aren’t being seen during the day, they are passing through at night. At this time of the year any thrush movement will include a few Ring Ouzels and that has definitely been the case in the last few days – October can be a good month to catch up with Ring Ouzel.
Fieldfare by John Harding
Finches have also been on the move. During the last couple of weeks Siskins have been pouring out of their northern English and Scottish breeding forests and heading south in force. Most of this migration has been witnessed inland and on the south coast as they make their way out of the country – it won’t be too long before the first Bramblings of the season begin to appear. Goldfinches are on the move bang on cue, as evidenced by the BirdTrack reporting rate. Even though it seems that many of us have Goldfinches in our gardens all winter, a large percentage still leave the country to spend the winter months in southern Europe and North Africa.
BirdTrack Goldfinch reporting rate
Pink-footed Geese have also been a feature of the last week – flocks have been seen quite frequently as they cross Britain heading for the east coast, with the wind in the west we should see more of this in the next week, along with a few Whooper Swans heading south.
Blackpoll Warbler by Martin Goodey
Now that we are in October and the wind is in the west, any fast tracking Atlantic storm, or deep depression crossing the pond – ex hurricane Joaquin gets here on Friday - could well bring Nearctic landbird migrants with them. There have already been a couple of Grey-cheeked Thrushes, a Blackpoll Warbler and a Red-eyed Vireo. Every October I think how the occurrence of a Black-billed Cuckoo on mainland Britain is long overdue – the last was seen thirty-five years ago in Cheshire and Wirral, Last year's occurence on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, was typical in that it was in a remote location and only seen on the day it was found. Only three of the twelve birds seen here since 1950 have made it to a second day - another mainland bird would be very well received indeed - maybe this weekend is the one!