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.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Look to the sea

The conditions during the last few days have meant that any early passerine migration has been somewhat supressed. However, there has been a steady movement of seabirds offshore. Terns have started to head south, mostly Common and Arctic but also a good smattering of Black Terns too. The forecast unsettled weather should see more seabirds passing close to the coast. When terns are on the move skuas are not too far behind, so we should see more Great Skua, a few Arctic and the odd Pomarine being logged in the next week.

Pomarine Skua by Joe Pender

Scoters have also begun to move, mostly Common but one or two Velvets have also been seen. The highlight has probably been the movement of shearwaters. The southwest has enjoyed a few Great and Cory’s, whilst Manx Shearwaters have been moving down both the west and east coasts, and a few Balearics have been seen from the south coast.

Wader passage has begun in earnest, with passage migrants joining our breeding waders and the relatively small numbers of non-breeding species like Bar-tailed Godwit that over-summer on our estuaries.  For most wader species, it is failed breeders and adult males that leave the breeding grounds first, so these make up the majority of individuals here in July. Small numbers of adult Curlew Sandpiper, many still in their fine breeding plumage, and Little Stint are among the non-breeding waders logged in the last week. Moving into August, females and then juveniles will form a growing proportion of the waders passing through.

Post-breeding dispersal is well underway too, with mixed flocks of tits and warblers – including lots of juveniles – roaming the countryside. Although many of these will be locally-bred birds, migrants from elsewhere do pass through as well. Keep a look out for species like Sedge and Reed Warbler appearing in hedgerows and other ‘out of place’ habitats: a sign they may be individuals from further afield.

Finally – and even though it isn’t even August yet – five BTO-tagged Cuckoos are already in Africa!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Waders are go!

Waders are definitely on the move, or at least northerly breeding adults are. Numbers are beginning to build for a few species. Small flocks of moulting Spotted Redshank are being seen at several sites around the country, Green and Common Sandpipers are being recorded from many inland sites and the number of Dunlin, Knot, both Godwits, Whimbrel and Grey and Golden Plover are growing steadily in the Wash.
Spotted Redshank by Mike Weston

One or two Crossbills are still moving over coastal watchpoints, Swifts are still on the move but numbers seem to have stalled a little, however, those that are moving have been joined by small numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins, and the first Wheatears of the autumn are also turning up.
Great and Cory’s Shearwaters have been moving through the southwest approaches in small numbers and the first of the season’s Wilson’s Petrel can’t be far behind. Small numbers of Balearic Shearwater have been seen off Portland Bill.

Great Shearwater by Joe Pender

With all the wader activity it is hardly surprising that the odd rarity has been found, arguably the best of which is the Least Sandpiper that was found on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, followed by the Broad-billed Sandpiper at Snettisham, Norfolk.

The weather forecast for the weekend looks promising for one or two more American waders to turn up. A fast-tracking low pressure system will arrive on the west coast of Britain on Saturday evening/Sunday morning. More White-rumped Sandpipers and the first Buff-breasted Sandpiper has to be on the cards. The southwest could also see more shearwaters and the odd Sabine’s Gull

Sabine's Gull by Joe Pender

Friday, 10 July 2015

Migration under way already

The small but steady trickle of Crossbills down the east coast of Britain is a sure sign that autumn migration has begun. Small flocks have also been popping up on the northern isles. Swifts are also on the move, an impressive 3088 were counted passing through Spurn, East Yorks, on 4 July, with 2845 through the same site a couple of days earlier.

Crossbill by

The BTO Cuckoos are on their way. We are currently following 18 birds as they make their way south. All of them have now left the UK, the last, David from Tregaron, Wales, left during the evening of 9 July. On the same day the first of them, Dudley, reached Africa. He is currently in southern Algeria. You can follow all of them here.

Cuckoo by Edmund Fellowes

Waders are also on the move, Common Sandpipers have started to turn up in southern locations, along with a few Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Curlew Sandpipers. Inevitably a few rarer waders have turned up too. Pride of place has to go to the Terek Sandpiper that was found in Northumberland. Tresco, Isles of Scilly, played host to an American Golden Plover, and a White-rumped Sandpiper was found at Beacon Ponds, East Yorks.

Terek Sandpiper by Andy Mason

Surprise of the week has to be the touring flock of 10 Bee-eaters that have settled in Suffolk for the last few days.

According to the weather forecast, next week is likely to be more unsettled than the last couple of week, with most of the weather coming from the west. This shouldn’t stop the wader movement though and we should see a few more of these global travellers passing through. With the direction of the winds, maybe a Stilt Sandpiper will be found somewhere but even if not, I am sure there will be one or two unusual waders found somewhere.