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, 15 January 2016

Cold weather and storms stir things up

Winter has arrived at last with some snow and frost in most parts of Britain in the last day or two. The colder weather is expected to stay with us into early next week at least, so we may start to see waterbirds such as Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Smew on the move as ponds and smaller lakes start to freeze. Already on the move are Bewick's Swans, which have been tracked moving west ahead of the cold weather in continental Europe. These new arrivals will certainly push up the current number of wintering birds (whose numbers may be down by 50%). Similarly, goose movements included a small arrival of European White-fronted Geese on the east coast, including six on the BTO's Nunnery Lakes reserve earlier this week.

Two White-fronted Geese at the Nunnery Lakes (Nick Moran)

The typical winter thrushes - Redwing and Fieldfare, are currently being reported well below the historical average on BirdTrack. This may change quickly as favoured feeding areas are covered in snow and frost and the birds are forced to move to new areas in search of food.

Reporting rate of Redwing in BirdTrack in 2016

Stormy conditions have been a feature of the winter and some strong south-easterlies at the start of January resulted in a wreck of seabirds, mainly Little Auks and Shag in northern England and eastern Scotland. There have also been an increase in the number of Great Northern Divers reported from inland water bodies.

Looking ahead, the current cold snap appears to last at least into the middle of next week and the current signs are that there will be a return to milder conditions for the rest of the month.

Paul Stancliffe and Stephen McAvoy