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, 13 January 2017

Cold-weather movement

With most birds settled in their chosen mid-winter sites, it can take unusual weather conditions to make them move. During the next few days, strong winds and freezing temperatures, as well as local heavy snowfall could well start to force birds from these areas.

Birds who are dependant on clear ground to feed, such as Lapwings, Golden Plover and Skylark will move to find areas clear of snow and frost. At times these cold-weather movements can be spectacular and can be witnessed anywhere in the country, not just along our coasts.

Lapwing by Jeff Baker/BTO

As smaller waterbodies freeze, wildfowl will be forced to search for new and as yet unfrozen sites. It will be well worth checking any local gravel pits or lakes for new arrivals - Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Pochard may well be on the move, along with surface feeders such as Teal and Wigeon.

Drake Goldeneye by Jill Pakenham/BTO

Geese, being grazers, also struggle during prolonged snowfall, and Bean and White-fronted Geese have been on the move during the last couple of days. Further geese (amongst other species) may also arrive from central Europe as snowfall covers previously clear areas, in what has been a relatively mild winter so far.

Iceland Gull by Michael Bell (via BirdTrack Flickrpool)
Iceland and Glaucous Gulls have been increasingly noted along coastal areas in the north and east of Britain and Ireland, including up to 37 on Shetland alone. Strong northerly winds over Friday may push birds further south and even to inland areas. Indeed, single Iceland and Glaucous Gulls have even reached the BTO Offices in recent days. Any large congregations of large gulls will be well worthwhile checking for 'white-wingers' over the weekend.

Reporting rate for Glaucous Gull on BirdTrack

Ivory Gull by Chiddy Mark (via BirdTrack Flickrpool)

At coastal sites, there is an outside chance of even rarer gulls, such as Ross's or Ivory. One of the latter has already graced the North Sea coast of Germany this month so could well put in an appearance anywhere along the east coast of Britain.

Paul Stancliffe & Stephen McAvoy