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 27 April 2018

Mixed spring continues

To say this spring has been a mixed bag is a bit of an understatement with the balmy summer like conditions that spread across much of the country last week adding yet more variety. Temperatures soared well above average as a pulse of warm air, originating from North Africa, pushed up from the south. As would be expected this opened the door for several of our summer migrants to finally reach Britain and Ireland in good numbers.

Nightingale by John Spaull

Many areas recorded their first Nightingales, Cuckoos, Common Terns, and Lesser Whitethroats for the year as clear nights and a tail wind provided the push they needed to continue northwards. Indeed, Lesser Whitethroat arrived in such force that they were recorded way above their historical average, as the BirdTrack graph shows.

Lesser Whitethroat BirdTrack reporting rate

The better weather also meant two of the BTO satellite tracked Cuckoos made it back, with Selborne arriving on the 14th April and PJ back on the 17th April, fine out more here.
However, some traditional early arrivals such as Wheatear, Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover are still lagging behind as shown in the BirdTrack graph below.

Little Ringed Plover BirdTrack reporting rate

It is probably still too early to draw conclusions as to what is causing this reduction in numbers, could it be that they were caught out by the cold weather that stretched across Europe earlier in the year and succumbed to the elements, or is it they are just taking their time?

Several of our winter visitors, like Redwing and Fieldfare, also took advantage of the southerly wind and clear conditions to depart for the summer months to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and across Russia, with reports of both species down on previous weeks. By the end of the month the last of the wintering wildfowl, including White-fronted Goose, will also have departed.

Spotted Flycatcher by Edmund Fellowes

Spring migration is a protracted event lasting several weeks as birds head north in waves, now is the time to look for those species that migrate latter, so keep any eye out for Turtle Dove, Spotted Flycatcher, Roseate Tern, and Hobby. This is also the time of year that many species of wader start to pass through Britain and Ireland and species to look out for include Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint, Spotted Redshank and Ruff, many of which will be attaining their fine summer plumage.

Kentish Plover by Scott Mayson

With unsettled weather and a mixed wind direction forecast for the coming week, migration is likely to be curtailed once again with birds remaining further south waiting for the weather to improve before heading northwards again. Any better weather however could see the first arrival of those later migrating species with the added possibility of something more unusual mixed in like Kentish Plover, Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, or Sardinian Warbler.

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