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, 19 September 2019

19th – 25th September


As predicted, the north and north westerly airflow of the last week produced an arrival of Pink-footed Geese and Whooper Swans to the UK, along with a few Grey Phalaropes and a distinct movement/arrival of Wigeon. The same winds that brought the geese and swans here were probably also responsible for the arrival of Lapland Buntings, with birds being seen from the northern isles to Scilly. Perhaps indicating a late breeding season, Swifts continued to trickle out of the UK while Swallows and martins are beginning to move in force. With winds becoming lighter towards the end of the week Meadow Pipit migration began to ramp up too.

Meadow Pipit BirdTrack reporting rate

Whilst the influence of hurricane Dorian wasn’t felt immediately last week the arrival of several North American waders this week showed it did have an effect, several Semi-palmated, White-rumped and Buff-breasted Sandpipers were found but it was the double figures of American Golden Plover that stole the show, at least fifteen were found. There was also a small arrival of Long-billed Dowitchers, but the star billing of the Dorian effect has to go to the Common Nighthawk that was found in Argyll.

Species Focus
Lapland Bunting is a scarce passage and winter migrant to the UK, typically arriving here towards the end of September. It is one of the most abundant and widespread arctic passerines, breeding from southern Norway across Siberia to the Bering Sea and from Alaska east across Canada to west and southeast Greenland. Most winters between 200 and 500 are typical in the UK but in some winters many more are found, mostly in saltmarsh or coastal fields but not exclusively, with birds often found far inland in similar habitat.
The dry, rolling ‘tiddlip-tew’ flight call, uttered on take-off or whilst flying over, is often the first sign of a Lapland Bunting but when located on the ground it is a very distinctive bird, showing an obvious chestnut nape, dark, spotted upper breast on clean white underparts, and a black-framed pale cheek below a broad supercilium flaring behind the eye. With a good showing already this autumn, it might be one to look out for this winter.




Lapland Bunting BirdTrack reporting rate

Weather for the week ahead

During the weekend the country will mostly be sat in a southeast and southerly airflow, but as the week progress the winds in the south are going to swing to the southwest and in the north remain in the east, at times coming straight out of Scandinavia.

Yellow-browed Warbler by Andy Mason

Over the next couple of days there ought to be a mass exodus of Swallows and House Martins, taking advantage of the relatively light winds and warm temperatures as a result of a high-pressure system centred to the south and east of us. There is a low pressure system centred in the Atlantic to the south of Greenland and Iceland that may well bring a few more North American waders to Ireland’s shores, and who knows? Maybe the first Red-eyed Vireo of the autumn.  Enjoying a week of easterly airflow the northern isles ought to shine, with the first push of Yellow-browed Warblers, along with a few Common Rosefinches and maybe something much rarer like a Collared Flycatcher in the offing. With Pallid Harrier being a scarce migrant these days we could expect a few of these to be found during the next week. The warm southerly winds might also bring the odd Hoopoe, Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow and Red-backed and Woodchat Shrike to southern Britain.

Mid to late September is a time for finches to start moving with Linnet being the herald of this, and we should also see a distinct increase in the numbers of Wigeon, Teal and Red-throated Divers on the move. The easterly airflow should bring the first Dark-bellied Brent Geese to many sites along the east and south coast. Mid-September to mid-October is when migration peaks and we will be keeping a very close eye on the weather forecast during the next few weeks to help us keep ahead of the game.

Paul Stancliffe & Scott Mayson


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