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 March 2020

Migration Blog has moved.

The migration blog has a new home, head over to to check out what species are on the move and where best to find them.

Friday 20 March 2020

19th March - 25th March

During these uncertain times it can be good to turn to nature, not only to get away from it all but to reflect on how the natural world continues to follow a rhythm regardless of what is happening in our lives.  Over the last week, a steady flow of summer migrants reached the UK, most arriving here to breed. A good number of Wheatears arrived during Saturday and Sunday with Portland in Dorset scoring over 100 in a single day, together with 100+ Chiffchaffs, real signs that spring has sprung. The arrival of Wheatears was not restricted to the south with birds reaching as far north as Scotland. Most of these birds will be claiming their territory for the breeding season ahead very soon. The first wave of Ospreys also arrived back to their favoured nesting sites during the last week and no doubt these will be joined by more birds in the coming days and weeks. A few rarer species were picked out with a Male Lesser Kestrel on the Isles of Scilly being the pick of the bunch. There have been a few records of this species recently with the last being seen in October last year in East Yorkshire.  The predicted Short-toed Treecreeper from the last blog also materialised with a bird spending a few hours in a garden in Dungeness, Kent before flying off. A Killdeer, a North American relative of the Ringed Plover, was discovered on Lundy, Devon but was only present for a couple of days, perhaps it will be found over the coming week further north, Shetland Isles maybe?

BirdTrack reporting rate graph for Chiffchaff showing they
are arriving about the same as the historical average.

Species Focus

Sand Martin

Sand Martins spend the winter months in the Sahel, on the southern edge of the Sahara, and are one of the first of our summer migrants to make the northward crossing of the desert in the spring, and consequently one of the first to arrive back here. The numbers that arrive here to breed each year are a good indicator of the winter conditions in the Sahel. In years where the winter rains are plentiful, the overwinter Sand Martin survival is likely to be good, however, in drought years Sand Martin populations can crash. We have seen this happen several times over the years, with one of the most spectacular crashes in the 80s, after which it took a few years for the breeding population to recover.  It will be a few more weeks yet before we get an indication of how they might have fared this winter.
The 25-year figure (1992-2017) is currently showing a 3% increase and the latest population estimate has the UK population at 70,300 – 225,000 pairs. Sand Martins can show great nest site fidelity but can also be fickle, breeding successfully at a site one year and completely abandoning it the next; this makes them very difficult to count.
The oldest Sand Martin the BTO has on record was for an individual that was ringed as a juvenile on the Isle of Grain, Medway, in August 1990 that was caught by a ringer in Applegarthtown, Lockerbie, 7 years, 9 months and 1 day later. 
Sand Martins, for all of their small size, are tough birds and breed above the Arctic Circle, making the best of the summer glut of winged insects.

Sand Martin - Photo by Philip Croft

Weather for the week ahead

With high pressure in charge over the weekend and into next week, the weather should be relatively settled, a welcome change from the past few weeks. The wind will be mostly from the east over the weekend then swinging to a southerly direction for the start of the week, this will allow a continuous flow of migrants to our shores, but what species can we expect? Both Blackcaps and Willow Warblers should start to arrive in ever-increasing numbers, Ring Ouzels will also start to arrive towards the end of the review period. Red Kites are also on the move at this time of year and will be setting up territories for the coming breeding season, look out for them on bright days with a gentle breeze; calling gulls or crows are a good way of alerting you to their presence as they circle overhead. The run of easterly winds over the weekend could produce a few White-spotted Bluethroats, a species many of us dream of finding on our local patch. Other possible scarcities include Hoopoes, Alpine Swifts and Red-rumped Swallow. This is also the time of year that an overwintering American passerine might be found as its migrational instincts kick in, with White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco or Yellow-rumped Warbler possibilities in a garden in the next few days and, with more people working at home there is an increased chance that one will be found. 

White-spotted Bluethroat - Photo Philip Croft

By Paul Stancliffe and Scott Mayson

Thursday 12 March 2020

12th March - 18th March

Dare we say it? It seems like spring has sprung, with the first of the summer migrants appearing on our shores. Sand Martin, Swallow, Wheatear, Willow Warbler and Little Ringed Plovers have all put in an appearance, with Sand Martins making it as far north as Lancashire. The intensity of summer migrants will be as ever weather dependent but with a warm spring and favourable conditions the volume and variety of birds arriving will increase over the next couple of months. The timings of arrival vary from species to species with some species like Osprey, Garganey and Stone-curlew arriving at the start of spring, whilst others like Spotted Flycatcher, Turtle Dove and Swift tend to arrive much later.

The last few weeks have seen little in the way of significant bird movements, warm weather across Europe has meant no significant cold weather movements of wildfowl occurred and, as a result, reports of species such as Smew and Goldeneye have been well below average.

BirdTrack reporting rate for Smew showing the
lower than average reporting rate.

The continued run of Atlantic weather systems no doubt contributed to the arrival of an adult Ross’s Gull in Devon and a 1st Winter Laughing Gull in Somerset, both of which normally spend the winter on the other side of the Atlantic. Other rarities have included the long-staying 1st winter drake Steller’s Eider on Orkney and the Tengmalm’s Owl on the Shetland Isles, which has been proven to be a different individual to the one there last year, the term 'like buses' comes to mind!

It is not all about arrivals at this time of year either, it may be best to think of the British Isles as a major airport with both arrival and departures from across Europe and beyond, and the next few weeks will see several species departing for the summer. Often a feature of the autumn, now is also a good time of year to listen for the high pitched 'seep' call of Redwings at night as they head back to Scandinavia. Other winter visitors such as Fieldfare, Bewick’s and Whooper Swans, Waxwings and Brent Geese will also start to depart in the next few days.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose - Photo bt Philip Croft

Species Focus

Wintering in the Mediterranean, North Africa and south of the Sahara in West Africa, Chiffchaff is one of the first of the summer migrants to arrive back in the UK, typically in early March. Although Chiffchaff is an overwintering regular, a sudden flush of singing birds in areas where they have been scarce or absent during the winter months is a sure sign that the first wave of migrant Chiffchaffs have arrived. This was definitely the case during the last week, with singing birds being widely reported in the southern half of the country.

In recent times the British breeding population has seen a bit of a surge, increasing by 140% during the last 25 years, at a time when the population of its close relative, the Willow Warbler has been falling, down by 42% over the same period. In 2013 it was estimated that there were 1,200,000 pairs in the UK, by 2020 that number is estimated to be 1,750,000.

The oldest Chiffchaff BTO has on record reached the ripe old age of 7 years, 7 months and 24 days, and was ringed as a juvenile at Winchester College, Hampshire, and found dead at El Kelaa Mgouna, Ouarzazate, Morocco, 2,237km from its birthplace. The longest distance recorded is for a individual that was ringed at Portmore Lough, Antrim and found in Guinea Bissau, 4,816km away.

Chiffchaffs will be starting to sing at this
time of year - Photo by Allan Drewitt

Weather for the week ahead

The weather over the coming weekend looks to be set for a run of South/south-westerly winds and with it a rise in temperatures, this should produce another wave of early migrants to the south coasts with more Sand Martins, Swallows, and Wheatears expected, and possibly the first wave of Garganeys and Little Ringed Plovers for the year. Black Redstarts and Firecrests will also be on the move and the first singing Chiffchaffs of the year are likely to involve birds that haven’t come too far and wintered in the UK or near continent. As always coastal sites are likely to get the lion's share of these early migrants but inland waterbodies shouldn’t be overlooked as these are often used by Sand Martins, Swallows, Little Ringed Plovers and Osprey, particularly those that breed in Scotland that often arrive early and make a beeline to their nest sites. Possible rarities that could occur at this time of year include Alpine Swift, Short-toed Treecreeper and Franklin’s Gull; enough to keep anyone happy.
As mentioned earlier, its also worth looking out for departing migrants with species like Brambling, Fieldfare, and Waxwings all moving towards the coast they can turn up anywhere, from gardens to local parks.
The latter part of the week is forecast for a switch to a northerly wind direction which could curtail migration for a few days.

Little Ringed Plovers are one of our earliest
summer migrants - photo By Philip Croft

By Paul Stancliffe and Scott Mayson

Thursday 13 February 2020

Mid-February to Mid-March

For me, the period from mid-February to mid-March has always felt a bit of a damp squib the renewed vigour of New Year has started to wane but spring is yet to get going properly. That doesn’t mean that it is simply a case of as you were, this time of year can be productive with the first hints of spring starting to appear. As the days lengthen and the first Daffodils burst into flower the birds respond and the dawn chorus becomes ever louder and more varied as the cast of songsters increases. Robins are joined by Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Dunnocks and Wrens and this will only get better as they are joined by summer migrants later in the season!

The past 4 weeks have seen a continuation of the warm and wet weather that has dominated much of the winter period. Highlights have included 4 Eastern Yellow Wagtails, in Northumberland, Norfolk, Suffolk and Galway, 2 Black-throated Thrushes, 1 in Lincolnshire, which was a first for the county, and the long-staying male in Bedfordshire and, a Lesser White-fronted Goose in Norfolk. On the Shetland Isles, particularly Unst there was a small influx of Glaucous Gulls at the end of January. This arctic cousin of the Herring Gull is an annual winter visitor and numbers vary from year to year, this year has been fairly quiet but on the 18th January, 15 flew north past Lamba ness, Unst. This was then followed first by 67 coming in off the sea during the morning on the 25th January at Burrafirth, Unst, then 56 the next day and 12 on the morning of the 27th January at the same location. Quite where these birds went is open to speculation but there hasn’t been an associated increase anywhere else across the country. The most likely origin of these birds is from Iceland and Greenland as the winds prior to the 25th were almost directly from the southern tip of Greenland and across Iceland before sweeping across the top of Scotland.

1st winter Glaucous Gull - Photo by Scott Mayson

Species focus

February is a month when many of our breeding birds begin to think about the coming season in earnest, and as the days begin to lengthen more and more join the dawn chorus, proclaiming territory and advertising for a mate. Many will also be involved in displaying to achieve the same. One of these is the Goshawk, with February being the month when the males begin their undulating display flight in earnest. This can also be accompanied by a slow, butterfly-like flapping flight.
The Goshawk’s fortunes have seen a turn-around in recent times, the latest population estimate from APEP4, 2020, stands at 620 pairs, up from 280-420 pairs in APEP3, 2013. However, it remains a difficult bird to catch up with due to its elusive nature – it isn’t known as the ghost of the woods for nothing.
February and March is a good time to catch up with Goshawks that are on the move, birds that crossed the North Sea to spend the winter here and non-breeders that are moving around in search of their own territory. That northern populations migrate south during the winter is without doubt but there is very little documented evidence of birds arriving in Britain – there is one recovery of a Goshawk ringed outside of Britain being found here, a bird that was ringed in Southern Norway, being trapped and released in Lincolnshire. However, Goshawks are regularly seen during migration periods at coastal watchpoints and on offshore islands, suggesting migrant Goshawks might be a little more common than current knowledge infers.

Goshawk - Photo by Chris Knight

Weather for the month ahead

The weather over the next 4 weeks looks set to continue to be unseasonably mild with wetter conditions in the northern half of the UK and any drier colder weather being short-lived. At this time of the year, any days of prolonged sunshine should encourage species like Goshawk, Woodlark and Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers to start displaying and nest building. Mediterranean Gulls were once a scarce bird in the UK but now they are expanding their range and breeding at a number of sites, often in large numbers. In early spring they start to acquire their stunning breeding plumage of a jet black hood, white wingtips and scarlet red bill. Look out for them along the coast and in flocks or roosts of Black-headed Gulls.

Mediterranean Gull - Photo by Chris Mills/Norfolk

Most of our winter visitors will be leaving over the next few weeks as they begin to head back to their breeding grounds. Species like Pink-footed and White-fronted Goose and particularly Bewick's Swan will all but have gone by mid-March. Both Redwings and Fieldfares will also be heading back towards Scandinavia over the next few weeks and as a result, many coastal sites will have flocks possibly hanging around for a couple of days as they await favourable weather to make the North Sea crossing.

Birdtrack reporting rate for Bewick's Swan, by the end of February
most birds have left the UK

Any sustained warm weather in early to mid-March could see the arrival of the first summer migrants, these are typically Garganey, Little Ringed Plover, Black Redstart, Wheatear and Sand Martin, although the odd individual of other species such as Swallow and House Martin can also arrive. The arrival of these is not only determined by the weather in the UK but also along their entire migration route from Africa and through Europe. Unfavourable conditions along any part of their route can curtail their progress and set back their arrival in the UK. Both Guillemots and Razorbills will be arriving back at their nesting cliffs during early March in readiness for the breeding season ahead, these will be joined by Puffin, Black GuillemotFulmar and Shag later on in the spring.

Black Redstart - Photo by Liz Cutting

Scarce and rare species that could arrive over the next month include Red-rumped Swallow, Penduline Tit, Hoopoe and Alpine Swift, but as with other times of the year, anything is possible!

Scott Mayson and Paul Stancliffe

Thursday 16 January 2020

Migration blog mid-January to mid-February

Looking back over the last review period little in the way of rarities arrived with the pick of the bunch being an unseasonal Brown Shrikein Cork. Elsewhere, a male Black-throated Thrush in Bedfordshire proved very popular, as did the Lesser white-fronted Goose and Grey-bellied Brent Goose combo in Norfolk, although both could prove elusive at times. The predicted American passerine from the last blog post failed to be found but there is still time! 
With no cold weather to speak of the numbers of species such as Smew, Fieldfare and Redwing all remained well below there historical average and seem unlikely to build over the coming weeks. Both Redwing and Fieldfare, however, may start to appear at coastal locations as they move out of central parts and start to head back towards Scandinavia and Iceland for the breeding season. Over the New Year period, there were some local increases of White-fronted and Tundra Bean Geese which may possibly relate to New Year's fireworks etc scaring birds, indeed radar images in Europe for New Year’s Eve show a sudden spike in birds flying around from midnight onwards. A spell of northerly winds before the Christmas period saw a small increase in white-winged Gulls with both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls reported across the UK. The milder weather has meant a few summer migrants look like they are attempting to overwinter with around 8-10 Swallows reported, including 4 in Galway, a single House Martin in East Sussex and a Swift was seen in Pembrokeshire on the 1st January!

BirdTrack reporting rate for Fieldfare showing a below average reporting rate for the time of year.

The late winter period from mid-January to mid-February is probably the quietest time of the year, whilst some species such as Rook, Grey Heron and Common Crossbill are beginning to start breeding, for most species it is still a few more weeks before they start to think about migrating and breeding. At this time of year, cold weather is the main driver of bird movements but with mild conditions looking to dominate the foreseeable future, this seems very unlikely and thus will be a case of as you were for many species.

Common Crossbills are an early breeder. Photo Philip Croft

Species focus Pochard.

During the winter months, there can be as many as 23,000 individual Pochard in the UK but as a species it has seen its fortunes change. During the last 25 years the wintering population has fallen by 70% - short-stopping (birds spending the winter months nearer to their Eastern breeding sites as winters have become milder) and changes in food availability are thought to be factors in this but there is still unclear what the drivers are. Pochards from the northern and eastern population are highly migratory wintering as far south as West Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Equator in East Africa. Wintering Pochard in Britain and Ireland come mainly from the Baltic countries and the former USSR. The longest distance recovery at 5,137km, is of an individual that was shot near Swansea, Wales, that was ringed in Novosibirskiye Islands, Russian Federation, and the oldest on record lived to a grand old age of 22 years and 10 days. This individual was a female, ringed as an adult at Abberton Reservoir, Essex and shot in Odesa Oblast, Ukraine.

Male and female Pochard - Photo by Edmund Fellowes

Weather for the month ahead.

With the short-range forecast pointing towards continued mild wet weather, it looks like the late winter period will pass without any significant cold spells, indeed even the long-range predictions don’t show any signs of any sustained spells of cold weather developing. What this means for migrant species is we could see early arrivals of species such as Garganey, Wheatear and Little Ringed Plovers which are traditionally the first to arrive. This is, of course, dependent on favourable wind directions coupled with good weather further south. Although not arriving here for several more weeks species like Cuckoo, Swift and Nightingales will already have started to move back towards there breeding grounds across Europe. Some of our winter visitors may leave earlier if we have a mild spring and species to look out for include Red-breasted Mergansers, Slavonian Grebes, and Goosanders. Auks, such as Guillemot and Razorbills will start to gather at their breeding cliffs as will Fulmars that leave their breeding cliffs for a short time over winter before returning early in the spring. Common Gulls are for many just a winter visitor and over the next few weeks numbers will drop as they also head off to breed further north, look out for mixed flocks of Black-headed and Common Gulls on sports fields and winter wheat fields. Another Gull to look out for at this time of year is Caspian Gull, a close relative of Herring Gull, this species is sometimes known as a birders bird as it can be very difficult to separate from the aforementioned species. Caspian Gulls breed in Eastern Europe and small numbers, mainly 1st winter birds, turn up here each winter with flocks of large gulls around refuge tips being a good place to find one.

BirdTrack reporting rate for Common Gull showing a decline in reporting rate
 through the month as birds depart northwards.

Common Gull - Alan Drewitt

By Paul Stancliffe and Scott Mayson

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Mid December to mid January

The early winter period has been a somewhat quiet affair with little in the way of rare or scarce birds arriving, the standout bird being a rather showy Hermit Thrush that was found on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly. For many, the true highlight was the confirmation that the suspected Paddyfield Pipit was indeed one after a faecal sample was analysed for DNA. The announcement was made at the end of Prof Martin Coillinson's talk at the annual BTO conference, what a way to end a talk! This record will constitute a first for Britain, and indeed Europe, once it is formally accepted by the BOURC.
As for the commoner winter visitors, the numbers of wildfowl continued to increase as birds arrived from far and wide, and it is looking like a good year for Scaup with the BirdTrack reporting rate well above the historical average. Flocks of over 600 were reported from Loch Ryan near Stranraer in late November, and other small groups were reported across the country from Unst, Shetland in the North and Tresco, Isles of Scilly in the south.

BirdTrack reporting rate for Scaup showing a spike in reporting rates since early October.

Scaup wasn't the only wildfowl on the move, numbers of other ducks such as Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Pintail all increased, indeed Pintail which had a slow arrival period in late autumn picked up to be more or less where they should be at this time of the year.

BirdTrack reporting rate graph for Pintail showing a steady increase in reports during November.

Woodcock reports have been below average since a peak in early November, no doubt due to milder weather on the continent not pushing them further west, a spell of cold weather will no doubt push more birds to our shores. Other species have also increased in number since the last blog, with increasing reports of Fieldfare, which arrive in the UK a few weeks later than Redwings, but we are still to see the peak winter arrival of Blackbirds from the continent that happens in mid-late December. It is not looking like it will be a Waxwing winter with reports below the historical average and nowhere near the level we saw during the last invasion of 2016.

BirdTrack reporting rates for Waxwing indicating it not looking like a Waxwing winter. 

Waxwing - only a few flocks have been reported this winter.

Species Focus - Taiga Bean Goose

Traditionally, Taiga Bean Goose (fabilis) has been one of the last of the regular winter visitors to arrive in the UK, usually in early December, and one of the first to leave in mid-late January. Birds wintering in Britain are thought to largely originate from the Lapland breeding population and are mostly to be found in two flocks, one in the Yare Valley, Norfolk and the other on the Slamannan Plateau in eastern Scotland. Numbers fluctuate between years but have fallen during the last decade or so as birds take advantage of milder winters on the other side of the North Sea. Each winter a small number of Tundra Bean Geese (rossicus) arrive in the UK. Tundra Bean Goose breeds in northern Siberia and winters mainly in the southern Netherlands, western Germany, the Balkans, France and Spain. Numbers can fluctuate wildly at these sites and can increase during the winter as a result of cold weather movement.

Taiga Bean Goose - Photo by Steve Ray

Cold weather movement

During the winter months populations of birds tend to remain fairly static, however, during periods of cold weather, both here and on the continent, birds can become quite mobile. During these conditions birds can cover large distances in search of snow and frost-free ground and ice-free waters. These movements can occur within the UK with birds moving south as the winter bites further north and can include quite large movements of Skylarks, finches and buntings, Lapwings, Golden Plovers and waterfowl. These movements can occur at any time during the winter in response to falling temperatures. If cold weather hits on the continent birds will move south and west, with some crossing the North Sea. During these conditions we can often see an arrival of waterfowl; Goldeneye, Smew and geese and swans.

Smew can arrive during cold weather events across Europe - Photo by Sarah Kelman

Weather for the month ahead

The weather for much of December looks to be dominated by low pressure sweeping in from the Atlantic, resulting in warm but wet conditions across much of the UK. These weather patterns are unlikely to produce much in the way of vagrant birds but there is still the chance of maybe a Killdeer or American Robin arriving from America. This autumn was also a productive one for American passerines and it is conceivable that another will be discovered overwintering somewhere, Black and White Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Dark-eyed Junco and most famously of all Golden-winged Warbler have all been discovered during the winter months. If we get any sort of cold blast over the next few weeks visitors from more arctic clines could turn up, with species such as Ivory Gull, Brunnich's Guillemot and Gyr Falcon all possible. The new year is often greeted with renewed vigour by birders as they set out to get their lists off to a start. At this time of year species like Bewick's Swan, Willow Tit, Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe all have their peak in reporting rate and are much sought by those birders of a listing disposition.

Great norther Diver - A species many birdwatchers only encounter
during the winter months Photo by Sarah Kelman.

Friday 15 November 2019

Mid November to Mid December

The autumn has decided to go out with a flurry of interesting birds, with a 1st for Britain and indeed the Western Palearctic, in the shape of a Paddyfield Pipit in Cornwall taking the top spot, and a Steller’s Eider on Orkney running a close second. The supporting cast has not been too shabby either with the Orkney isles also playing host to a female Siberian Rubythroat and a Blue Rock Thrush.
Elsewhere across the UK highlights of the last couple of weeks have included an Isabelline Wheatear in Norfolk, Buff-bellied Pipit in Cornwall, Siberian/Stejneger’s Stonechat in East Yorkshire, and both the returning White-winged Scoter in Lothian and Short-billed Dowitcher in Louth showing no signs of moving on.
The weekend of the 9th and 10th November saw a small influx of Hume’s Warblers, a close relative of the Yellow-browed Warbler, arriving along the east coast with some counties recording multiple individuals. No doubt over the next few weeks these will filter down through the country and could turn up along the south coast, and the odd bird may even stay over the winter.
It hasn't been all about the rare and scarce birds with many locations witnessing big movements of Woodpigeons and Redwings. Portskewett, Cardiff had a count of 108378 Woodpigeons over on the 6th November, whilst in 20250 Redwing were recorded at Kemple End, Lancashire. The last week has also seen a spike in the reporting rate of both Long-tailed Duck and Little Auks with several birds turning up across the country, both species brighten even the dullest day and are a favourite with many birdwatchers.

BirdTrack reporting rate graph for Little Auk showing a 
spike in reports in early November

A pair of Long-tailed Ducks - photo Sarah Kelman

BirdTrack reporting rate graph for Long-tailed Duck showing a
spike in reports in early November

Species focus

During October and November, Woodcock numbers can be swelled by birds escaping falling temperature on the Continent but the number involved can vary between winters depending on conditions on the other side of the North Sea. British wintering Woodcock have been tracked back to their breeding grounds in Finland, Eastern Europe and western Russia. It was long thought that the tiny Goldcrest hitched a ride on the backs of migrating Woodcocks across the North Sea as both species have a tendency to turn up on our shores at the same time and in the same weather conditions.
The fortunes of British breeding Woodcock has taken a downturn, we have lost over three-quarters of them during the last twenty-five years and it is red-listed as a bird of conservation concern. It is unclear what in particular might be driving this decline but it is likely to include such things as recreational disturbance, the drying out of natural woodlands, overgrazing by deer, declining woodland management, and the maturation of new plantations.
The Bird Atlas 2007-11 showed that as a breeding bird Woodcock has a wide distribution, being found from the north coast of Scotland all the way south to the English south coast, and from East Anglia west to Ireland, but a look at the Breeding Distribution Change map shows just how widespread the decline is, with downward pointing arrows across the whole of Britain and Ireland.
The Woodcock is very much a bird of mature woodland but during the winter months can be found almost anywhere, even turning up in city parks and gardens, and birds can move at any time during the winter – freezing conditions, deep snowfall and ice make it almost impossible for Woodcock to feed and they are forced to move in search of food.

Map showing breeding distribution  changes for Woodcock

Woodcocks - photo by Hugh Insley

Weather for the month ahead

It is difficult to be 100% sure what the weather will do over the next month but early indications point to a cold northerly wind for some over the weekend which then swings to the east before settling to a more southerly dominated airflow, all in all, a mixed bag of weather and indicative of the late autumn period so far. Fieldfares which typically arrive a few weeks after Redwing have started to arrive in bigger numbers and any north or north easterlies over the next 3-4 weeks should see even more birds arrive.  These easterly winds could also result in more Hume's, Pallas's and Dusky Warblers arriving, or maybe an Oriental Turtle Dove or Black-throated Thrush. Any southerly winds over the next couple of weeks could produce a Crag Martin or Pallid Swift 

BirdTrack reporting rate for Fieldfare showing the arrival in late October.

Whilst the numbers of Waxwings has steadily been growing in Southern Sweden, Norway and Finland, only a few birds have turned up this side of the north sea but again with favourable winds a few more birds are likely to arrive here before the year is out. Numbers of White-winged gulls, Iceland and Glaucous, both typically start to increase with the progression of late autumn into early winter, with Scotland seeing the bulk of the first arrivals before they move down across Britain and Ireland. Both species can be found in a range of habitats from coastal beaches to reservoirs and refuge tips and so offer birdwatchers the chance to find their own. 

Glaucous Gull - photo by Scott Mayson

Many species of Wildfowl will also be arriving over the next few weeks and numbers of Wigeon, Teal and Shovelers will continue to build. It is always worth checking these flocks for American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and Blue-winged Teal that may have arrived during the autumn and gone undetected whilst they were in their eclipse plumage. Brent Geese numbers will also continue to build at traditional wintering sites and amongst these the occasional Black Brant or even Red-breasted Goose can be sometimes found. 
Sewage works at this time of year can play host to a whole variety of birds including Pied and Grey Wagtails, Green Sandpipers,  Goldcrest and Chiffchaffs. Amongst these, some scarcer species can sometimes be found such as Firecrest, Siberian Chiffchaff and Yellow-browed Warbler which hunt the insect rich filter beds and surrounding vegetation.

Paul Stancliffe and Scott Mayson