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 May 2011

Weather slows migration

It's been much quieter this week, more due to the weather than to the end of migration. Migration should continue for at least a couple more weeks yet with the focus turning to the north as some late migrants and overshoots arrive there.

Spotted Flycatchers and Quails have arrived in small numbers this week and there have been some small movements of Swifts and House Martins on the east coast.

Above: Quail by Abbie Marland
On the rarity front, six new Red-footed Falcons were found this week and East Sussex recorded its first ever Pallid Swift. Despite the weather, another three Bee-eaters were reported this week and a single Hoopoe on Lundy, Devon.
It really has been a Red-rumped Swallow spring and another four were reported this week from Scilly to East yorkshire.Putting all these in the shade a Least Sandpiper from North America was found in South Yorks yesterday.

The weather is to remain mixed for the next few days but birds will move whenever the wind drops and a rarity in the northern isles is very much on the cards, and could still prove to be a sparrow from North America.

Friday 20 May 2011

Migration slows down

It's been a much quieter week this week and it really does seem like the main thrust of migration is over. However it appears that there are still good numbers of House Martins missing from breeding colonies and these birds could arrive any time.  Rarities continue to turn up and this week has seen a Gull-billed Tern in Norfolk, Black-winged Stilt and yet another Red-rumped Swallow, this time on the Isles of Scilly. Not a day seems to have gone by this Spring without a Red-rumped Swallow or a Bee-eater somewhere in the country.  

Bee-eater by John Harding

The weather continues to come from the west and this will largely keep any movements down, particularly when the winds are of any strength.  Migrants will continue to arrive for at least another 2 weeks and we should see those tardy House Martins and Spotted Flycatchers.  We are also just coming in to the peak time for Quail.

Don't forget if you want to listen to Nightingales in song, they will only be singing for the next two weeks, going quiet at the beginning of June.   The Nightingale is one of our fastest decline summer migrants, if you would like to help us find out more about the reasons for the decline, please support our new Nightingale Appeal.

Above: Nightingale by Edmund Fellowes

Monday 16 May 2011

Extraordinary week's migration

Last week was an extraordinary week, although the predicted Sociable Plover failed to show, it was a week for rare waders, with at least three Buff-breasted Sandpipers being reported and singles of Broad-billed Sandpiper and Kentish Plover in Cumbria, Spotted Sandpiper in Buckinghamshire, and Lesser Yellowlegs and Great Snipe in Norfolk, the latter in full display for one evening and one morning only.

Above: Calandra Lark by John Harding (not the Lincs bird)

Along with the Collared Flycatcher, mentioned in the last blog, Britain’s fourth Rock Bunting, and the first since 1967, was seen and photographed in North Yorkshire and subsequently identified from the photograph. An Audouin’s Gull in Suffolk took the British total to seven. The Calandra Lark seen in Lincolnshire and The Trumpeter Finch in Devon took their respective British totals to sixteen.

Above: Swallow by Tommy Holden

With a distinct lack of common migrants at south coast watchpoints, observers there had been lamenting the end of spring migration. Nothing could be further from the truth on the east coast; Spurn recorded one of its biggest Swallow days so far this spring, on Wednesday, when 3,356 were counted flying south, along with good numbers of House Martins, this was reflected nationally by the birdtrack reporting rate. It has also been the best week of the spring for Spotted Flycatcher, and wader migration continues apace.
Things should be a little quieter this week as the weather changes and the winds come from the west. However, May is the best month of the year for an American Sparrow to turn up, and with low fronts tracking across the Atlantic, the safe money is on White-throated Sparrow, however, another Lark Sparrow would be very welcome.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Eastern birds arrived on cue

Although the predicted Sociable Plover didn't materialise, a superb 1st summer male Collared Flycatcher did; on the east coast at Holme, Norfolk, scuppering many Sunday evening dinners into the bargain, including mine.
Collared Flycatcher, Richard Thewlis

The conditions are still perfect for migration to continue and some of the highest totals so far this spring of hirundines - Swallows and Martins - were observed this weekend on the south and east coasts. Bee-eaters are still overshooting and were seen at six sites from Devon to the Outer Hebrides, along with at least ten Red-rumped Swallows along the east coast, and one on the Outer Hebrides. Britain's seventh Audouin's Gull turned up at Minsmere, Suffolk.

Audouin's Gull by Dawn Balmer

The first Red-backed Shrikes, classic May birds, were found at the weekend so it won't be long before the first Marsh Warblers are recorded. Tern passage has been impressive both at the coast and inland, where Black Terns are still a feature. With the weather staying pretty much the same for the next few days this weekend could well offer more of the same, and maybe that Sociable Plover will turn up. I'd settle for a Red-footed Falcon in the Brecks though.

Friday 6 May 2011

Swifts have arrived

Wednesday morning saw the first Swifts over the BTO headquarters here in Thetford, heralding their arrival across much of the country. Swifts are very much like this, arriving simultaneously across much of the country, normally around the end of April. They are a little late this year having been held up by the strong north and north-easterly winds experienced during the last week.

Those winds did bring lots of waders, terns and seabirds to the south and east coasts though, large numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits were seen on passage, even at many inland sites, and an unprecedented number of Wood Sandpipers turned up. Pomarine Skuas and Common and Arctic Terns have also been a regular feature for seawatchers.
Swifts are one of our last summer visitors to arrive but that doesn't mean that migration is over, far from it. The next few weeks will see more and more birds of a variety of species arriving. There haven't been too many Spotted Flycatchers and many of our breeding Nightjars will arrive in another week or so.

So, with south and south-easterly winds forecast for this weekend there is still plenty of scope for migration watching, southern overshoots are still very much on the cards, Bee-eaters could turn up almost anywhere, and we might also get a rarity from the east - Sociable Plover would fit the bill nicely.

Don't forget, that for many of our early migrants the breeding season is well underway. Check out our Migration Timeline for the nesting and egg-laying dates of a number of birds.

Above: Swift by Mike Toms

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Not so swift

The strong east/north-easterly winds that were very much a feature of the weekend put paid to the mass arrival of Swifts, it did however, ground a few migrants at south coast watchpoints. Three-hundred Willow Warblers and one-hundred Wheatears were seen on Portland, Dorset over the weekend.

The strong winds did push Bar-tailed Godwits close to the south coast. The first Pomarine Skuas were seen and unprecedented numbers of Wood Sandpipers arrived at east coast sites; there were ten together on a pool at Holme, Norfolk, with over two-hundred arriving across the country. Dotterel were also seen at several sites from the Scilly Isles to the Outer Hebrides.

Above:  Wood Sandpiper (foreground) by John Black

Above: Dotterel by Edmund Fellowes

Rarities from the south and east arrived, with up to three Red-footed Falcons in Norfolk, a White-winged Black Tern in Suffolk and several Wrynecks in the south and east. New Bee-eaters were seen in Dorset and Kent, and four Black-winged Stilts were seen in Essex.

So what have we got to look forward to over the next few days? There ought to be good seabird passage off the west coast, with tern and skua numbers beginning to build. Temminck's Stints are on the cards on the east coast, and as the winds begin to lessen and turn more southerly, we should see those Swifts arriving. A Rock Thrush on the east coast would also be nice.