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.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Migrants not fooled by the heat

The unseasonably hot weather coupled with southerly winds has made for interesting times. The last few days have felt more like August than September/October, at least here in East Anglia, and it is easy to think that migrant birds feel the same. Visible migration has been quiet, with the large movements of Swallows and pipits of the previous week largely absent. However, this doesn't mean that the birds have been lulled into a false sense of security and have stopped moving; far from it. Where migrants have been visible there have still been relatively good numbers of both of these, along with finches, but for those of us birding under clear blue skies these are almost impossible to see as they will be migrating at a greater height than they would under less opportune conditions.
Redwing by Jill Pakenham

So, what has been happening? Swallow numbers have been much reduced, which is to be expected at this time in the season, the majority having already departed the country. However, as the Swallow numbers fall the House Martin numbers are growing as these wonderful birds now begin to get a move on. There have been good numbers of wagtails on the move, predominantly Pied, or to be correct, ‘alba’ wagtails; Pied and White Wagtails are very difficult to separate with fly-over views, and the first real autumn movement of Skylarks has also begun.
The Northern Isles received their first fall of winter thrushes, hard to imagine when the temperature in the south is 29°C; over a thousand Redwings arrived on Fair Isle on Saturday alone. Goose numbers continue to build, with some flocks of Pink-footed Geese in the low hundreds recorded over the weekend. Ducks have also started to arrive with some impressive movements of Wigeon, also over the weekend.

Glossy Ibis by Edward Charles Photography

As was to be expected with the warm southerly airflow, birds from that direction arrived, and the first of the now annual flocks of Glossy Ibis turned up; seven were found together on the Isle of White, with three settling nearby on Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, and a flock of eleven were seen at Courtmacsherry, Cork.
Just when it seemed that things were quietening down from the west, the Sandhill Crane from North America, possibly a left-over from Hurricane Katia, decided to leave its temporary home in Aberdeenshire and become the first ever of its species to be seen in England. Previously there have been two records in Shetland and one in Ireland, the latter in 1805. This sudden appearance south of the border, and not too far from the BTO headquarters, prompted a good number of BTO staff to abandon their Sunday lunchtime activities in favour of a mega-twitch.

Sandhill Crane by Andy Mason

With the end of the heat-wave and the return to strong westerly gales forecast to hit the north of the country on Saturday, there could be another arrival of birds from North America with the Northern Isles being the place to be.

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