The depression that tracked across the Atlantic and arrived on the west coast this weekend didn't bring the predicted Black-billed Cuckoo with it. It is twenty-two years since the last Black-billed Cuckoo graced our shores; that bird was found on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly on 10 October 1990.
There have been fourteen accepted records of the species in Britain and Ireland, with the dates ranging from August 29 to November 8. It is thought that the population is declining in North America but their populations vary considerably from year to year as they follow fluctuations in the abundance of their caterpillar prey. The fifteenth record is long overdue; will this be the year?
Black-billed Cuckoo (Ontario) by Luke Delve
Common migrants were also in evidence, with the general exodus of Swallows and martins still underway. Finches began to move, with Bramblings, redpolls, Siskins, Linnets, Goldfinches and Chaffinches well represented at migration watchpoints.
Rather curiously, Jays seem to be on the move and there is some debate as to whether these might involve continental birds or whether they are our own birds that are moving in search of food. The latter might explain the steady westerly movement out of Thetford Forest, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border on Saturday morning. The acorn crop here is patchy at best this year. However, there is also evidence of birds arriving from the continent. During a large movement of Jays on 29 September at Bockhill, Kent, a group of thirty-four were observed arriving in off the sea. The BirdTrack weekly reporting rate for Jay shows this upsurge in observations well.
Jay by Tommy Holden