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 19 April 2013

Migration getting back to normal

For some at least. The last week has seen a wide range of summer visitors arrive bringing them to the levels we would expect at this time in the spring. House Martin, Sand Martin and Swallow have all pretty much caught up after a very slow start.

For our early warblers it is a very different picture though. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap are all running about two weeks behind.

Mid-April to mid-May is the peak time for spring migration and it is already showing signs of hotting up. Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts are back in reasonable numbers. Our mid-spring arriving warblers are already showing their presence with Grasshopper Warbler, Whitethroat and Reed and Sedge Warbler being widely reported. The first flush of Yellow Wagtail are moving through, and the first Swifts of the year have also been seen, with one making it as far north as Fair Isle to become the earliest ever island and Shetland record.

Grasshopper Warbler by Amy Lewis

Further north migration is still slow as two of my colleagues add - Jenny Gill and Graham Appleton are reporting that migration into Iceland is very slow this year.  They are particularly looking for colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits, the arrival of which they record every year, but numbers of Redshank, Snipe and other birds that winter in the UK are also unusually low.  Has the weather prevented the godwits from taking off from passage sites in Britain, Ireland & the Netherlands, have they stopped in northern Britain prior to the sea crossing, or could they have died en route across the Atlantic.  If you encounter any of these colour-ringed godwits please send sightings to
While they wait for the godwits though, they are enjoying wonderful views of sea eagles and Gyrfalcon!

Red-rumped Swallow by Kris Webb (Scilly Spider)

Strong gale-force winds have dominated the weather this week and have no doubt slowed down migration – birds don’t generally like flying too far in strong winds. However, the winds are beginning to drop and on Sunday there will be light northerlies extending all the way from Northern France to central Spain. Migrant birds like to fly into light northerlies and I have seen some of my largest spring arrivals on the south coast of Britain during light northerly winds. So, Sunday looks like a classic Alpine Swift/Red-rumped Swallow and Hoopoe day.

Paul Stancliffe 

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