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 30 August 2013

Migration steps up a gear

Autumn migration moved on with a bang during the Bank Holiday weekend. The conditions on Saturday into Sunday looked good for an arrival of birds from across the North Sea but nothing could have prepared us for the spectacle that unfolded.

Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts arrived in force at many east coast sites, as shown by the BirdTrack reporting rate graphs below. Whinchat migration also got underway, however, the majority of the birds seen at the weekend would be continental breeders on the move; ninety-two were counted on Saturday at Spurn Point, and over twenty Red-backed Shrikes were found.

But it was the scale of scarce and rare migrants that was most astounding. Over sixty Wrynecks were found during Saturday and Sunday, with twenty-seven being found at Spurn alone on Sunday. Over twenty Greenish and Icterine Warblers were found from Shetland to Dorset, along with as many as ten Booted Warblers.  Add to the mix, up to six Citrine Wagtails, two Short-toed Larks, a Bluethroat and a single Rose-coloured Starling and it was a very special weekend indeed.

Wryneck by Jill Pakenham

Waders were well represented too. Curlew Sandpipers flooded in. Over two-hundred were reported over the weekend, and as many as thirty Wood Sandpipers, and up to sixty Little Stints were found.

So, what can we expect this weekend? A westerly/north-westerly airflow will dominate, and with low pressure centred over Iceland any birds migrating south from there could well get pushed closer to our west coast. Waders such as Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Golden Pover, should arrive. with the majority being juveniles. Amongst these look out for colour ringed Black-tailed Godwits, and if you do see any, report them to These waders could be found anywhere, so don’t despair if a visit to the west coast is not possible. A few Buff-breasted Sandpipers arrived in Britain and Ireland over the last couple of days and we could see a few more of these over the weekend, with maybe one or two more Wilson’s Phalaropes to add to the one currently in Northern Ireland.

Sabine's Gull by Joe Pender

Terns and skuas will also be on the move, now is a good time to look out for Long-tailed Skuas amongst the Arctics, see our latest Bird ID video for help with Skuas. Sabine’s Gull is also a strong possibility on the west coast this weekend.

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