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 18 October 2013

Look to the south, and the south-west, and possibly the north and north-east!

The weather forecast over the next few days puts us largely in warm air from the south, from as far south as central Spain, and so we might expect one or two birds from that direction. During the last few days there has already been a Pallid Swift in Cleveland, a new Purple Heron in Shetland and a Hoopoe on the Farnes, and more of this is on the cards. We could see one or two more Hoopoes, Woodchat Shrike and maybe a Red-rumped Swallow.

Swainson's Thrush by Bryan Thomas

The weather forecast is a little more complicated than it seems; as the next couple of days unfold a low pressure system will cross the Atlantic bringing south westerlies with it and, although it isn’t a very deep low, or particularly fast moving, it could bring a North American bird or two to the Isles of Scilly; my money would be on a thrush, possibly Swainson’s. As the low spins across the UK, Shetland and the north-east will be bathed in an easterly airflow, just as high-pressure begins to build over Scandinavia. This should definitely result in a fresh arrival of birds; although for Shetland we are now quite late in the season, easterlies at this time of the year have the capacity to bring something very rare with them – Rufous-tailed Robin, Yellow-browed Bunting sort of rare!

Reed Bunting by John Harding

What will this mean for the common migrants still making their way south and west? In between this mix of weather there will be times when the winds become light, from whichever direction they originate. During these spells of lighter winds, migrants will move and we could see finches (mainly Linnet and Goldfinch but Redpoll should also feature), Reed Buntings, Skylarks and thrushes (mainly Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbird), and Starlings moving in good numbers. Now would be a great time to start the BTO Winter Thrush Survey to help us find out where they go and what these birds do, when they get here.

Brent Geese on the move by Andy Mason

Offshore, the number of Brent Geese on the move will increase and we should also see Red-throated Divers too, and, if we look at the BirdTrack reporting rate, the Whooper Swan arrival should peak in the next week.

Whooper Swan BirdTrack reporting rate

So, even though the weather doesn’t look ideal for a large arrival of birds from the east, or the west, or even the north, there should definitely be birds of a southern flavour, and there ought to be something for everyone this weekend.

Paul Stancliffe

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