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 14 February 2014

Feels like summer

As I write this on Valentine’s Day there are several reports of summer visitors on the bird information websites. These include up to six Lesser Whitethroats, four Common Whitethroats and five Swallows, with records from the south coast to Northumberland. The winter period has also seen reports of Turtle Dove, Wheatear and both Willow and Garden Warbler, not to mention scores of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. In fact, so far in February there have been twelve species of warbler recorded. Ok, so three of them are from the east, Yellow-Browed, Pallas’s and Hume’s, and one, Yellow-rumped, is from North America, and all probably arrived here back in late October. There are two that are resident warblers; Cetti's and Dartford. But what is interesting here is that they have, so far, all survived a British winter. Also interesting is that the last time Swallows successfully over-wintered in the UK was in 2009, during another relatively mild winter.

Turtle Dove by Sue Hunter

So, with all these ‘summer’ visitors at large in the UK it is easy to think that at least some of them might be early migrants, particularly a few of the Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Most of the records are away from migration watchpoints and many of them can be traced through the winter months, having spent that time in BTO Garden BirdWatch participant’s gardens, or regularly featuring on BirdTrack lists.

Sand Martin by Andy Mason

However, it won’t be long before we do start seeing a few early migrants. Certainly by the end of February there is a very good chance of Wheatear and Sand Martin turning up, and if we do experience a few days of warm southerly airflow they could be joined by a few Swallows, and maybe even the odd House Martin. There have also been several February records of Great Spotted Cuckoo, with the earliest being found on the 14th, so if we do get the warm southerlies, who knows?

On another note, we have just heard about a Little Egret in Iceland that was ringed as a chick in Galway, this adds to other birds ringed in the UK that have been found as far away as the Azores and the Canaries, for more on these birds, please visit . 

Our Cuckoos are also on the move. As of 13 February three of them had completed the first leg of their mammoth journey back to the UK. For more information, and to follow them as they make their way back, please visit,

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