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.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Spring migration steps up a gear

I have spent the last week on the Kent-Sussex border under blue skies, enjoying wall-to-wall sunshine and warm temperatures – not the best weather to experience any visible migration. On a one hour sample vis-mig watch at Dungeness on Monday morning I managed two Swallows, a Wheatear, a single Yellow Wagtail and a Pied Flycatcher that came in off the sea. 

There was a little more action over the sea. Common Scoter proved to be the most numerous migrating bird, in all twenty-seven flew west up the Channel during my sample hour, along with eight Gannets, two Red-throated Divers, nine Brent Geese and seven Whimbrel.

 Gannets by Jill Pakenham

It has definitely been quiet on the coast – the weather has just been too good and as a consequence any active diurnal migration will be happening high in the sky, out of earshot and eyesight. This is borne out by the number of summer migrants that have gone straight in land and are already on their breeding grounds. Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts are already singing in Welsh woodlands, a Nightingale was trapped during the week at its Cambridgeshire site and a few Cuckoos have been heard singing as far north as Northumberland, which bodes well for the BTO satellite tagged birds. We have three Cuckoos in Spain, with Skinner being the furthest north and Waller and Chris just a little further south. Any could make it back here during the next week. You can follow them as they complete the final leg of their mammoth journey here.

The mainly light northerly winds of the last week have been ideal for overshooting Mediterranean birds and we haven’t been disappointed. Star of the show was a Crag Martin in Yorkshire, however, three Hoopoes together in Devon and a flock of ten Black-winged Stilts on the Isle of Wight must take close second.  Red-rumped Swallow in Norfolk, White-spotted Bluethroat in Herefordshire and a Serin on the Outer Hebrides, A Tawny Pipit in Yorkshire, and two Bee Eaters on Scilly made for a good supporting cast. 

Of interest, we received evidence of outward migration across the North Sea in an email to the BTO. See below:

This bird landed on our cruise ship as it was near Shetland (heading towards Norway), but the weather was too stormy to dock there, so presumably the bird needed a bit of a rest.  

Skylark by Maureen Taylor

If the week belonged to any one species though it must belong to Ring Ouzel, a search on Birdguides returned one hundred and seventy-nine reports of birds from Scilly to Lancashire. So, what can we expect for the coming week.  Mid-April-mid May is the peak time for spring migration and we can expect almost anything to turn up. However, the best of it will always coincide with east/south-easterly airflow. This coming Sunday morning could be one of the best days of the spring so far to experience visible migration. The forecast is for a murky start, with the strong possibility of light rain, which will either bring moving birds lower or ground them altogether. Whimbrel will probably be the most obvious migrant next week but Reed and Sedge Warblers ought to also pile in, and by the end of the week many of us should also see a few Swifts. 

Ring Ouzel by Tommy Holden

On the scarcity/rarity front, with east/south-easterly wind forecast for the early/middle of the week we could be in for a treat with an eastern flavour. White-winged Lark is well overdue, as is Rufous Bush-Chat. We can but dream.

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