The summer months can seem rather quiet after the heady spring migration days but now is the time for waders that have either finished, or failed their breeding attempts in the high Arctic to be on the move. Having little reason to remain in the far north, these birds will now begin the journey to their wintering areas, with many passing through Britain on their way south.
Black-tailed Godwit by Nigel Clark
Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits have been popping-up at both coastal and inland sites this week, and the number of migrating Whimbrel, Curlew and Redshank is beginning to increase. Whilst it is exciting to see common waders on the move, the real excitement comes in what might be moving with them, and anyone looking for rarer waders were not to be disappointed this week. Top billing has to go to Britain’s fourth ever Great Knot, found during a Wetland Bird Survey at Breydon Water, Norfolk. The same county also hosted a Stilt Sandpiper and a Black-winged Pratincole, whilst just over the border, a Collared Pratincole was found at Minsmere, Suffolk.
Mediterranean Gull by Andy Mason
It is not only waders that are on the move, during the last week or so, several thousand Swifts have been recorded heading south over Spurn, East Yorkshire, with the highest single day count reaching 9,050 birds.
Gulls are a lot more evident too, here at the BTO headquarters in Thetford, post breeding Lesser-Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls have begun to frequent the nearby green spaces, and the annual passage of Mediterranean Gulls has also got underway, double figures of this species were recorded on the move at Breydon Water, Norfolk, and Christchurch Harbour, Dorset. A colour-ringed second-summer bird at the latter site was ringed as a chick in a colony in Lithuania in 2012, giving us a clue as to the possible origin of some of these passage birds.
Our satellite-tagged Cuckoos are also well on their way, with the first three birds having successfully crossed the Sahara desert, two from Devon and one from Sherwood Forest. Only one of the tagged birds – twenty-two in all – remains in the UK, in Norfolk, the other eighteen are spread across nine different countries, from England to Sudan; truly birds without borders. Follow all of them as they continue on their journey south on the BTO website.
Wilson's Petrel by Joe Pender
Seawatching could also be the order of the day for west coast-based birders. The first Wilson’s Petrels have been seen from Scilly pelagics this week, along with the first few Cory’s Shearwaters from various sites.
The weather forecast for the next few days, and into the early part of next week is a mixed bag, but there is a short period of north-westerly wind forecast for northern Britain over the weekend, which could result in more Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Whimbrel on the move. A return to easterly airflow – forecast for Monday - should see Common Scoter on the move, and the possibility of one or two more exciting waders from further east. I’d be happy with either Greater, or Lesser Sandplover, and to round off the trio perhaps an Oriental Pratincole might grace an eastern county.