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 27 November 2015

Late Season Seabirds

It has been an interesting week, both weather-wise and in the birds that are on the move. The last few days have been dominated by front after front coming across the Atlantic, bringing unsettled conditions with them. Rough seas at this time of year will always stir up some seaduck movement and that appears to have been the case this week.

Goldeneye, Scaup, Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Common Scoter have all been well represented past coastal watchpoints. The BirdTrack reporting rates for all five of these of these species, as well as Velvet Scoter showed a noticeable increase.

BirdTrack reporting rate for Velvet Scoter

Velvet Scoter in flight showing distinctive white secondaries (Photographer: Sam Creighton)

The weather also stirred up a few skuas, particularly Great Skua and to a lesser extent, Pomarine too. The best count was of 105 Great Skuas past Titchwell, Norfolk on 21 November and very good count of 73 "Poms" past Spurn, East Yorkshire on the same day.

Having predicted an arrival of Little Auks into the North Sea in last week's blog, we were not to be disappointed. While it wasn't one of the largest movements of Little Auks ever recorded, there were still impressive counts at some sites. The 602 seen passing the Farne Islands, Northumberland last Saturday were particularly noteworthy. Virtually every site along the east coast of Britain recorded at least one or two, with a handful noted on the west coast and in Ireland.

Little Auk (Dawn Balmer)
Further seabirds of note included Grey Phalarope, Long-tailed Skua and Sabine's Gull. Several of the former were noted at inland sites, with one particularly obliging individual on Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire present in the last few days.

Moving away from seabirds, Swallows haven't quite disappeared just yet, with around 20 reports from all around the country in the last week. Keeping on the summer migrants theme, three Lesser Whitethroats were also found - only time will tell if these are birds that have settled into their chosen site for the winter.

Lesser Whitethroat (Stephen McAvoy)

The surface pressure charts for the next few days show that we will still be in the middle of westerly airflow. However, on Saturday, the winds will be pretty much uninterrupted from the east coast of North America to the west coasts of Britain and Ireland. Is the American Bittern found in County Cork a herald for other vagrants from the west? Killdeer and American Robin seem likely candidate species for this time of year.

Paul Stancliffe and Stephen McAvoy

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