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 6 November 2015

Birds still on the move

Wet westerly weather and the lateness of the date mean that migration has been a little slow this week. However, light finch movement has been observed on the east coast on most days and mostly involving Goldfinch and Chaffinch but with an increasing number of Siskin, Redpoll and Brambling, along with a smaller number of Twite. There was also a decent arrival of thrushes in the north, 4,983 Fieldfare, 1,009 Blackbird and 1,521 Redwing arrived on Fair Isle, Shetland on 4 November. Reed Buntings have also been a feature of the week.  Whooper Swans have also continued to arrive in small numbers and push south through the country, along with small numbers of Pink-footed Geese. A small arrival of Pochard was also noted along the east coast.

Pochard by Neil Calbrade

Migrants on the move at the moment include Black Redstart with groups of two or three reported from many coastal sites in Britain and Ireland. There were noteworthy counts of five at Spurn (East Yorkshire) last Friday and six at Rosslare (Wexford), with single birds also noted at a few inland sites. Most unusual record was of two roosting on the Pont Aven ferry ( sailing between Spain and Plymouth - unfortunately for the birds, the boat was going in the wrong direction! Looking at the weather charts, a possible explanation for this influx were the light to moderate south-easterly winds last week pushing the birds across the North Sea and Channel to our coasts. 
Black Redstart BirdTrack reporting rate

Firecrest BirdTrack reporting rate

Similarly, it has been a good autumn for Firecrests, with current records well above the historical average on BirdTrack. Like Black Redstart, there were sightings along all coasts and even as far as north as Shetland, where the species is quite a scarce migrant. These birds are almost certainly birds moving away from their breeding grounds in central Europe and displaced by the southerly winds. 

Firecrest by Rachel Barber

Most interesting rarity of the week was the small number of Pallid Swifts along the north-east coast of England. Single birds were reported from Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire), Marsden (Durham) and Newbiggin (Northumberland), as well as from Boulby (Cleveland) on Sunday. Additionally, several late Common Swifts and unidentified Common/Pallid Swifts were observed in the same areas. It seems likely these birds were displaced by the same weather pattern as the Black Redstarts.

Grey Phalarope by Joe Pender

Looking ahead, the weather looks very unsettled for the weekend and through next week with strong south-westerlies expected. Seabirds, especially juveniles may find the  prolonged nature of the strong winds exhausting and may end up getting pushed inland. Likely species at inland reservoirs and lakes include Gannet, Kittiwake and Grey Phalarope. There is always the possibility of something much rarer like a skua, shearwater or Leach's Petrel turning up.

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