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 24 March 2016

The floodgates are ajar

The cold northerly airflow has been holding things up during the last week but with lighter winds during the last couple of days some birds have managed to get through.

Several sites along the south coast have enjoyed double figure arrivals of Wheatear. Portland, Dorset seems to have seen the best of this with 60 being counted there on the morning of 22 March. Sand Martins have continued to trickle in but numbers remain small, similarly Swallows have been arriving but are still very thin on the ground, and one or two more House Martins have also been seen.

Sand Martin reports via BirdTrack

Garganey arrived in small numbers but on a broad front with birds being reported from several counties during the week. The largest movements seen this week involved Meadow Pipits arriving and then moving along the south coast. Several hundred birds were noted moving through on a couple of days.

Late arriving: Wheatear

As one set of birds arrives, another set is departing. Redwing and Fieldfare have been recorded, at times in quite large flocks, as were flocks of migrating Starling. Geese were on the move as well, with northward bound Pink-footed Geese amongst others noted in Scotland. Woodcock were found at several coastal sites.

Redwing moving through

The most intriguing migrant this week was probably the Blue Tit trapped at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. It was found to have been ringed in Lithuania and had good muscle and fat scores, presumably to fuel the outgoing migration back north and east. Keep an eye on the BTO's Demog blog on this and other ringing related stories.

The Met Office surface pressure charts show potential for some south to south west winds extending from northern Spain across France to southern Britain from Friday onwards. This ought to result in a fresh wave of arrivals from the south, and allow any migrants wanting to attempt the crossing of the North Sea to have a go.

Likely new arrivals next week include the first Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, as well as more Wheatears and Sand Martins. Given the stormy weather conditions, there may even be local "falls" of migrants. Rarer migrants to keep an eye out for in late March and early April include Purple Heron, Alpine Swift and the even rarer Great Spotted Cuckoo!

Purple Heron (Graham Catley)

 Paul Stancliffe and Stephen McAvoy

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