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 October 2017

Hawfinches galore!

The incredible numbers of Hawfinches across southern England has dominated the migration picture this week, with thousands of birds thought to be involved and there does not appear to be any let up.  Many areas where Hawfinch would be a rare bird if a single bird appeared have seen staggering numbers, with the largest count being 115 over Steps Hill in Buckinghamshire on a single morning.

Hawfinch by Chris Knights

Possibly the most unusual record this week was a Razorbill about as far inland as it is possible for a seabird to turn up, at Draycote Water in Warwickshire, but unfortunately it was found dead the following day.

Despite a continuation of westerly winds in many areas this week, few new vagrants from North America were found, though Blackpoll Warbler on North Uist, Grey-cheeked Thrushes in Co.Cork and on Scilly, and a fly-through Cliff Swallow at Spurn Point were seen. 

Rare birds from the east as a result have been relatively few with Pallid Swift at Spurn and it or another further up the Yorkshire coast and a Black-throated Thrush on Fair Isle being the highlights.  A scattering of Dusky and Radde’s Warblers, Olive-backed Pipit and Little Buntings were found too, fairly typical birds seen at this time of the year.

Brambling by Allan Drewitt
A brief switch to much colder northerly winds this weekend will see further arrivals of Redwings and Fieldfares along with Song Thrushes and Blackbirds and finches, in particular Chaffinches and Bramblings from Scandinavia.  Wildfowl too will be on the move with more Pink-footed, Barnacle and Brent Geese and Whooper Swans arriving from their arctic breeding grounds to spend the winter in the UK. The first Little Auks of the autumn may appear, mostly in Scotland, though some may penetrate into the North Sea down the east coast of England as far as Norfolk or Suffolk.

Brent Goose by John Harding
After the brief spell of northerly winds over the weekend, westerly winds are again set to dominate next week which may curtail the arrival of many traditional migrants, though we could see further American vagrants – American Robin and Rose-breasted Grosbeak are often among the later autumn vagrants found. 

- Neil Calbrade

Friday 20 October 2017

Bird, birds and more birds!

It seems that birds from all points of the compass have been arriving in Britain during the last week. Unsurprisingly, given the westerly storms, several species of North America landbirds were found. A White-crowned Sparrow, one each of Swainson’s and Grey Cheeked Thrushes, singles of Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Blackpoll Warbler and two Red-eyed Vireos graced our shores.

Even though westerlies have dominated the weather, a small window of northeasterly at the beginning of the week and lighter winds during the last few days have meant that birds from the east were able to cross the North Sea, most notably thrushes. Many of us will have enjoyed the first significant arrival of Redwings, along with a few Fieldfares. Accompanying these have been arrivals of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and a few Ring Ouzels. Finches have also been on the move, most notably Chaffinches, Siskins and Hawfinches.
Hawfinch by Edmund Fellowes

On the eastern scarcity/rarity front, there have been up to ten Red-breasted Flycatchers, half-a-dozen Barred Warblers, a handful of Red-backed Shrikes and Radde’s Warblers, three Blyth’s Reed Warblers and a couple of Olive-backed Pipits and Dusky Warblers, not forgetting the first two Pallas’s Warblers of the season.

Red-breasted Flycatcher by Graham Catley

Northerly winds mid-week saw the arrival of Whooper Swans, and Pink-footed, Greylag, Barnacle and Brent Geese. More notable though was the arrival of eight Blue Tits on Fair Isle! British Blue Tits don’t move very far at all but Scandinavian birders often experience spectacular southerly movements of Blue Tits evacuating the cooling north. Presumably the eight on Fair Isle were part of this phenomenon.

The south wasn’t left out this week either. The influx of Firecrests has continued and up to three Hoopoes and at least one Bee-eater were found.

Firecrest by Graham Clarke

Westerlies are set to dominate for at least the weekend but Monday will see south-easterlies out of southern Scandinavia. So, we can expect one or two more North American landbirds to be found in the west and south-west over the weekend, with birds crossing the North Sea during the early part of the week. Northern Britain and the northern isles look likely to receive the lion’s share but the east coast should see some action too. More thrushes should arrive, in particular Redwings but with increasing numbers of Fieldfare, and finches should move too, in particular Brambling. We could see one or two more Red-eyed Vireos and maybe something a little rarer, possibly Hermit Thrush from the west over the weekend, and more Dusky and Pallas’s Warblers from the east into next week.

Paul Stancliffe

Friday 13 October 2017

East meets west

Whilst the weather during the last week has been dominated by fast moving fronts crossing the Atlantic and westerly airflow, a short period of light north/north-easterly winds over the weekend brought an eastern flavour with them.

As eastern flavours go, the stunning male Siberian Blue Robin that was found on the Orkney island of North Ronaldsay on 8 October is deserving of three Michelin stars. The latter somewhat overshadowed the other big bird of the week, a first-year Cedar Waxwing that was found at the other end of the UK, on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly. Both have travelled over 5,000km (3,000 miles) to reach Britain.

Yellow-browed Warbler by Trevor Codlin

At the same time, Yellow-browed Warblers numbers have been building up, exceeding three figures as the week progressed, with birds being found in coastal and inland locations alike, everywhere from Shetland to Scilly.

Parrot Crossbills continue to turn up, too. We might be in for another invasion of this much sought-after bird; the next north-easterly airflow of the autumn might give us a better idea if this will happen.

On the home front, finches have begun to move with flocks of Linnets, Siskins, redpolls and Goldfinches being observed during visible migration watches on the east coast. There has also been a trickle of Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Ring Ouzels.

Blackbird by John Harding

Pink-footed and Brent Geese have pushed south and are to be seen at most of their winter haunts, while Whooper Swans have started to arrive too.

At sea, divers are on the move, along with a few skuas. Great and Arctic Skuas have been seen fairly frequently from both east and west coasts.

The forecast for the weekend is looking very interesting. Ex-hurricane Ophelia is set to arrive on British shores on Monday but before it does, it will be drawing southerly airflow all the way from southern Spain, so we could be in for a few southern arrivals. Western Orphean Warbler and Rock Thrush have both been found in the last couple of days and may well be forerunners of things to come over the next few days. Pallid Swift could well be on the cards and perhaps something as rare as a Spanish Black-eared Wheatear or a Crag Martin. Who knows, maybe even Britain’s first Black-winged Kite?