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 12 October 2018

Looking east and west

The spell of northeasterly winds last weekend appears to have opened the floodgates for birds wanting to cross the North Sea from western Scandinavia. There was a notable passage of thrushes, consisting mainly of Redwing and Song Thrush, with a few Ring Ouzel noted. The movement also included some flocks of Fieldfare – appearing a little early based on the BirdTrack reporting rate.

Fieldfare by Luke Harding/BTO

Other winter visitors on the move included Whooper Swan and Brent Goose, while good numbers of duck were reported moving past coastal watchpoints along the east coast, especially on Sunday when the northeasterly winds were at their strongest.

Scarcer species noted included several Barred Warblers, the first Great Grey Shrikes of the autumn and the first significant arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers along the east coast.  Up until this weekend, it had been a very quiet autumn for this species by recent standards. However, 39 logged at Spurn, Yorkshire on the 7th October was both a record day count for the site and a very good count for this autumn. Over 20 were also logged at nearby Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, and single figure counts came from many coastal sites.

Great Grey Shrike by Graham Catley/BTO

Although the winds switched back to west–southwesterly from Monday onwards, these were sufficiently light that birds managed to cross the North Sea, with further arrivals of Song Thrush and Redwing. New arrivals included the first Brambling and several Olive-backed Pipits. Above average numbers of the latter have been reported from Poland and Germany so far this autumn, so more may yet be found.

On Thursday and Friday, the winds switched to a southerly direction in the wake of Storm Callum moving north off the west coast of Ireland. These winds originate from the Mediterranean basin and mid to late October is peak time for Pallid Swift in Britain so it will interesting to see if the southerly winds will push any our way.

Pallid Swift reporting rate on BirdTrack

Looking ahead, there are two weather systems to watch. On the east coast of Britain, there is potential for more northeasterly winds on Monday and Tuesday, which will likely bring more Scandinavian migrants, and perhaps something rarer. In the southwest, the remnants of Hurricane Michael could arrive on the same day. Having caused significant damage in northwestern Florida, this storm moved rapidly along the east coast of the United States and Canada. As of this morning, the storm could reach southwestern Ireland and Cornwall on Monday lunchtime, though there is still some uncertainty on the precise track the storm will take across the Atlantic. If it does reach our shores, it may well bring some very rare North American birds, with likely candidates including Chimney Swift, Red-eyed Vireo and Grey-cheeked Thrush. There is always the chance of something unexpected – a repeat of either Canada or Golden-winged Warbler would be very welcome!

Stephen McAvoy

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