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 2 November 2018

Skuas on the move

While not making for the most pleasant observation conditions, strong north to northeasterly winds in late autumn can produce good movements of seabirds and other migrants along the east coast of Britain. The weather last weekend fitted this exact pattern and those who braved the cold, biting wind were not disappointed.

Pomarine Skua by Joe Pender

The most eye catching spectacle was the passage of Pomarine Skuas with several sites logging day totals of more than 100 birds. Amongst the highest counts were 150+ off Flamborough, East Yorksire, 180+ off Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire and 200+ moving south past Spurn, East Yorkshire. The latter represents a new day count record for the species at the site. However, these counts were eclipsed by the over 500 logged passing Hornsea, East Yorkshire. The BirdTrack reporting rate graph clearly shows last weekend’s movement

The strong winds brought with them a wide variety of other seabirds, including the first large movement of Little Auks. Several sites registered double figure counts, with a high count of over 150 passing Flamborough. Divers and shearwaters were also noted, including a handful of White-billed Divers. The rarest seabird logged was probably the King Eider moving along the North Norfolk coast over the weekend and early last week.

For passerine migrants, there were good counts logged for Redwing and Fieldfare arriving in off the North Sea, while large flocks of Starlings were also noted. As in the previous week, a few flocks of Waxwings were noted moving west with the thrushes and Starlings - it is well worth keeping an eye on any berry rich hawthorns in the coming weeks!

A common theme in the last weeks has been a rapid switch of wind directions, and this weekend is no exception. After the spell of northerlies in recent days, the prevailing wind moves back to a south – southeasterly direction as the remnants of Hurricane Oscar pass northeast off the coast of Ireland and Scotland. Having stayed well out in the Atlantic in the last week, it is unlikely that this weather system will bring any new arrivals of North American origin, though potentially the first white-winged gulls could arrive, and rarer gulls are always a possibility, including Laughing or Franklin’s Gull.

Stephen McAvoy

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