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Latest migration news 6th November 2009

Martin Hughes-Games Martin Hughes-Games | 12:20 UK time, Friday, 6 November 2009

This week's news from the BTO features a veritable explosion of fabulous-looking birds to give any fireworks display a run for its money!

First up is an old favourite of Chris', the goldeneye. Not the James Bond movie but an even more exciting diving duck. Although it established itself as a breeding species in Scotland in 1970, this dazzling species is more likely to be seen around our coasts and on larger inland water bodies across Britain and Ireland at this time of year, as birds arrive from Norway, Finland, Sweden and even western Russia.

Being ducks, bad weather won't really reduce your chance of seeing a goldeneye (unless of course it keeps you indoors). In fact the cold weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday may push more birds in from Scandinavia. Stunning males like the one below stand out in even the gloomiest conditions. Females are greyer above with a brown head, though they still have that gleaming yellow eye.

Male goldeneye (photo copyright: Jill Pakenham/BTO)

Next up is a weird and wonderful wader that will be winging its way westwards this week: the woodcock, a magical bird. Any favourable weather conditions over the coming week will allow more of these superbly camouflaged birds to reach Britain and Ireland; there has already been a sharp rise in reports over the last fortnight.

Not only does the woodcock give the 'w' key a much-needed work out but it also gives me a chance to use an excellent word: crepuscular (which means that they are active at dawn and dusk). Despite this, dog-walkers have a good chance of seeing them as dogs may disturb woodcocks from their daytime roosts, often in damp fields or tangled woodland undergrowth. Please do remember to keep dogs on leads if you are in a protected area or there is livestock present.

Woodcock (photo copyright: George H Higgingbottom/BTO)

Sadly, cold snaps at this time of year are likely to spell trouble for any remaining insectivorous summer visitors like the swallow. Fortunately most have already left, as you can see in the BirdTrack weekly reporting rate.

Now this is really amazing - some swallows have started to stay in the UK over winter and have found a remarkable way to survive our cold: they hang round places like power stations and oil-refineries. Last winter was the third in a row when a handful of hardy swallows used the Chevron oil refinery in Pembrokeshire, monitored by refinery inspector and bird ringer John Hayes. There have, though, been no swallows there this year.

Swallow (photo copyright: Stuart Newsome/BTO)

Finally, don't forget the tawny owl survey. The same frosty weather that may push in more goldeneye but spell doom for any remaining swallows is also great for listening out for the hooting or 'kewvick' calls of your local owls (though sadly not in Ireland, from which they are absent).

Tawny owl (photo copyright: Jill Pakenham/BTO)


  • 1. At 4:00pm on 06 Nov 2009, barnybirder wrote:

    A flock of about 15 Redwings paid a brief vist to my garden this afternoon. I mainly only get them when it snows.

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  • 2. At 9:30pm on 06 Nov 2009, tjmiller101 wrote:

    Hello All, I did post this comment a week or two ago now, but im unable to find an answer. Anyhow i have a feathered visitor to my garden and he/she is slightly smaller than a sparrow but it is white apart from some dark brown feathers on their head, some flecked feathers on the rest of the body and some main wing feathers. He/she does seem to be with a group of sparrows but only feeds from the ground, ive not seen it on my seed feeder. Please could someone tell me what type of bird this is? The only bird that i could find that was close to it was a snow bunting? Look forward to an answer. I live 12 miles from pensthorpe, Holt, if thats any help.

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  • 3. At 9:44pm on 06 Nov 2009, Dene Wyke wrote:

    A few years ago I and my neighbour witnessed a tawny owl taking bats (pipistrelle I think) on the wing as they emerged from roost. This happened on numerous ocasions during mid summer. I havn't witnessed this since and have not heard of this before. Just wondered if anyone else has seen or heard of such behaviour

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  • 4. At 10:12pm on 06 Nov 2009, catherine huntley wrote:

    I am now 56 but when I was a child I remember how common red squirrels were in my part of Kent which is beside the sea. We lived in parkland with about an acre of two of broad leafed woodland and the only squirrels were red. How quickly things change.

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  • 5. At 4:28pm on 07 Nov 2009, Trapper wrote:

    I had just come indoors from topping up my bird feeders, and looked out of window to see a pair of Willow Tit taking black sunflower seeds, I live in a built up area so was quite suprised to have them frequent my garden.

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  • 6. At 12:37pm on 08 Nov 2009, PaulaBat wrote:


    I too have seen what appears to be a willow tit visiting the feeders in my urban garden. Never seen before.

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  • 7. At 12:54pm on 08 Nov 2009, Kevin wrote:

    I live in an old Victorian terrace house in the heart of Reading, and I get no birds in the garden, well when I say no birds, that is not entirely true. I get the usual blackbird, Wren, Robin, and Wood Pigeon, but that's it! I have three feeders (peanuts, fat balls, & mixed seed) hanging in the garden, and the food is never touched, I change it every couple of months, and throw all the old seed away, nothing visits the feeders? I have no idea why.

    Well this morning you can imagine my suprise when I stood at the window to see what was about, and there sat on the fence was a female Redstart. Sure I had to double check, but that is what it was, not fifteen feet away, russet brown, and red bordered tail.

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  • 8. At 1:04pm on 08 Nov 2009, Craig Burrows wrote:

    Single Swallow perching regularly on the phone lines just outside my house in Somerset yesterday. It got a bit of argy bargy from a Starling but now seems to have disappeared, hopefully it's decided to make the long journey back to Africa *fingers crossed*. Also a Woodcock seen by my boss on one of our Somerset Wildlife Trust reserves on friday (I work for the Wildlife trust before you ask about the "our" bit).

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  • 9. At 4:23pm on 08 Nov 2009, Kevin wrote:

    Garden Redstart..
    The Redstart has spent all day around the garden, I went and bought some mealworms for it, and it is quite happy to feed on them, I managed to get a couple of pictures, not the best but they are taken through the double glazing of the kitchen window..


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  • 10. At 4:07pm on 09 Nov 2009, MargueriteM wrote:

    I saw 3 flocks of barnacle geese flying high overhead from my garden in New Mills (north west Derbyshire) as I was pegging out the washing at 9am this morning. There were about 400 in total heading south east (towards the Wash?). Last night was the coldest night of the year so far with a hard frost and this is why they were heading south.

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  • 11. At 7:17pm on 09 Nov 2009, norfolkwarbler wrote:

    Delighted to enjoy a glimpse of a tiny goldcrest busy feeding in a small oak tree on Saturday afternoon near my home in Stalham, Norfolk. Was it Friday's show when Chris was explaining exactly how small they are and the enormous journey they have to make to reach Britain? What a lovely coincidence. I'm always spellbound when I am lucky enough to be able to pause for a few precious minutes and wonder at this minute bird's perfection.

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  • 12. At 7:09pm on 10 Nov 2009, Enviro_concerned wrote:

    I saw a female Blackcap in my next door neighbours garden on Saturday feeding on the, now slightly shrivelled, grapes on their overgrown vine. It's only the second time I've seen a Blackcap here (I live in suburban London),in winter, in my life. There have certainly been a lot of small birds in the area over the last few days of cold weather - looking for food, and shelter I expect?

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  • 13. At 7:21pm on 10 Nov 2009, Enviro_concerned wrote:

    Oops, there's no preview function, I should have said 'on Sunday', when the cold weather really did set in, and 'in autumn'! Nevermind, I feel inspired to go out over the rest of autumn, despite the cold, if only I have the energy left after work!

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  • 14. At 10:08pm on 10 Nov 2009, earthstarnick wrote:

    Kevin: your bird looks to me like a black redstart...which is very nice to have. Common redstarts, which are summer visitors, have mostly gone off to Africa now but black redstarts are both residents and winter visitors to the UK. The resident ones like waste sites in cities and nest in buildings....but are scarce for sure!
    Hope that helps.

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  • 15. At 10:13pm on 10 Nov 2009, earthstarnick wrote:

    A female blackcap in my Derbyshire garden today too - feeding on the berries of a spindle tree while blackbirds and a song thrush set about those on a cotoneaster bush nearby.
    I once managed to keep a female blackcap coming to my garden daily for three months (Jan to March) by providing it with a diet of mistletoe berries and apples - it never once went to the feeders nearby - though I know they do in other gardens!

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  • 16. At 10:21pm on 10 Nov 2009, earthstarnick wrote:

    MargueriteM: suspect your geese may well have been pink feet since this species does fairly regularly cross Derbyshire in winter in quite big numbers, flying between feeding grounds in Lancashire and East Anglia. They fly both ways, depending on food availability and maybe the level of competition from other pinkfeet.
    We do have a few barnacles mostly in the south of the county but they are feral birds, escaped from collections...
    Sorry if that sounds clever cloggish! Not meant to be....

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  • 17. At 8:09pm on 12 Nov 2009, Troglodyte wrote:

    Hi Martin, I'm sure I heard you say last Friday that on the next show Simon King is doing a bit about Ospreys ? If so I would love to put a question to him about some we saw this Autumn.

    I live in Norfolk and this year we managed to see migrating Ospreys on the Norfolk Broads :-) It was in early October and from local birder it seems there may have been up to five in our area, none of them were ringed, tagged or had GPS packs like the Scottish Ospreys that had been reported as being in Africa by mid September. It has been suggested that the ones we saw were from Scandinavia could he shed any light on this.
    Obviously its hard to tell the birds apart, but there were 2 long-stayers an adult for 18 days and a juvenile that stayed for just over a fortnight, the later gave us great pleasure while trying to improve his strike rate.
    We have seen them in Wales and the Lake District (distant views) but on our doorstep was wonderful, Keep up the good work
    The Drews Gang
    PS the wife says don't cut the hair so short, and me, British Bikes and Bird Watching perfect Combo

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  • 18. At 1:49pm on 22 Nov 2009, sue gordon wrote:

    I live in South Molton in north Devon & on wed 19th nov was very suprised to see a swallow swooping over the fields

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