Latest migration news 6th 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.
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.
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.
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).