Migration news 21 October 2010
We arrived back into Den Helder, Netherlands, yesterday morning [Sunday 17 October]. It was really satisfying to see the chaffinches and bramblings that I'd kept alive for two weeks by providing food, flying off with a chirp into some trees as the ship pulled alongside. It was just after sunrise when we docked, so the birds had not been active for long, but they waited until the ship was a mere 50 metres from the dock before flying off in two groups, one five minutes after the other.
Back here in Britain the fieldfares have landed, right on cue! This species typically arrives a couple of weeks later than its smaller relative, the redwing, and Wednesday 20 October saw a large-scale arrival of these Scandinavian thrushes. We can look forward to more of these smartly-dressed winter visitors reaching us over the next few days as a window of high pressure is forecast over Scandinavia on Saturday night, which should provide the right conditions for take-off.
Fieldfare (photo copyright: Chris Mills/www.norfolkbirding.com)
Whooper swans were another species predicted to arrive in force during the last week and they have not disappointed, as the BirdTrack reporting rate illustrates. The weather is something of a mixed bag over the coming week but if we do get prolonged periods of fairly strong northerlies as forecast, more of these Icelandic-breeding swans will make the crossing.
Whooper swan (photo: copyright Jill Pakenham/BTO)
Particularly strong northerly winds could spell trouble for the auk species that spend the winter offshore in the seas around Britain. Starling-sized little auks, which breed no closer than Spitsbergen on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, are especially prone to displacement in such conditions. Unfortunately if they do get pushed in to coastal waters around the UK, they are vulnerable to attack by gulls and other predators.
Waxwing (photo: copyright John Harding/BTO)
A very popular scarce winter visitor might be on the cards for next week, particularly in the north and east: the waxwing. Small numbers have already begun arriving from Scandinavia and the same conditions that are good for fieldfares leaving that part of the world might also bring more waxwings our way, which would be fantastic. A 'waxwing winter' is overdue, so here's hoping 2010/11 proves to be one!