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Migration news 5 November

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Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) | 11:43 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

At this time of the year migration begins to tail off. Most summer visitors are well on their way to wintering grounds further south and the majority of those that spend the winter here in the UK have already arrived. However, migration this autumn is still underway.

Swallows have had a good breeding season and birds were still being reported at nest sites into early October. On Monday swallows were still being recorded at migration watchpoints from as far apart as Northumberland and Dorset, with between 30 and 40 birds being counted.

Waxwings continue to arrive and have been recorded in 19 different counties, with one even reaching St Agnes on the Isles of Scilly. It has been fantastic to read about your sightings of this exquisite species in the comments on last week’s post. Now that the Bird Atlas 2007–11 final winter of recording is under way, please do submit your sightings to the Bird Atlas or BirdTrack websites so that they can contribute to the largest ever stock-take of Britain and Ireland’s bird life.

Starlings (photo copyright: John Harding/BTO)

Waxwings (photo copyright: John Harding/BTO)

Redwings and fieldfares are now widespread though more birds are continuing to arrive, along with blackbirds.

Finches are still moving in large numbers, although the composition of the flocks has changed. Rather than goldfinches, these flocks mostly consist of chaffinches, bramblings, siskins and redpolls.

Whooper swans that arrived in the north-west can still be seen making their way south and east, with many heading for the Ouse Washes on the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk border. If the promised northerly winds from Iceland materialise over the weekend this could be the species to look out for.

Whooper swans (photo copyright: Jill Pakenham/BTO)

Whooper swans (photo copyright: Jill Pakenham/BTO)

Flocks of lapwings and golden plovers are now beginning to move further south and if the weather turns frosty large flocks of these two species passing overhead could become a feature.

Starlings (photo copyright: John Harding/BTO)

Lapwings (photo copyright: John Harding/BTO)

As is normal for the time of year, woodpigeons have begun their south-westerly movement, with flocks of around 10,000 birds being reported. There are two schools of thought as to where these birds originate and where they are going. One is that they are British birds moving from the northeast to spend the winter in the southwest. The other is that they are continental birds that are passing through the UK on their way to France and Spain.

So what can we expect this week? We are still awaiting large numbers of starlings from the near continent and if the wind contains more of an easterly element on Sunday and Monday, as might be the case, we could see this happen. Finches will continue to move and could become a feature in our gardens, in particular chaffinches, bramblings and redpolls. With waxwings filtering down the country, birds could be seen anywhere, so it is worth keeping an eye out for them, particularly in the local supermarket car park!

On any bright, still, crisp days, woodpigeons will be on the move; sometimes the movement of these birds is very impressive with flocks of more than 50,000 individuals not unusual.

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