Migration news 1 October 2010
We thought that this week the focus would move from the west to the east as the week progressed, and this certainly proved to be the case. The predicted redwings duly arrived, along with good numbers of bramblings, but little did we know just how good the east coast was going to be.
Reports of large numbers of grounded migrants reached the BTO from a seismic survey vessel 100 miles east of Scarborough where a huge mixed flock, mainly comprising chaffinches and meadow pipits, arrived in poor weather on Sunday night. The very next day, vast numbers of birds were dumped on the east coast by the same weather system.
The comment from the Spurn Observatory bird log for Monday 27 September says it all:
Today was one of those days you wait years for, just the right weather at just the right time of year and an expectancy that it really was going to happen, and it did. The day started well when just after first light a honey buzzard flew north over Kew at tree height and, at the same time, good numbers of thrushes and bramblings were dropping into the trees.
Brambling, copyright John Harding/BTO
Visible migration continued throughout the day at Spurn. Large numbers of birds were on the move, with over 1,000 robins, 115 dunnocks, 84 redstarts, 85 wheatears, 48 ring ouzels, 630 song thrushes, 1,200 redwings, 565 bramblings and 74 reed buntings were recorded arriving as the day wore on.
It wasn’t only Spurn that experienced these arrivals, most of the east coast from Spurn to north Norfolk shared the event, as winds and heavy rain spun straight out of Scandinavia, crossed the North Sea and crashed into the east coast.
Just ahead of the storm, Britain’s second willow/alder flycatcher was found on Blakeney Point in Norfolk. Breeding in North America, a west coast site in the UK would have been a more predictable location for this mega-rarity. However, this bird was most probably caught up in the storm that left the American east coast on Thursday and reached just north of the UK during Friday, perhaps pushing the bird round the northern tip of Britain.
The front edge of the storm produced northerly winds on Friday night and Saturday morning that may well have dumped this exceptionally rare bird on the north facing north Norfolk coast. The storm then continued eastward and produced the wind and rain that resulted in one of the best arrivals of migrants on the east coast for many years. The flycatcher wasn’t the only American passerine in the UK: two buff-bellied pipits were found; one on Fair Isle in Shetland and one on Orkney. A diminutive gem of a bird, a northern parula, was also found on Tiree in Argyll.
Reed bunting, copyright John Harding/BTO
So, what might we expect during the forthcoming week? The weather will again originate in the west but will arrive much further south, moving the focus back to the west and south-west. Strong southerly winds will be a feature of Saturday and Sunday and whilst migrants will fly into a light headwind (often the largest movements are into light headwinds), the wind will probably be too strong for birds to move in any numbers.
During any periods of light wind birds should move again and next week should see more redwings, reed buntings, bramblings and goldcrests on the move, whilst more pink-footed, brent and barnacle geese will arrive at their winter sites.