Migration news 18 November
Falling temperatures and an associated freezing of smaller waterbodies on the continent should see winter waterfowl featuring heavily in Britain over the next few days. Goldeneye numbers will start to build up and more smew should appear, both species possible to discover on gravel pits and larger park lakes anywhere in the country.
Male (left) and redhead smew (photo copyright Jill Pakenham/BTO)
The latter is wonderful bird with a fantastic name too: saying 'smew' a few times always raises a smile! So far this autumn there have only been about 20 records of this diminutive member of the sawbill family, so named for their serrated beaks which are used to grasp the fish they eat. Most of those that have arrived to date have been 'redheads' (females or immature males); adult males are a striking combination of white with black lines and patches and go by the nickname 'white nun'.
Another specialised waterbird, the long-tailed duck, has been seen at several inland locations recently. This species is a seaduck and typically spending the winter offshore around our coasts, particularly in northern and eastern Britain. Last week's strong winds may well account for the inland long-tailed duck sightings in Cambridgeshire, West Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Hampshire and Cleveland in the past few days.
Long-tailed duck (photo copyright Ron Marshall/BTO)
Any short, sharp cold snap over the next few days should send more starlings our way from a cooling northern and eastern Europe. Blackbirds should start to increase in our gardens. So don't forget that at this time of year, the blackbird feeding in your garden could have travelled over 1,000km to get there, perhaps from as far away as eastern Europe, western Russian or Scandinavia.
Two swallows were seen moving south through Holme in Norfolk on Sunday, whilst another was seen in Dorset on the same day. There is an outside chance that a few could still be lingering in the country next week, but as temperatures drop they really will need to get a move on.
Swallow (photo copyright Stuart Newson/BTO)
Woodpigeons should continue to move; nearly 60,000 were seen passing over a site in Hampshire on Tuesday and 5,000 even reached the tiny island of Bryher in the Isles of Scilly earlier in the week.
Waxwings are still arriving and could now be seen anywhere in the country; we're pleased to say that they've finally turned up near BTO HQ in Thetford, Norfolk. There have been some fascinating movements of colour-ringed waxwings so don't forget to check any you see for 'bling', and please do add all sightings to BirdTrack so that they can be included in the Bird Atlas 2007-11! Waxwings remain very scarce in the south west, with 14 seen flying over Charterhouse in Somerset the only record since last week.