Unusual migration patterns

Tuesday 29 October 2013, 13:09

Paul Stancliffe Paul Stancliffe BTO

 Autumn bird migration is always influenced by the weather, and so far this autumn that has very much been the case. Migration kicked off with a bang in the last week of August, when high-pressure developed over Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, perfect conditions for birds to move.

A flock of starlings

A flock of starlings

Around 40 greenish warblers, birds that should have been making their way from northern and Eastern Europe to spend the winter months in India, turned up in Britain on the resulting easterly airflow.

 The same week also saw the first large movements of swallows, house martins and sand martins out of the country. It was to be another four weeks until these weather conditions occurred again and, during the last week of September, the UK saw an unprecedented arrival of birds from the east.  

Perhaps as many as 1,000 yellow-browed warblers, also on their way to their wintering grounds in India, turned up on our east coast. Meanwhile migration watchers at coastal watch-points recorded a huge exodus of hirundines (swallows and martins), meadow pipits and finches, heading south to their wintering areas in southern Europe and Africa.

In recent weeks there has been a southerly, and at times, light and warm airflow bring a small influx of pallid swifts and hoopoes - birds that should have been heading south to Africa. These light winds have also allowed thrushes (redwings, blackbirds, song thrushes and fieldfares), starlings and finches such as chaffinches and bramblings to cross the North Sea to spend the winter here.

One this week’s stormy weather abates, we should expect further large arrivals of starlings, fieldfares and finches, as well as the first big arrival of whooper swans. Anticipation is also high for the arrival of birds from across the Atlantic: birds that are moving from North America to South America. We could well see a chimney swift, cliff swallow, yellow-billed cuckoo, or blackpoll warbler make landfall here – keep your eyes peeled.

 

 

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