Migration summary 1998
A Spring and Autumn summary
Spring opened with generally poor visible migration. The only possible comparisons were with figures attained from previous counts at King's Mill Reservoir.


From mid-March until late May/early June, migration was detected. With often prolonged periods of unsettled weather, migration was often very poor. Atlantic frontal systems moved across the region bringing associated rain and often windy weather, not conducive to migration. Windows of generally calmer, clearer conditions between these fronts were well used by northward moving migrants. Most notable species were Meadow Pipit and Fieldfare. These two dominated proceedings for the whole month and a total of 2, 138 Fieldfare moved through during March, with Meadow Pipits totalling some 436 birds. March also saw the only Pied Wagtail movements of the Spring period, with Linnets noted similarly moving north-west in good numbers.

April was quiet. Meadow Pipits dominating with total counts of 360 birds. A steady passage ensued throughout most of the month and reached an unusually late second peak on the 20th. With 77 Swallows and a further 87 Linnets moving north, there was little of note generally, although the male Ring Ouzel on the 22nd did provide an excellent highlight.

Fine sunny weather for much of May, resulted in very low counts of visible migrants, as a result of the associated high pressure system, which enabled birds to fly at increased altitudes. Hirundines, very much a large part of the Spring migration totals, failed to produce any noteworthy counts and indeed, the whole of May saw just 154 Swallows pass through. House Martins and Sand Martins managed only as meagre 54 birds between them. After arriving very late, Swifts were recorded on migration during May only, and again the very low count of 61 during the month, represented a poor total. Concern over these low hirundine counts should perhaps be expressed and there seems noticeable downward trend.

Meadow Pipit migration, Spring 1998

One of the characteristics of Spring and Autumn migration, is the high pitched flight call of the Meadow Pipit. Seldom occurring in the same numbers as on Autumn passage, Spring migration tends to consist of small daily movements. As with virtually all species, one or sometimes two migratory peaks are reached. Most years see just one peak, often during the last week of March. This duly occurred during 1998 on March 23rd, with a total of 101 moving west and north-west. Unusually, a second peak was reached about a month later on April 20th, when 115 birds went north-west. These second peaks most probably involve birds having wintered on the Continent.

Like many species on migration, Meadow Pipits tend to fly at two different heights. This most often occurs during spells of fine weather with little wind. A slightly cloudy sky aids in the detection of these high-flying migrants, often lost to the naked eye. Having a high vantage point in the area like Red Hill, certainly helps their detection and this, though little used this Spring, was taken full advantage of during the Autumn months.


Return migration by many species begins more in Summer than Autumn, with waders usually the first to appear from late June onwards. Passerines usually star their migration during the latter half of July, at first sporadically and in small numbers. Daily movements do not begin until late August/early September. The earlier mentioned Meadow Pipit, actively starts migrating during September and a peak is reached around late September and often again in the middle of October. Hirundines often produce some quite spectacular movements, although what may have been the best days of the Autumn were unfortunately missed due to increased work commitments at the time. All was not entirely lost however and some good accumulative counts were reached, notable 1 110 House Martins and 1 093 Swallow during September.

October was relatively poor for visible migration, with adverse weather conditions playing a major part in the low monthly totals and holding up incoming Continental Thrushes until perfect conditions prevailed at the end of the month, allowing migrants to pour through in excellent daily and later monthly totals. In the end, it turned out to be a good Autumn's passage. Perhaps the highlight being the large-scale Wood Pigeon movements which took place from October 14-November 1st. Most of this total occurred on just three dates, October 29th...826 south; October 30th...4 120 south and November 1st...5 618 south. The total for these three dates alone being a staggering 10 564.

Another large total was that achieved by Starling, over 6 000 birds. In contrast to the short-term Wood Pigeon migration period, Starling migration was recorded over the best part of three months, reaching a peak during early November.

Observations conducted from the top of Red Hill during this time, proved to be most rewarding. High altitude Meadow Pipits were picked up much more easily during moderate Autumn totals, although the activity showed the more consistent and prolonged pattern associated with Autumn migration.