Migration summary 1999
A Spring and Autumn summary
The first real comparison to any of the accumulated data of 1998, began with the onset of the return migration of some species back into the area from mid-February onwards until the end of May.


Migration began earlier than 1998 and was possibly due to the purposefully looked for Yellowhammer movements that passed unnoticed last year. Definite migrants are hard to detect here and sometimes only increased numbers present in a given area are the only indication of migration. During the early spring, Yellowhammer were recorded moving in virtually every direction and indeed it is probable that most of the birds recorded represented genuine migrants returning back to territories held in previous years. With Yellowhammer occurring commonly over the entire recording area, some of these movements may be deemed to be of a roost/feeding nature and are generally indistinguishable from true migrants.

For most species, spring migration begins during April, although traditional early movers like Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit and Starling show migratory peaks during March. Of these, only Starling showed an increase on last year and most species showed little difference from last years figures at the same time. With some favourable weather conditions prevailing throughout the whole spring period, some larger counts might have been expected but failed to materialise. Sand Martin figures were well up though and a large percentage of the entire total for spring 1998 was matched on April 26th this year when 49 birds moved through heading north-east.

Pied Wagtail figures matched those of the previous year, with all migrants occurring during March only and finch movements were again small and hard to detect. Only one Siskin was recorded throughout and both Linnet and Goldfinch showed a decrease but were the most detectable and regular finches. Less obvious, traditional, hedge hoppers like Chiffchaff were well down, although most warbler species occurred at similar levels to the previous year.

Site rarities recorded on migration included Osprey, Wheatear, Whinchat and Ring Ouzel, with another poor spring for waders and few noteworthy records.

Warbler arrival during Spring 1999

Arrival dates of all warblers are recorded for future comparison in later years. Already some significant differences have occurred in the numbers of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler during both study years and these are shown here. During 1999, Chiffchaff arrival was late and actual numbers of both migrant and breeding birds were very depleted. Whether this occurred as part of a natural drop in the population remains to be seen. Whatever the cause, it shows the variation within migrant bird numbers from year to year. Notable arrival dates were April 24-29th, a period which saw 51 birds arrive. This total included seven Willow Warbler on the 25th and seven Whitethroat and 3 Lesser Whitethroat on the 28th.

Early May, from the 1-8th, saw continued arrival with 37 birds. The peak date was the 8th, with four Blackcap and seven Whitethroat among a four species arrival. In all, Warbler arrival took place on 30 days within the 61 days of April and May 1999.


The Autumn period was an exciting one and an overall summary would suggest that it would be best noted for the sustained and rather lengthy Hirundine migration during the latter days of September, the best Raptor passage through the area to date, which included single Osprey, Honey Buzzard,a wing-tagged Red Kite, at least four Common Buzzards (including three on August 22nd) four Peregrine with good numbers of Hobby and an exceptional morning of Pink-Footed Geese movement on October 26th when 12 skeins totalling 1 833 flew south-east.

All four Chat species occurred and again there were good numbers of Whinchat noted, with Eakring Flash accounting for the majority of records this year over the more favoured site of Eakring Meadows during 1998. This latter site did host the area's first ever Stonechat though on October 7th. Numbers of Turtle Dove were up on last year and again Wood Pigeon provided an excellent days passage with a count of 3,499 on November 7th. Highlights were the area's first Hawfinch on August 31st and Crossbills on August 17th and September 1st.

Hirundine migration through the area, Autumn 1999

Migrating Hirundines are always a personal highlight of Autumn. In an average year e.g. 1998, peak movements are restricted to a couple of days and can be easily missed if occurring during mid-week. 1999 was an example of this, but such was the scale of both Swallow and House Martin movements over a more prolonged spell than usual that even by the afternoon, birds were still on the move and in good numbers. With work commitments allowing only pm coverage, the daily counts would no doubt have been considerably higher.

One very interesting feature, was that the entire October House Martin total occurred on just one day (3rd). This was notable on two accounts, the first being that House Martins are usually quite regular in small numbers during the first part of October and that this was the first time ever I have recorded a three figure count for this species during the month. Swallows followed a similar pattern. Between September 21-29th, four afternoon totals reached three figures. A peak of 613 moving south-west on the 28th, compared with a House Martin peak of 883 south-east on the 25th. Both species accounting for similar totals on the same dates apart from each species' dates of peak movement.

Warbler migration during Autumn 1999

During the late Summer/Autumn months, the recording of all Warbler species was meticulous. No doubt some records of other species are slightly falsified by certain long staying individuals. This is not the case for Phylloscopus Warblers like Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. The habitat around Eakring Flash is not sufficient to allow lengthy stays by these two particular species and in most cases, birds were recorded moving through extremely quickly.

Most of the Warbler records from Eakring Flash were made up of Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and the previously mentioned Willow Warbler. Good numbers of migrant Sedge Warbler also occurred, along with some rare records of both Blackcap (1) Grasshopper Warbler (1) and Reed Warbler (3). Both Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat started to move through at the beginning of August and continued into early October.

Actual first true migrants of the former species were quite hard to determine and indeed, may have been slightly earlier, due to Whitethroats breeding in the area. Peak numbers occurred with ten on August 12th. Both Whitethroat species showed a remarkably similar pattern of occurrence, although the Lesser Whitethroat was always found in slightly less numbers. Without a doubt, both migrate together, as the table below shows, but the Lesser Whitethroat does tend to occur more sporadically.

On September 5th, there was a noticeable arrival of Lesser Whitethroat into the area. Three birds were present within the area on the 4th, this rising to 11 on the 5th. This coincided with a Chiffchaff arrival on the same date and a full account of this event is given later on in this section. A most surprising event was the appearance of only one Blackcap at Eakring Flash during the Autumn months. Why this species was so scarce remains a mystery.

Warbler highlight of the Autumn was undoubtably the Grasshopper Warbler which was present from September 13-14th. On both occasions seen, the bird was flushed from long grass, flying a short distance into the old hedge. This represents not only an excellent site record, but also a good record on a county level. Reed Warblers didn't occur in 1998, so the first record of this species caused great excitement as it fed in Elder bushes at the southern end of Eakring Flash. These same bushes also held the second and third birds which subsequently appeared several days later, including a bird which stayed for three days. Late breeding Sedge Warblers at Eakring Flash provided similar circumstances to Whitethroat. True migrants were very hard to detect, but at least eight birds were attributed to be true migrants.