Scandinavian raptor surprise
[Wednesday 22 October 2008]
The easterly winds of the early autumn brought an unprecedented arrival of birds of prey from Scandinavia
to southern and eastern Britain, reveals the British Trust for Ornithology.
In late August and early September there were prolonged easterly winds that brought a host of good birds to
Britain from Scandinavia. Rare and scarce vagrants, as well as commoner migrants, such as Redstarts and Pied
Flycatchers were seen. Most noticeable were Honey Buzzards, reported from many parts of Britain.
Unnoticed among these were an exceptional number of continental Kestrels. During early autumn no fewer than
eight Scandinavian-ringed Kestrels were found along the south and east coasts. All were picked up in poor
condition, and were taken to RSPCA centres and raptor trusts. One was even seen following a tractor in
search of food.
Since the founding of the BTO Ringing Scheme in 1909, there have only been 19 reports of Kestrels from
Norway, 35 from Sweden and 40 from Finland. Kestrels are generally short-distance migrants in Scandinavia,
but this year they have had a fantastic breeding season in both Sweden and Finland. With the population
boosted, perhaps birds were forced to move further than normal.
More were recorded at Swedish Bird Observatories than would normally be expected and the birds arriving
in Britain were presumably trying to continue their migration, but arrived in such poor condition that
this wasn’t possible. These birds weren’t just inexperienced juveniles, as several were more than three
Mark Grantham, Population Biologist at the BTO, commented: “It is only thanks to the keen eyes of birders
and the general public that this arrival came to light. Raptor counts from bird observatories and reports
of ringed birds really help us to pick up these movements. Obviously anyone can contribute by looking out
for rings, and if you’re lucky enough to find one, report it online at www.ring.ac.”
The arrival wasn’t just restricted to Kestrels though, as a Norwegian-ringed Peregrine (now in care) was
found in Norfolk and two Swedish Ospreys were also found in poor condition. One was found dying in Dorset
and another was found with a fractured wing in Norfolk. There have been just 16 previous records of
Swedish-ringed Ospreys in Britain, with one from Norway and three from Finland.
See full details of the birds and their place of origin on this map from the BTO.
Comments by NR: it's obviously very good to get information like this so quickly. A few years ago it might have been two years before such information got out into the public domain. The Honey Buzzard component of this article is actually rather small but there seems to be a suggestion that they arrived in late August and early September. While there was some movement then, the major exodus started on 13th September, after the period apparently covered by this article. However, if a Scandinavian-ringed Honey Buzzard had been recorded, then we would all have been very interested. Also it's interesting that the Kestrel were in such poor condition after crossing the North Sea. Why have no Honey Buzzard been recorded in a distressed condition on the east coast? Because of course none has put itself in danger by crossing the North Sea!
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