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Birds and Weather - 2018

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Old Tuesday 11th September 2018, 14:44   #76
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2 buff breasts on Scilly and 2 more on Lundy. Here we go!!
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2018, 14:58   #77
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2 buff breasts on Scilly and 2 more on Lundy. Here we go!!
As you can probably imagine, my pathological study of the weather forecasts every half hour began in earnest some time last week. In my own mind I pretty much expected Buff-breasts this week in relation to the jet stream rather than any Atlantic frontal systems. Brashy drew my attention to a feature I had missed and I realised I missed it because, for me, its origins were off the far north of the American continent and gathered strength only when passing Greenland. So again, I was thinking waders rather than passerines. So it's difficult to be sure one way or another whether the jet stream was the carrier or the frontal systems currently sitting across the UK.

It looks at the moment that any arrivals in the coming week will be waders and again, the jet stream needs to be taken into account. However, there is an enticing feature projected to skip our way around Monday/Tues next week that is Newfoundland in origin and currently seen to be tracking reasonably south with only a weak high pressure pushing against it. I'm not sure of a source of tracking the associated fronts other than the Met Office 72 hours before, so it remains to be seen what potential if any. The thing coming up from the south is presumably only going to inconvenience some seabirds?
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2018, 15:20   #78
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Given I am heading to N Ron on Saturday all this talk of westerlies is depressing me, there will be plenty of time for those later in the autumn!!

I am more interested in easterlies or south-easterlies, will these be on the cards next week or not?!
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2018, 16:02   #79
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Given I am heading to N Ron on Saturday all this talk of westerlies is depressing me, there will be plenty of time for those later in the autumn!!

I am more interested in easterlies or south-easterlies, will these be on the cards next week or not?!
I'm sorry to be the bearer of such tidings but...not. Certainly not initially. I'm afraid it looks a bit grim Fri-Mon in terms of there being strong westerlies from Greenland, but the feature I mentioned above may yet give you a touch of (too strong) south-easterlies off its lower flank and who knows may drop the Tennessee Warbler in front of you! To be honest, there's a lot of uncertainty around at the moment between differing forecasts, and just in the past 24 hours there's been some significant changes to the players on the chess board but one does get the sense broadly that the Northern Isles are not going to be at their absolute best in the coming 7 days. Hope you're staying a couple of weeks. In my experience after a series of strong westerlies, all you need up there is the wind to stop and west-bound migrants will jump across in the first anticyclonic conditions available. Good luck.
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2018, 16:28   #80
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I'm sorry to be the bearer of such tidings but...not. Certainly not initially. I'm afraid it looks a bit grim Fri-Mon in terms of there being strong westerlies from Greenland, but the feature I mentioned above may yet give you a touch of (too strong) south-easterlies off its lower flank and who knows may drop the Tennessee Warbler in front of you! To be honest, there's a lot of uncertainty around at the moment between differing forecasts, and just in the past 24 hours there's been some significant changes to the players on the chess board but one does get the sense broadly that the Northern Isles are not going to be at their absolute best in the coming 7 days. Hope you're staying a couple of weeks. In my experience after a series of strong westerlies, all you need up there is the wind to stop and west-bound migrants will jump across in the first anticyclonic conditions available. Good luck.
Thanks for the pants news!!
I am only on for a week and had hoped to bump into some eastern stuff for a change. I wasn't going to pack a scope but may have to now, just in case that great shear floats by!!

That said 2 lancy in 2 days in the N Isles, where did they appear from!
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2018, 21:04   #81
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I'm hoping for easterly wind the week after next (22 to the 30).
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2018, 21:58   #82
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I'll see what I can arrange, Tony

But for now, it's a westerly flow (passerines if we're lucky) likely followed by moister more southerly air (seabirds). The resultant mix is tricky to forecast in detail

Btw, the Polar Jet Stream flows at 30-39000 feet, way higher than any migration. It's the low surface pressures that get accelerated by them that contain the vagrants, and these get deposited by rain, ie weather fronts

I've seen that happen with a major fall at High Island (TX) by pointing the bins upwards as a major weather front approached - birds literally dropping out of the sky. Next day, 25+ different warblers in same bush !
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2018, 08:13   #83
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Hurricane Helene is predicted to be taking an unusual and potentially useful route for picking interesting tubenoses.....

Black-bellied Storm Petrel on the Severn.
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2018, 08:47   #84
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Btw, the Polar Jet Stream flows at 30-39000 feet, way higher than any migration. It's the low surface pressures that get accelerated by them that contain the vagrants, and these get deposited by rain, ie weather fronts
Hi John. I'm basically borrowing from Elkins who suggested the wader/higher level winds connection. Perhaps not strictly 'jet stream' but somewhere in-between. I had a quick look but couldn't find in which of his three extensive papers the correlation is made. Wiki gives jet stream height beginning at 20 000feet while waders regularly migrate at 14000 so there is a discrepancy in terminology, I agree. However the overall concept still holds: waders migrate at higher altitudes than passerines and there are plenty of examples of them turning up in UK in the absence of disturbances on the Atlantic surface pressure charts. Indeed a couple of them are almost better understood as passage migrants - Pec, Buff-breast, American Goldie - rather than wind-blown vagrants. Surface pressure features undoubtedly increase the number of occurrences this side of the Atlantic, but they are by no means strictly dependent on them.
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2018, 09:40   #85
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Incidentally, here's a thought I've been waiting to offer up for discussion for a while. A quick head count reveals I've seen just over 50 American passerines in the UK/Ireland including six where I've been the first observer to see them. It's come to my notice in the last ten years on Scilly, just how lively these little things are on arrival. Surely they can't have just completed a 3000 mile sea crossing! My understanding (and again thank Norman Elkins for his work in pointing in this direction) is that the birds appear to be able to accomplish the flight with the minimal of effort, and in most cases, seem not to have battled the storms on their way across.

In normal migration through the eastern United States (a phenomenon I was lucky to witness for nine complete autumns) the weather pattern is far more simplistic than the metereological morass we encounter in the maritime UK. Cold fronts extending extensively from Newfoundland to Texas slide slowly southwards across the United States backed almost invariably by cooler, clearer skies and north-westerly tailwinds producing spectacular migration. The birds' southward progress is impeded by these fronts and in general they do not try to fly through them, rather they become backed up in big numbers behind and along the fronts. Elkins suggests that there are two main mechanisms for passerine displacement to the Eastern Atlantic. He suggests that rather than fight their way through the high winds associated with a low pressure, the birds are able to either orientate themselves (successfully, at least in the cases of the ones that we find alive on our shores) towards the centre of the low, where there is less turbulence OR they are riding BEHIND and ALONG the fronts, just as they would be doing in normal migration. Once within sight of land, they then drop out of the skies and are able to commence feeding with minimal recuperation time needed. The idea is that those that are caught up in the winds are doomed, those that have taken the path of least resistance have the potential to be discovered somewhere in Western Europe.

This brings to mind a totally impractical and wishful-thinking idea... wouldn't it be great if we had a mobile army of birders that could investigate the headlands nearest to the point at which the centre of the lows or the track of the fronts intersects with the land and find out if we could increase our rate of detection! Of course this would never result in success every time. Birds undoubtedly turn up at times in places far removed from the exact intersection of land and weather - possibly having already once-landed in an under-watched area. But I suggest such a tactic could reward the dedicated mobile individual over, say, a ten-year period.. or, less heroically, a computer-bound analyst watching the charts in minute detail and examining each passerine occurrence to see what percentage correspond with the prediction. Essentially that was what Elkins did retrospectively in the 70s and 80s. At that time the vast majority of Nearctic arrivals was in the south-west. With the change in weather patterns and birder's holiday destinations in recent times, perhaps it's time for an update?
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2018, 11:00   #86
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Hi John. I'm basically borrowing from Elkins who suggested the wader/higher level winds connection. Perhaps not strictly 'jet stream' but somewhere in-between. I had a quick look but couldn't find in which of his three extensive papers the correlation is made. Wiki gives jet stream height beginning at 20 000feet while waders regularly migrate at 14000 so there is a discrepancy in terminology, I agree. However the overall concept still holds: waders migrate at higher altitudes than passerines and there are plenty of examples of them turning up in UK in the absence of disturbances on the Atlantic surface pressure charts. Indeed a couple of them are almost better understood as passage migrants - Pec, Buff-breast, American Goldie - rather than wind-blown vagrants. Surface pressure features undoubtedly increase the number of occurrences this side of the Atlantic, but they are by no means strictly dependent on them.
Got to factor in if people are expecting birds to arrive in certain conditions then that's when they'll go looking for them and so most likely to find what's out there.
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2018, 11:14   #87
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Is there any correlation between long hot UK summers and autumn rarities? E.g. were the conditions this year similar to say 1976 and if so what rarities did 1976 produce that may have been summer weather related.

Or is the UK summer irrelevant? (I passed my met exam as a pilot but have forgotten most of it)!
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2018, 11:49   #88
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Got to factor in if people are expecting birds to arrive in certain conditions then that's when they'll go looking for them and so most likely to find what's out there.
Yes, I agree to an extent. The aim of my second post above was to focus more acutely on what those 'certain conditions' might be.

I'm sure the majority of birders will be happy with the equation westerly winds = American vagrants and indeed I try not to paralyse myself by over-thinking the small stuff too much. But a small percent share my esoteric fascination with the minutiae and mysteries of Transatlantic vagrancy - and indeed, westward displacement of Eurasian vagrants when it happens.

I haven't lost my passion for finding American passerines this side of the Pond... but increasing age and other interests means I'm always hoping to shave off a few (hundred?) hours of 'negative returns' before the next one. The six I've bumped into so far have all been when I've taken one eye off the ball and have ostensibly been found when I've been doing something completely different instead... such as harvesting courgettes or looking for a lost cagoule. One day it would be nice to actually come across one when I'm in the zone and still replete with that expectation you mention, Gastronaut.
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2018, 12:11   #89
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Is there any correlation between long hot UK summers and autumn rarities? E.g. were the conditions this year similar to say 1976 and if so what rarities did 1976 produce that may have been summer weather related.

Or is the UK summer irrelevant? (I passed my met exam as a pilot but have forgotten most of it)!
British Birds Volume 70 Number 10 October 1977 will answer that question for you. If you can't access it yourself, or if someone is unable to produce it here in the next 24 hours, I can copy and paste the relevant paragraphs and post them as a Word document - unless someone tells me I'll be infringing copyright? The short answer is it was a pretty good autumn - rated a 'very good' autumn at the time, though the modern reader may well gloss over 3 Olive-backed Pipits and a bunch of Cory's Shearwaters. Nearctic waders were notably scarce in September, but passerines were well-represented in October from both east and west. Correlations with the Long Hot Summer of 76? I don't think so, not really. Not in the rarities report anyway.
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2018, 13:05   #90
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Is there any correlation between long hot UK summers and autumn rarities? E.g. were the conditions this year similar to say 1976 and if so what rarities did 1976 produce that may have been summer weather related.

Or is the UK summer irrelevant? (I passed my met exam as a pilot but have forgotten most of it)!
As has been stated in many climate change denial arguments. The 1976 record summer was local. This year's weather has been global.

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Old Thursday 13th September 2018, 08:35   #91
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Two weather features to watch next week - three, if you include the Tropical Storm coming from the south. Round about this time next week a very large low pressure originating in NE Canada makes its way across our side. The jet stream and high pressure will push the centre north towards Iceland but the tail is vast and should presumably contain some weather fronts. The Grosbeak arrived on Scilly last year in something not dissimilar and previous years have seen, for example, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo and Blackpoll arrive simultaneously on St Agnes in the third week of September. Following this particular depression is another one of similar beginnings just now appearing on the 7-day chart behind it. Historically, the relative paucity of American passerines in Western Europe before the last week of September is something that has frequently been commented on, given that peak variety (and to some extent numbers) of Warblers in the north-eastern USA occurs in the first two weeks of the month. Observer coverage is certainly one reason cited for the apparent discrepancy - most vacationing birders in Britain putting their eggs in the October basket - but Elkins also proposes that the average cloud cover over the Atlantic increases from something like 4/8 in September to 8/8 in October. So next week is still a little early for peak arrivals and I'm nowhere near as close to sticking my neck out and predicting something will occur as I was in late September last year. But I'm sure many will have seen Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Black and white Warbler as early as the second week and third weeks of September, and there's still the small matter of Tennessee Warbler to give itself up to the masses at some point. Fingers crossed then, but don't go reneging on your promise to go see your youngest child's poetry recital quite just yet!

BTW Birdspotter...my attention is primarily on weather forecasts for the south-west, but now I've got North Ron in my search engine, I did look and see you might not be so badly off in the middle of next week after all. There was a time when I might have thought 40 mph south-easterlies...wow, but not so much now. At the moment that's the prediction as to what you will encounter Tues-Wed. However, myself, I'd be looking more at the calmer days in-between, no matter which way the wind's coming, and I see you've got some spells of that too. later in the week.
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Old Thursday 13th September 2018, 12:25   #92
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Btw, the Polar Jet Stream flows at 30-39000 feet, way higher than any migration.
Geese and swans have been known to fly that high, and to use the Polar Jet Stream to speed up migration. Amazing that they can, as conditions aren't exactly nice (below -40C and less than ⅓ sea level air pressure), but the rewards are great (estimated flight time, Iceland to Ireland / Britain, under 8 hours, for what would normally take a day and a half or more).
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Old Thursday 13th September 2018, 15:52   #93
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Neck on the block time is here again. Darren Bett of the BBC just told us that the jet stream is expected to take a more direct east-west course across the Atlantic middle of next week, likely sending Friday's (21st) low pressure system closer to the British Isles. Magic Seaweed indicates the same and the latest available forecast from xcweather 7 days hence shows the strong SSW arriving across Scilly, coupled with a band of rain (in other words: a front).

I know. I know. I know all the protestations. Save yourself the bother. Savour the delicious taste of anticipation. Anyone heading north can look up their own weather forecasts from now on. Brashy said something about my bins needing a polish...
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Old Thursday 13th September 2018, 21:03   #94
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Neck on the block time is here again. Darren Bett of the BBC just told us that the jet stream is expected to take a more direct east-west course across the Atlantic middle of next week, likely sending Friday's (21st) low pressure system closer to the British Isles. Magic Seaweed indicates the same and the latest available forecast from xcweather 7 days hence shows the strong SSW arriving across Scilly, coupled with a band of rain (in other words: a front).

I know. I know. I know all the protestations. Save yourself the bother. Savour the delicious taste of anticipation. Anyone heading north can look up their own weather forecasts from now on. Brashy said something about my bins needing a polish...
From the forecasts I've seen I don't think you're overhyping this provided they stay broadly similar. A procession of fast crossing, low enough latitude starting lows looking set to smack into SW Ireland and Scilly. If the current MSW forecast comes to fruition you should be perfectly positioned
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Old Saturday 15th September 2018, 17:57   #95
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ex-Hurricane Helene is expected to hit the British Isles from the South ~ Tuesday

ex-Hurricane Florence (you've probably noticed this on the news) is expected to go inland, then track NE & enter the N Atlantic ~ next Sunday & may join the remnants of various low pressure systems & Helene

Depending on exactly how these 2 strike these isles, the top edge could conceivably drag birds from Scandinavia, too
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Old Monday 17th September 2018, 10:13   #96
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Helene is already delivering Fea's-types it would seem
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Old Monday 17th September 2018, 22:04   #97
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weekend storm

Struggling to make the seawatch tomorrow (Bulwer's guaranteed!) but did notice this lined up for next weekend - too far off for any certainty but could be Sabine's and Leach's on the cards off this one perhaps.

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Old Monday 17th September 2018, 23:23   #98
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weekend storm

Struggling to make the seawatch tomorrow (Bulwer's guaranteed!) but did notice this lined up for next weekend - too far off for any certainty but could be Sabine's and Leach's on the cards off this one perhaps.

cheers, alan
I saw that. Looks a classic SW suddenly spinning NW bringing Pendeen and St Ives in to play. Trouble is XCweather currently have the NW at 60 mph gusting to 75! I've opted to return to Scilly rather than hang around the Cornish peninsula so will be interesting to see if I have any regrets by this time next week! We certainly can't compete with the seawatching taking place just 30 miles away, but an American Golden Plover and a Warbling Vireo will go some way to compensating for that.
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Old Tuesday 18th September 2018, 14:26   #99
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Weekend storm

Still looks promising I think, but today was a damp squib so perhaps not!

cheers, alan
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Old Tuesday 18th September 2018, 21:05   #100
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Dartboard update

Not sure MSW have re-run their model much, but still looking hopeful.

Not for the Lizard tho..

cheers, a
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