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The trio: Red-backed Shrike, Thrush Nightingale and Marsh Warbler

These three much-loved birds breeding in the West-Central Palearctic have much in common:

core breeding ranges, wintering ranges and loop migration strategies both into and out of Africa.

All three of these birds are long-range migrants (e.g. St. Petersburg to Harare), may have been hit these past three years (at least), by an intensifying and erratic ENSO//IOD phenomenon.

El Niño Southern Oscillation/ Indian Ocean Dipole

The ENSO/IOD by changing ocean currents is temporarily (and/or alternately) reweaving our rainfall patterns; and accelerating anthropogenic ecological degradation across southern, eastern and northeastern Africa and perhaps beyond.

Recent Reports from Observers in the field: -

United Kingdom:
Marsh Warblers do not arrive here in the UK until 27 May at the earliest, 
peaking in passage in the second and third weeks in June - too early yet to
make erudite comments!

Thrush Nightingales are very late in arriving this spring, singing birds in
Poland only becoming apparent in these last few days - NONE yet recorded
in UK  this spring.

Likewise, Red-backed Shrike very scarce this spring so
far (but  again peak passage in UK not until first week of June).
Lesser Grey Shrikes and  Black-headed Buntings were arriving in large numbers in eastern
Turkey last week,  whilst I was there, but passage of early migrants such as
European Barn Swallow  was very high - many many of thousands streaming
north towards breeding grounds in Russia.


I watch bird migration during past five years at the river Oka (right tributary of Volga River) running in my place latitudinal in West to East direction along the southern boundaries of the Moscow Region. River Oka is a good place to watch spring bird migration in the Central part of Russia and three species under discussion are common birds in the area. This year:

Thrush Nightingale. There was a delay with arrival about 10 days against normal data for mid of Oka River. Fist birds appeared at May 16-17  and first clear wave has started at May 19-20. By the end of May (25-30.05) situation is normalized. A lot of nightingales sing everywhere in the area in all types of their habitats.

Red-backed Shrike. At 29-30 May, in my area, situation looks as species collapse. Only by May 23, with almost three weeks delay, first males appeared in the “garden village” (the gardens with small summer houses) were all past five years had been loose colony of this species. By 30 May no one Red-backed shrike seen in thу village and in forest-steppe around.

Marsh Warbler. First birds have been watched at 20-23 May, mainly in the “garden village” and singularly in the wild habitats of the area. At May 28 only several singing birds have been registered in their typical breeding habitats. At May 30 far more passing through birds sing in the species typical habitats in the vicinity of villages. But even by naked eye it is clear that entire number of migrating birds is far more less than usual in the last days of May.

Konstantin Mikhailov


I saw my first Red-backed Shrike in north east Bulgaria on May 12th. They are now here in very big numbers. One day there were none but within three days everywhere you look you see one. 

Through our facebook group, I am told the situation was similar in other parts of Bulgaria.  I am also told they arrived about 7 days late this year. We have had the coldest April for a generation (in complete contrast to western Europe) and anecdotally many migrants passing up through eastern Europe are "behind schedule"

On the migrant front all I can report is that several bird species were late arriving in Bulgaria this spring.

The weather here was seriously colder  than average from mid-March until mid-May.

More northerly winds have been experienced which is part of the reason for the low temperatures. Younger Bulgarians tell me they have not known it so cold in their lifetime. But from May 14th temperatures have been normal for this time of year.

I have a close friend who lives in Odessa, Ukraine who has told me that they experienced the same deviation from the norm.

Late birds:
We now have possibly more Red-backed Shrikes than normal apparently, even though not one was seen until May 12th. Our Facebook group (which is the basis of most of my comments)  confirmed that three of us, in different parts of Bulgaria, spotted our first ones within 24 hours of each other!  This is about seven days late. They are here in very big numbers.
I saw my first Lesser Grey Shrike on May13th. Again about one week late. It is not very common this year.




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