Friday, 7 April 2017

On the move

Bird migration is a strange phenomenon. This year, Sand Martins appeared before the end of February, and the first Swallows started popping up just after mid-March, but here we are, a week into April, and there's still relatively few Wheatears around the country, despite them being a species that usually spearheads the arrival of summer visitors.

There can be all sorts of reasons, with weather being the most obvious. Birds arriving from the Continent need southerly winds to make the crossing of the English Channel. Before that, those that winter in Africa also need friendly winds to make the crossing of the Mediterranean and the Sahara before that.

There's every chance that the winds this weekend will turn around favourably, and that we'll see a consequent influx of migrant birds. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are already singing their hearts out around Corby, but expect them to be joined by other warblers – Garden, Sedge and even Reed warblers, and perhaps Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat too.

Throughout this week, though, Northamptonshire generally has seen plenty of bird movements. Small, straggly flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares have been making their way east and north, heading back to their homes in Scandinavia and beyond.

And in Northampton itself, Waxwings are still feeding on berry-laden bushes and trees, fattening themselves up one last time before they make the journey back to northern Russia.

It's a reminder that migration is a constant, year-round process, in which the seasons blur into each other. Only at the end of this month will we be able to say that spring has truly arrived, but by then, incredibly, the start of autumn migration will only be weeks away, as Arctic-breeding waders start to head south again.

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