When Frank Sinatra sang the song, ‘Summer wind’, he crooned about a lost sweetheart and the changing seasons. Like Frank, the Solent summer wind means that we lose the amazing ducks, geese and wading birds that overwinter here. Brent geese will soon head back to Arctic climes and black-tailed godwit will fly 1500 miles to Iceland, the list goes on. However, this isn’t a reason to be sad.
Migration is one of the wonders of nature and we can now look forward to the arrival of our summer birds once again. They are arriving on our shores to allow them to get somewhere that has abundant food supplies to raise a family. Most of these are insect feeders and the insects are just not available during our winter period.
We should be in awe of our summer visitors as they encounter many dangers trying to find their way here, including hunting, storms, predators, collisions and starvation due to loss of habitat. Scientific studies have suggested that birds get their directional information from the position of the sun, the stars and the earth’s magnetic field as well as visible landmarks both natural and manmade.
In the UK, the peak migration period for our summer migrants is mid-March to the end of May. Generally, our ‘summer visitors’ spend the warmer months here and the colder parts of the year in Southern Europe or Africa, many of them South of the Sahara. Our summer visiting birds are arriving soon to stake out breeding territories, find a mate and then raise a family or several families.
Some of the early March arrivals we should look out for include wheatear and chiffchaff. Look out for the wheatear’s distinctive white rump, and black and white tail pattern. Males are pale blue grey above with black mask, females are browner. Listen for the chiffchaff’s unmistakeable ‘zip-zap, zip-zap, zip-zap’.
Other late March arrivals can include redstart, tree pipit, yellow wagtail, house martin (pictured), grasshopper warbler, common sandpiper, whitethroat, sedge warbler and whinchat.
Keep your eyes peeled, exciting times ahead!