In early spring our overwintering migratory birds are preparing for epic journeys. They’ll soon on their way to their summer breeding grounds, while in the autumn they come back to the nutrient rich mudflats of the Solent.
So where do Solent’s winter birds go in the summer? And how do they know how to get there?
Coastal birds from the UK tend to head northwards in the spring so they can take advantage of longer daylight hours, fewer predators, a good food supply, and plenty of places to nest.
Some, like dark-bellied brent geese, grey plover and sanderling head for Arctic Siberia, while others, like oystercatcher and shelduck, stay a little nearer home. Solent’s black-tailed godwit return to Iceland, turnstone head off for far flung northern Greenland, Canada and Lapland, while curlew set off to Scandinavia and Russia and Solent wigeon might spend the summer in Iceland, Russia, Scandinavia or the Ukraine.
At this time of year, it’s particularly important for coastal birds to have the space they need to feed and rest without being disturbed, so they’re in tiptop condition for their perilous journeys.
Breeding grounds for Solent’s winter visitors
|Dark-bellied brent goose||Siberia|
|Grey Plover||Arctic Siberia|
|Oystercatcher||UK coastal areas, Norway, Netherlands|
|Pintail||Not enough data to be certain|
|Red-breasted merganser||Not enough data to be certain|
|Ringed plover||UK coastlines, Scandinavia, the low countries|
|Sanderling||Siberian Arctic and Greenland|
|Shoveler||UK, Northern Europe, Russia|
|Teal||Baltics, West Russia|
|Turnstone||Northern Greenland, Canada, Lapland|
|Wigeon||Iceland, Russia, Scandinavia, Ukraine|
Migration routes for some of our coastal birds
The secrets of their supreme navigation skills aren’t yet fully understood, probably because they use lots of different senses to plot their routes which vary from species to species.
It’s thought they use a combination of triggers including the earth’s magnetic field, their sense of smell, the position and path of the sun and stars, or simply recognising natural landmarks.