Anyone birding our coast over the last few days, will have witnessed a steady stream of Swallows moving through as they begin their autumn migration south. For some, this whets the appetite for other migration spectacles to come.
In late October and early November huge numbers of Woodpigeons move through south east Wales. Large numbers are well documented in the East Glamorgan Bird Report, and peak counts are up to 10,000 – 30,000 birds per hour at Peterstone Wentlooge, Gwent.
It is thought that these birds are of British origin, as there are few records of incoming flocks on the east coast at that time of year. From what is known, many birds move south west over the English Midlands and seem to get ‘bottled up’ somewhere in the area from Forest of Dean through to the area between the rivers Wye and Severn. It is not clear how they reach the south Wales coast from there, but they do, in large numbers and continue to move westwards through Gwent and Glamorgan and probably leave the Welsh coast at some unknown point heading southwards into south west England
This year, Adrian Plant, would like to get together a coordinated observation of direction and numbers. It’s not known if Woodpigeons enter our region via the Severn, Wye or Usk nor how far west they travel in Wales before heading out to sea. He would like to get a small group of observers stationed at a few critical points to try and sort this out. In Glamorgan, it would need someone at Lavernock Point (perhaps also further inland as many birds follow the edge of the line of hills in Gwent and may also do so in Glamorgan). Also somebody looking seaward and inland in the Kenfig area, and of course if sites further west could be managed then all the better. Possible dates would be preferably the weekend of 2/3 November or perhaps 9/10 November. It would be best if all observers were in ‘phone contact with each other to help better coordinate things.
Are you willing to participate for 1 or 2 days?
Please contact Adrian, if you’d like to get involved.
Cuckoo is one of the UK’s fastest declining migrants and, until recently, was one of which we knew least about once it left the UK. Many readers will already be familiar with the stories of five Norfolk cuckoos, successfully tagged last summer and tracked on their migration to West Africa and their return journey this spring.
Cuckoo populations however, declined in Wales by 27% between 1999-2009, compared to 49% in England and only 9% in Scotland. Why is this? Do their timings or patterns of movements differ significantly? Tagging birds from all three regions will help us to understand why they are faring differently.
This year, the BTO Tracking Team have been busy in Wales (and Scotland), and have now tagged four Welsh males from the Tregaron area.
Details of these birds, and maps showing their movement are now available to enjoy. Two birds have already left Wales, moving east into England and look set to move into continental Europe soon.
Their departure is a timely reminder that there is still great value in recording your bird sightings throughout the year. Recording breeding activity and counting bird numbers at roosts, water bodies and on our local patches are important of course, but capturing arrival and departure times of our migrant birds is of great value too.
BirdTrack has its routes in the early 2000s with the Migration Watch initiative. Migration Watch was able to record the timing of arrivals and pattern of migratory spread of summer visitors across Britain and Ireland. BirdTrack expands on this as a year round recording package so that we can also study autumn migration (a much bigger challenge) and other movements and distributions.
As with Migration Watch, BTO are interested in not just when the first birds arrive or the last ones depart, but also want to know when the bulk of the population has arrived or departed (whether summer or winter visitors). Interesting information about passage migrants, such as inland wader movements can be gleaned.
BirdTrack has developed significantly over the years and continues to look at ways of further improving through added features. You can have a say in how it develops by completing a short questionnaire.
Whether you’re new to recording, a dedicated Atlaser looking for a new way to submit your sightings or an existing BirdTrack user, there are very good reasons to keep recording all year round.
Each year, one or two Glamorgan birders are fortunate to see an Osprey flying overhead as it makes its way north or south on its annual migration. In recent years, birds have also spent a few days in late summer feeding up at estuaries in the west of the county.
Feeding exclusively on fish, Ospreys spend the winter in west Africa, avoiding the risk of frozen water bodies in the UK. Young birds are thought to spend their first two years in Africa, before returning north to embark on their first breeding attempts.
We now have a second pair of Ospreys breeding in Wales. This year a pair has settled on the Dyfi and are currently rearing three chicks. This is in addition to the Glaslyn pair that have been returning each summer since 2004.
News has now been released that all three Dyfi chicks will be ringed and have small solar-powered satellite trackers attached later this month. The trackers will allow researchers to follow the birds as they travel vast distances over many years, and develop a much better understanding of the species movements and ecology.
May is the month when a number of our late migrants arrive.
We were fortunate enough to connect with one of these species this weekend. Nightjars typically arrive in Glamorgan in mid May, and may be found churring and performing they courtship flights at dusk in our upland conifer plantations.
Spotted Flycatchers are another of the late arrivers. Sadly, they are in decline and are no longer a common sight in our parks and woodlands.
You can find out more about migration and species arrival times by viewing Birdtrack maps and reports.
Wheatears, Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs have already been recorded in East Glamorgan – soon to be followed by a whole host of other summer migrants.
As you’re aware, due to climate change, the average arrival date of some species is getting earlier and earlier. While longer distance migrants are arriving too late to be able to exploit peaks in food abundance, such as insects and their larvae, which are now occurring earlier in the year. The table below shows the earliest ever arrival dates in East Glamorgan of some of the most common regular, true migrants:
An excellent way of helping to record migration patterns is by entering your records on BirdTrack. But, it’s not only a tool to record the first birds to arrive or the last ones to depart. By using the lists and counts of species submitted by volunteers throughout the spring and early summer, the BTO can work out when the bulk of the population has arrived. BirdTrack can also investigate how birds filter through the country – do they head up the centre of the country or do they disperse west or east in spring time?
And you can use BirdTrack throughout the year. It’s a place where you can store and manage your own personal records, in the knowledge that these could be used to support species conservation at a local, regional, national and even international level.
The first of this Spring’s migrants are now arriving in our region. Wheatears and Chiffchaffs have already been reported and it must only be a matter of days before Sand Martins are back with us. Cardiff Bay is often a good place to see these hirundines in numbers as they hawk prey over the water.
March of course, is a crossover month, with many winter visitors still present. Purple Sandpipers remain at Ogmore and Black Redstarts are still on show at the Cardiff Bay Barrage. This year has been especially good for Great Grey Shrikes, and we’ve had a small party of Pink-footed Geese at Kenfig and surrounds. Both are uncommon in East Glamorgan.
Follow our links for Local Bird News to keep up to date with bird sightings in the region. BirdTrack too, has a range of tools that enable you to track species whereabouts and arrival and departure times.