Keeping an eye out for the first of our summer migrant birds

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Posted on March 24, 2017

Wheatear

Although we’re barely into late March, the first of the summer migrants returning back to our shores are already here. The majority of birds which we won’t see for perhaps another month or more, will have already started their long journeys back from locations as far away as South Africa.

The species which normally arrives first is the Wheatear, with some of them even reaching our shores during late February. This charismatic little bird with its distinctive white rump, will have spent the winter in tropical Africa. Interestingly, it is the male birds which arrive first.

After the Wheatear it could be a Sand Martin, Swallow or Chiffchaff you see next, though for the latter you’re far more likely to initially hear it than see it – its easily-recognisable ‘chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff’ song delivered from the branches of trees which are yet to see their first leaves.

But even if it is a Wheatear or Chiffchaff that you first see or hear this spring, for many people their spring only really becomes official with the sight of a Swallow. This long-distance migrant to the UK will have spent its winter in South Africa, and covering around 200 miles per day and at an average speed of about 20 miles per hour, eventually arrives back to our shores. And for the Swallows which venture as far to nest as the north of Scotland – even Orkney and Shetland - just consider for a moment the truly epic journey they make.

And the last summer migrant to arrive back? Well that accolade would normally be the Spotted Flycatcher, with the first of these now increasing rare birds not arriving until late April and early May.

We’d love to hear your accounts of the very first summer migrants you see in your gardens or when out on your travels, so do let us know by commenting on our Facebook page.

Comments

I am a regular shopper with Vine Farm and usually very pleased with the products however after purchasing whole peanuts for the first time I have been very disappointed in the response of the birds as they have totally ignored them. Blue,Great and Coal have looked pecked but then flown off, I have even given some to a friend to try on her feeders and she has had the same results, so I ask is there something in your processes which may be having an affect. Regards Mark Holloway

Mr Mark Holloway 02/04/2017 11:03:12

Thank you Mr Holloway, for your comment. It does really depends on what else you are feeding, where you feeders are situated and who you are feeding. The Blue Tit, for example, prefers to grab the food and take it away to the shelter of a bush to eat. If your birds have been used to sunflower hearts or small seeds, they won't like being exposed for the time it takes to wrestle part of a peanut out of the feeder. You could try moving the peanuts closer to the protection of trees or bushes. Introducing a new food type to your birds will always take a bit of time for them to get used to it, the same with changing your feeders. If you've been feeding suet pellets previously, you could try mixing those in with the peanuts.

Ms Vine House Farm 03/04/2017 11:10:55

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