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Migration Watch 2004

Make an early start ? the birds have!

The exceptionally early arrival of some spring migrants a week before the launch of Migration Watch has caught the BTO out. Migration Watch , the on-line spring migration survey, sponsored by Northumbrian Water, does not go live until Sunday 15th February - but no one told the birds.

High-pressure systems over Europe and warm south-westerly winds over last weekend (7-8 February) gave way to spring like conditions and encouraged some migrants to head north to Britain and Ireland well before schedule. Over the last week, we have seen an unprecedented arrival of House Martins, with as many as 35 recorded across the south coast of England and one in Ireland. A lone Sand Martin flew past Rye Harbour in East Sussex on 7 February and on the same day Swallows were seen in Somerset and Isles of Scilly. For many birdwatchers, the Wheatear is the classic harbinger of spring so it is exciting that two have been recorded at such an early date; one in West Sussex on 9 February and one in Devon on 10 February.The Red-rumped Swallow, a rare visitor to Britain from southern Europe was seen in Cornwall on 8 and 10 February. This species would normally stay in southern Europe for the summer but the good conditions for migration meant that it flew too far north ? a good example of a spring overshoot (travelling too far north).

Dawn Balmer, who runs Migration Watch for the BTO said, For all these early arrivals the big question is will there be enough food for them to survive? All these birds eat insects and will need a good supply if they are to get through the next few weeks. We expect these birds to arrive in March and April, when the weather is warmer and there are more insects around.Birdwatchers can record their sightings of early summer visitors such as Wheatear, Sand Martin and Swallow, on the BTO`s Migration Watch website and watch how the migrants arrive and spread northwards through the country on the amazing animated maps. Anyone with an interest in birds and access to the Internet can take part in Migration Watch . To enter your sightings visit the website at http://www.bto.org/migwatch and register as a Migration Watch recorder.

You`ll be fascinated watching the migrant birds arrive online! Migration Watch started in 2002 so you will also be able to compare the timing of arrival with the previous two years ? there are already signs that they might be earlier this spring? As well as recording summer migrants arriving, we also want your records of winter visitors such as Redwing, Fieldfare and Brambling, as they get ready to depart for their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.

4th July 2014