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Snow ? hard to Swallow!

UK Migration news?

Much of East Anglia was covered with a blanket of snow this morning, and with more snow and a cold snap forecast for the coming week we should spare a thought for the Swallows and House Martins that have already arrived.

Summer migrants arrived in Britain ahead of schedule in the second week of February, when high pressure over Europe and warm winds gave way to spring-like conditions and prompted scores of migrants such as Swallows, House Martins and Wheatears to head north to Britain.

The cold snap, particularly if it extends to the south of England, may affect the insect populations upon which these migrant birds rely. Two weeks ago these early arrivals may have been forgiven for thinking that spring was here. They are going to be in for a shock this week.

Dawn Balmer, organiser of the BTO Migration Watch project explains Swallows and House Martins are aerial feeders and will need a good supply of insects if they are to survive the cold snap. A Swallow has been seen hunting for insects over a reedbed in Cornwall for the last week and another Swallow was reported to Migration Watch on Saturday 21 February from West Berkshire. The first Wheatears usually arrive in the first week of March when the weather is generally milder and more food is available so we were really surprised to see them here so early Wheatears pick up insects from the ground so a covering of snow or ice will make it extremely difficult for them to get enough food.

The Migration Watch website is keen to receive all records of migrant birds and it will be interesting to see if these early migrants survive the cold snap. Sightings of Redwing, Fieldfare and Brambling are also sought after so we can track their migration north and east over the next few weeks. This is the third year that Migration Watch has run and it will be really fascinating to see how the timing of migration varies between the three years.

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. Who can help?
Anyone can get involved
* Send in records of the first birds you see ? House Martins in your town or Swallows in your village.
* Take a regular walk and watch the seasons change, as first Chiffchaffs, then Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher add their voices to the summer chorus.
*Note when your first Swallow arrives, then keep records of when the nest is built, the eggs are laid, young start to be fed etc.
*And there is a huge amount of information to read too. Dawn Balmer, of the BTO, who organises Migration Watch is keen to recruit volunteers:This will be the third year of Migration Watch and it is just as exciting as the first year. Over two thousand birdwatchers have been regularly sending in their records and we are starting to build up a picture of the pattern and timing of migration throughout Britain and Ireland.Funding
Like migrant birds, Northumbrian Water and its southern operating division Essex & Suffolk Water, have both national and global dimension. The company`s support for Migration Watch celebrates links between its operational sites in Essex and Suffolk in the south and Northumbria in the north east, as well as overseas. It has even been shown that Swallows ringed at one of its sewage works in Northumbria spend the winter at a water treatment works of a former sister company in South Africa. It is a small world!

For further information please contact:
Dawn Balmer 01842 750050, E-mail: dawn.balmer@bto.org during office hours or mobile 07968 600354 or:
Graham Appleton 01842 750050 or E-mail: graham.appleton@bto.org during office hours or mobile 0797 4668503
Or for information about Migration Watch in the Republic of Ireland contact: Oran O`Sullivan, BirdWatch Ireland, 8 Longford Place, Monkstone, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Tel: +353 12804322 E-mail: info@birdwatchireland.org

4th July 2014