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What a difference a year makes!

Time to Spring into action?

During the first week of March last year, the first of the summer migrants were arriving on our shores during a period of high pressure and southerly winds. With the forecast for the week ahead of further cold weather, the prospect for birdwatchers seeing their first summer visitors is not good! Nevertheless, Dawn Balmer is urging us all to be on the lookout for new arrivals from Africa.

Most of our summer visitors winter in Africa, ranging from the tip of South Africa for Swallow to West Africa for the likes of Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. Information from bird ringing suggests that Willow Warbler winters in the Gulf of Guinea; around the Ivory Coast and Ghana. In contrast, Lesser Whitethroat is the only warbler to winter in East Africa with records from Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia.

Last spring was quite exceptional, with an influx of Swallows in late February - about two weeks earlier than usual! These were quickly followed by Sand Martin on 1 March (Cornwall), Wheatear on 4 March (Kent), Sandwich Tern on 6 March (Kent), House Martin on 7 March (Cornwall, Devon) and Little Ringed Plover on 8 March (Slough and Wokingham). Log your first sightings this spring
The organisers of BirdTrack are asking birdwatchers to submit their records of summer migrants to their website this spring so that the timing of spring arrival can be recorded and compared with previous years. BirdTrack is interested not just in first sightings of classic signs of spring like the Swallow and Wheatear but would like to keep track of all arrivals through the spring so the flow through the country can be mapped.

Dawn Balmer, the BirdTrack organiser who works at BTO said

Most birdwatchers look forward to the start of March and hope to see their first summer migrants during the first two weeks of the month. With the current weather systems it is unlikely that we will get many migrants for a few weeks, unless there is a big change in the weather. Instead, birdwatchers will be enjoying the influx of Waxwings and watching flocks of Redwing, Fieldfare and Brambling as they feed up ready for their departure back to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia later in the month. Birdwatchers are encouraged to enter their birdwatching records to BirdTrack and to contribute to local, regional and national bird recording.Do I stay or do I go?
Each winter a small number of summer visitors decide not to migrate to warmer climes but to spend the winter here. Our summer visitors are insectivorous, so they need a reliable source of insects during the breeding season. Staying in Britain and Ireland over the winter is tough; insects are hard to find and that`s why our migrants head south to southern Europe and Africa where there is a predictable surge of insects. The winter months are important times; many species renew their feathers through the process of moult so they have a fresh set of feathers to fly north again come the spring.

This winter a small number of Swallows have been reported with records widespread from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Pembrokeshire, Norfolk, Cheshire and Argyll. There have also been a few Sandwich Tern (Devon, Hampshire, Kent), Whimbrel (Cornwall, Dorset), Garganey (Somerset, Gloucestershire) and Common Sandpipers wintering here. It is well known that some Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are recorded during the winter (though mostly originating from other parts of Europe) but this winter Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat have also been seen.

4th July 2014