Arrivals and Departures

Wheatears arrive and Brent Geese on the move

An hour at the beach this morning was rewarded with some good views of birds on the move.  Towards the west end of the reserve, and sheltering amongst the large sea defence rocks, was a lovely female Northern Wheatear.  This bird was a new arrival, having crossed the channel overnight. Wheatears spend the winter in tropical Africa, and can be found in a broad band across the continent from Senegal through to Kenya.  They visit Europe to breed and face a treacherous journey across deserts and the sea to get here. The bird I saw this morning was probably refuelling before heading further north. They are a bird that you will often see breeding in upland areas like the Pennines and Peak District. I’m expecting to see far more Wheatears in the next few days, as the weather improves and with warm air reaching us from Southern Europe.

Going in a different direction, and departing our shores, were a couple of flocks of Brent Geese. These birds were off-shore, heading east along the English Channel. Their ultimate destination, again for breeding purposes, will be artic Russia, as far away as Siberia. Brent Geese are not really much larger than a Mallard Duck, but make huge journeys in search of warmer winters (here) and then endless daylight in the high artic when raising their young.  As they fly over the sea, they might only be 400 meters off the beach, and the flock of birds is usually close to the water and in a ragged, wiggly, line. It always appears to me that birds are changing position within the flock: they don’t seem to like order!

The last two weeks of April should see lots of arrivals and departures. So take your binoculars down to the beach and watch migration unfold before your eyes.

by Tony Benton