How The Weather Has Affected Migration So Far This Year
Every year roughly half of the worlds bird species migrate to a climate more suited to their needs. Even though migration is a vital part of bird survival and can reap great rewards, it is also extremely dangerous. To conserve energy many migrating birds take dangerous routes which can expose them to storms and predators. Sometimes this can result in birds becoming injured, exhausted and suffering from starvation.
Each bird breed will have their own migration strategy, taking a range of routes and traveling during different times.
Why is the UK a migration hotspot?
Birds travel vast distances to migrate to the UK, often from cold and more exotic climates including Siberia and the South American Coast. The UK offers migrants more favourable conditions and an improved source of food. What may have been a suitable location to call home during the summer months, may pose dangerous risks jeopardising survival during the winter months.
Saying goodbye to summer visitors
During the months of September and October it is common to see our summer migrants head back to their winter homes. Many of our summer visitors come to the UK to breed, as there is an abundance of food and the days are much longer.
As winter arrives in the UK insects and food sources become much scarcer, the young birds born in spring are also much older and ready to fly to their homelands. Some of the typical birds we can see heading away from the UK include Swallows, House Martins, Swifts and Warblers.
Welcoming Autumn migrants
During the winter and colder months, many birds migrate from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Northern Europe to find improved sources of food. Food sources in colder climates often become submerged in ice and snow, making feeding and sourcing food much more challenging.
Winter often brings the arrival of many Far Eastern species, some of the birds we can expect to welcome to the UK include the Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Robin, Palla’s Warbler, Radde’s Warbler and the Pallas’s Pipit. Many of our native migrants such as Tits, Wrens, Starlings and Thrushes will also return home to the UK.
Passage migrants are birds that stop off somewhere for short periods of time during their long migration journeys. Some of the UK’s most common passage migrants which can be spotted during September and October are the Bluethroat, Hoope, Black Tern, Solitary Sandpiper and Serins.
This year so far…
With this year’s turbulent weather around the world, it has made migration conditions unpredictable and dangerous.
The negative and harsh weather in Spring 2018 resulted in many breeds of birds not arriving in their normal numbers or arriving slighter later than usual. One of the causes of this decrease in migrating birds was the result of unexpected snowfall across the Sahara Desert, causing many migrating birds and wildlife to take alternative routes and significantly extend their journeys.
Autumns unpredictable weather makes it hard to predict winter migration trends, however many common winter birds such as the Pectoral Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper have been arriving early in the UK this year. This implies current migration conditions aren’t having too much of a negative impact on migration journeys and that many birds are still flying on their expected routes.
The moving depressions in weather, coming from the Atlantic could see existing migrants quickly joined by many of our common winter visitors. It is also likely that we will see the Red Eyed Vireo, which is very rarely spotted in the UK! So keep an eye out.
How can you help?
During migration season food sources are often less readily available due to an increase in birds and feeding activity. Help birds out during migration season by providing them with extra food and water which is easy to find. This way birds who have lost food resources or need a little extra energy to continue their migration, will be able to quickly replenish and safely continue on their journey.