With Spring migration just commencing, some of our regular visitors from warmer shores have already arrived here for the summer to breed. Among the first are Chiffchaffs, a small green-coloured Warbler which says its name repeatedly, “Chiff-Chaff”, and Sandwich Terns. While relatively early, a few Swallows have also been recorded, birds familiar to everyone as they return to last year’s nest site in sheds and barns.
Sand Martins and Wheatears have also just arrived. The Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Grasshopper Warbler will also arrive in the coming weeks. With migration in full swing during April, other species, including the Whitethroat and Swift, will be observed in late April or early May.
Among these common and expected species, we sometimes get scarce Spring overshoots, which may include Hoopoe, Garganey, Marsh Harrier and Turtle Dove, arriving on our shores courtesy of high pressure over Iberia or strong southerly winds, although none of them are classed as rarities they will certainly brighten up a dull day, particularly the Hoopoe with its pink coloured body and amazing crest. These species usually re-orientate after a few days and return south again to the Mediterranean. However Garganey (a very handsome Duck) may remain and raise young, so if optimum conditions persist, the birds will stay.
Rare Spring vagrants do show up and can create a frenzy of excitement among the birding community, these rarities like the aforementioned scarce spring overshoots arrive via weather systems and rarely venture very far north of the Mediterranean, species such as Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Red rumped Swallow, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Alpine Swift have all occurred though albeit in singles figures.
The last of our Winter visitors, which include species such as Redwing, Fieldfare, Scaup, Tufted Duck and Brent Geese, may still be present in some areas, though they are getting ready to head North. In the case of the Brent Geese they may be heading to Axel Heiberg Island (NW of Greenland), or the Redwing, still feasting on Ivy berries in an urban garden, may soon be singing from a roof top in Reykjavik.