World Migratory Birds Day

At the time of year when many bird species are returning to the UK their winter quarters, we celebrate World Migratory Birds Day, 10th-11th May 2014

Operation Turtle Dove stalwart, Simon Tonkin, went to North Norfolk to observe these birds and was hoping to see his first Turtle dove of the season…

Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail

Have you noticed something different recently? Days are longer certainly, but anything else? I have and it is rather magnificent!

A promise of return has been fulfilled and our glorious summer migrants are arriving on mass, you may have noticed that Common Swifts have arrived back this week and Turtle Dove’s are now arriving on the East coast.

Here at the Conservation Grade offices the Barn Swallows have been back for a little while and suddenly Common Whitethroats have been adorning nearby hedges. Within the last week Yellow Wagtails have arrived back. These butter yellow birds are somewhat distracting when they put in an appearance next to the meeting room window! They may as well knock on the window and pull faces because it couldn’t be any more distracting.

I’m certainly not complaining as this is one of a long list of our migrants that are in trouble (although I am complaining about that decline!) and this essentially endemic subspecies of Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima is a beautiful addition to our avifauna.

One migrant I haven’t seen yet in the UK is that worryingly absent Turtle Dove, I’m hoping to rectify that this weekend by visiting the North Norfolk coast, a goldmine for migrant birds at this time of the year and with some fantastic reserves. Although it’s not the reserves that will hold them as much as the neighbouring farms and one friendly farmer I have helped put in much needed habitats for them hopefully will see them return to use them again this year. This demonstrates the value of the approach of the partnership of Operation Turtle Dove.

I do wonder apart from these small areas how much food and shelter is available out there in the wider countryside as these wonders of the natural world trickle inland to their breeding grounds having completed an epic marathon

Do you ever wonder what is the biggest threat to migrant birds? Hunting perhaps?Pollution? Development? Well of course it is in fact a combination of many factors, not simply one, but the way in which we farm and manage land such as clearing forested land for agriculture is leading the pack. Source: BirdLife International “State of the World’s Birds” (pages 4 and 8).

I’m going to be celebrating World Migratory Birds Day which takes place 10th – 11th May watching migrant birds in Norfolk, but I’ll have my mind on the many threats they face. I do take comfort in that Fair to Nature farmers growing under the Conservation Grade protocol of established homes and food for these species will make a significant difference.

Being Fair to Nature helps them fulfil their promise of return. Can you help too?