|Adult Purple Heron by Colm Flynn|
Monday, 3 September 2012
Great Move North
April and May witness a mass movement of birds north into Europe and North America, and Ireland fully participates in this natural phenomenon. This migration is largely made up of two elements – the departure of winter visitors to more northerly climes and the arrival of summer visitors from more southerly regions. Thus thrushes, such as redwing and fieldfare, which were so common throughout the winter have now all but departed. The throngs of waders (or shorebirds in American parlance) have now mostly left for their breeding grounds to the north. Ducks and geese will move quickly north as daylight hours increase and breeding grounds lose their snow and ice cover.
With the warming seas small fish become abundant inshore and this attracts terns such as arctic and sandwich; auks represented by guillemots, razorbills and puffins; gannets and the small but extremely resilient storm petrel. Ireland is also used as a transit point and feeding station for birds moving further north such as whimbrel, Greenland wheatears and maybe even an osprey or two.
Migration northwards largely stops in late May as the migrants raise their young. From late August onwards, with the shortening days and dwindling food supplies, the whole process reverses and our summer visitors, augmented by their offspring, head south once more to Africa for the winter. As the arctic regions become snow-bound thrushes, waders, ducks and geese move back to into Ireland to take advantage of our mainly ice-free conditions and available food supplies.
Migration is not confined to birds as insects and sea mammals also migrate and we will revisit this at a later time.
Over the next few weeks look out for swallows, terns, auks and warblers as well as butterflies such as orange tips, holly blues and green hairstreaks.
At the time of writing a purple heron, an extremely rare visitor to Ireland, has taken up residence at Seafield, Bunmahon. Congratulations to local birder Daniel Wheldon on this excellent find.
Check out www.waterfordbirds.com for local wildlife updates. If you have any questions or comments, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org