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26th March 2019 - Where are all our birds going?

Migration is now well underway for the birds that spend winter on the Solent coast.

If you are a regular to the shores of the Solent you will have noticed a decline in the numbers of our coastal birds in the past few weeks. The reason?  They are all making their way back to their summer breeding grounds in faraway places such as Siberia and Norway.

The whole migration process is a complicated one.  Take the dark-bellied brent goose, before setting off to the Taymyr peninsula in Arctic Siberia, large groups of geese flock to areas known as staging grounds to prepare for their long journey. They tend to migrate in family groups, sticking together year on year, with different family groups beginning their migration at different times. An eager few will depart in late February, but the majority will be setting off throughout March and by the middle of April most will have left.

Flocks fly in V-formation and travel mostly at night. Each day, they search for places to rest and feed on, such as marshland or coastal grassland, as the geese are not able to perform the journey in one go.  To accumulate vital calories, they may stay for up to a week at a time in places where the grazing is good. 

They finally reach the Arctic in early June, just as the snow and ice is beginning to thaw, giving them just two months to breed and raise their young before starting their impressive migration back again.

The distance travelled in their full migration cycle?  An epic 6,000 miles.  But they are not alone in their plight, Teal will travel 5000 miles to the high Artic and back, and black-tailed godwit fly 2000 miles to and from Iceland.

So, spare a thought for the birds if you see a flock flying across the evening sky, and when they return next winter, take pride in giving them just a little more space to feed and rest.