March of the Mpipits

Saturday 12th September comments: Bird migration at this time of year can be very exciting as huge numbers of birds can arrive on the island as they head south (i.e. Willow Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats etc) or are just arriving into the UK to winter (i.e. winter thrushes like Redwing and Fieldfare). During this period one of the most numerous of all birds to be recorded on the Isle of May is the humble Meadow Pipit.

Meadow Pipits are a common breeding species of the uplands (have the distinction of being the most commonest breeding passerine above 500m) so Scotland has a very healthy population. At this time of year birds start leaving the uplands to escape the harsh winter weather and head south to the lowlands. During August-October a lot of Meadow Pipits will be on the move as they head for their wintering grounds in southern Britain as well as France, Germany and other Western European countries.

As a result the Isle of May is ideally located in the Firth of Forth as a key Meadow Pipit flyway as many hundreds, sometimes thousands can be recorded in a day. Peak counts have included over 7,000 in just one day on 10th September 1998 whilst most autumns bring day counts of over 1,000 per day. It’s an impressive movement and one that is under appreciated as these small noisy Pipits just get on with their daily lives and localised migration. With forecasts of easterly winds next week, it could be another exciting period of bird migration for the island so watch this space… 

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