Wader migration

Turnstone on the way north (Bex outram)

Saturday 3rd April comments: When we think of bird migration at this time of year we often think about when the first Swallows are seen, or the first Swift heard or the familiar Cuckoo singing its song in late April. However quietly and slowly there are many other birds on the move and as we are a rocky island, we are perfectly placed and provide great habitat for a number of rocky shore waders.

In the last week we’ve had over 70 Purple Sandpipers (pictured above in the second photo) and 60 Turnstone on the island and most of these will have over-wintered here whilst others will have travelled from more southern wintering grounds and are just stage stopping to take a break. However you may ask, where are these birds going?

Both Turnstone and Purple Sandpipers do not breed in the U.K. (well literally just a few pairs of Purple Sandpipers do) but these birds are heading north. As the spring advances, the weather and daylight hours improve and Purple Sandpipers breed right across the Arctic from eastern Canada to Russia with populations in most countries in between including Greenland and Iceland. Turnstone breed in similar areas including Fennoscandia and therefore both species have some way to go. These migration routes are well studied and both will go about their business without attracting too much attention, but it just shows that migration is in action even i the small corners of the Isle of May. As well as these two, small numbers of Redshank, Dunlin, Whimbrel and Curlew also use the island, so you just can’t take your eyes off the place.

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