World Migratory Bird Day 2021
It’s been a while since many of us could go on holiday but, luckily, some of the birds we see here in the Garnock Connections project area can go for us!
We’ve asked a selection of migratory birds to send us a postcard from some of the glamorous locations they visit as part of their migration routes. Have a read through the postcards below, and live vicariously through the adventures of our jet-setting feathered friends.
"I might spend my summers in the wet UK, including at Lochwinnoch, but my winter adventures take me across the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula. Here at Larnaca Salt Lake, I'm having fun with my flamingo friends. Wish you were here!"
The garganey is one of the UK’s rarest breeding ducks, and unique as the only migratory duck which spends the summer in the UK - all our other migratory duck species spend winter here, then head off to the Arctic Circle to breed. The most prominent feature of a male garganey is the broad, white crescent above his eyes, but females are tricky to separate from their close cousins, the teal.
Although garganey thrive in wetland habitats, they are threatened by loss of their habitat: many floodplains are drying out due to climate change or drainage for agriculture.
"I really rack up the airmiles on my 14,000+ kilometer round trip to Argentina every winter. Summers are spent breeding offshore and in coastal areas of the UK, including off the coast of North Ayrshire. But I wouldn't be deserving of my name if I didn't at least pay a visit to the Isle of Man, so looks like it's time for a little trip to the Manx Museum."
Manx shearwaters may be small, but their impressive wingspan allows them to glide gracefully over the waves. In flight, they angle their wings first one way, then the other, so they seem to flick between white glimmers and dark shadows over the sea. Keep an eye out if you’re ever by the coast.
Shearwaters usually breed on islands where there are no predators to disturb their burrows, where they raise their chicks. However sometimes invasive species such as rats find their way ashore, devastating shearwater populations. There have been several successful invasive predator eradication programmes which have rescued shearwater populations from the brink – you can read about one here birdsontheedge.org/2013/07/19/calf-of-man-remove-rats-to-restore-seabirds/
"Manx shearwaters think they're impressive but my longest ever recorded round trip was 30,000km. That's 290km a day! I'm flying over Mont-Saint-Michel now on my way from Greenland to Kenya, and the view is fantastic! You better not miss me passing through Lochwinnoch next spring!"
The wheatear gets its name not from ears of wheat but from the folk name ‘white-arse’! This affectionate name arises from their bright white rump. Although this is hidden by its wings at rest, it’s revealed as a bright white flash when a wheatear flies from perch to perch. Different wheatear species are discernible by the black T-shape on their tail – always worth checking in case a rare species turns up!
They favour pasture, moorland and rocky landscapes to breed in, habitats which are unfortunately being lost to increased urbanisation. Our postcard is from a ‘Greenland’ wheatear, a specific population which breeds in – you guessed it – Greenland – but which you can find on the Scottish coast in early autumn as birds fly south via the UK to sub-Saharan Africa for the winter.
"My yearly trip takes me through Europe into Morrocco, then across the Sahara and the Congo rainforest, all the way to South Africa. What an exhilarating journey! Time to relax with the elephants and the giraffes in Kruger National Park before heading back to Lochwinnoch in spring."
Often mistaken for swifts, or their cousins the house and sand martins, swallows can be identified by their long tail streamers and red throat. All of these species spend most of their time in flight, but the swallow has the longest migration!
Insects are a swallow’s favourite food, and you can often see them swooping around farmyards or over lakes and rivers to catch flies. The swallow is one of our most familiar avian summer visitors, but sadly may start to decline in the UK due to climate change and other threats to their insect diet, like pesticide use, urbanisation and agricultural intensification.
It’s probably hard to resist a twinge of jealousy when you realise all the exciting places these birds get to visit (including, of course, our project area)! But it’s not all fun and games: as you can see, these birds and their habitats are faced with numerous challenges, including climate change, invasive non-native species, and habitat loss.
World Migratory Bird Day (Saturday 8th May 2021) aims to challenge that. It’s an annual celebration of migratory birds that aims to raise awareness of their need for conservation through a global social media campaign, book launches, festivals, nature walks, and loads of other exciting events. Join in the conversation on twitter through the hashtags #WorldMigratoryBirdDay and #WMBD2021, and let us know what you’re doing to celebrate migratory birds. To find out more and get involved in this fantastic celebration of migratory birds, head over to https://www.worldmigratorybirdday.org/