Wickford Wildlife Society - Latest News and Events

Forthcoming Wildlife News and Events for Your Diary:

IMPORTANT NOTE - All 2020 Meetings Cancelled

Sadly, due to the ongoing situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we have decided to cancel all of our 2020 Society meetings.

If and when we are allowed to meet up again, we will issue a revised 2020 programme. Keep safe and healthy and we will all meet up eventually.

Shotgate Swifts

As many of you know, I have been intrigued by Swift numbers over Shotgate this spring and a fascinating article on BirdGuides.com has greatly helped with my understanding here. The article relates to incredible numbers of Swifts travelling down the east coast during the last week of June, culminating in a British record count of Swifts at Gilbraltar point of 46,026! I will add a link to this article below.

However, in the comments section, someone has expanded on what is happening here and this helps us better understand the life cycle of Swifts in the UK. It seems that adult breeding Swifts, arrive here in May. So the 12 or so birds I saw around this time probably represent the adult breeding population in the area. Swifts don't breed until about four years old, and having no urgency to be here to start breeding, immature non-breeders ride the 'green wave' of aerial food northward from Africa, with numbers peaking in Britain for a short period around the end of June. They join in with screaming parties and feeding concentrations and can hugely outnumber local breeders. This explains the 25 / 30 Swifts I saw regularly in late June and possibly the big numbers over Hanningfield reservoir at this time.

A quick summary of the lives of Swifts in the UK and what we can make of these, goes something like this:

Counts for population monitoring must be made early in the breeding season when we are more likely to be seeing breeding adults only.

Any movements of Swifts in late June and early July are not related to either arrival or departure of the breeding population. These are the immature non-breeders arriving (to have a look around for the future?)

The big Swift 'departure' we'll see in mid-July relates only to non-breeders and failed breeders. They have no reason to stay here.

Most British Swift chicks fledge after mid-July. Any large flocks from mid-July onwards are likely to be adult breeders and their offspring. Parents and juveniles then depart quickly (in Shotgate they are gone by the first week of August) and very few will remain near breeding sites by late August (although I have occasionally seen them overhead at this time.)

I find it much more satisfying looking at birds when you understand what they are doing and why - thanks to Bird Guides for all this info. See link below for the article:

A British record day for Common Swift passage

Ark Wildlife Blog

I have been sent a link to this blog, which covers everything to do with observing and caring for nature. Recent topics covered include how to make birdwatching more accessible to those with disabilities (this is very good and relevant,) how to help wildlife in your garden - and is updated fairly frequently with fresh content along these lines. Thanks to Justin Fox for sending me this link and you can access the blog articles below:


For all events please see our WWS Programme 2020 page above.

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