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Thread subject: Vagrants fron the US
Name Date Message
Anne 11/10/05 05:18 pm I have already mentioned the chimney swifts that have arrived in the UK - this week countless passerines from the US have turned up on the south west coast of England and Ireland. A Green Heron has arrived in North Wales, a Magnificent Frigate Bird came down in central England (and later died) and there are several Laughing, Franklin and Ring-billed Gulls dotted about the country. All this vagrancy is of course a result of the hurricane remants and low pressure systems currently rolling across the Atlantic.

We discussed the phenomenum at evening class tonight and I learned that a lot of these birds get swept over here because they migrate 2000-3000 miles over the ocean fron Nova Scotia to the West Indies. They wait for the anti-cyclones that usually prevail in October and normally they are carried south and then east to their destinations. This year they have met up with all the bad weather somewhere along their journey and they have been carried here. Because they have built up fat reserves to carry them 3000 miles anyway, they have managed to survive. Or some of them have. Apparently there are also unprecedented numbers of American species on the Azore Islands this autumn. They may be able to survive but of course they wont be able to get back to the US in the spring.

These birds breed in such remote areas that I suppose we will never know how many have been lost.
Celeste 11/10/05 06:54 pm Thank you Anne for the information.....also very sad. I keep wondering about the migrating birds whose numbers are already threatened and now having to deal with all these weather patterns we are experiencing. What class is it that you are taking? Sounds so very interesting.
Marie 11/10/05 07:46 pm Thanks Anne...that is so interesting. Will have to discuss it at the Birder's night in a couple of weeks time. People love this kind of info.
Tim P 11/10/05 07:51 pm Stranded in the UK what becomes of these birds ?
Thanx Anne
Anne 11/11/05 07:07 am I go to a course in Manchester entitled 'Advanced Birdwatching and Ornithology'. The Tutor is so good that some students have been going for 10 years. He is called Peter Baron and is well known in these parts as a brilliant birdwatcher and expert on birds. Name a bird from anywhere in the world and he will instantly give you the latin name, the taxomony, the breeding range etc etc. He is also a brilliant lecturer with a marvellous sense of humour - needless to say we all love him!

In answer to your question Tim - this is a subject that often comes up in class. Every year we get some American vagrants and we worry what will happen to them. Many die because once all the fat reserves have burned up during the journey they start to metabolise muscle tissue. There was an Ovenbird on the Scillies last year that couldent walk. The poor thing died and an autopsy revealed that all its breast and thigh flesh had wasted away.

Some do survive the winter however, especially the non-insectiverous ones. They always disappear in spring however and it is thought that they follow their instinct to migrate north. It is now widely believed that some species that arrive in numbers every year are starting to colonise Europe, but it hasent been proved by ringing yet.

The species that will prove the theory is the Pectoral Sandpiper. More and more are being found on autumn migration, often as early as August. Significantly they have been recorded in Spain in the winter. They are not seen here in winter but in recent years some have been recorded on spring migration, flying north. So the thinking is that enough of these birds have arrived to breed and are following their instinct to migrate south in the winter and breed somewhere north of here every year. Every Pectoral Sandpiper seen is ringed if possible and hopefully one day one will be found proving the theory.

If birds can find enough food and a suitable breeding site they will survive. Birds are wonderful!
Pam 11/11/05 07:29 am That is very interesting Anne. I didn't know what a passerine was until now and I realise we have had two in the garden recently i.e. two (I think male judging by the breast feather colour) bullfinches. They have taken over our peanut feeder as their own and are regular visitors. I didn't realise they are now rarely seen in gardens. Apparently they used to be a blight on fruit crops but since the 1970s have become quite rare. By the way - where in the midlands did the frigate bird appear ?
Marie 11/11/05 12:48 pm Pam, passerine is a name given to all perching birds. They are characterized as having four toes on each foot.Three directed forward and one pointing backwards. Theses toes all join the foot at the same level. Roughly 60 % of all bird species are passerines. Then it gets complicated with suborders, families, subfamilies, tribes etc.
The suborder Passeri, OSCINES are the ( SONGBIRDS)
Any wiser? ;-)
Anne 11/11/05 01:08 pm Oh you are so lucky to have Bullfinches Pam, they are so beautiful. I get them occasionally but never regularly.

The Frigate bird was found in Shropshire and was taken into care by Chester Zoo, where it died. What really annoyed me was the fact that some twitchers were trying to get to see it so they could add it to their British and Year lists. Fortunetely the Zoo told them where to go. Have you ever seen one in the wild?
Marie 11/11/05 02:34 pm Anne ...I have seen a Frigate Bird down in Mexico. Amazing that it travelled so far on those wild winds.
Pam 11/11/05 03:49 pm Thanks for all that useful information friends. No I have never seen a frigate bird - only on TV. When I eventually get a new camera with a zoom I will be able to photograph birds on the feeders but for now - no can do.
I think I spotted a fairly rare sight at Race Rocks today, a pair of Harlequin Ducks. I watched them for about 10 minutes before they dived into the water near the jetty. Apparently they have been listed as endangered on the East coast of Canada although they are not so rare in the West. I understand from internet research that they are seen in the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Unfortunately my captures were quite blurry, they were a bit too far away and the light was not good.

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Tom Throwe
Last modified: Sat Feb 18, 2006