First Swallow of the year arrives in February!

The Isle of Man's first Swallow of the year was reported on the extraordinary date of 21st February at The Stables near St Judes.

Barn Swallow. Isle of Man, 21 February 2019 (Neil G. Morris)
Barn Swallow. Isle of Man, 21 February 2019 (Neil G. Morris)

The unfortunate bird had probably arrived on the unusual stream of warm southerly winds blowing up from Iberia and Africa that were a feature of early February.

Sadly though, there were not enough insects on the wing when the weather turned cooler to provide adequate food for the bird. The body of the perished, emaciated Swallow was kindly provided to Manx BirdLife and photographed (see images).

Visible effects of climate change

Other early-arriving summer visitors this year so far have included a Wheatear (spotted by Graeme Healy on 17th February at Clay Head), a Sand Martin (seen by Manx BirdLife's Neil Morris at the Point of Ayre on 6th March) and another Swallow (found by Tracy Shevills around Douglas head on 8th March).

Barn Swallow. Isle of Man, 21 February 2019 (Neil G. Morris)
Barn Swallow. Isle of Man, 21 February 2019 (Neil G. Morris)

Ornithologists have noted over recent years the increasingly early arrival of summer migrant birds, most likely due to climate change. This is causing problems with breeding success as these summer visitors arrive and attempt to nest at a time when there is little food available.

Studies in Holland have also shown that the mismatch between the timing of returning summer migrants and the changing habits of resident species (which are better able to respond to climate change) is leading to deadly conflict. For example, competition for nesting holes has resulted in fatal confrontation between populations of Great Tit and the already-declining Pied Flycatcher, with the latter being a frequent casualty.

Please report your sightings of arriving summer birds!

Manx BirdLife has recently launched a new real-time sightings reporting system.

Records of birds and other wildlife seen around the Island are welcomed from residents and visitors to the Isle of Man.

Such records help Manx BirdLife to build a picture of changes from year-to-year and, importantly, of the long-term trends that indicating how our bird populations are coping with climate change and other factors.

To find out what birds have been seen around the Island recently, and to submit your own sightings, go to the new sightings reporting web page.