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Spring bird migration highlights - 6 May: Swifts everywhere

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 15:53 UK time, Friday, 6 May 2011

We promised the mass arrival of swifts in the last migration blog post. Judging from your response and the BTO's records they're swooping in all across the country now and already investigating nesting sites. If you haven't yet seen any screeching overhead then get out there this weekend and start looking!

BBC Wild Week Live, our friends over in Northern Ireland, reported them in Belfast a couple of days ago. They've since disappeared, leading the team to hope that "the last two weeks was not 'our summer'."

In the south of England Maricat spotted them on 29 April in Richmond, Surrey, while Jan saw them in Winchester even earlier (22 April). In Portsmouth, Jadelyn saw 15-20 of them above their house yesterday.

Poor JayneT, however, still hasn't seen any in her east London neck of the woods. She says that last year they were there a week ago. Maybe she could borrow some of Locomountaineer's. Yesterday he reported there were "swifts everywhere in West Suffolk".

Over in our neck the woods - the West Country - Springwatch producer Colin Jackson's first sight of them was yesterday above his house near Bristol. Knucklehead, in Shepton Mallet in Somerset, wondered if the pair he spotted on 3 May investigating nooks were the same ones as last vear.

Further north, Wingwatcher saw his first five of the year in Ashton-on-Mersey in Cheshire also on 3 May, five days later than last year. "For the last thirty years we have had up to five nests in our roof space, they are most welcome visitors." In Totley in Sheffield, pennybun reported his first on 4 May.

In Scotland, Blackbird reported loads of swifts at Seacliffs near North Berwick way back on 12 April. Much later on Craftygreenpoet first spotted them in Edinburgh on 5 May and in Caithness on 3 May penib saw their first. "Only noticed them as it was a lovely sunny day with blue sky and we were sitting outside (for a change!)"

You can keep an eye on more swift sightings on Nature's Calendar's fabulous swift map and please keep telling us here or on Twitter if you see them. Use the hashtag #ukspring.

But last week wasn't all about swifts. The BTO's Paul Stancliffe reports that migration has progressed rapidly this week. It's "been much more visible at coastal watchpoints, not so much with grounded passerines but with the strong visible passage of waders and seabirds," he says. "Six thousand bar-tailed godwits passed Portland Bill. Wood sandpipers seem to be everywhere on the east coast and there have been some impressive movements of terns."

But it could be slowing down. "The only species left to arrive in any numbers are spotted flycatcher and nightjar," he says. "These are traditionally our latest migrants. Not that migration is over once these birds are here. Birds will continue to arrive for at least the next three weeks or so."

bee-eater copyright Sue Gough/BTO

Bee-eater © Sue Gough/BTO

Rarities had a bit of an eastern flavour this week, he says. There were "collared flycatcher on Fair Isle, a rustic bunting at Spurn and a white-winged black tern at Minsmere. Bee-eaters continue to be found at new sites, and there have been several fly through red-rumped swallows on the east coast."

So what's going to happen next week? "With south and south-easterly winds forecast for this weekend we can expect more swifts, waders and seabirds, particularly on the south and west coasts, big movements of pomarine skuas are possible and could well be accompanied by the first big movement of Manx shearwaters."

Eyes to the skies everyone.

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