Meetings about Birds and Wildlife

The Wonders of Migration
by Brian Clews

Date: Thursday 17 September 2020 at 19:30


This was a first-time event for the RSPB East Berks Local Group.

We held a speaker meeting for our members using ZOOM as an online meeting system. A total of 25 members joined the meeting to watch Brian Clews give a 60 minute presentation on some interesting aspects of nature migrations.

He dealt mostly with birds, but also included some insects in a fascinating talk. It left participants with the fact that there is a lot we don’t yet understand about migration, especially the mechanisms used by creatures to navigate so precisely.

We think of our summer visitors as “our birds” but some of them only spend 20% of their life in this country so whose birds are they?

Many migrations are the classic north – south routes but migration also occurs from east – west and within the UK. As the country gets warmer some birds, e.g. the blackcap are becoming residents.

The statistics of migration are mind-blowing - billions of birds and insects on the move! In the USA at least one billion die in collision with buildings and seven million die in collision with radio masts, the death toll from wind farms is not known but it is estimated to be many millions.

Over thousands of years migrating species have developed migration flyways along established routes, with resting/feeding sites strategically placed to allow them to safely make the vast trips, often over thousands of miles. When these sites are developed by man it proves disastrous for the species, e.g. the spoon-billed sandpiper whose numbers have dropped from 30,000 - 40,000 to 300 - 400 following development of half of its established stop-over points on migration flyways in Asia.

Migration is a risky business, it’s dangerous and stressful. Many smaller birds consume their entire body weight while migrating and who knows how many just don’t make it. It has to have benefits to be worth the risks.

Some insects e.g. the painted lady butterfly have improbable migrations, from tropical Africa as far north as Iceland, while producing up to six generations along the route. The final generation flying all the way back to Africa ready to start again the following year.

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This was the group’s first venture into remote online presentations and it seemed to go very well. The technology functioned well (we are totally dependent on the internet signal quality for the speaker and the host) and we look forward to next month’s presentation. (See below).

Thanks to Kate, our leader, for setting up and hosting the meeting and to Brian Clews who gave such an interesting and informative talk. Brian stepped in at short notice following the very sad death of Ken Panchen who was booked to tell us about a trip to China. Ken was a stalwart RSPB supporter and an ex-leader of the group; he had been a volunteer with the RSPB for 35 years and gave many interesting talks to the group as well as volunteering at RSPB Otmoor.

What’s About will be back next month!

NOTES: 10th October is World Migration Day and nature conservation groups, led by Wader Quest and the RSPB, are organising sponsorship events to raise funds and international awareness of the need to protect migrating species. Look out for ways to lend your support.


Thursday 15th October - Chris Collins will present on the Birds and Wildlife of Guyana.

Thursday 19th November - Andrew Cleave will present on The Isles of Scilly.

Currently our monthly ZOOM presentations are for group members only and details are emailed in advance of the meeting. If you are not a member but would like to participate in the monthly meetings it only costs £6 to join the group and full details are on the website.


--- Original Programme Information ---

Brief resume - We welcome our birds in spring, and say farewell to them in autumn. But where do they go, and why do they go? In fact, migration is not just between us and Africa, and not just for birds.