As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Bird Jams: Long Winter Sends Migratory Flocks into Tailspin


April 6, 2013
Weak and exhausted birds flying to their breeding grounds in Northern Europe have made an unpleasant discovery: Winter isn't over yet. The result has been a difficult search for food as well as huge gatherings of migratory birds in milder parts of Germany.

They say the early bird gets the worm, but this year in Germany, those that have already returned for spring breeding are actually struggling to find enough food.

Though spring technically began last month and Easter has come and gone, winter continues to drag on in Germany. In some places, this March was the coldest in 130 years, and snow still covers many parts of the country. This has put residents in a surly mood, but the unseasonable weather has been much harder on migratory birds, whose return usually heralds warmer weather to come.

Local news reports across the country in recent days have detailed "bird jams," or locations where huge flocks of migratory birds have gathered to weather the cold before reaching their final breeding grounds.

"Because of the snow still covering the ground in many places, they are struggling to find enough food to make it the final stretch, particularly to the breeding grounds that are further north," says Eric Neuling, an ornithologist at the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) in Berlin. "So they are staying as long as possible in places where the weather is milder to some degree, where they can find enough food to refuel."

The flocks gathering in the states of Hesse, Lower Saxony and elsewhere are mainly ground-nesting or field birds, such as the Northern Lapwing or the Eurasian Skylark, which still don't have the right conditions to begin breeding.

"It has been stunning to observe south of Berlin an enormous flock of Eurasian Skylarks, numbering in the thousands, which is a really rare thing to see," Neuling says.

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