Early migrants add spice to first CBS visits

March 29, 2019

Dick Coombes, coordinator of the Countryside Bird Survey (CBS), describes the sites and sounds of the Irish countryside in spring:

“One of the joys of carrying out your first CBS visit of the season on a nice morning in April, is getting that first taste of summer. It is often the distinctive song of a Chiffchaff or the sight of a handsome male Wheatear, fresh in, swooping up to perch proudly on a boulder.  These, along with Sand Martin and Sandwich Tern are typically our earliest migrants, some arriving as early as mid-March from their African wintering grounds, but once the first few days of April are passed, the floodgates will open.”

“If it is a mild morning, the volume of birdsong from our resident Robins, Wrens, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds will be a treat in itself, but there is something special about picking out one the strains of one of our southern visitors from the general chorus. Willow Warblers are never far behind Chiffchaffs and by about 10th April, males will be seemingly on every bush and hedgerow, giving it their all with that summery descending warble. This is an excellent time to come to grips with any of the songs or calls you are having trouble with, as the vegetation is still quite bare and you will remember a song far more easily if you can get actually see the bird while it is singing. “

Chiffchaff: A warbler species that is back and singing in Ireland by mid-April – a characteristic ‘chiff-chaff’ song. (Photo: R. Coombes)