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Migrant birds homeward bound


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Author Topic: Migrant birds homeward bound  (Read 491 times)
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« on: May 15, 2010, 05:18:06 am »

Thousands of migrant birds, which had arrived in Sri Lanka during the North-East Monsoon last year, have now left for their distant breeding grounds. They generally commence their homeward journey late in March, but the vast majority of them leave during April and early May, when the South-West Monsoon is about to break, in September to October.

This year the Common Swallow appears to have left much earlier than in the recent past. I was surprised to find none in evidence in the Kelani Valley area by end of the third week of April, though one could see thousands flying over at sunset, just ten days ago.

When the migration is on, birds are accustomed to flying even by night, depending on the moon and constellation of stars to maintain their course. It is probable that the Swallows too, decided to leave whilst the moon was completing its last quarter, about the final week of March.

Similarly, the Blue-tailed Bee-Eaters could have surely left our shores earlier this year than in the last. However, observers in the northern regions may still see scattered parties of them, as this species is one of the last to cross over to the Indian mainland. Yet, on the eve of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year vacation, I saw a few flying over in a northerly direction around 5.30 p.m.

According to observers in the South and South-Eastern coastal areas, the majority of the migrant waders and shore-birds had already left this year by the third week or so last month.

The Brown Shrike is still here, nevertheless. A couple of days ago I saw one fighting it-out with a pair of Red-vented Bulbuls, on the banks of the Sitawaka river, as I cycled past the place. The following evening I could hear the unmistakable note of a Brown Flycatcher in a tree in the homegarden, at 5.30. But the next Himalayan visitor, Indian Pitta, had left for its breeding grounds some time ago.

Two other migratory birds which normally stay with us until mid-April are the Indian Blue-Chat and the Kashmir Red-breasted Flycatcher, met only in the Central Mountain Zone.

One morning, in the third week of April, I was in my compound about 6.30 talking to a friend when I spotted a Blyth’s Reed-Warbler threading its way in the tall grass at the edge of garden. This was yet another East European migrant which had opted to stay with us a little longer than usual. Perhaps, the last to leave are the wagtails. In their customary roosting places in the dry zone jungles, the Forest Wagtails are recorded as late as the second week of May. However, the Eastern Grey Wagtail is found to leave for its breeding grounds, weeks earlier.

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