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Our flying visitors

We're already approaching autumn, the post-breeding period, when we'll see hundreds of thousands of migrants take to the skies. COVID-19 might have stopped us humans from moving around, but not so for all of our migratory birds!

Our Motus receivers in the UK have retrieved some more fascinating migration data!

In addition to the robin that made the news in October 2019, we now have 2 more robin detections, from around the same time period, on our Suffolk coast!

Receivers at Dunwich, Lowestoft and Landguard in Suffolk, were installed last autumn, thanks to the Wageningen University and Research. Information gathered from them and validated in the spring, shows that on 19th October 2019, a tagged European robin from Helgoland, Germany,activated the receiver at Lowestoft at 22:00. (see map #1 below). It then activated the receiver at Dunwich at 23:45 on the same night. Dunwich is only 24km away from Lowestoft, making that length of journey in that time frame quite plausible.

The second bird - another European robin - was detected by more receivers on its way over, so we understand a bit more about its journey.

It was tagged on 29th October, and detected for much of the afternoon on Heligoland, where many robins are caught and tagged. During the early evening, it moved south-west, through Germany and into the Netherlands, where around 2am it was first detected by some of the coastal WUR receivers. At 03:00, its last detection came at the Hook of Holland - a major crossing point for passenger and cargo ferries as well. See the map below for a representation of its route.

By 09:45, it had been picked up by the Dunwich receiver, having undertaken a dawn crossing of the southern North sea. A straight line calculation of the robin's journey from Maasvlakte to Dunwich, is 165km or 101miles. The robin flew across the sea in 6.75hours, giving a rough speed of 26 kmph.

After arrival in the UK, we don't know what happened to these birds and many others like them that undoubtedly took a similar journey.

In order to further understand where migrating birds go we need a bigger Motus network in the UK. We are trying to expand the network through a series of funding applications and collaborations between academic bodies and bird observatories, local authorities, charities and local groups. Fingers crossed we will pick up some more of these journeys this autumn!

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