Harwich to Esbjerg (Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th September 2008)
Imagine a clear, cool night with a starlit sky in late September in Scandinavia. If you are a small bird preparing to migrate, this is the time to make a move. After having spent all summer breeding and raising their young up north in Scandinavia, many of the small land birds now migrate south for the winter. They do this on a clear night as they navigate by the stars. Some of them are migrating to the southern parts of Europe, some to the UK, or even to the African plains.
Consequently, some of them are at the moment crossing the North Sea, and after a long journey they do get tired and follow our ship for a while to get some rest. So we get to see some very interesting species of land birds where we do not normally see them. During these last few weeks we have spotted robins, redstarts, reed warblers, willow warblers, song thrushes, wrens, white and yellow wagtails, wheatears, redwings, and the beautiful goldcrest, which is Europe’s smallest bird. Of course, it is not all joy for the tiny birds as there have been kestrels and a peregrine falcons swooping around the ship in search of an easy meal.
Imagine being 9 cm long, finally having made it across the whole of the North Sea on migration, and there is a peregrine falcon chasing you just a couple of kilometres away from the safety of the woods in the UK. They are pretty brave, these small birds!