It is that time of year again when you begin to listen for the break in the monotony of the dawn chorus, signalling the arrival of the migrant birds.

There are more just over 140 species which migrate into the country annually, climate change is the reason they are forced into this behaviour an act that has been played out over thousands of years and whose history is theorised to have it's ancestory linked to the ice ages.
The receding and expansion of the global ice sheets forced birds to move to more productive feeding areas or starve, the realitites of natural selection.
Over the last few weeks I have noticed the first to return are the localised migrants like the Black Cuckooshrike who has been a welcome new sound to the ever present Crested Francolins.
Like everything in life it all depends on the weather as to their varying arrival dates.
The Lesser Striped Swallows and the Red-Breasted Swallows are always amongst the first to reappear, which makes sense as the humidity inreases and temperatures rise out of winter, so life begins move, insect activity supplying their sustainance begins to increase.
It is the smaller birds that amaze me like the Red Backed Shrike, known over most of Europe as the Brown Shrike. Makes a trip through Africa flying from bush to bush, thicket to thicket until it hits the Sahara Desert which it tackles in a non stop flight at night. Stocking up on mainly Alates before the journey.

Red Backed Shrike

When it comes to migration most guides would know that it is the Artic Tern which migrates the lognest distance of all birds, but we do get a few record breakers in our neck of the woods as well. Ever wondered why the Steppe Eagle is called the STEPPE Eagle, as certain members of their population fly to Southern Africa from as far away as the Steppes of Russia.

Steppe Eagle

As does the Steppe Buzzard.

Steppe Buzzard

The bird which flies further than all other raptors on its migration, a journey of around 14 500 km, flying from Manchuria and Eastern China down to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and beyond is the Eastern Red-Footed Kestrel.

Eastern Red-Footed Kestrel

They will only arrive with or after the rains, as will the Steppe Eagles and both can be encountered in large casts. As I said in the beginning it all depends on the weather, which has not been very dependable over the last few years. Without the moisture nothing is going to happen, except allot of bad things...
For the mean time more birds are calling, Burchell's Starlings are starting to fix up a nest site in my garden, roll on summer....