1 Sep 2014

Birds in Europe & children in Africa prepare for migration season with Spring Alive

Storks preparing to leave for Africa. Photo: C. Korkosz
By Shaun Hurrell

In Europe, millions of migratory birds are stirring. They are busy feeding to build up their fat reserves (gaining up to 50% more body weight) to fuel the enormous flights to Africa they will face in the next few weeks. Some adult birds are moulting, replacing worn out flight feathers with new ones.

In Africa, thousands of children, their teachers, families and volunteers have been waiting with anticipation for the arrival of these migratory birds as the Spring Alive 2014 African season commences on 1st September.

Spring Alive is an international BirdLife campaign organised by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds.

By posting their first sightings of Barn Swallow, White Stork, Common Cuckoo, Common Swift, and European Bee-eater on the website, children from Europe, Central Asia and Africa create a real-time map of the incredible journeys these birds take every year. There are also loads of other migration-themed activities and awareness-raising events for kids to get involved in.

Spring Alive originally started as a European event, but has now fledged to Central Asia and Africa too. For the first time, this year children from Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Tunisia will also be able to share in the common wonder of bird migration and conservation as these countries join a total of 51 participating countries in the campaign. As well as by the migratory routes of birds, Eurasian and African schools are also connected with matching initiatives like ‘Spring Twin’.

“2014 is set to be an even bigger year for Spring Alive”, said Karolina Kalinowska, International Spring Alive Manager. “Now that we have accustomed children to recording their observations of the first spring migrants, we want to get them more involved in the conservation of migratory birds.”

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Like the birds, the Spring Alive team have been busy preparing for the migratory season in Africa. There are brand new features to the website such as ‘What can I do for birds?’ with information on feeding birds, providing nestboxes and campaigning; a Spring Alive Events Calendar presenting conservation events planned by participating BirdLife Partners; and a great interactive Events Map for users worldwide to share and promote their bird events.

After an arduous journey ending with arrival for wintering in Africa, these birds need not to face any further challenges. But migratory birds face threats from climate change including drought and mistiming of the emergence of insects; agriculture; urbanisation; and hunting. With appreciation and support of local children, hopefully these birds can find enough food and shelter to continue to return year after year.