THE appalling spring weather this year has dramatically cut the number of swallows and other summer visitors coming to Britain - and scientists are investigating increased deaths of baby chicks hatched by some native species.
A nationwide Internet survey by thousands of amateur birdwatchers has shown that the number of swallows reaching out shores is 15 per cent down - and a large number of dead chicks have been found in nesting boxes used by blue tits and great tits.
These are some of the preliminary results of the nationwide BirdTrack project organised jointly by the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Experts studying the results believe that bad weather in Africa and Southern Europe may have cut the number of swallows and other migrants coming to the UK. Preliminary research suggests that the deaths of young tits could be caused by the cold weather and a dearth of caterpillars, a vital food for the youngsters.
Dawn Balmer, BirdTrack organiser commented, "Migration and breeding are very stressful times for birds and poor and unpredictable weather during these times can mean the difference between life or death.
"For some species it might mean that they abandon breeding this summer if there is not enough food available for them to keep in good condition. Many of our migrant visitors will only have one breeding attempt each year so it could prove to be an unproductive summer".