Thursday, 1 October 2009

Clear Skies and Northerlies Open the Flood Gates

At last some half decent weather and some half decent birds; although Ian and I didn't think so as we got out of our cars at the car park at Rossall Point at first light. You can usually tell when it is going to be good for vis at Rossall because as soon as you get out of the car you can hear the tseep-tseep of Meadow Pipits, but this morning there was silence. We walked along the top of the dunes and silence. As the wind was 15 mph NNW the only shelter we could get was by standing in front of the Coastguard's Tower facing due north. I think the wind hits the front of the tower and gets deflected up and it feels more sheltered. Well, that's the explanation Peter gave me later in the morning!

The view from Rossall this morning

After a while the vis started to slowly pick up. However, it was frustrating stood in front of the Coastguard's Tower because if you didn't get on to something straight away it would disappear behind the tower, over the dunes and out of view. As the wind dropped later in the morning and it warmed up a bit it was possible to stand on top of the dunes and observe from there. This gives a 360 degree view out to sea, east and west along the coast and south over the golf course.

First passerines moving were 3 Grey Wagtails that headed south and the southerly movement would be a feature of the morning. Often at Rossall birds are moving either west or east (autumn/spring) following the geography of the coast, but today birds were arriving high from the north and heading south.

As it warmed up there was a steady stream of Mipits south in ones and twos and it was a surprise to look round onto the golf course to see a Meadow Pipit carpet! Birds were obviously crossing the bay, dropping on to the fairways and greens to feed and then heading south. When I turned round to look onto the golf course again a little while later most of the Pipits had gone. In all just over 250 birds headed south.

Alba Wagtails were also on the move and birds could be picked up at sea as they made their way to the coast. In total we had about 20 Albas go through. I had my first autumn Redpolls as 2 headed high west and 22 Swallows trickled west also. It was interesting watching the antics of the carrion Crows this morning. I had 29 moving and at first they seemed to want to head north across the bay. I assumed that this was because of the wind direction and they wanted to move into the wind which meant heading north. A party of 20 started to head out, battling against the wind but when they were only a couple of hundred of metres out they turned and headed west along the shore. Skylarks were on the move this morning as well and I had 16 birds head south including a group of 12 that I picked up at sea and watched until they made land fall.

Another autumn first for me was a single Rock Pipit that I had go east and the only other vis mig passerine I had was a calling Chaffinch. Out on the sea I had 15 Eiders and 28 Cormorants. In the crisp light some of the Cormorants that dropped on to the sea looked fantastic and it was a nice change to look at these prehistoric looking birds with renewed interest. Talking of cracking views in crisp light; some of the Red-throats this morning were giving stonking views. They were flying past close in and it was possible to pick up plumage differences between the birds. In total we had a t least 13. Superb!

Three Red-breasted mergansers headed east into the bay and these were joined by only 25 Common Scoters this morning plus a couple of Great Crested Grebes and 4 Auk sp. One of the best birds we had were a group of 4 pale-bellied Brent Geese that flew west along the tide line giving crippling views as they went past. Presumably these birds had overshot their wintering grounds on Strangford Lough or perhaps they had been mixed up with some Pink-feet and found themselves in Lancashire!

One of the highlights of the morning were the number of Pink-footed Geese that were arriving. In total we had 2,517 come in from the north, but it wasn't the numbers that were impressive, it was the sheer spectacle of migration in action. We had birds coming in from the sea, flying west out at sea and skeins of Geese coming over the Lakeland fells. Truly a fantastic spectacle. Amongst the last skein we looked at as we left the point was a single Barnacle Goose. Three species of wild goose in one morning!

There were no grounded birds at all, but there were certainly some 'off passage' birds roaming around including 47 Linnets, 80 Greenfinch and a pair of Stonechat in the dunes.

Unfortunately I don't have any piccies of anything this morning so have included for your delectation a picture of a couple of yanks, or in this case Canadians! My good friend Nigel in Ontario sent me the pictures below of juvenile Purple Finch and Blue-headed Vireo. It is unusual for Nigel to go 'dicky bird' ringing as he calls it as he is usually grappling with large raptors that would have UK ringers cowering in fear! Anyway, I am glad he has done some 'dicky bird' ringing this autumn as it means he has been able to send me some cracking shots! Thanks Nigel!

Blue-headed Vireo

Purple Finch - juv.

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