Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Wanderers From The North

You may remember me telling you about Gail hurting her hand whilst we were out birding on Christmas Eve, well she has actually broken it! When she went back to work after New Year her colleagues persuaded her to get it checked out, and an X-ray later it's confirmed that it is broken! Her hand and arm are now in plaster, and it has certainly put the brakes on my birding, hence the lack of updates. I'm not complaining because when you're married that's what you sign up for, I'm just telling you this to explain my 'radio silence'.

I've had to keep my paid bird surveys going as that's what keeps the 'wolf from the door' and last week I found myself at my survey sites in Cheshire and northwest Cumbria. First up was Cumbria and on the morning of my survey it was cold, frosty in fact, with clear skies and a light ENE wind. Visibility wasn't bad, the Isle of Man and Scotland, but no Ireland!

As usual I spent some time recording activity at sea and it wasn't exactly rocking, just 108 Common Scoters, 240 Cormorants, two Shags and two Red-throated Divers.

I had a female Sparrowhawk head south over the sea, and I think she was the culprit that flushed all the Skylarks because shortly before I picked her up I had 79 Skylarks in the air! The only other passerines of note were a single Rock Pipit, Stonechat and Reed Bunting.

During my sea-watch I heard the familiar call of Pink-footed Geese behind me and I looked up to see 24 heading northwest very high. They kept on motoring across the sea until they were lost from view. Looking at their flight direction and extrapolating this, assuming they carried on in the same direction, they would have made landfall somewhere in the region of the River Dee estuary in Dumfries and Galloway!

Later in the week I was at my 'landlocked' Cheshire site, and again it was very cold with 6 oktas cloud cover, and to be honest I didn't expect very much but I did have a couple of nice surprises. Well, nice in terms of good birds for the site!

The Meadow Pipits were still around in the wet maize stubble, and I had a flock of 38, but it was the 'wanderers from the north' that was one of the nice surprises. At this time of year you often find Fieldfares foraging in improved pastures mixed up with Starlings, and on this particular morning I had a nice flock of 106.

 I didn't manage to photograph any of the Fieldfares, so here's one in the hand
from a few years ago.

Four Buzzards wasn't really a surprise, but a female Yellowhammer perched on some telegraph wires was. The second of the nice surprises. A couple of Song Thrushes and a Raven later and it was time to head off home.

It's surveys for the remainder of the week for me, so I am hoping for a few more wanderers from the north.