Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mipits

Up here in Lancashire we seem stuck with the sting of Irene’s transatlantic tail, day after day of rain and wind plus more to come. So I’m sat at the PC this morning trying to fill a blog slot before all Another Bird Blog followers clear off to pastures new.

When the rain eventually stops and the winds subside the plan is to catch and ring Meadow Pipits, because the months of September and October are just when these small and highly active birds are at their most numerous around this part of the world. During September and October, “mipits” as most ringers call them, migrate in huge numbers, flying south from the edge of Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and the Northern Isles, then along the coastline of the Irish Sea on their way to destinations close to the winter warmth of the Mediterranean Sea. What a brilliant idea, I wish I could tag along at this very moment.

Because Meadow Pipits are diurnal migrants we are able to catch them during the first few hours of the morning as they migrate on a route that takes them close to our ringing sites.

Meadow Pipit

Diurnal migrants travel mainly during daylight hours as opposed to the many bird species which migrate chiefly during the night (nocturnal migrants); migrating in the daytime allows a bird maximum feeding opportunities during those hours of daylight. Migrating during the day also means they are less likely to get lost on their journey if they don’t rely upon the moon and stars to navigate, as do birds that migrate during the night. Meadow Pipits have another advantage by eating a varied assortment of insect foods in a wide range of habitats, a strategy which gives them the advantage of being able to drop in almost anywhere at short notice where they will find food. This also allows them to quickly replace energy used up by their comparatively shorter daytime flights. This also explains why Meadow Pipits rarely carry any visible fat reserves.

Meadow Pipit

Because they are relatively numerous, lots of birders don’t bother looking at the slightly anonymous and unremarkable Meadow Pipit, but in my humble opinion they are just a superb bird. However I have been known to curse them when seemingly well caught individuals, enveloped in the pocket of a mist net, then proceed to climb out easily by using that elongated hind claw, and then fly off with a cheery “tseep tseep”. The long claw is actually an adaptation for perching on the ground as compared to the much shorter hind claw of the closely related Tree Pipit whose claw is adapted to allow the bird to grip onto all sizes of tree branches and twigs.

Meadow Pipit - hind claw

Meadow Pipit

During mid to late October the numbers of Meadow Pipits we see tails off because most of them will have reached their autumn journey's end, the South of France, Spain, Morocco and Algeria. They spend the winter there, freshen up their feathers, and then in February and March start the journey back to Northern Europe where during March and April they begin the cycle of life all over again.

Meadow Pipit

So there’s few weeks left to get to grips again with mipits, if only it stops raining.

Meadow Pipit

6 comments:

Seasons said...

These Mipits are so adaptable, perky, and sturdy. This post is so educational, I have copied all that is possible...don't worry...copied to my memory. Excellent pictures. Thanks Phil!

Ari said...

As usual...very useful and informative, Phil

Chris said...

And they have started to gather over here a week ago, so I guess you will get them soon ;-) Hope you'll get ride off this rain ;-)

grammie g said...

Hey Phil...I had a long comment all writing out for you earlier..Internet exp. decided to not respond ..I had enough of that an took a nap!!
I just your comment on mine soooo..since you probably have you jammies on and all tucked in bed you will see this in the morning and you won't care what I thought by then because you will be out chasing down more of those migrating Mipits.
I am surprised they don't gouge your eyes out with that long claw!!

I hope you are enjoying the remnants of Irene, but be prepared ..I am having Katia sent your way to..sorry about that, but you usually complain about rain all the time anyway!!

Keep your wellies handy..
Grace

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Great informative writing as always Phil. Mipits...I like that. The Meadow Pipits are really remarkable little birds and I agree, we should all rise tag along side these marvels and head to the Mediterranean coastline... Hoping that your rains and winds calm down for you soon. We finally have had rain for days, I assume from the same front that you are getting it from~

Beaverton Pet Clinic said...

Love your photos! Haven't seen so much colorful birds lately:-) Thanks for sharing.

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