Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thrush Rush

There was no post-Ophelia rush of Redwings on Wednesday with just a single one caught out of the less than 40 birds on the move. Andy and I met up again on Thursday where we hoped to improve on our previous catch and also to witness something in the way of visible migration. October is generally one of the better months to do so, weather permitting. 

Visible migration "vis-mig" is the observation of bird migration during daylight hours, a bird watching principle pioneered by Dutch ornithologists in the 1940's. At suitable locations and at the appropriate times of the year it is possible to detect bird migration as birds follow their favoured habitats and routes to reach their destinations. 

Under certain conditions at Oakenclough, near Barnacre on the edge of the Pennines and looking north to distant Morecambe Bay about 12 miles away, we sometimes see migration in action. This is especially so in the autumn when birds on migration south pass to the west of us as they keep the coast in sight, and/or they fly to the east by following the Pennine escarpment. Many times they simply pass directly overhead and,  if we are lucky, a number of birds decide to rest up and feed in the woodland plantation that is our ringing site. 

Location of Oakenclough ringing site

Thursday proved to be one such occasion, a morning to witness visible migration on a large scale. The highlight of our five plus hours, and taking opportunities between spells of ringing birds, we counted a prolonged passage of some 2,350+ Redwings and hundreds of finches - 250+ Chaffinches, 40+ Goldfinches, 40+ Lesser Redpolls and 2+ Bramblings. 

The first Redwings arrived from all directions north soon after dawn with a continuous arrival until we left soon after midday. Parties and flocks numbered anywhere between 5 and 130 birds, some of which fed on site for a while before they carried on south and out of sight. Our count of 2,350 Redwings can be considered a minimum within our narrow corridor of observation and when birds flew north to south on a broad east to west front 

Mixed in with the large number of Redwings were a handful of larger thrushes and which from a distance in the grey, cloudy morning we assumed were Fieldfares. Further into the morning and when we actually caught two Mistle Thrush, most unusual in itself and in the absence of any definite Fieldfares, we decided that our earlier sightings were Mistle Thrushes migrating with the Redwing flocks. So now well into October I have yet to see a definite Fieldfare, and they too are a little late to appear in numbers.

Finch arrivals started later in the morning with groups and small flocks of between 4 and 40 birds. A single Chaffinch proved to be the only one caught out of the several hundred on the move as none of the flocks stopped off to feed. We had better luck with Lesser Redpolls and added another eight to our recent catches of the species. 

In all we caught 50 of the birds that stopped off in the plantation - 23 Redwing, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Goldfinch, 5 Goldcrest, 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Blue Tit and singles of Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Chaffinch and Great Tit. 


Lesser Redpoll


Mistle Thrush

Mistle Thrush


 Other birds seen – 4 Pied Wagtail, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard. 

Hurricane Brian

Seems there’s another hurricane on the way - a Storm Bomb named Brian. Don’t you just love the British weather?

Linking today to


Lowcarb team member said...

You said - 'Don't you just love the British weather?'
Well not particularly at the moment - it gets dark so early with these dismal grey skies, I much prefer bright Autumn Days ... but we have to make the best of what we are given!

I love the look of the Mistle Thrush ...

Keep well, keep safe and keep a watchful eye on Storm Brian!

All the best Jan

eileeninmd said...

Wow, there has been a lot of hurricanes this season. I love the birds and your photos. The Mistle Thrush is a beauty! Happy Thursday, enjoy your day and weekend ahead.

Linda said...

What a delightful series, Phil! Thank you so much for sharing your bird photos, I always enjoy them!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Great series of birds. I arrived back from my European birding trip last evening, so today is laundry, shopping and all that kind of routine stuff.
We saw Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush in Slovenia, but were never in a location for Redwings and Fieldfares, two species that have eluded me forever.Great trip though. Hundreds of photographs to sort through and edit.

sandyland said...

The tree removal people found a dead eagle in the debris clean up from Hurricane Irma..I am so sad as I photographed them for years

carol l mckenna said...

That Lesser Redpoll capture with its head titled toward you is Wonderful! Love all the feathered friends of nature photos ~ ^_^

Love and light,
A ShutterBug Explores ~ aka ~ (A Creative Harbor)

Jane said...

Wow, some wonderful photos of these birds. Hope you stay safe from Brian, very unusual for Great Britain to be hit by this freaky weather, I don't think its going to hit here in Scotland, but poor old West Ireland is getting a pasting. Remember the storm of 1987 though, I remember waking up to an absolute mess on the roads outside our house.

A Colorful World said...

Hurricanes in the British Isles...however did they get in! (It's a reference to Gone With the Wind, sorry!) I just loved seeing the closeups of the birds I am not familiar with, as well as the old favorites! How wonderful you can see the migration of some of them!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

lovely birds. Glad there wasn't too much damage from Ophelia -- will this hurricane season never end?

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