Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wood You Believe It?

Things didn’t go quite as planned this morning. The forecast for Oakenclough was reasonable - 7mph, cloudy with a chance of rain, but up beyond Garstang I drove through fog and mizzzle, a ringer’s enemies. 

Within minutes of meeting Andy up at the ringing site a heavy mist had closed in and enveloped the plantation. After a forty minute drive we don’t give in that easily so we set the nets and waited for birds to arrive. 

The fog proved slow to clear with little in the way of passerine migration as reflected in our catch of just 21 birds, albeit with a few interesting highlights. Birds ringed: 4 Goldcrest, 3 Redwing, 3 Blackbird, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Dunnock, 2 Great Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Wren and 1 Sparrowhawk. 

The Sparrowhawk was a first year male of quite small proportions. 


Despite the lack of large scale migration there was a mid-morning influx of 12-15 Blackbirds, including two obvious “continental” types, identified by their all dark bills and scalloped breast feathers. 

Continental Blackbird

There was distinct lack of finches this morning. I cannot remember the last occasion we caught zero Goldfinch or Lesser Redpoll at this site. We made do with a couple of Chaffinches, the only finch seen and heard this morning, the one below a fine looking adult male. 


Two out of the three Redwings were caught pre-dawn and were probably roosting nearby. The third appeared in the nets after a mid-morning arrival of circa 30 Redwings, the only flock we saw. 


The one migration feature of the morning was a very obvious movement of Woodpigeons on a North-East to South-West heading, with a count of 1200 including five flocks of 130+ and one that numbered a high-flying 300 individuals. 

Every year sees discussion around the migration spectacle of Woodpigeons but it is unclear where these birds are coming from or going to. They seem to appear along the east coast and the Pennines, but aren’t seen coming in off the sea. They travel south and upon reaching the south coast head west as far as Dorset. Once here they seem to disappear. 

At present there are two schools of thought. The post-breeding numbers of this species in autumn in Britain are truly huge and the pigeons’ movements may be British birds heading south and west for the relatively mild conditions that this part of the UK offers, although there doesn’t seem to be a large influx of Woodpigeons into Devon and Cornwall during November. Alternatively they may be British birds that are heading south and on to France and Spain to spend the winter in southern oak woods.  On occasions in autumn, good numbers have been seen flying south, high over the Channel Islands. 


Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt it is a thought provoking sight. The much maligned and mostly ignored Wood Pigeon is a subject worthy of study by birders. 


 Otherwise birds - 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail.

Linking this post with  Anni's Birding Blog.


Stuart Price said...

Was the Sparrowhawk chasing bids into the mist nets?

David Gascoigne said...

Today I learned a new word although I have no idea what it means. What, prey tell, is mizzle? It's interesting that you caught a Sparrowhawk in your nets. Last year at our banding operation a Cooper's Hawk, presumably attracted by the distress calls of passerines entangled in the nets, hit one of our nets and went right through it. A gaping hole was all we had from that encounter. I had not realized that Wood Pigeons undertook these kinds of migrations. You see, that is why I rush to read your blog as soon as a new post is up Professor Slade. I learn something new every time. I am now prompted to do a little more research and since Miriam is going to the theatre this afternoon with friends, following which they are all going for dinner, I will have some free time to do just that. I should mention too, that I had not realized that there is a continental form of Eurasian Blackbird and it solves the puzzle of some of the pictures we have from our recent exploits in Slovenia and Croatia. We have birds with the traditional yellow bill and eye, but others with the dark bill and plumage that you describe. They didn't fit the bill for either juvenile or female and I don't believe the references I have mention this continental variant. I will have to check. In any event, interesting post from start to finish. In all seriousness I enjoyed it very much - as I always do.

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Nice images .. Here in Madrid there are many woodpigeon.. Greetings ..

Prunella Pepperpot said...

I didn't know wood pigeons flew together in such large numbers. I would have probably thought that they belonged to a pigeon fancier and were out for some excersise or a race.
The sparrowhawk is amazing! I would loved to see it up close.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a better day weather wise.
Have a great weekend :)

A Colorful World said...

Beautiful Sparrowhawk! And s interesting about the wood pidgeons!

Jean said...

Interesting about the wood pidgeons, never really thought of any pidgeon as a migrating bird since I only see them on rooftops around here. Love the photos of all the birds, the Chaffinch is a pretty bird!

♥ Anni ♥ said...

Wow...even with the mist & foggy morning, you two netted many interesting species. Reading about the theories of the pigeon was VERY interesting!

It was great visiting today and I appreciate your linking with us at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend.

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