Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Redwings Aplenty

We swop and change our ringing sessions according to available bodies, the weather, and the theory that too many or too few days at the same location is not normally a good idea. Hence, Wednesday saw three ringers, Andy, Bryan and me back at Oakenclough, 15 miles from the coast, 700 metres above sea level at our autumnal site for catching Redwings and other migrant birds. 

We have learned that when weather conditions are suitable many bird species use this edge of the Pennine Hills as a part of their migration route, east to west/west to east or north to south/south to north. Very often the directions of travel change mid-stream or are impossible to decipher if birds disappear from view by distance or landscape. 

Examples of visible migration become especially evident during October when it is possible to witness nocturnal and diurnal migration of large numbers of northern thrushes like Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush. The most numerous of this group are Redwings and Fieldfares, species that migrate on any given day but whose migration is wholly unpredictable and may be as small as a few dozen individuals, or on occasions many thousands over the course of a single morning. 

The forecast for Wednesday of brightness, zero rain and a 8/10 mph breeze looked almost perfect so we arranged to meet at 0645, just before dawn. The drive up to Oakenclough is a steady climb in third gear so as to maintain a respectable speed while watching for unpredictable deer and roadside pheasants that can dent a moving car. Gaining elevation and ever closer to my destination the low cloud turned to mizzle & drizzle as visibility dropped to 20 yards. Parking up there was a 15 mph wind rattling overhead trees and the weather forecaster was treated to yet another expletive. 

We concurred. If Redwings had been on the move during the night and into morning they could well be around despite the unwelcoming weather, so we set nets and hoped for the best. 

Amazingly and even in these poor conditions, Redwings arrived. They came slowly at first, with four Redwings on the first look at the nets. And then more of them, and also other species as the morning wore on. 


About 0920 and without warning a flock of almost a thousand Redwings arrived from the east and circled around for a few minutes before flying west. The same thing happened again later as at least two more large contingents of several hundred Redwings arrived and left to the west, as did smaller parties of tens and twenties, sometimes mixing with flocks of finches disturbed from the treetops by the swirling Redwings above them.  

Cloud and drizzle encircled us north, south, east and west as it ebbed and flowed, appearing to ease off before starting up again, but all the time we added to the catch. At 1030 real rain arrived to replace the mizzle as an unwelcome flock of 19 titmice, blues, coals, longtails and creepers found a net – time to pack in after almost four hours of intensive work. 

We finished with a catch of 54 birds - 26 Redwing, 4 Chaffinch, 3 Goldfinch, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 12 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit, 2 Treecreeper, 2 Long-tailed Tit and 1 Goldcrest. 




Lesser Redpoll


Long-tailed Tit


We totted up the sightings – mostly approximate taking into account the poor visibility - 2500 Redwing, 40 Lesser Redpoll, 40 Jackdaw, 25 Goldfinch, 25 Chaffinch 2 Siskin, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Kestrel. 

It had been a good morning. It’s not everyone who sees 2500 Redwings in a single morning or witnesses at first hand the magic of bird migration. 

More soon from Another Bird Blog. Don't go away.


jp@A Green Ridge said...

What extraordinary work you do, Phil!! I knowing it HAS to be rewarding to someone who is so passionate. These birds are as beautiful to me to see up close as they are to you. You are a lucky man!

Mike Attwood said...

Another set of excellent pictures Phil. Keep up the good work. We all benefit from it.

Wally Jones said...

Even though experience has taught me better, I am still always surprised at how good birding can be in inclement (to me) weather. Yes, I also curse the weather forecasters, but as the clouds close in and the mist begins, here comes a huge flock of migrants! Go figure.

You had a great day! Just to experience that many Redwings in the sky would make me smile for a week.

All is good over here. Gini and I are having fun and hope you are, too.

Angie said...

Phil - so glad it was a successful session for you. Witnessing these natural events makes the heart soar! My favorites are the Goldcrest and Treecreeper. Thanks for the "invitation" to visit you in Lanky - not on the cards this trip, but we will keep it in mind for the future. I believe you and my hubby would get on like a house on fire!

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

Phil That must have been an amazing sight to see those flocks of Redwing overhead. I think I only saw 1 last year!!! Great photographs of all the birds. Have a lovely weekend.

Lowcarb team member said...

What a wonderful day you had, so many sightings, and your photographs are lovely to see. The long tailed tit looks so cute :)

All the best Jan

Related Posts with Thumbnails