Wednesday 15 October 2014

The Magic of Migration

Felt under the weather today, but nevertheless was up at 6am and pulling into Old Fall layby at 7.15am. The wind had gone round to the east as predicted by the Met, but the cloud was a little sparse and a golden sun rose over the head.

Stacks of Blackbirds, Redwings and Song Thrushes were evident along the first stretch of hedge, chucking and seeeeping about, bounding out of the hedge on to the path and then back again. I paused for a moment, scope set, hoping for something rarer to hop out. Nothing did, but wonderful views of these fresh-in migrants, that probably arrived last night. I ambled down the path and bumped into Andy Hood. Shortly, we picked up the Red-breasted Flycatcher, rattling in a Sycamore on the leeward edge of the Old Fall plantation. It flicked in and out flycatching. A melodic whistle from behind us made us turn round and utter 'Shore Lark' in unison. I picked up the bird dropping on to a tilled stretch of field behind us. Yes! A cracking black and yellow faced Shore Lark. The bird's general cold grey upperparts stood out from the rather gingery earth it had chosen to sit on. After a few minutes it headed off again with the local Skylark gang.

Into the plantation and it really was excellent birding. Goldcrests were everywhere, as were Robins. Bramblings wheezed from the branches above, and Blackbirds flapped through in gangs. Every bird had to be checked; there had to be a rarity here somewhere. A pale warbler appeared - Siberian Chiffchaff! Sadly it didn't confirm itself with a call, but it looked convincing. It melted away, and shortly a rather late Garden Warbler appeared. Blackcaps fed unusually high in the Sycamores, seeking aphids. Scanning down Old Fall Hedge South, the grey sentinel form of a Great Grey Shrike made a fine morning sight (unlike my terrible phonescoped snap!).

Bumped into Lee, Martin and Mr Baines  and then the news broke of a Grey Phalarope on the sea near Bluethroat Gulley. We headed round there and had a scan. Plenty of Red-throated Divers on the sea and a few Common Scoters going past. Rich picked up a Little Auk but I couldn't get on it. The phal had drifted off, so we headed on round the head to the Bay Brambles, which were rather quiet. My usual plan is to go over to the north side after the Old Fall loop, but today, with more time to spare, I thought I would do the honorable thing and walk!

Along the clifftops I encountered a number of Goldcrests in the grass on the clifftop and along the fences. In fact, their trisyllabic little squeak was my constant soundtrack today. These little mites had just flown the North Sea. They seem tiny and fragile, but actually must be hard as nails! It never ceases to amaze me they survive this; how I underestimate them. It is a phenomenal feat and they probably welcomed the easterly wind to blow them in. It is 350 miles across open, inhospitable ocean to the west coast of Denmark, or even further if they came down from Norway. Amazing!

As I approached Holmes Gut, a text came through from Rich - Little Bunting just been found by Lee! Fantastic! I was literally by the gate, so hot footed it round to where Lee, Martin and Andy H had already gathered. To cut a long story short, I never did see it, despite a good search of the local area. Three Ring Ouzels were nice, the first I had seen today. Bit sad to dip this as I really wanted to see one of these this autumn.

How many Sibe Blue Robins lurk in Holmes Gut?

During our search, we bumped into Jon B and he kindly gave me a lift back to my car, which was a relief as I was starving and flagging a bit! After a bite to eat, I decided I would go on a Pallas's Warbler quest and South Landing seemed like a good option. Here I bumped into Craig who was fresh from Rubythroat action on Shetland. Hopefully, he would have his eye in, and sure enough, after a brief foray up to Booted Gulley (Shore Lark again, plus Blackcap, Brambling and a flyover Lap Bunt), he picked up a Yellow-browed Warbled by the South Landing steps. Great! Craig headed off to bed, and I wandered back down the gulley.

Two Yellow-brows were together in the sycamores at the top of the gulley and I decided these were different from Craig's first- but of course, I couldn't be sure! 3pm arrived and I decided I would have one last look at Holmes Gut before home. Still no ticking buntings, but a Fieldfare, my first of the autumn, came in off the sea, straight up the valley and dropped on to a hawthorn bush. Well done buddy! After five minutes looking shattered, it ate two berries and then headed off west. The magic of migration!

 Fieldfare taking a well-earned rest.

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