Saturday, 31 October 2009

Autumn at The Lodge

A view down the drive at The Lodge. 25th October 2009

Friday, 23 October 2009


Snow Bunting, Ben Nevis, July 2009. Several of these boys singing (and eating peoples sarnies) at the summit. There are four races of them around the globe, this is Plectrophenax nivalis insulae which breeds in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and in Scotland.


Rook, A14 service station, May 2009. Wonderful birds, in fact the whole crow family is full of character. These cheeky chaps were stealing cold chips from a waste bin in the car park!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The big kahuna

I arrived just before seven, and as soon as I opened my car door I could hear Redwings and Chaffinches. Hearing Redwings before dawn isn't that unusual, but hearing Chaffinches was! I made my way through the trees out on to the top of the Pinnacle. It was still very gloomy and I could hear the occasional Redwing 'seep' from the surrounding trees - or so I thought at least. I assumed birds had dropped in to the woodland to roost up over night.

Five minutes later and the light was just sufficient to pick up the first passing birds. Small flocks of Redwings were passing over west in groups of around ten. It was obvious that virtually all the birds I'd heard when still dark were passing flocks rather than pausing birds in the trees. These initial birds were all in small groups - up to twenty.

After around ten minutes Mark Gurney turned up, and I'm glad he did - the flocks were coming thicker and faster and building in numbers. A big move was on! After an hour of non-stop counting, and some huge streams of Redwings over head (the largest being c.500 individuals strong) Mark had to leave. I was then on my todd for the next twenty minutes. It was pandemonium! I didn't know which way to look next, and everywhere I did look had a flock of Redwing zipping past! Thank God Col Campbell turned up fifteen minutes later. "Anything happening?" he said - "Yes, look up!!" I shouted at him as another pile of thrushage made its way across the sky.

The pulses weren't really pulses any more, it was more like a torrent, no tsunami, of birds, flapping, gliding, and skidding north-west. This was vismig at its absolute best! My notebook was filled with scribble - numbers everywhere, with "Redwing" scrawled somewhere nearby. Virtually everything else, apart from Redwings, were ignored - I heard a Crossbill, but didn't bother looking for it, and I also heard at least three Bramblings amongst the melee of fizzing Redwings. And a Raven, I saw fly right past the watch point, I almost never even pointed out to Col!

Back to the Redwings. It was rapidly heading towards 9am and time for work. I'd tried to get Matt Burgess to come up, but he was busy. I'd also tried Mark Thomas, but he never answered his phone. Luckily Mark phoned back and I let him know what was going on. He joined us within a few minutes. The passage at this point were about at their strongest, with lines of Redwings snaking across the sky, making counting difficult. Three pairs of eyes were just about right - one for looking south, one for looking north, and the other (me!) to scribble everything down and keep an eye on what's going above us. However, Col and I had to go to work. We passed MST the baton and hoped he could keep up!

When I got in to work, a quick tot up of our numbers revealed a staggering number - 21,551 to be precise! Obviously a group of about 500 went down as '500' so the extra one is a bit silly. Either way, it's still A LOT of Redwings!

Mark by this time had persuaded Matt to join him. They kept the pace going and had the best birds of the morning - Ring Ouzels! They had five birds fly over them during their middle hour of obs. Gutted I missed them, but a superb record, and a first for The Pinnacle. By the time 11am had come around the passage had almost stopped. The guys had counted another 7000+, bringing the total for the day (06:55-11:25) to 28,982.

However, the story doesn't stop there. Johannes Kamp, who lives in Sandy, just below the watch point, also had another load of birds just before dusk. He counted 4006 birds between 17:40 and 18:46 when it got too dark to count further. I wonder how many more we could have added if someone was on the Pinnacle?

So, grand Redwing total for the day - 32,988!


Monday, 12 October 2009

Coming in to roost

Some Gulls flying in to the Broom gull roost. 12th October 2009

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Double-D vismig

I poached Bedfordshire's premier vismig spot today - Five Knolls on
Dunstable Downs. The views you have at the top are fantastic. The vis
is also usually at very close quarters, with many birds fizzing past you
at eye-level.

This morning I was joined by Rob Dazley, and we enjoyed a couple of
hours of fun migration watching. No big numbers, but substantially more
than other sites being watched locally at the same time.

The highlights? A Brambling, five Redpolls, and some reasonable numbers
of Redwings.


Redwing - 255
Meadow Pipit - 14
Pied Wag - 12
Chaffinch - 114
Greenfinch - 14
Linnet - 11
Song Thrush - 8
Goldfinch - 11
Blackbird - 1
Redpoll sp. - 5
Grey Wag - 1
Brambling - 1
Starling - 4
House Martin - 1
Swallow - 3
Skylark - 2

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Zorros Gull

Apparent Azorean Gull, Didcott, Oxfordshire, 10th October 2009. The shade of this gulls mantle was mid-way between a normal Yellow-leg and a British Lesser Black-back. A very interesting bird indeed.

Saturday gull twitch

Apparent Azorean Gull, Didcott, Oxon, 10th October 2009


A bit of vismig before the big gull twitch. At least Chaffinches were
moving a bit better this morning, and a surprise Redpoll came 'chitting'
over. However, it's still fairly pants considering the time of year.

The Pinnacle, 07:00-08:10:

Pied Wag - 19
Yellowhammer - 2
Chaffinch - 139
Starling - 2
Redwing - 58
Linnet -1
Great Spot Woodpecker - 3
Goldfinch - 2
Cormorant - 1
Redpoll sp. - 1
Dunnock - 3
Meadow Pipit - 5
Greenfinch - 5
Skylark - 1
House Martin - 5
Mistle Thrush - 1
Reed Bunting - 2

Friday, 9 October 2009

Loony vismiggin'!

This isn't what you usually expect to see vismigging in the middle of Bedfordshire! This Diver, which I'm pretty sure is a Black-throated, flew over a few minutes before I was about to leave for work.

I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at when I first picked it up as a dot off to the north-east. As it got closer I thought 'grebe?' but after a few seconds more it was quite plainly a diver! It's not often to have to identify divers from underneath, so I couldn't put a name to it initially. It was only after viewing this on a TV at home this evening I could piece together what I saw:
* Smalli-ish Diver, not as bulky as a GND
* Slim neck with obviously sticky-out and bulbus head
* Obvious feet and legs sticking out the back
* Quick-ish flight
* Not startlingly white, like Red-throat

In addition to the Diver I also had three probable Woodlarks fly over, but were just a bit too far away to confidently identify. Anyway, the rest of the session was fairly productive too...

Most movement was north this morning, quite different to the usual south
and south-west. In order of appearance:

Meadow Pipit - 23
Chaffinch - 74
Dunnock - 2
Redwing - 26
Goldfinch - 7
Yellowhammer - 5
Pied Wag - 10
House Martin - 4
Sparrowhawk - 2
Blackbird - 3
Song Thrush - 6
Starling - 2
Linnet - 7
Skylark - 4
Poss Woodlark - 3
Bullfinch - 1
Reed Bunting - 4
Diver sp. - 1

Thursday, 8 October 2009


At last - some Redwings!  Also two Bramblings flew over together, with a trickle of other bits.  My best morning so far on the Pinnacle!

Most movement south or west with odd exceptions.  In order of appearance:

Chaffinch - 76
Meadow Pipit - 7
Pied Wag - 14
Linnet - 3
Redwing - 25
Goldfinch - 16
Greenfinch - 2
Reed Bunting - 4
Song Thrush - 7
Grey Wag - 1
Skylark - 2
House Martin - 2
Brambling - 2
Yellowhammer - 2
Golden Plover - 30
Sparrowhawk - 1

Also c.300 Jackdaws and c.100 Rooks out of the roost on the Lodge.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Fresh in

Migrant Song Thrush, Pegsdon Hills, 4th Oct.


Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Paxo, 4th Oct '09

(but it really should be Beds' first...can you see a pattern forming here?)

Glossy vid

Glossy Eyepiece, Paxo, 4th Oct '09

(it should be Beds' first though really...)

Paxo stuffing

Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Glossy Ibis ON THE SAME PIT! I hate Paxton Pits sometimes. I had to pop up there today as these two lovelies were virtually sat together, while Beds struggles in with a single Ruff at Broom.
Diddington pit has has more rarities than the whole of Bedfordshire put together this year. Makes me want to vom!

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