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!


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