Saturday, October 18, 2008

A big high on the downs !

Long before the first rays of day light, the cold pre-dawn air was full of calling Redwings, this was not unexpected as masses had pouring into the country the day before, being seen simultaneously by eastern observers on the ground and by radar observations. Overnight thousands of Redwings had 'seeeped' their way west, heading into a guiding westerly airflow.

With Five Knolls being a new site we didn't quite know what we were going to get but expectations were high. Matt Burgess, Rob Dazley and I joked about needing my clicker to keep count but that proved rather futile.

Even after only fifteen minutes of light it was obvious that a major passage was taking place, Redwings were sweeping up from the lights of Dunstable below, just rising over our view point before dropping over the other side and flying on towards Buckinghamshire in a direct westerly movement. The passage was constant and interspersed with regular flocks of Chaffinches speeding west on the same flight line.

From 0715hrs to 1030hrs the passage continued in this spectacular fashion with Fieldfares joining the party from 0830hrs. Most groups were around 25 birds strong but occassionally a large mixed species flock of around 400 birds sped past us at close range with Redwings still predominating.

The final tally for the morning was

Redwing 2873
Fieldfare 1323
Song Thrush 19
Chaffinch 850
Linnet 21
Siskin 5
Redpoll 2
Meadow Pipit 11
Starling 39
Wood Pigeon 409

A morning total of 5584 birds moved west with the peak window being 0830-0845hrs when 720 individuals went west. Redwings peaked between 0845-0900hrs with 353 individuals and Chaffinches between 0745-0800hrs with 185 individuals.

The Redwing and Chaffinch totals represent record counts for visible migration in Bedfordshire.

A great morning, even if at times we were swamped with the sheer number and speed of birds passing overhead and all around us!

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