Sunday, October 12, 2008
The BIG mig at Five Knolls
Matt looking North with Ivanhoe Beacon (Bucks) in the background
The new viewpoint on top of the hill at Five Knolls
The view to the east with Blows Downs mid horizon
The view to the west with Tottenhoe Knolls mid horizon
The view to the South along the Dunstable Downs ridge
As part of the Bedfordshire Bigmig day (a co-ordinated visible migration count by several observers covering a selection of sites) I did a bit of detective work and came up with a site that on a map looked promising, a pre-survey visit yesterday afternoon confirmed its promise.
So at 0630hrs Matt Burgess and I found ourselves stood at 220 metres above sea level on the highest ridge in Bedfordshire starring into the dawn and wondering just what the next few hours would bring. The fog that we had driven through and then left lower down as we climbed up the escarpment was evident all around. The new site is called Five Knolls for obvious reasons and sits on the northern edge of the Dunstable Downs escarpment and gives a brill all-round vista and most importantly faces north and east, the direction in which birds are travelling from.
Soon birds were zipping overhead in small flocks, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Linnet, more Chaffinch and even more Chaffinch....... the next two hours went pretty quick and then as if by magic the tap was turned off and it all dried up. Most of the birds are picked up first on flight calls, its then a case of getting your 'eye in' on the direction and height at which most flocks are travelling, once you have done that then its just a case of waiting for the next flock and trying to write down the last lot!
The results of the morning were 536 individuals of 16 species led by 223 Chaffinch. Now OK ... Chaffinch... one of the UK's commonest birds BUT these individuals are not from the UK - they are continental immigrants fresh in from crossing the English Channel and then moving on inland in a W/NW direction, many in fact winter in Ireland. How do we know this - well from ringing recoveries. A few Chaffinch cross the North Sea but most UK bound birds move from Scandinavia South into the Low Countries, from where they swing to the West and enter the UK. Large numbers have been doing this all week at places like Sandwich Bay and Dungeness so it was no real surprise that they were the commonest birds moving this morning and will be for the next few weeks.
A good morning and a site worth more attention. At county level 9 other sites were covered, all recording Chaffinch migration, so clearly birds were moving on a broad front. The highlight was a Hawfinch seen and heard over Kensworth by Rob Dazley and Jason Chapman... maybe nexttime !