Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Migration at last...

September... in theory it should be the best month of autumn, with the mixed potential of waders, seabirds, and falls of common migrants. Unfortunately, the now seemingly traditional succession of Atlantic depressions, makes for a very quiet month on the east coast. Good news if you are seawatching off the west coast of Ireland, twitching the far flung reaches of Britain for the latest Yank Mega, or lapping up the flocks of Buff-breasted Sandpipers running around on Cornish airfields, but not so much fun if you are stuck in Norfolk, praying for some Easterly winds!!

October 10th finally saw the wind change to the East, triggering a remarkable arrival of Short eared Owls, with 46 birds recorded off of Titchwell, moving offshore and inland. Seawatching off of Holme we managed to see 11 birds moving west offshore, between 14:05 - 15:05, and carrying on across The Wash, with the last being a group of five birds flying together. Another two birds were watched over the beach on the western side of Thornham channel, with one coming in low over the dunes and passing to within five feet, directly overhead. One of those occasions when you are faced with a bird flying directly towards you, until you have to lower your binoculars, in order to realise just how close it has come! Two Yellow-browed Warblers appeared in the large Sycamore near the Obs late afternoon, and a Long-eared Owl was seen flying across the NOA car park at dusk.

October 11: An excellent vis mig session in the Coastal Park, with a varied morning of heavy overhead passage. With so many birds passing at once the true figures for the morning will be higher than anything listed here, with plenty of high/distant finch flocks escaping identification, and large numbers of Lapwing moving out across The Wash and out of view.

Period of watch 07:00-09:30, Wind SE force 2 Overcast becoming clear by 09:00

Shoveler 4
Golden Pover 180
Lapwing 306 (almost 2000 birds recorded past Hunstanton)
Snipe 10
Woodpigeon 1
Skylark 110
Meadow Pipit 35
Pied Wagtail 5
Grey Wagtail 3
Dunnock 4
Song Thrush 12
Redwing 231
Mistle Thrush 16
Fieldfare 314
Starling 4,213
Chaffinch 3,249
Brambling 240
Linnet 30
Redpoll 21
Goldfinch 25
Greenfinch 389
Siskin 6
Reed Bunting 12
Yellowhammer 23

A party of five Whooper Swans flew North towards Heacham and a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen hunting the scrub behind the sea defence, whilst a sizable female Merlin was only my third sighting of the year, and a much needed patch year tick!

The walk to Burnham Overy dunes started off well, with a Yellow-browed Warbler moving through the Sueda bushes beside the coastal path and disappearing off inland, followed by a second bird in one of the clumps of Spindle bushes just to the east of the boardwalk. Two Lapland Buntings and a couple of Crossbills passed overhead, along with regular groups of Chaffinch and Siskin, that had continued moving west along the coast throughout the day, though grounded migrants were almost non existent. A Short eared Owl was hunting the fields opposite the pines at the end of Lady Anne's drive, where I abandoned my decision to carry on through to Wells and continued along the drive to the main road where I caught the coasthopper back to Hunstanton. Wrong decision.... If I had stuck with my vague origional plan I would have been within less than five miles of the Rufous-tailed Robin when the news broke, instead of travelling away from the bird in the opposite direction!

Sitting on the seafront at Hunstanton, it was clear that the mornings overhead passage had continued right through the day, with the odd few Skylarks, Chaffinches and Starlings still passing through. As the light began to fade, groups of Blackbirds lifted from the gardens behind the cliffs and climbed high into the sky, eventually leaving together to the south (42 birds in toal) whilst a flock of 5000 Starling darkened the skies to head south, just as we were coming out of Hunstanton to join the main road. One can only imagine the final totals that must have flown south through the Coastal Park that day...

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