Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Quiet end to a roller coaster month

This month has been all about the Monty Python catchphrase 'now for something completely different' with the weather neither forecastable for more than a day and a half ahead and on many occasions radically changing with pulses of rain and intermittent dry spells racing through, usually but not always with a strong push from the Atlantic.....plus of course the infamous red sun and its Saharan dust and Portuguese forest fire smoke.  It has been a month when close perusal of the rain alarm was essential for any ringing effort and we were only 'caught out' once due to a last minute decision of a large blob of rain to change direction and descend over us from south Cumbria.  As implied, it was often a case of micro-siting - "that shower is going over north Morecambe, that one is going over Pilling" etc and ignoring the previous night's forecasts and trusting the early morning rain alarm

28 ringer/days was a really good ringing effort considering one of us was out of action unless another ringer was present (confined to base with knee rehab) and two of us had very limited availability as the bits of suitable weather were very short notice and usually did not allow forward planning in relation to other commitments.  The other problem was the water level at Middleton knocking some ringing rides out of action, not allowing more than 2/3 nets per ringer as per available sites being too far apart for a single ringer.  It was a month where Jean's regular availability at short notice was crucial to the effort.

It was also a month when the coverage of the recording area was pretty good, with the exception, perhaps ironically, being regular circuits of Heysham NR - a bit beyond the injured knees.  Malcolm put in loads of footwork and Dan and Joanne covered some more obscure spots eg rewarded with the second eastern-type Lesser Whitethroat in the scrub near half moon bay car park

Bird-wise it was just about as good as it gets, given that there were no mornings which "felt rare" with coastal murk and an easterly wind.  We had a decent variety of scarce migrants for a west coast site in "rubbishy weather" and other interest such as late Common and Arctic terns

Ringing totals:  534 new birds were ringed including the following top ten:  136 Goldcrest, 68 Greenfinch, 45 Long-tailed Tit (good numbers moving through), 38 Blue Tit, 31 Coal Tit (reflecting aa decent passage considering weather), 26 Wren, 24 Redwing, 24 Goldfinch, 19 Chiffchaff, 18 Robin (only 2-3 orange breasted grey ones).   More unexpected were:  singles of Firecrest, eastern type Lesser Whitethroat, Brambling (first for ages) and House Sparrow!   Way below par was 8 Blackcap, along with just single figures of Blackbird and Song Thrush.  Note the absence of Yellow-browed Warbler - one spent three days in our usual mist net ride by the office, but on none of those Storm Brian days was a normal ringing session possible other than a single net "just to catch it" which we don't do here.

The most noticeable feature of the ringing (this whole autumn) has been the complete absence of birds ringed elsewhere.   Whilst partly due to the relatively low numbers of Reed Bunting and Lesser Redpoll, it does suggest that the Goldcrests were a product of drifting south from some obscure northern Britain conifer plantation rather than via east coast ringing stations due to an influx across the North Sea.   Yet the Faroes birding blog suggest there were heaps of migrant Goldcrest up there which presumably tried to head south.  However, surely ringing efforts with mist nets were severely curtailed in a lot of places this month c/p the last two Octobers?

Finally today:
Little Egret - 5
Med Gull - ad outfalls, 2CY and 1CY following outbound ferry