Thursday, 31 March 2011

This is probably the best thing to do this morning!!

Its now 0754 hours and I am thinking, that this is probably the best thing to do on a morning like this........... (maybe get out later in the day!) (Click over sketch to enlarge)

Nearly forgot!! Had a party of about 30 Meadow Pipits crossing over Tarn Lane, Burton In Kendal, on full migration and moving North, as late as 1925hrs yesterday evening.

Also had a spent Blackbird egg in the verge near the Canal Aquaduct last night.

Today: 1830hrs to 1930hrs went up to the Trig from Dalton Plain Quarry Car Park. Very windy, and no reports of the Shrike, I checked out most of its usual haunts. Will check again tomorrow.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

GG Shrike and Vismig at Hutton Roof

(This is a photo of the Shrikes favourite tree, which it is seen on most days - this is a view looking from the East side of the tree, but it can also been clearly seen with binoculars straight away from leaving Dalton Crags and on entering the deforested area - please click over photo to enlarge and click again to supersize)

Today the Shrike was seen from about 0900hrs up until leaving the Trig point at 1030hrs and for the majority of this time it was again on its "favourite tree" (see photo above). I did see it also do a almost vertical climb of 20ft to catch a insect and then diving straight down and back up to its favourite perch.

At 0645hrs I had a new calling Chiffchaff from Vicarage Lane, Burton and this bird was again heard and seen later, having crossed the road whilst going up Slape Lane at 0800hrs. Lots of midge plumes this morning whilst going up Slape, quite near to where the footpath crosses over. One Curlew flew over Slape towards a South East. Treecreeper noted near to gamecrop.

5 separate Chiffchaffs calling again in Burton Fell (lower section) and one suspect Willow Warbler (unconfirmed), also lots of Bullfinches both on the Fell and on the Common.

Vismig: (0900-1030hrs) all North or North West unless stated otherwise. Very cold and starting to get wet, so left around 1030hrs, the migration had reduced to a light trickle.

Meadow Pipits: 30

Linnet: 4E

Also had Male Stonechat on territory, Redpoll - several presumed local, also Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, and Goldcrest singing in Burton Fell.

I do think in regard to vismig that something may have been going on yesterday afternoon, because on travelling through to Milnthorpe via Moss Lane (Burton to Hale), there were at least 3 Mipit parties going through all parties of no less than 10 birds each. This was purely has I travelled the Moss which takes about 3 minutes, so perhaps there where lots of stuff going through, I was not in a position to stop and count. This was at 1530hrs and probably because the weather changed and it came good late for migration.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

GG Shrike & Vismig at Hutton Roof.

I managed to get up there earlier today (0800hrs-1030hrs). (Click over photo to enlarge, and click again if you want to supersize)

Whilst heading towards the Common, I soon spotted the Shrike which as usual was sentinel and was in the trees above the footpath not far from the gate which leads up to the Trig (see first photo). And what a privelige, the Shrike actually stayed put while I walked quietly underneath it towards the Common gate. Usually it would be away at 50 metres distance. And it does'nt stop there, because whilst at the gate, I heard it start chunnering and murmuring and then it would make a shrieky trilling and it repeated this on several occasions. Most of the time it was being distantly mobbed by blogging Meadow Pipits and at times, odd ones would actually perch themselves about 3 or 4 branches away from the Shrike within the same tree. It stayed in that same tree while I was at the Trig for maybe up to 20 minutes before dropping over into its "favourite tree", remaining on the Dalton side. By about 0930hrs it must have moved on yet again, because I never saw it anymore.

I did try and make a recording of the bird calling on my mobile phone, but sadly it is very quiet and the recording could do with editing and enhancing, but if I could get it OK I would only be too pleased to share it. So if there is anyone out there who could try and sort it I would only be too pleased to send it through by email on a wav file.

Vismig this morning was really poor and hardly got going whilst I was there, but what bit there was even started to petre out by 0930hrs I gave up by 1000hrs. By then it had got cold and had started with light rain. But whilst there I had: (all North West to North)

Meadow Pipits: 71 (best parties: 20,10,5)

Redpoll: 2 (1N and 1E)

also had: 2 Green Woodpeckers yaffling to one another, one at Charcoal Burners and the other over in Lancelot.

Also: the Male Stonechat on territory, Bullfinch 2, Ravens, Sparrowhawk.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Trig-happy Shrike and Chiffchaffs etc etc.

0800hrs - 1230hrs (Please click over photos to enlarge, click again to supersize)

Noticing this last few days the blossom has been out up here. Went up to Trig via Slape Lane, Burton Fell approach and Lancelot, and seemed to take ages to reach the Trig.

On way up Slape Lane had lots of Wood Anemone (still closed not sunny enough at 0800hrs) and also lots of Dog Violets on the floors of the hedgerows.

A Chiffchaff was singing in the wood opposite Pickles Wood off Slape Lane. Then shortly after entering the approach to Burton Fell, I had 5 separate Chiffchaffs singing their ditties! On entering Lancelot I heard a Redwing go through above me.

Took photograph of small flower found on the mound of a Meadow Ant colony, can only think it might be Rue Leaved Saxifrage. On the same mound was the most beautiful coloured "Purple Moor Grass".

After leaving Lancelot and going over the stile to the Common, It was a lovely suprise to see the Shrike immediately on the hawthorn NE of the Trig, only some 20 metres away from the Trig itself (see photo). It stayed around the area E and NE of the Trig for the next couple of hours being constantly semi-mobbed by scores of Meadow Pipits and also on one occasion mobbed by a party of 6 Redpoll. Now and again it was seen to dive down and catch prey. On one occasion in particular it was seen to catch a Lizard with success. By about 1130hrs it had moved around and gone back down into the Dalton (deforested area) and was seen from the Trig, sentinel on one of the larger trees far down on the Dalton side.

Vismig stuff: (0930hrs-1200hrs) all N/NW unless stated otherwise.

A single Swallow which was hawking the Common for at least 15 minutes before continuing North.

Meadow Pipits were going through fairly regular with 222 during the time I was present at the Trig, best parties were: 6,5,9,5,5,10,9,6,10,14,6)

Also had a few Redpoll going through: 13 (best party 6, the rest pairs or singles). They are also holding territory down in Dalton.

Siskin: 2

Alba Wagtail: 2

Chaffinch: 1

Other Stuff: A pair of Stonechat within 30 yards of Trig. A pair of Buzzards.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Hawfinch, Stonechat & Great Grey Shrike on Dalton

Shrike showing well, again in Dalton (deforested areas) there up to me leaving at 1300hrs. Told earlier it had been scoped having caught a Lizard. Nothing showing in the "impaling" tree.

Stonechat male showing in usual place to the top right hand corner of Dalton (deforested) as you walk up from Dalton Crags. There is actually a pair and he is constantly chacking.

Migration was really quiet today with only 27 Meadow Pipits going North in 3 hours, compared to the last few days of about 150 averaging over 2 1/2hours. Also: Chaffinch, 3, Redpoll 2, and resident Kestrel and Bumblebees 2.

A bonus on the way back just before heading back down the slope to the Car Park was a calling Hawfinch giving both its heavy call followed by its ticking call and calling for over 3 minutes

Friday, 25 March 2011

Swallows at Hutton Roof and other Migration

The day started well with a fresh "Chiffchaff" calling from "Thornleigh", Burton.
Then from 0900hrs until about 1145hrs went up to the Trig Point on Hutton Roof checking out migration. I had the following: (all North/North West unless stated) Swallows: 4 (a pair which went straight through, and two singles at different times. One of the Swallows was watched over 20 minutes whilst it hunted on the Common.
Also had: Meadow Pipits, 156 (over two and a half hours) best parties 3 at 9 and 1 at 7
Skylark: 1
Redpoll: 2S
Greenfinch: 1
Chaffinch: 2
Linnet: 1
Curlew: 1 E
Also Bumblebee x 2, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming at bottom of Crags, also had two Yafflers, one at Bottom just after leaving Plain Quarry car park and the other at the start of the deforested area after leaving the Crags. Somebody also reported Hawfinch close to the Car Park (Plain Quarry)
The Great Grey Shrike was showing well from 0900hrs to my last sighting at 1045hrs. Again seen on its "favourite tree" on Dalton Side, early on, but since 0930 and up to 1045hrs,it was seen by looking NNE from the Trig on the high point of a 12ft hawthorn in line with the main footpath and on the horizon (about 200/250 yards NNE from Trig). Checked out its "larder tree" (see photo) and there was either the same bank vole but with only its backside/tail left (see photo below), and if so it had been moved to a totally different area and spike or its yet another Bank Vole.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

GG Shrike & Migration at Hutton Roof 24th March 2011

Good sightings of Great Grey Shrike on Dalton side in the main and occasionally on the Common below the Trig 0900hrs - 1130hrs.

Checked out the impaling tree and noticed the Bank Vole had been turned around to the opposite way, but I am sure it was the same vole and impaled on the same hawthorn needle.

Also: Vismig near the Trig (0930hrs to 1130hrs)
Meadow Pipits: 160 mainly N or NW today. Mainly singles, best parties: 25,9,6,5 and 4s.
Redpoll: 1,
Chaffinch 4,
Skylark: 3 (2S 1N)
Siskin: 1
Linnet: 1

Also had 2 Peacock Butterflies, 5 bumblebees, Stonechat (male), Ravens, Song Thrushes, Kestrel being mobbed by Crow.

Odd specimens of "Rue Leaved Saxifrage" now in flower on or near limestone areas on the upper levels.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

GG Shrike & Migration at Hutton Roof 23rd March 2011

0900hrs - 1130hrs. Today again the Shrike was showing up well in the Dalton deforested area (rotting woodpiles). It spent most of its time on its "favourite" tree.

I checked out the impaled prey in the small tree below the Trig point and it was still there, so took several photos which are now included within yesterdays blog (below - click on home and scroll down). The prey we have now decided was a Common Bank Vole.

Migration: Meadow Pipits where at about 60 per hour going North. Also had some Chaffinch, Siskin (2 pairs), Skylark 5N (2 parties).

Had two bumblebees. Also present was Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard (2), Woodpecker drumming near Pickles Wood.

Trig via Slape Lane, Burton Fell & Lancelot Clark Storth and Return:

Strobe lighting effect all the way along Slape was not pleasant
Low Sun caught every opening of the tall hedgerow,
Three Blackbirds squabbling and fighting whilst chasing
one another in a large circle, wonder which won!
Tits calling everywhere, Great, Blue and Coal, but no Marsh!,
Fresh Roe Deer tracks deep in the muddy path..
Bullfinch pee'uud and then also trilled, I have never
heard them trill like that before,
like Waxwing's Trill.
Overhead, Redpoll, Sparrowhawk, and Pigeons and Crows.
Stepping over the pavements with grikes and clints,
Its like prehistoric giants footprints, massive, and yes!
I can see the Coral lookalike staring back at me.
Its grey or silver grey or lighter than battleship grey,
Theres still some of last years ferns deep down and lost water..
Waited for Dave to take his first photos of the shrike,
Spent time watching Meadow Pipits and Larks move North.
Took photos of the Bank Vole impaled, how did that
Shrike ever get that Vole to that position I will never ever know,
It certainly was without doubt the houdini act of 2011, and,
no one, nowhere will raid his "larder"...
Heading back, past BAP seat,
Wal with his working parties, cleaning up the pavement,
Woodpecker drumming near Pickles Wood, and
race back as fast as the legs would carry because I was late!
Co blimey!!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

GG Shrike with impaled prey on Hutton Roof - Tues 22nd March 2011

(please click on photo to enlarge, then click again to supersize)

Went up on Hutton Roof yesterday, looking for Great Grey Shrike but without any sightings.
Steve managed to find a dead Common Lizard within 50 metres SSE of the Trig, on the side of the pathway.
6 Fieldfare called in at some trees quite close to the Dalton Woods/Dalton Crag (deforested area).
Today went up on Hutton Roof again and watched the GG Shrike for over an hour where it moved first from a tree near the gate as you enter the Common, quite close to the boundary wall on the Lancelot side, then we lost it and then re-located whilst having a rest at the Trig, it was on the top of a large hawthorn in a North East to the Trig, then seen to fly further across to the North, then back to the North East to a low hawthorn where it was seen to go down for prey. Then watched carrying mouse (vole or shrew!) to yet another hawthorn which was only 35 metres SSE of the trig where it seem to go to ground. I then saw it 20 minutes later on a large hawthorn to the first right right hand side more or less in the path which goes from the Trig South. On inspecting the tree where the Shrike seemed to go down and dissapear for a while, the mouse was there well and truly impaled. I was suprised to see it had not impaled it on the outer edge of the tree, but some 12" back into the tree which was just a complete maze of "nasty" hawthorn needles, so how the bird actually managed that I really dont know, its must have been like "houdini" and it was making sure nothing else got into its larder......
Then watching the bird for yet another 30 minutes, this time back into its "favourite tree" on the other side of the wall (Dalton deforested rotting timber piles area).

Friday, 18 March 2011

GG Shrike & Migration at Hutton Roof 18th March 2011

0900 - 1030hrs.
Today I watched the Great Grey Shrike for almost 90 minutes. During this time it visited several trees, all within the Dalton deforested area (rotting woodpiles), and was witnessed sentinel to all trees.

The first sighting was in the small group of about half a dozen trees which lies about 50 yards from the gate/boundary wall which goes into the Common where the Trig is situated and lies immediately to the side of the main pathway (see top sketch).

But for 80% of the time I witnessed it, it was in its "favourite" tree (see bottom sketch). I did see it swoop down on prey and return to its tree with the prey within its bill where it continued to digested the prey. It looked like a large beetle or bee or something like that.
Also whilst up there, I had some birds on a South to North direction migration eg: about 30 Meadow Pipits, mainly in singles or pairs. Also had a couple of Chaffinch, One Alba Wagtail, One Linnet. Had about 3 pairs of Siskin which some where dropping into Dalton to Feed. Also One Curlew heading to the South East.
Other records: One mail Stonechat seen in beatiful breeding plumage and heard regularly "chakking". Probably the same I had yesterday. Also Raven. Also had Green Woodpecker on way up at Bottom of Dalton.
Skylarks calls where half hearted today and the migration was less that this time yesterday, although the weather was blue skies, little wind.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

No Shrike, but lots of movement with Pipits - 17th March 2011

0900hrs - 1030hrs.
Went in search of the Great Grey Shrike on Hutton Roof. But on reaching the Trig the weather turned bad with visability down to almost 10 metres and at best 20 metres, so that turned out a bit of a washout. It was reported to me yesterday that the Shrike was seen yesterday (16th March 2011) but had crossed over the boundary into Lancelot Clark Storth.

On Way up to trig after leaving Dalton Woods, there where lots of Meadow Pipits crossing over the Dalton (deforested area - rotting Woodpiles), and they were going in a South to North direction, with just one party heading in a more North West. I counted plenty and estimated that they where going through at about 40 birds per hour. Most of the birds I saw were singles with just odd pairs. I did have one party of 15 birds and another of 7, but did suspect these to be passing "blogging" parties that had been held up somewhere further South because of the poor visability and had decided to recommence their journeys. Also there was Alba Wagtails, Linnets and Chaffinch on the move also.

It was nice to see a pair of Stonechats had come in and I first met them just after leaving the Dalton Woods area and finally saw them South of the Trig, they were a pair and I regularly heard them chakking, and chasing one another as though in courtship.

Also a couple of singing Skylark, holding territory, some Meadow Pipits holding territory at the Trig area.

Also had calling Buzzard and Ravens.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Derwentwater - Keswick - Wed 16th March 2011

(Photos: top - Ruskin Memorial Near to Friar's Crag 2nd: One of Keswick's Greylags 3rd: A breeding Frog at Great Wood. 4th: A small sample of the habitat where the Frog Nurseries are at the Great Wood. 5th Looking over Strandshag Bay towards Friars Crag. Please Click over photo to enlarge and click once more if you wish to supersize.)

It was decided to go up to Keswick and check out the "frogs" at Great Wood, on the side of Derwentwater. We where not dissapointed if anything there where probably more than last year, but spread out throughout all the wet areas within the woods. This must be a top "frog nursery", because there is spawn all over the place, and you can hear the frogs calling in all directions.

Also large swarms of biting midges were out in force. I read somewhere that this year was going to be a bad year for the humans and a very good year for the midges, something to do with the snow we had this winter and how the snows kept the ground insulated for longer, causing a better incubation of the midge larvae.
Plenty of Greylags and Canadas about.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Photos GG Shrike at Dalton Crags/Hutton Roof etc.

(Top two photos shows GG Shrike on trees on the Dalton (clearing side with woodpiles). The third photo down shows a general photo of the same Dalton side with all the trees it likes to sit sentinel, and shows some of the woodpiles. The fourth photo is a area just below the Trig point which again is one of its favourites. and the fifth photo was on my way up through Dalton Crags this morning (from the Plain Quarry side). The final photo is at the Trig Point. Please click on photo to enlarge, and click once again to supersize.

This morning started early at 0610hrs with 4 Song Thrushes fighting and squabbling near to the Tanpits at Burton In Kendal.
0915hrs - 1100hrs.
Had a walk from Plain Quarry to the Hutton Roof Trig, a absolutely beautiful morning with little cloud.

Greeted with Green Woodpecker calling from just behind the Plain Quarry on the Dalton side. Buzzards circling above and the odd Raven could be heard honking. Several Chaffinches going overhead, but considered local because they where heading in various directions over the shrubby tree areas above the pavement on Dalton Crags.

On leaving the Crags and hitting the deforested area with the woodpiles, I could hear a Skylark, singing in full song, also Linnets were passing overhead, not sure but think in a North East direction.

On Common near Trig, there where several Meadow Pipits, marking territory and doing their "parachuting" displays

Great Grey Shrike was present and gave some terrific views. In the main it was seen in the Dalton area (deforested woodpile area - W or NW of the boundary wall).

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Great Grey Shrike on Hutton Roof 13th March 2011

Walk to Hutton Roof Trig point via Slape Lane, Burton Fell, Lancelot Clark Storth and return via Dalton Crags, Dalton (hamlet) and back down Vicarage Lane. (1600hrs - 1815hours).

Had 12 Greenfinch above Vicarage Lane,
Three Flowering Lesser Celandine on Slape Lane, the first this year..
Gorse also starting to flower on Lancelot Clark Storth.
Two separate Song Thrush singing and sitting sentinel,
and the beautiful Great Grey Shrike

Witnessed GGS at 1715hrs. Looking from behind the Trig towards SSE follow the little footpath and when you get to the first incline immediately in front of you. It was on the largest of the hawthorn trees to the far right of this hill about 50ft in before the boundary wall. It was on the highest protruding branch to the left hand side. And it was seen here when I landed at Trig and still here on my depart.It was seen to leave the tree and swoop down on something towards the ground and then within seconds back to the same branch of the tree. Could not see it impaling or eating, so whether it missed the prey or not...

Friday, 11 March 2011

No Shrike on Hutton Roof yesterday or today

I have been up on Hutton Roof both yesterday and again this morning between 0930hrs and 1030hrs. I have checked all areas but the Shrike was not showing.

In fairness it was blowing a gale up there, something like 40mph gust yesterday and probably a little less at 30mph gust again today, so I don't blame it if its decided to sit tight. Its probably moved down to lower altitude where the winds will have abated, so that it has more chance of abundant prey!

Also today I heard quite a few Meadow Pipits, that where either back on territory, or having a stop over. Also several Skylarks going through and at least one partly singing, so perhaps back on its territory. Also lots of Thrushes and Finches feeding from the floor against one of the rotting woodpiles, which lay within the close proximity to the Dalton Crag Woods.

Addendum added: 12th March 2011: Members of the L&DBS reported it present yesterday at 1200hrs.

Dalton to Hutton Roof Trig and thereabouts (11th March 2011)

Great Tit calling with explosive, "Chuff chuff chuff chuff",
A Vole or Shrew ran across my path, only feet away...
Light or White or even Black, moving Clouds,
From the South West with little rain to the North East,
A skyward call of repeated "thrup" was sung with such sweetness,
I looked up, but cannot see you, but I know your there..
The Skylark also crosses above my path today
Yet from the ground Meadow Pipits call, whilst tucked away..

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Great Grey Shrike on Hutton Roof again today..

Please click on sketch above to enlarge. The bird was last seen from standing at the rear of the Trig point and then looking South towards Carnforth. You will then notice a large thin tree which I have tried to identify its features within the sketch. Look there first! and good luck....

Went back up on Hutton Roof again today to check out the Great Grey Shrike. Went usual way via Slape Lane, Burton Fell, Lancelot Clark Storth and onto the Common.

Earlier had about 20 to 30 Curlews, very noisy at 0620hrs over Drovers Way, Burton, heading from N to South.. Wondering why they would be going in this direction? Is it too cold for them on yon moors!! and they've decided to come back..

0930hrs - 1300hrs
Redpoll calling from off Snape with Chaffinch as well,
Still lots and lots of Blackbirds, perhaps twenty or more,
And also earlier, 20 or more at Clawthorpe too, but again
all males, perhaps 40 birds but only two two females.....
Side of Slape last years ploughed field, had thousands
of stones which had now come to the surface.. Across
on the other side, a field full of remnant base stalks of,
long harvested maize, overwinters and waits to be ploughed in.
Fresh mole hills on the side of Slape, perhaps 24-48 hours old,
still fresh and the ground was so hard, where they had dug..
Strong fresh smell of fox musk at broken wall between,
Burton Fell and Lancelot..
Great Tits repetitive "Squeaky gate" opening and closing rapidly at
ten miles per hour.
Dry, deep black, peaty footpath from ancient dead old bracken,
recently churned over by maurauding grazing cattle let loose.
Two Roe Deer gave me as much suprise as I gave them,
heard them with shock, just at the side of me, from cover,
they left and bounded, and where a long way away within seconds.
Just landed at the Trig and looked South to find that beautiful
of birds, the Great Grey Shrike, I watched for over half hour,
before it skulked away yet again..
On leaving Lancelot, just within Pickles Wood, was a pair of
Marsh Tits......

Monday, 7 March 2011

Great Grey Shrike back at Hutton Roof - 7th March 2011

Today at 1430hrs I had the Great Grey Shrike on Hutton Roof. I was watching it for over one hour whilst it moved about more or less in the same areas as it did last year, below the Trig Point. I wonder whether its just arrived or whether its been around for a few days.... Can't see any other reports.. (Last year it arrived back on the 10th March and stayed around until about the 25th... so its 3 days earlier than last year....

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Cumswick & Scout Scar - Kendal 1st March 2011

Please click over sketch or photo to enlarge.

I seem to remember something about the "Kendal Racecourse" from when I was a young lad! I'm sure it was up and running in the 1950's and 1960's period.... probably a "over the sticks".. can't be sure!!

I said to Charlie, "I was allreet until I si them Skylarks" and now I can't help but keep looking up to find some more!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Nothing has to interfere with Visible Migration

(Please click over sketches once to enlarge and then click yet again to supersize)....

I suppose if I knew then what I know now it might have been a different story!

I reckon there are actions, that I will never "live it down", one in particular recollecting the time when I went birding on my daughter's most important day and I left it within the last hour to chase along to the all important proceedings.... The Wedding.

October is probably one of the most important times of the year for the addicted vismigger, the time of the year when the thrushes start to pour through. So how can anyone plan a wedding during the month of October!!

I am by now a pretty regular daily vismigger during the period September to November and try to put in regular visits and counts.

Guess what! only last year, when the peak "Fieldfare" arrival came (and there's no way of predicting the actual day!). It arrived on Sunday October 24th 2010. The day I had to break off at Hutton to take my grandson to his football training over at Storth. Yes at first I was "gritting my teeth" so to speak, but it turned out pretty good actually. Because I dropped down below Storth and watched the birds crossing over Sandside towards the Lyth Valley in their thousands! (well actually it was 3,278 in one and a half hours.... not bad at all.

But when I got back home at Burton, It soon became clear that the main migration was really getting going and I could see hundreds passing in front my lounge window, as though heading from Dalton to Holme and in fact they where in parties of anything up to 300, (well some of the parties that is!). And guess what? the inevitable happened!! Some close friends decided to pick that very day of all days to arrive and take up the full afternoon. Can you imagine having to miss such good stuff, and constantly thinking to myself "what must I be missing going over Hutton Roof, probably in their thousands, yet I was left here and could only sample the small (in comparison) amount which went passed my window. Its so hard to take when you waited all year for this very special day. Anyway we had to make the best of the situation, so I spent the rest of that afternoon sat in my chair with one eye on the window and one eye on our guests, and probably saying yesses when I should have been saying no's!!!!

Thats just one angle, but theres a lot more to this vismigging, than meets the eye and I will try and explain further...

Getting up every morning at the stroke of dawn to collate visual sightings of birds going from North to South or East to West or South East to North West, on their annual autumn migration… witnessing these movements, not just one day a week, but everyday of the week during the months of September, October and early November, but the rewards are well worth it!

Lots of people believe I am mad! (and they are probably right!!). I mean what would you think if you were one of those walkers, runners, cyclist, or passing by in a motor car, the type of people I meet everyday? There! It’s that guy stood in the same spot every morning, at the side of the road with binoculars and notebook and pencil, wrapped up in thermals and maybe 2 or 3 coats as well, in fact can you imagine, especially when the wind was blowing a gale force 8, a “Michelin man” birder, well perhaps that’s what it must look like to them! It’s no wonder I get some strange looks!

A birder from birth, but more serious stuff started for me in the late 80s down in East Lancashire, I was out doing my normal weekend birding one particular Saturday morning, it was November 2nd in fact, it was warm, at first I recollect seeing “Red Admiral” butterflies moving past me and going South!, questioning wow! That’s late surely!! But even bigger things had to come! It would have been around the 9 o’clock mark in the beautiful Grane Valley in Haslingden. It soon became quite noticeable that flock after flock after flock of Redwing, Fieldfare and Starling were passing through from the SE and going out NW, in fact there where so many, I then decided to sit and start making a rough count of the passage. I had never seen anything quite like this before and it was a magnificent experience as it always is even today, but that very first time, that was something really special! I counted a couple of thousand (but there could well have been thousands more!). I can remember on several occasions looking up through the bino’s to check out parties flying so high, and then noticing that even behind them I could also see little fine specks indicating further movement at even greater altitude, so how many was I missing?

I remember reading in the Bird Watching magazine at about the same time about a guy from Sheffield by the name of Keith Clarkson, who was well into bird migration. Keith was going up in a hot air balloon, to count birds on their migration. So I contacted Keith, thankfully realising I was not the only mad person about doing this vismigging lark!, but that others could well be doing the same sort of thing! I got to know Keith well and we used to contact one another every year during the Fieldfare and Redwing movements to compare notes etc.. Keith was very instrumental in the early formation of the Sheffield Bird Study Group and later with the online Vismig group.

I suppose vismig can be like a drug (a good drug!), once or twice experienced and you become addicted, and the addiction becomes stronger, well that’s how it’s been for me.

Since my early days, visible migration has moved on and since 2002 a specialized yahoo online site was formed calling itself, simply ‘vismig’ (the visible migration of birds) and the group brings together members with common interest from all over the Country to collate their vismig counts and notes within this group on the internet.

And it doesn’t stop there! There is another online site promoting migration counts and which expands itself throughout Europe, and this group is called Trektellen. This is a fascinating website with lots of places, graphs, charts, bird counts entered daily during migration times by vismig enthusiasts. If you have a computer, put the link into your browser and then click on the Great Britain tab, and then you can click over the dates at the individual sites or species or dates as required.

Getting back to basics! It’s all new for me around here, and I am still trying to find my feet. I am currently giving Hutton Roof (Clawthorpe side) a try and during 2009 and also last year found it did prove so successful in regard to the Thrush movements, which far surpassed my expectations.

Different birders have different ways of counting, but I just try to keep it very simple, by entering in my notes the date, the times of the watch, the wind strength and direction, and then the main stuff – the amounts of birds, I just enter the number as 1 if it’s a single bird passing over, or 2 for a pair and so on up to 10, but when I get parties over ten, I put a ring around the quantity to save confusion with the single figure movements.

I can’t help but refer to that great “Thrush push” (again push = vismig language) last year on Saturday 17th October 2009. I did a first watch from 0715hrs – 1245hrs and then again from 1330hrs for another hour or two. In this period I had 10,975 (Redwing), 9886 (Fieldfare) and lots of other stuff as well, but even though the numbers seem phenomenal to me and it did turn out to be the best Thrush movement day of the year, I would still have missed thousands more birds which would have been going through at far high levels.

People often ask me how I manage to count a party of say 150 or 400 when they are travelling through at such speed. Well it’s more a question of estimating, I suppose over the years you sort of get used to it. Initially I count a batch of say 20 and generalize a volume picture in my mind whilst then counting further batches within the whole group, and from this I can approximate. I’m usually pretty conservative with my estimates. But the day when you get huge flocks and parties of hundreds of birds spilling through the air, it can be quite trying and tiring!

Generally you only ever get one really good push day a year, with most birds and that’s when the conditions are just right for the birds to move. I haven’t the answers why, but I am sure that it’s down to wind direction and strength and probably more important the actually air pressures on that day and I am sure other factors as well. I have known the peak days with Thrushes be anytime between mid October, and through to early November. There is no sure date, it’s just when all things like I mentioned fall into place. The weather condition factors in Scandinavia are the most important because its obviously there that sparks the start.

I suppose I’ve gone on a bit about the Thrushes, but I do have another favourite migration species and that’s the Meadow Pipit (or “mipits” in vis language), and Hutton has so far proved quite disappointing so far, with very few birds actually coming over this way. I am suspect that the bulk of the Meadow Pipits in our area could be going further to my East and possibly down through the Lune Valley, and then crossing over towards Caton and the Trough of Bowland, and I think maybe further East also, and I suppose its even possible they could continue past my old watch-point in Rossendale and onwards, crossing the Manchester and Cheshire planes to possibly the Dee Marshes and beyond.

Last year I also managed to put some time in at "Hunting Hill" just off the Shore Road in Carnforth. I had good concentrations of Mipits (Meadow Pipits) and Chaffinch, and it really looks a superb area to spend more time. So hopefully during this year (2011) I might get a better analysis of the passage.

Another interesting thing that goes on at Hutton Roof are the finches which come through from the North East and leave by the South West or visa versa. I suppose you could say that this is not a conventional southern migration routing!

Thats a little bit about vismig, but will try and come up with some more results (Soon!)