/ Autumn/winter bird migrant and seasonal sightings thread

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Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
It's time for the UKC biannual migrants thread! (Well alright it was time for it weeks ago but I just didn't get round to it, sorry.)

Having failed to fit in my usual Solway trip for the pink footed and barnacle geese I'm doing very poorly so far. In fact I only saw my first redwings this weekend, and still haven't seen a fieldfare :(

Couple of whooper swan and waxwing sightings being reported locally but I haven't tracked any down myself yet.

Up until late September I was still seeing swallows, which led me to think they were struggling to get up to the weight needed to fly south given the poor summer for insects.

How's everyone else getting on?

interdit - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Last week saw the passing of the mass migration of thousands of Common Cranes.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-V-BQuuMolrE/UI2Ps_61OhI/AAAAAAAAEd0/zaZhBMEFz60/s1600/cranes+migrating.jpg
They are very high up, but you can hear them approaching and disappearing for ages.

It always coincides with the weather becoming suddenly harsher down here in the Pyrenees.


Several Great Egrets spotted in the cow fields the last couple of weeks. Most likely heading for the Ebro Delta on the Spanish coast.


On Friday I managed to watch a beautiful male Hen Harrier for half an hour.
Apparently this is Summer territory for them, though I've not seen one here before. It's likely passing though on its way to lower altitudes.

No Thrush flocks yet here - It's a bit early.

Built a new feeding station and started feeding last week. Hopefully I'll get some decent shots this winter.
Brownie on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Had a flock of 160 Fieldfare and a smaller number of Redwing at work last week, in south west Scotland, and a friend saw a wee Snow Bunting on top of our 600m hills here for its winter holidays.
A small flock of Whoopers passed through two weeks ago on way to Caerlaverock I suppose.


Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to interdit: Fabulous! Last May in Norfolk I saw 3 common cranes flying overhead and knew straight away what they were despite never having seen one before! I think it's the distinctive trailing legs (and possibly the immense size...)

My garden has been woefully empty of birds lately but we do seem to get an end-of-summer lull before the really cold weather encourages them back in. I sometimes get common redpoll on the birch trees behind my fence - that's usually my best winter visitor.
Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Brownie: Snow bunting! Excellent, lucky you. Most of my snow buntings have been abroad although I did see three on the summit of The Cobbler one October.

I hope to get to Caerlaverock/Mersehead before the end of the year.
Slugain Howff - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Pair of Merlin on Saturday in upland Aberdeenshire. Don't know if they were resident or Icelandic migrants though.
Slugain Howff - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

You can feed snow buntings your sandwich crumbs in the car park of the ski centres at the Lecht and Glenshee
Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Slugain Howff:
> (In reply to Alyson)
>
> You can feed snow buntings your sandwich crumbs in the car park of the ski centres at the Lecht and Glenshee

Really? Wow. Sounds like a great excuse to go skiing too :)

In the alps I've had similar encounters with snow finches...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/a1yson/4309833276/
MattJP - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Its been a bit slow here too for me, but I have seen Fieldfare, a lone Whooper Swan on a local lake and a female Brambling on the feeders! :)
Toby S - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Was out with Callum yesterday at Udale Bay and for once he wasn't making up bird sightings :-)

Plenty of Scaup, Long Tailed Duck and Wigeon just opposite the bird hide.

Massive amounts of geese over towards Nigg, at first I thought it was smoke! At least 5 or 6 huge skeins rose up and made their way along the firth.

Waxwings have been sighted as close as Brora so we should hopefully get some in Inverness soon.
Wulfrunian - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Fieldfares arrived en-masse in the Shropshire Hills last Friday.
In reply to Alyson: I can't get my head around the fact that Siberian cranes will follow a paranoid Russian dressed in a white suit flying a hang glider thing.

interdit - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:
> (In reply to Slugain Howff)

> In the alps I've had similar encounters with snow finches...
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/a1yson/4309833276/

Lovely shot.


Forgot to mention the large flocks of Goldfinch which have started massing here. Though many stay here all winter, vast flocks head over to Spain to keep warm for the winter.
Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to MattJP: Hi Matt, long time no bird-chat! You still based near Ynys-hir?

I had a couple of great trips this year - one to southern Spain and one to Slovenia - and got about 15 life ticks! :-)

I clearly need to step it up with my bird feeders, I'm being outdone.
Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Toby S:
> (In reply to Alyson)
>
> Was out with Callum yesterday at Udale Bay and for once he wasn't making up bird sightings :-)

That in itself is a rare event, I hope you logged it! Last night I was going through my field note book (as you do) and an extract from my trip to Minsmere reads:

Mediterranean gull
Common gulls (1st summer)
Little egret
Simon Barnes

See, it's important to make a note of these unusual sightings :-)
>
> Plenty of Scaup, Long Tailed Duck and Wigeon just opposite the bird hide.
>
> Massive amounts of geese over towards Nigg, at first I thought it was smoke! At least 5 or 6 huge skeins rose up and made their way along the firth.

Sounds fab! I was at RSPB Old Moor on Saturday and saw plenty of wigeon and teal, plus a huge mixed flock of lapwing and golden plover. I've only rarely seen golden plover in their summer plumage, but seeing a winter flock has become one of my seasonal events.
Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Wulfrunian:
> (In reply to Alyson)
>
> Fieldfares arrived en-masse in the Shropshire Hills last Friday.

Makes my lack of sightings up here in Sheffield even more shameful then!
Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity: It's ok, I can't get my head around wave-particle duality.

I went paragliding for the first time this year and hoped to commune on high with an eagle or two but mostly I saw starlings and they kept their distance :-(
Philip on 05 Nov 2012
In case anyone is interested, the British Trust for Ornithogy have a winter thrush survey that is easy to sign up for - it just involves a regular walk of a few km and reporting your sightings.

Also, they have an app for Android (and maybe iPhone) that lets you submit sighting and see others around you. It gets you location from the phone making it very easy. It's called BirdTrac.
Alyson - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to interdit: Two years ago I saw my biggest ever goldfinch charm, during a particularly cold spell, of about 250-300 birds. The noise was wonderful!
NickD - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson: I have seen Redwings and Fieldfares in or over Llanberis. There was a Swallow at Holyhead on Thursday, along with a Great Northern Diver in full summer plumage. Just round the corner, the Black Guillemots were in serious winter coats. The birds don't know what's up at the moment.
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Jim Braid - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson: Maybe only slightly off topic but I saw two bats (probably pipistrelle) flying in the daylight along the edge of the pine trees at the car park at Inverey a few miles W of Braemar in October. Never before seen bats flying early afternoon on what was a bright blue sky day. Could it be that they were forced to venture out in the daylight due to the lack of insects?

Anyone had similar sighting?
Alyson - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Jim Braid: Perfectly acceptable use of the topic! Yes I was seeing bats hunting in daylight in October too, over one of the parks in Sheffield. Didn't get the bat detector on them unfortunately but mine looked larger than pipistrelles.

I would suspect, like you say, that they've had a poor year due to low insect activity because of the bad weather. I waited the entire year for a warm, balmy evening where I could go out and look for bats and we didn't have a single spell of settled high pressure or steady temperatures. I don't know about Braemar but we had a few warm days here in October and the insects really made the most of it (I got a mosquito bite 3 weeks ago) so I'd guess the desperate bats were risking a daylight hunt in order to fatten up.
JamButty - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson: Driving around my site at work today, I saw the usual Buzzard on a flagpole and the local kestrel in the field, but what really did it for me was a heron flying across me ~10m in front of the car heading to the small pond we have. Majestic!!

cb294 - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Jim Braid:

Sure they weren´t noctule bats? Both lesser (Nyctalus leisleri) and common noctules (Nyctalus noctua) commonly fly during the afternoon. During autumn migration you can see hundreds of them flying over the Elbe river near Dresden.

CB
cb294 - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Again, I would suspect noctule bats. Largeish bats hunting in daylight over open ground in autumn fits quite well.

If they come close you don´t even need a batmeter. The echolocation calls are within the hearing range of most adults. They also have a characteristic, direct, and not very bat-like flight almost resembling swifts (which are often around at the same time).

CB
MattJP - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:
> (In reply to MattJP) Hi Matt, long time no bird-chat! You still based near Ynys-hir?
>
> I had a couple of great trips this year - one to southern Spain and one to Slovenia - and got about 15 life ticks! :-)
>
> I clearly need to step it up with my bird feeders, I'm being outdone.

Hey up!

Yes it has been sometime! My fault as I havent been on here for a while!

Yes still based in Mid Wales for now! ;)

Two excellent birding spots! Good work! I havent done any dedicated birding abroad as yet, but my bins are always next to the sun cream in the luggage!

Bird feeder wise, its helps where we live, very rural so we get Yellohammer, Siskin by the million (slight exaggeration) plus all the common stuff! On a cold winters day, we can have up to 100 plus birds on/near/in the trees around the feeder! :D

You needd to pop over the right side of the Pennines and take a look around the Lancashire Mosslands near Martin Mere and get over to Marshside at Southport - Swans, geese and waderts galore! :D

Jim Braid - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

Thanks for the suggestion of noctule bats.

I'd used Collins Complete British Wildlife Photoguide to try to identify the bats. They looked small to me and I went for pipistrelle which they said was the smallest and commonest and found throughout Britain. The flight also fitted as it was described as "jerky flight pattern and fluttering wings".

For noctule it says large and found in S Scotland. I don't know if they get as far N as Braemar.

I didn't even try to take a photo so got nothing else I can post to help identify.

While I can't be sure I'd probably stick with pipistrelle.

Thanks for your help.
cb294 - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Jim Braid:

Hello Jim,

even if they may not breed into northern Scotland, noctules are strong and fast fliers and may pop up well away from their breeding sites, especially in autumn. On the continent, they can be found well into Swedish Lapland north of the polar circle.

Anyway, I suggested noctules only because they are the species most commonly seen during the day. However, small size and jerky flight pattern definitely excludes them. They are conspicuously large and have a birdlike, fast, and direct flight which cannot be mistaken for any other kind of bat.

Cheers,

Christian
Alyson - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to MattJP:
> (In reply to Alyson)
>
> Bird feeder wise, its helps where we live, very rural so we get Yellohammer, Siskin by the million (slight exaggeration) plus all the common stuff! On a cold winters day, we can have up to 100 plus birds on/near/in the trees around the feeder! :D

I hate you a little bit :-)

> You need to pop over the right side of the Pennines and take a look around the Lancashire Mosslands near Martin Mere and get over to Marshside at Southport - Swans, geese and waders galore! :D

Yes that might be on the cards in the coming two or three weeks.

Getting a few reports of waxwings in Sheffield now - I just wish I wasn't stuck indoors!
Wulfrunian - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Solitary snow bunting on Snowdon's south ridge yesterday. Lovely.
Alyson - on 11 Nov 2012
Just had a fabulous view of a pair of waxwings! The breeze catching their tufts and making them look extra beautiful.
subalpine - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson: lucky you! where's your dslr zoom thingy when you need it;)
Alyson - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine: Damn good question! At home being neither use nor ornament is the answer.
subalpine - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson: a compact superzoom is next on my camera shoppinglist- to be taken everywhere
richard_hopkins - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

> I went paragliding for the first time this year and hoped to commune on high with an eagle or two but mostly I saw starlings and they kept their distance :-(

Paragliding is definitely the way forwards to get up close to the birds. The larger birds are fearless in the air and it's common to fly just a few meters from them. In the Thames Valley, we regularly fly with the Red Kites & Hawks. In the Alps it's common to share thermals with Eagles and Buzzards. In Spain the massive Griffon Vultures feature near the rock faces and also hundreds of swifts darting about low down catching bugs swept up by the rising air. Storks also thermal but they are lazy and it's easy to outclimb them.

There is certainly something special slowly climbing above some alpine peak, circling with a bird with a 2m wing span looking you in the eye!
Slugain Howff - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Got to say I''m a bit worried about the lack of activity around my feeders. At this time of year the garden is normally busy with a variety of thrushes and a heap of blackbirds feeding on fallen apples and the feeders would be bringing in Siskin, Redpoll and Goldfinches in addition to the usual suspects. I'd normally have to refill every 2 or 3 days.
This year the garden is empty save for a few tits, robins and some chaffinch....hmmm!!!
The apples coming off the tree are plentiful but the fruit is stunted and tiny compared to other years.
What 's going on?
Alyson - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to richard_hopkins: That sounds amazing! I can't imagine sharing a thermal with an eagle. Even with nothing more than a few starlings, paragliding was one of the best things I've ever experienced.

It sounds not dissimilar to scuba diving, where the wildlife is very accepting of your presence.
ebygomm - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Slugain Howff:

They must all be at my house, I bought 15kg of bird seed thinking it would last the winter but I'm currently having to refill feeders everyday and I'm starting to think it's not going to last. Although I saw a sparrowhawk in the garden last weekend so then again...
geologist - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Waxwings in Ludlow today :)

Just got a fresh supply of Sunflower hearts in, hoping to try and get my first Garden Brambling of the year.
geologist - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Anyone got a cheap spotting scope for sale? upto 200 quid ish, or swap for climbing gear.

ads.ukclimbing.com
Alyson - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Slugain Howff: I don't know! My garden is very quiet too. I'd love to suggest it's because the birds are finding plenty to eat in the wider countryside but the hedgerows aren't exactly groaning with fruit this year.
In reply to Alyson:
Saw flocks of redwing - over 500- on the track to Kernsary from Poolewe yesterday.
PontiusPirate on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Damn - all I've seen so far is a mahoosive flock of gulls (of some description) congregating in a field up above Bingley today... I was travelling at some speed on my mountain bike at the time, so no opportunity for an id!

All I've got in my garden at the moment are scraggy blackbirds, marauding Magpies and the occasional wood pigeon so fat that it has a tendency to permanently bend any branch it lands on.
While there were still leaves on my apple tree, there were a few different types of tit presumably picking insects of the branches.

Not exactly migratory: sorry. I think only native birds are prepared to endure the 'facilities' that the Aire Valley offers...

PP.
Slugain Howff - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to PontiusPirate:
> (In reply to Alyson)
>

>
> Not exactly migratory: sorry. I think only native birds are prepared to endure the 'facilities' that the Aire Valley offers...
>
> PP.

There's a fair chance that the Blackbirds in your garden at this time of year are actually winter migrants

S
NickD - on 12 Nov 2012
Saw 100+ Waxwings in Llandudno yesterday. The sounds was incredible! Also picked up a Firecrest at the nearby RSPB reserve which was a lifer for me :-)
NickD - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to geologist:
> Anyone got a cheap spotting scope for sale? upto 200 quid ish, or swap for climbing gear.

Have a look at RSPB Optics: http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/binoculars-scopes/scopes-eyepieces.html

They occasionally do a bundle of scope plus eyepiece plus tripod very cheaply.
Alyson - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to NickD: Fantastic! Got my first firecrest this year too :-) Stepped off a cable car in Slovenia and one was flitting about in a tree 8 ft away. They are such a restless little bird.

My best ever flock of waxwings was a couple of hundred in a Leeds city centre churchyard, and it was the noise which alerted me. I even rang my dad (to gloat!) and held the phone in the air so he could listen.
subalpine - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson: saw a flock of about fifty 'somethings' yesterday. defo fieldfares, redwings or waxwings. how do you tell them apart from a distance?
i could just make out some lightness on their undersides and they flew all together a bit like goldfinches
interdit - on 14 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

There's quite a healthy population of Firecrest around here. They are quite obliging for the binoculars, but always do a vanishing act for my camera!


Goldfinch charms are getting bigger and large flocks of Meadow Pipits have arrived (They are a winter only visitor for us here).
Alyson - on 16 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine: Ok. Um... well redwings and fieldfares often flock together in mixed groups. Redwings have a noticeable paleness on their underbelly, fieldfares a light patch right under their wing when it's fully up above them. It's easier to tell them apart on the ground! They are instantly recognisable as thrushes in behaviour and habitat, favouring open fields (occasionally gardens if it gets very cold) and feeding on the ground or taking berries from hedgerows.

Waxwings are noisy, they have a more undulating flight - a kind of lift then soar, and they feed in trees, often high up. You're more likely to see them in parks and urban areas and they love rowan berries especially. Even in flight you might notice the unusual head shape.

Other birders will be able to offer better
Alyson - on 16 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson: That last sentence was half finished! Offer a better description than me is what I was trying to say.
interdit - on 16 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Large and very noisy flocks of Mistle Thrush in the woods up on the French-Spanish border (Col du Portillon) this week & some bonus Firecrest.

This afternoon we had a small outing to Lac de Montréjeau.
Despite some summer-only Great Crested Grebe remaining on the lake, at least a dozen winter-only Cormorants have taken up residence.

There is a 100+ strong winter flock of Coots.

Alyson - on 16 Nov 2012
In reply to interdit: Yesterday we had skein after skein of geese flying over Sheffield, north east to south west, in huge ribbons of several hundred birds. I got the binos on them but couldn't tell what type as they were very high.

Also saw another waxwing and a goldcrest but still no fieldfares! I am clearly not trying hard enough.
interdit - on 16 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:
> (In reply to interdit) Yesterday we had skein after skein of geese flying over Sheffield, north east to south west, in huge ribbons of several hundred birds. I got the binos on them but couldn't tell what type as they were very high.

Still a fantastic sight though, whether you can id them or not.

> Also saw another waxwing and a goldcrest but still no fieldfares! I am clearly not trying hard enough.

Every year this thread has waxwings, as does the bbc autumnwatch flickr group etc. Not at all jealous! - They never venture this far south :(
Douglas Griffin - on 16 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

Loads of geese flying south over us here in Aberdeenshire too. Couldn't identify them as it was dark - but could hear the racket they were making! They've been passing all day though, according to my wife. Possibly on their way south-west from Loch of Strathbeg, where they gather in huge numbers at this time of year.
tony on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

A single lonely looking Snow Bunting seen on Sunday on the moors above Grassington . Seemed to be looking for company as it kept hopping and flying with us for about 100 metres. Only ever seen them in the Cairngorms before.
interdit - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:

I'm going to break the rules and mention a non-migratory bird that I had the pleasure of seeing close up today.

My first Lammergeier!

Also saw a couple of hundred Alpine Choughs putting on an acrobatic & auditory display. They're resident all year too, but I've not seen such a good flock so close up before.
MattJP - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Alyson:
> (In reply to interdit) Yesterday we had skein after skein of geese flying over Sheffield, north east to south west, in huge ribbons of several hundred birds. I got the binos on them but couldn't tell what type as they were very high.
>
> Also saw another waxwing and a goldcrest but still no fieldfares! I am clearly not trying hard enough.

Were the geese giving it a slightly gaggled highish pitched noise?

walking_disaster on 21 Nov 2012 - host109-153-55-23.range109-153.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Alyson: Were waxwings supposed to be visiting the east coast in larger numbers this year? I forget. If they are, I've not seen any yet.

I do keep seeing a Red Kite in the same field most mornings though, which cheers me up.
NickD - on 26 Nov 2012
Are we allowed to talk about twitches here? I shamelessly drove for 40 mins to see a Desert Wheatear in Rhyl yesterday. Feels a bit wrong, but it was a lovely bird.
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cb294 - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to NickD:

They are beautiful, saw my first on in Cyprus this spring.

CB
NickD - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294: Nice! This was a female so not as flashy as the male, but still very pretty. Some pics here: http://northwalesbirding.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=7001

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