Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A Day in the life of a migrant WRYNECK

Disappointed with a no-show of a Bobolink in South Wales this morning, I decided to spend the day watching the Bacombe Hill Wryneck and viz-migging. It was a glorious day, with wall-to-wall sunshine, mainly clear skies and light southerly winds. I arrived on site at about 10.30am and remained until dusk, during which time the Wryneck was admired by a total of 86 people, including visitors from as far afield as Kent, Oxfordshire and Surrey. Numerous individuals phoned me during the day, keen to see such a showy and charismatic bird and I agreed to stay on to keep tabs on it, with Rob Hill, Nik Maynard, Paul Moon and Darin Stanley all arriving late in the day.

The bird fed voraciously throughout the entire period of my stay, mainly feeding on the infestation of ants around the tumulus. Like many migrant Wrynecks, it was almost totally oblivious to visitors, wandering around the grass in the manner of a Lapland Bunting or Tree Pipit, and often at just feet range. Occasionally it would wander into more dense vegetation and to avoid losing it, I kept with it so that I could direct all further visitors (one ignorant bystander interpreted this as flushing the bird). It did flush on two brief occasions when it settled for a while in its roost Beech tree but throughout the afternoon, it moved slowly around its chosen circuit, barely moving more than 15 yards, and delighted observers with its comical antics. What a truly charasmatic bird and a wonder to watch. It finally went to roost in its favoured shrub at 1910 hours.

DIRECTIONS: Literally on the western outskirts of Wendover town, park on the first sharp right hand bend on the Ellesborough Road (room for just 5 vehicles) and continue along the footpath to the first gate and take the left hand of three tracks running parallel with the Ridgeway Trail. After 300 yards, this upper track brings you out at the tumuli.

It was an excellent day for migration and I was mightily impressed with the diurnal passage, with birds migrating south direct in a line from the Quainton Hills. The largest numbers were of the hirundines, with some 116 European Barn Swallows recorded, and 15 House Martins. Next off were the raptors, with a total of 22 Common Buzzards south (including a single kettle of 15 juveniles) and a single HOBBY. Five Red Kites also drifted over but they were more than likely local birds.

The best was a party of 6 SISKINS - my first of the autumn - with a final tally of 16 Chaffinches (mostly singletons but moving south throughout the day) and 3 Eurasian Skylarks. A single YELLOW WAGTAIL also went south.

In the scrub were 3+ MARSH TITS, several Coal Tits and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

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