Sunday, 30 October 2011

A phenomenal morning on the hills - WOODPIGEON migration in full swing


When Carmel and I walked home last night after a night out, the seeping sound of REDWINGS flying overhead clearly indicated that migration was in full swing. As such, I was out early on the Hills in anticipation..........

There was a bank of very clear weather to the north of the Chiltern Hills but south of there, it was thick cloud with a fairly strong SW wind. It had been very calm but cloudy overnight - following on from a gloriously fine day - ideal conditions for grounding migrants.


I positioned myself on the lower knoll shortly after 0745 hours and remained on the escarpment until 1045 hours. Passage was occurring from the outset. WOODPIGEONS were the order of the day and they were absolutely pouring through. Initially, flocks were coming in low over Gallows Hill but after a while, the main migration concentrated further to the east, with the passage continuing into the Gade Valley. A grand total of 2,747 birds was counted, with the biggest single flock of 490 birds (18 + 174 + 3 + 115 + 41 + 8 + 19 + 41 + 95 + 159 + 130 + 255 + 8 + 28 + 75 + 7 + 67 + 490 + 35 + 302 + 117 + 33 + 215 + 168 + 144). The passage continued throughout. A total of 42 STOCK DOVES was identified amongst the flocks.

Two SHORT-EARED OWLS passed over high to the west at 0815, both being mobbed by Jackdaws for a while, whilst two different WOODLARKS flew south calling - low to the contour. At 0937 hours, an immature/female MERLIN appeared over Gallows Hill and followed the line of the hills, departing west from the higher knoll just SE of the Beacon trig point.

At 0935 hours, a massive flock of 440 FIELDFARES made landfall in the Beeches from the east; they paused very briefly before continuing on, disappearing to the west over Top Scrub and Steps Hill - a further 23 (in two flocks of 5 and 18) were later seen

REDWINGS were far scarcer with just 13 noted, with just 1 dark-billed Continental Blackbird and three separate first-year RING OUZELS - all continuing westward (the latter located by their characteristic chacking call-note).

Weirdly, 2 Cormorants (an adult and juvenile) flew south over the trig, whilst the remaining species identified included -:

Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Jay (1)
Skylark (57)
Dunnock, presumably continental (arrived from the east)
Chaffinch (strong southerly passage - 159 birds in total)
Bullfinch (6)
REDPOLL species, indeterminate (7)
Yellowhammer (24 west)
CORN BUNTING (3) - presumably local birds
Common Starling (224 in total, the largest flock being of 45 birds - all migrating directly west)

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