Sunday, August 12, 2012

Autumn exodus underway. 11.8.2012.

I'd resolved to cover quite a large local area, call in at the coast and spend as much time as was needed during what promised to be another gorgeous day. So, loaded with all the necessary bits and pieces, I launched out with the sun beginning to come through  and supplying a little warmth despite a fairly brisk breeze. In reality I walked less than three miles, spent nearly four hours in the process, never got to the coast and enjoyed every minute of it.

As they say here in Scotland, the place was hooching with birds!!

Along any road, track or ditchline there seemed to be birds. Lesser Redpolls and Goldfinches buzzed around frenetically and literally dived into clumps of vegetation or on to clumps of thistles, feeding for a short while before exploding upwards , flying around in huge excitement  before returning closeby. Odd Willow Warblers flicked around in isolated bushes and what must surely have been a juvenile Grasshopper Warbler came up through dense vegetation, showed briefly and then dived back into the depths of its cover again. Whinchats were widespread, indeed more than I've seen throughout the whole summer! Whilst some adults were around, the majority involved young birds, which was quite nice to note for a species about which population concerns are so readily expressed. Likewise their close relatives, Stonechats , joined in the fun, doubtless being local birds, with loose parties now containing birds that can be aged as being from either an earlier or of a more recent  brood. This upsurge of energy and collective activity appeared to draw in other birds too. Reed Bunting, Northern Wheatear, Meadow Pipits, whilst a family group of Swallows swirled around overhead. Great stuff and slightly reminiscent of mornings spent in rainforest habitat when you realise you've only walked 100 m in an hour!!! Strangely enough three species I'd anticipated appearing never did!
Linnets were entirely absent and haven't been at all common this summer in many places. I'd quite expected to pick up both Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat too, both of whose numbers seemed quite good earlier in the season but then noticeably dwindled.  The occasion also provided confirmation of a late Northern Wheatear nest I'd suspected , but couldn't pin down. Both adults and five youngsters foraged and played around a small, isolated rock buttress, with an obvious entrance below its bulk, in quite the opposite direction to where I'd looked previously!!!. Odd ones of the youngsters had small bits of down on them which paid testimony to their recent fledging. First broods were poor and I suspect their appearance coincided with one of the poor periods of weather we experienced, which, for the same reason, caused the young Swallows in my barn to starve and perish. Over the past few days we've had relatively still days and open skies at night , both sets of conditions allowing birds on the move to make progress with little interference. Whilst today's weather was fine, the blustery wind  perhaps prompted a pause in the progression of birds on the move.

As if to endorse the experience , and later in the day at home, both juvenile Dunnock and Robin were in the garden. The former are present nearby and occasional individuals are seen , but Robins are very much a species of winter with Continental types predominating. Doubtless both these were juveniles dispersing from relatively nearby areas and undertaking slightly less ambitious journeys!