Friday, September 7, 2012

Hirundines on the move. 6.9.2012.

Definitely a day of two halves! Whilst the morning was largely clear , the wind was gusting strongly from the south and, although it reduced later, conditions became even more unfavourable with the onset of rain and incoming mist. basically, when the weather turns like this on Islay, then things are in lockdown!!

The early morning migration watch showed Swallows to be on the move down the glen . Such was the strength of the wind that they were moving, very often in loose groups, over the expanse of the grass moor at a metre or less. Sometimes their progression was lost as they sought to move between different areas of Juncus at ground level. This made counting difficult as it was very much a question of a "now you see them, now you don't" situation. Somewhere between 150/200 moved through, mostly in small groups but with single birds too and even odd birds skimming down the road!  It petered out mid-morning previous to the poor weather commencing. This was nothing compared with much, much larger counts observed at notable migration watchpoints elsewhere in the UK and abroad. For a short period, it was redolent of the many autumn days spent standing at the Narrow Neck at Spurn in East Yorkshire with all the accompanying excitement of what might fly past next!! However, with the exception of a juvenile male Hen Harrier, no other species were involved! The harrier made its way southwards in a very determined fashion, hunched in against the wind and following an arrow straight route down the glen at around two metres height. Each day brings its own surprise! This was a welcome one as the usual breeding pair in this area seem to have disappeared after a consistent presence through the last few years! As yet the usual autumn presence and accumulations of Meadow Pipit haven't started, which will doubtless be a feature at some point in the immediate future.

At migration times I often ponder, several hours after witnessing birds on the move, how far they've actually travelled. Yesterday would have been a hard one indeed and a look at depictive weather maps, such as shown on XC Weather, portrays the extent to which  they are inevitably influenced by poor conditions at any stage of their journey. As we all know, conditions inevitably change and improve, sometimes get worse before improving, but a strategy of waiting it out would be better. Sadly the imperative to move, for them, is long established, whatever the conditions, and doubtless proves to be a final challenge for a proportion of them.   I'll always be hooked by migration!!!!
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