Five-fifteen. The alarm buzzed. “What would the day bring?” With luck the forecasts had been right, so through the "office" window I checked the darkened trees for signs of sway. They looked still, while above the street light there were breaks in the ghostly cloud. I heaved a sigh of relief, prepared for the off and for the 35 minute drive up to Oakenclough. For a ringer, the anticipation, the excitement of expecting the unexpected never quite goes away.
At Okenclough it was still dark at 0630 as outer branches stirred ominously. It was more like 10-12 mph than the 6mph decreed by the experts. That 4+ mph can make a difference when birds with powerful eyesight can spot movement in the fine mesh of a mist net.
Soon after dawn Redwings arrived. We caught a few in the dark as they continued to arrive in dozens and low hundreds, mostly from the north-west. Fieldfares began to arrive a little later but not in the same numbers as Redwings and certainly not in the numbers we witnessed on Thursday. By 10 am we had caught 14 Redwings and zero Fieldfares, despite counting 900 and 300 respectively.
About 1030 it was as if someone dropped a curtain to stem the hitherto very visible migration. Birds passing through or overhead dwindled to near enough zero and it was time to pack up from what had been a disappointing catch of 14 Redwing, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Long-tailed Tit.
As the figures above suggest, birds other than Redwings and Fieldfares were hard to come by. It was as if all were in a hurry to reach their unknown destination with very few stopping off in our ringing site. As earlier in the week, we noted a strong movement of Woodpigeons heading south-west – circa 550 in 3+hours.
In addition to thrushes we recorded approximately 60 Chaffinch, 20 Goldfinch, 6 “Alba” Wagtail, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Siskin, 1 Bullfinch, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk.
Overall we enjoyed an exhilarating week of ringing with 157 birds caught, 99% of which were involved in active migration. Every one of those birds now carries a unique ring, the data associated with each capture is held on the National database, and every one of those birds could well provide more information in the coming days, weeks and years. One already has.
A Lesser Redpoll Andy caught on Wednesday 17 October 2018, ring number ADA0166, had been ringed 364 days earlier on 18 October 2017 at Middleton, Morecambe Bay, Lancashire.
On the way home but by barely stopping I clocked up 4 Kestrels, 2 Buzzard and 1 Sparrowhawk. Also, 125 Whooper Swans on Pilling Moss – our winter swans are back with my best count so far.
There's more soon from Another Bird Blog. Expect the unexpected and you won't be disappointed.