Sunday 28 October 2018

Vizmigging in the rain

I'm not sure what possessed me this morning but I was up at new 6am and out birding a short while later. I had misread the forecast. What I had thought was a light shower at about 8am was about two and a half hours of cold damp misery we had to make two coffee runs just to stay alive. The collective today was rather reduced on account no doubt of the weather - only Nick, Bob and I were hardy/foolish enough to brave the elements. In truth it was probably not as bad as we thought it was, but the summer of 2018 has turned us all soft.

Our view for much of the morning

I had been enticed out by the promise of migration. Radar images had shown birds pouring across the North Sea at dusk and I wanted some of it. And it did not disappoint, even though I spent most of the morning hiding in a hawthorn. I recorded my highest ever numbers of Fieldfare (776) and Starling (1418) on the patch, with a supporting cast of Redwing (240), Skylark (73) and Lapwing (75). Rather than Whatsapp every single sighting for the benefit of warm, dry and soft fellow patch-workers, I instead thoughtfully recorded everything on my phone, thus:

A decent list, although lacking in that one star bird that would have made the morning, for instance a Woodlark or a Hen Harrier. Nonetheless a worthy outing, and I experienced five hours of quality birding with almost no let-up on passage. 

Looking at the list above you will see a few round numbers. This is because large numbers of birds are difficult to count. Up to about 25 birds I would back myself to get the count approximately correct a large part of the time. Above that and it becomes too difficult, so most birders will do something along the following lines "1, 2, 3-4-5, 6,7-8 [......] 26, 27, oh bugger, call it 40". For the truly big flocks of over 100, I try and count in 10s, trying to size up how much space ten birds take up and then roughly multiplying that to an approximate flock size. I have no idea how accurate or otherwise this may be, especially for distant groups that you get on late. There must be a healthy margin of error though, so some of those Starling counts of 220 etc could be anything from 180 to 300 really. Still, accuracy is irrelevant in many ways, it is all about reveling in mass movement and science can take a hike. There are probably scientific methods of surveying airborne flocks, but if there are I am not interested in them, it would detract from the fun somehow. 

I will be out again tomorrow, that extra hour of light makes all the difference at the moment - last week it was getting silly - only 25 minutes before I had to trot off to the salt mines. Following the clocks going back it is worthwhile again and I can only hope that the birds have read the script.

Between showers

1 comment:

  1. It all counts! [to improving the quality of ones birding life]