Bouncing Redwings

The first inklings of dawn were etching the sky as I made my way to my vantage point.  Redwings calls were all around – a chorus of  ‘tseeep’. I was hoping for a repeat of Wednesday’s Thrush spectacular

I had counted 2,580 Redwings passing over in an hour and a half after sunrise. It was exhilarating standing under the flight path of these migrating birds. Distant pepper specks, speeding towards me morphing into tight overhead flocks of Redwings, then careering into the distance becoming specks again. No sooner had one flock melted into the horizon that another appeared - chasing its tail.

Migrating Thrushes

I was only able to watch for an hour and  half – almost certainly missing the early and later flocks – I think my count would doubled if I’d been able to watch for longer. Monday had also seen a mini-fall of thrushes on the patch which included 2 splendid male Ring ouzels.

Thursday was clearly going to be different, the calls I was hearing were grounded birds that had probably taken part in Wednesday’s big southward push. The sounds grew in intensity as a Redwing quorum assembled. Suddenly they took to the sky and became an air-bound calling flock. A marvellous thing  to witness so intimately - part of the Redwing’s journey - with its pre-flight, pre-dawn, conference of thin whistles.

As it became lighter more flocks came over. On one occasion a southbound  flock of  about  20 appeared on a collision course with a 30-strong flock heading east. They joined forces almost above me and all headed east. Who decided they should go east?

Nearly all Thursday’s birds were going eastwards as opposed to the previous day’s southerly movement.  These may have been ‘bounce back’ birds. This is a term used by vis-miggers to describe birds which have previously arrived in the UK, then head in the opposite, or near opposite direction. I suppose it’s a bit like  going on holiday.  You’re eager to check in at the hotel on the day of your arrival – the next day to can take your time a bit more – do a bit of exploring.

Migrants may have passed over good feeding areas that they’ve seen to their way in. The next day they can return to those areas.  Alternatively my Thursday eastbound birds might have been compensating for wind drift during their preceding long-distance flight.

Either way it’s fascinating to observe these movements and to try to work out what birds are doing, and as  the well-known sage of Reggae and vis-mig -  Jimmy Nash put it  -  there are more questions than answers.

Migration totals for Wednesday and Thursday
Species Wed 14 Oct 2015
8.05 - 9.35 am
Thurs 15 Oct 2015
7.30 - 9.30 am
Pink-footed Goose
Sparrowhawk
Lapwing
Woodpigeon
Carrion Crow
Skylark
Meadow Pipit
Pied wagtail
Redwing
Fieldfare
Song Thrush
Blackbird
Mistle Thrush
Chaffinch
Brambling
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Siskin
Redpoll
Linnet
Crossbill
Yellowhammer
Reed Bunting
78
1
7
40
1
7
45
1
2,800
450
-
-
3
11
2
1
5
11
-
-
4
-
-

114
-
-
270
3
2
2
2
830
110
1
1
1
4
5
-
-
5
1
2
1
1
1

A skein of Pink-footed Geese

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Comments

  1. Great to hear that the winter thrushes and others are back in town! I haven’t spotted Redwings/Fieldfares here yet - I was looking out for them earlier this week at Redesmere where there are plenty of Rowans that have been popular in previous years - maybe next time...

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  2. I used to see them both regularly at Redesmere. I think Cheshire does a bit better than Lancs for winter thrushes, loads pass through Lancs, but fewer winter

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