Team Sky

Most people are unaware that one of the wonders of nature is going on above their  heads - quite possibly  at  this very moment.  Bird Migration.

I’ve never grown out of  the thrill of witnessing migration in progress. I think it started during my wheelchair-bound days -  sitting in the garden watching this avian spectacle seemed like a taste of freedom as if a part of me fleetingly hitched a ride.  

Birds on a long  journey…you look up and catch a glimpse.  This morning they might  have been in Cumbria, they may touch down in Staffordshire.  Like a stage of the Tour de France, you are the roadside spectator - the birds are Team Sky.

Pink-footed Geese. I had been half expecting the first Pinkfeet of the winter on Thursday - in fact they showed up on Friday

There’s the unexpected. Most of what you see are the common birds – Swallows, Pipits, Finches – but you keep on watching,  willing the sky to give up rarity - a passing Osprey maybe . Anything can turn up  - usually it doesn’t, but just give it  another ten minutes…who knows.

It’s fascinating as well to compare what’s happening in your patch of sky to what’s happening elsewhere - there is a whole network of ‘viz miggers’ - diligently recording the comings and goings on the feathered flyways.

The Meadow pipit is the ‘default’ migrating bird at this time of year – I make a page in my notebook headed ‘mipit’ the next page is for all the others. In few weeks the winter thrushes will take over, then a bit later hoards of Wood pigeons.

Luckily Meadow pipits are fairly  easy  to identify as they pass over - a flying Meadow pipit repeatedly gives its contact call. They’re constantly reminding you of their onomatopoeic name. 

Flap, flap, flap, ‘tseep’ -  the sound alerts you to a pipit overhead – scan to the left and right - there’ll probably be others with it. A squadron of maybe ten migrating brothers-in-arms,  brothers-in-wings - in formation across the sky.  

Once you get  your eye in you can recognise them even if they don’t call. The flickering flight pattern is subtly different from that of  the similarly sized, more undulating, finches.  

But it’s mainly about the calls – to this day my mother seems to think that when I point to a dot in the blue and confidently declare ‘Siskin’ I’m using some of kind of impossibly, magical sixth sense…either that or making it up.  When I mention that I heard it call, this mundane explanation cuts no ice – it has to be voodoo.

Thursday’s vigil from the Beacon started at 7.00am. Two hours later I had to stop and join the workaday world. In that time 193 Meadow Pipits had passed over, there were 5 Crossbills but best of all my first Redwing of the year.

‘Viz mig’ totals from The Beacon – 1st October 2017, 7am – 9am; flying south unless otherwise stated; clear sky, slight easterly wind

Kestrel 1 high, south
Redwing 1, north
Crossbill 2+ 2 + 1
Meadow Pipit 193
Pied  Wagtail 8
Swallow 2
House Martin 2
Siskin 13
Lesser Redpoll 3
Chaffinch 7
Greenfinch 2
Goldfinch 4
Skylark 1
Mistle Thrush 1
Wood Pigeon 51
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