Thursday, October 13, 2011

the darkest hour!.... 2011-10-13

.... is just before dawn!!!

Not going to get this on trek tonight due to shear swampout and the need to get
off to bed early to thus get in on the action before dawn!

An atrocious soul destroying first part of the watch with thick fog at the
watchpoint (cloud really as we were well above the cloudbase at for that
period)... certainly the darkest hour almost ever. Both Redwings and Fieldfares going over
NW with birds heard on many occasions but little seen.

RHP arrived at the watchpoint at 1030 to tell of large numbers of thrushes
coming up the valley at cloudbase level some 300ft below us... as visibility at
the watchpoint was not improving we all agreed to drop down to get visibility
and check out different potential routes.... immediate score with Rodneys info
absolutely spot on. Wave after wave of thrushes for us all, sometimes appearing
sky wide in massive banana shaped broad front skeins coming straight through at
hill top level just below the rapidly lifting cloudbase. Absolutely mind
blowing for us all.

1215-late afternoon
HC, RHP etal went back up to the main watchpoint where the vast vista had opened
up and remained there all afternoon, very much overwhelmed and I went back off
to work. Details of the afternoon not fully known yet except as to say that the
total watchpoint count from HC/RHP etal was c 17000 thrushes c 30% Redwing and
70% Fieldfare + c 3000 which I counted using a slightly different route during
the 1030 – 1215 period.
Other observations on the movement were that one:
Direction of movement started off at NW and through the entire day turned
quickly through West and ended up to the South West ie a gradual directional
shift throughout the day.
Not only that but the species composition shifted quickly from about equal to
virtually all Fieldfares later on.
As the cloudbase lifted the birds went up with it until the murk cleared
Lester went off to Reva from late morning and also got very large numbers going
over there and the same with Gordon who ended up in Wharfedale. Again details
not fully known and will follow.
As I say, full details not known yet and will post most likely tomorrow now.
Dave etal
Oxenhope,Bradford (West Yorkshire, England)

Thursday 13th October 2011

Counting Period - 06.15 to 16.30 hrs

Weather - Wind SE F2/3, 8/8 am , 4/8 pm. Visibility 20 Km.

Observers - David Barker, Howard Creber, Rod Proctor

Fieldfare - 11930 W & SW

Redwing - 5117 W & SW

Pink Footed Goose - 4 W

Swallow - 14 S

Chaffinch - 14 W

Greenfinch - 28 W

Goldfinch - 18 E

Starling - 62 W

Meadow Pipts - 56 S

Redpoll - 7 E

Alba Wagtail sp - 11 S

Lapwing - 35 W (high & fast)

Skylark - 3 E

Jay - 2 E

Golden Plover - 111 S

Goshaawk-1 S

Buzzard - 4 S

Total : 17417 individuals, 17 species, 9.5 hrs.

Comments : "Silk purse from a sow`s ear" - YOU BET !!. From a cold, grey, fogged out watchpoint with only a smidging of winter thrushes in the murk, a quick and folorn descent to lower altitudes proved the making of us. Down in the Oxenhope valley, whilst looking back at the fog shrouded hills, a small flock of Redwing followed by a similar sized Fieldfare flock proved to be precursor`s of a biblical move of winter thrushes of record breaking proportions. The next flock was a Redwing/Fieldfare mixed group of at least 700 birds.From that point on, what can only be described as a giant conveyor belt of thrushes poured West through the Worth Valley, at times reaching saturation levels. Rod P and myself literally could not keep up with the hordes filling the valley. 5062 individuals were recorded (minima with a ratio of FF/RW 50 : 50)) A speedy return to the now clear watchpoint confirmed the monumental move on a broad front, with flock after flock swarming through, this time to the South West. The largest single flock was circa 1000 individuals, with other flocks varying between 500, 300 down to 12. The afternoon movement of 11985 birds was predominantly Fieldfare , estimated at 95 % of the total. The overall day total was 17047 birds in 163 flocks in the ratio of FF/RW 70 : 30. Other moving birds took something of a back seat with our concentration being on the thrushes and therefore those recorded are minima. In both the Worth Valley and at the watchpoint , it is noteworthy that a significant number of blogging Mipits remain. Seeing Swallows passing through the "winter birds" was a great sight. A superb Goshaawk was picked up between flocks moving in the same direction in migration format.The day can be summed up in one word - EPIC.

Also note that our colleagues in Airedale and Wharfedale recorded a further 8000 thrushes in very much the same proportions as above and over the same timescale.

What a birthday !!!.

Howard Creber.