October 18th   Leave a comment

And so it was this morning: very busy at first light with redwing flocks flying over even as I left my front door. At Kilminning there were hundreds of thrushes. Mostly redwings flying up from the sycamores and whitebeams to head inland, and then new flocks arriving and dropping down into the trees to replace them. I picked up the angry chacking of two ring ouzels within a few minutes and watched a male launch itself up and away with the redwings. There always seems to be a few in with the big redwing falls that we get but even so you need to have your wits about you to find them. Without their calls they would be lost among the other thrushes. It was a six thrush day, with a few fieldfares and mistle thrushes, and lots of blackbirds and song thrushes as well. Falls of redwings make for very exciting birding. There is constant movement and noise and every bush is alive with their dark shapes.

One of the thousands of thrushes passing through Kilminning in the last 24 hours – an immature male blackbird from Scandinavia

It was a good day for a lot of other winter migrants as I checked out Kilminning, Balcomie, Craighead and the Patch. I had the first Lapland bunting of the winter calling as it flew over. I may have heard a firecrest at Lower Kilminning. Two perfect calls, but then other birds can sound like firecrests and I didn’t hear the sustained burst of calling that is characteristic of them. I couldn’t find it and didn’t hear it again – but I won’t be too surprised if one turns up tomorrow. There were bramblings everywhere in small numbers. I had perhaps about 20 in total. Again, like the ring ouzels, they mostly keep to cover on passage and are shy, and only their wheezy contact calls and chipping flight calls draw attention to them.

Male brambling – John got lucky and had some newly arrived birds feeding on the shore (John Anderson)

More conspicuous was a flock of five whooper swans that had come down to land, appropriately enough, on the airfield in the rain last night. They were off again, heading south an hour after sunrise.

The overnighting whooper swans on the airfield this morning
A fresh sparrowhawk kill of a redwing that I found in The Patch this morning. You can see the pinky red “redwing” feathers

And three merlins – or the same female moving around between Lower Kilminning and Balcomie Cottages. Perhaps migrants themselves, or the local birds moving in from the fields around to take advantage of the bonanza. The local sparrowhawks have also started to focus on redwings and blackbirds. I am starting to find sad little piles of feathers to indicate those that haven’t made the migration successfully. But their loss is the sparrowhawks’ gain. Many of the juvenile sparrowhawks from this summer will be getting a lifeline at this time of year by the easy hunting.

There were no obvious rarities though. The morning started still and there were no yellow-brows to be heard, and most telling – no chiffchaffs. There is almost never anything special, small bird wise, that turns up in the autumn here without a fanfare of chiffchaffs. Still, it was a top morning, full of birds and full of hope that the next one I looked at might just be the one of the autumn. It is getting late though and without some more easterlies it may well be an autumn completely without regulars like yellow-browed warblers, redstarts and pied flycatchers.

Posted October 18, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: