10 Sept 2014

10 Sep 14 - Unexpected North American Migrant Kickstarts the 2014 Studland Vis Mig Season

There are several Visible Migration (Vis Mig) sites on my Studland patch and it will soon be the season for the peak Finch & Thrush movements again. My favourite Vis Mig site is South Haven, which is the Southern side of the Poole Harbour mouth.
Fellow Vis Mig Watcher Graham Armstrong: Looking South East at the South Haven Vis Mig watch point
Generally, Vis Mig migrants fly at low level & in the morning. They also fly into the wind & ideal conditions are light winds (Force 2 - 3) & dry conditions. For South Haven, we need to have a Northerly element with N or NE being the best, but NW is still fairly good. If the winds switch to the SW, then the Vig Mig migrants tend to cruise SW, but they end up passing on a much broader front & South Haven is pretty much a waste of time as the numbers are very low. 
Looking South West at the South Haven Vis Mig watch point: It's a narrow peninsula at this point
Looking North: This is the Sandbanks peninsula which is where they are heading on a Northerly wind, before turning East to follow the coast to Kent
You need a clear view of birds as they are coming as it's not long before they are overhead and going away is often harder to identify them. Often we heard them before seeing them, but with some only a few metres about the ground & others 20 or 30 metres high & taking different routes (along the beach, over the trees or over the sea on either side of us), it's not easy to know which way to look. It's made harder as often there are waves of several flocks moving close together: guess it makes it harder for a Raptor to take one of them. To make even harder, hearing a Goldfinch call in a flock of Finches, doesn't make them all Goldfinches, it could be a silent flock of another species like Siskins with one calling Goldfinch. So we try to eyeball as many of the individuals as possible to look for other species tagging along. Certainly, not an easy day's Birding, but can be great fun when you get big movements occurring. With the chance of an occasional goodie, or patch goodie, it is even more additive. Although I do wonder what we have missed each day, by not getting to walk around Old Harry or some of the other parts of the Studland patch.

Anyway, I've often wondered about trying the alternative viewpoint of the Littlesea High hide. This is about the highest point of Studland and has good views over Littlesea & the peninsula. The drawback it is is an exposed site & likely to be windy which will make Birds harder to heard calling. Also, I am not sure if they would be funneled overhead or will follow the coast or fly over the lake. But it is a migrant hot spot with the most recent record of Wryneck (surprisingly scarce at Studland probably due too too much potential habitat to disappear into). But whilst looking for the Great White Egret in recent days, I've heard Yellow Wagtails & in the past I've bumped into a few other common migrants which suggests I should pay the site more attention. Whilst looking for the Great White Egret with local Birder, Neil Gartshore, Neil said what's that coming? What ever it was it was out of view & behind the hide for me, so I moved right to get a view. Was expecting a Raptor, Wildfowl or Wader species and was shocked with what I saw: the only 2 Lancaster Bombers still flying. I've seen the UK based Lancaster on a number of occasions, from when I was a kid on the Kent - London borders. But at the moment, it has been joined in the UK, by the only other flying Lancaster, from Canada: which has been over for a number of big celebrations since mid August this year. I had thought of trying to get over to the recent Bournemouth airshow to see them both, but then the Canadian Lancaster had mechanical problems & had to pull out at the last minute. In the end, I settled for distance views of the Red Arrows from the Godlingston viewpoint. So it was a real thrill to get a private display, as both flew over the Littlesea hide, before turning over Ballard Down. Turns out they were heading out to the Channel Islands.
The UK Lancaster Bomber: This is part of the UK Battle of Britain Memorial flight, although the Lancasters didn't enter active service until Oct 1941
The UK Lancaster Bomber: The aircraft is marked up in the colours of Thumper of the famous 617 Dambuster squadron for the 2014 flying season. A full history of Thumper can be found on the RAF website
The Canadian Lancaster Bomber: It's a real treat to see this plane, as it is only over in the UK from Mid Aug to Mid Sept. More information about this Lancaster can be found on the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum website
The Canadian Lancaster Bomber: The Canadian Lancaster is marked up in the colours of Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski VC and is referred to as the “Mynarski Memorial Lancaster”, which flew with RCAF No. 419 (Moose) Squadron. Andrew Mynarski won the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry, on June 13, 1944, when his Lancaster was shot down in flames, by a German night fighter. As the bomber fell, he attempted to free the tail gunner trapped in the rear turret of the blazing and out of control aircraft. The tail gunner miraculously survived the crash and lived to tell the story, but sadly Andrew Mynarski died from his severe burns. The markings on the side are of his Victoria Cross
Giving tantalising views in the mist further South was a shadowing Fighter. Unfortunately, the photo was really suffering from the hazy conditions.
Spitfire TE311: I initially thought this was a Hurricane, but it has been re-identified as the 'clipped' wingtip Spitfire TE311 of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Thanks to local Birding mate Jol Mitchell for the update on my fighter identification
Will we get anything better this Autumn at South Haven: sadly, I suspect not. But you never know with Birding, so I guess I will be out every time I can when the wind goes Northerly this Autumn.