9 Sept 2015

9 Sep 15 - Massive Siskin Movement

Over the last couple of weeks, a number of the Dorset Birders have been lucky to see movements of Siskins over their patches. In comparison, I've been disappointed that I have only seen a handful of Siskins passing through the Studland patch. Well it all changed at South Haven on 9 Sep 15, when I saw a massive 888 Siskins moving North by 09:50. The morning all started fairly normally. I checked the beach before the first dog walkers, runners & early beach bums descended on South Haven as the first Studland ferry of the day arrived from Sandbanks. Twelve Sanderling on the beach: nice, but not out of the ordinary. As I walked back towards the boardwalk, I was checking the area for migrants, but a single Willow Warbler was the only land-based migrant. I did see small parties of Swallows heading North for the harbour mouth & decided to try a Vis Mig watch as the wind was Force 2-3 NE: a light wind with North in it can be good to encourage Vig Mig species to pass North through the Studland peninsula. Ultimately, the Birds are heading East, but more Easterly-based winds & many Birds depart via Old Harry or Swanage & cut across Studland Bay towards Bournemouth (& therefore bypass South Haven completely).
Siskin: Male. Clearly, I need to work on improving my flight shots of small Passerines
Siskin: Female or young bird 
As I walked back to the Vis Mig viewpoint, I saw two parties of 25 & 63 Siskins heading North. Perhaps I might finally get some Siskins. I started the watch at 08:20 & almost immediately I had parties of Siskins coming overhead. Many were parties of dozen to twenty individuals, with a few bigger parties of up to fifty or sixty. I find Finches are hard to count when they are close, as individuals move around a lot relative to the others. Also the shape of the flock often changes as I am counting. But the good thing about the South Haven Vis Mig viewpoint, is I can carry on watching flocks as they get 100-200 metres away. At this point, the flock is easier to count, albeit they are more difficult to identify down to a species at that range. But if I have already confirmed it is a single species flock, then counting is easier.
Siskin: Part of one of the many flocks that passed over
Initially, I saw 88 Siskins heading North up to 08:20 while I was walking around the bushes. I had 606 Siskins passing North in the first hour of the Vis Mig watch. The following thirty minutes produced another 194 as the movement started to quieten down. This was a total of 888 Siskins over. My only higher passage at South Haven was of 1092 Siskins North on 4 Oct 10. But that movement was spread over 3.5 hours. I can remember it quietened down in the last 1.5 hours, but we didn't have around 600 Siskins moving in a single hour. So this was a remarkable movement. Perhaps more so, considering it is the largest movement of Siskins so far on Trektellen in the UK this Autumn. What is also surprising is during the 1.5 hrs of proper Vis Mig watching there were only 44 other Birds on the move: 18 Swallows (with a further 74 before 08:20), 18 Sand Martins, 2 House Martins, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Pied Wagtail & 4 Goldfinches. Roll on the start of the main Oct/Nov Vis Mig season. Will there be any Siskins left in the South West by this point?
Peregrine: This Peregrine also flew over the harbour mouth but this will be a local movement, rather than Visible Migration (perhaps a circular route to bomb the Brownsea lagoon). Being a local movement, it does not count as far as Trektellen Vis Mig is concerned
HMS Tyne P281: As I was heading home, I saw the River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel, HMS Tyne, heading North towards the harbour mouth. Presumably a coincidence, rather than a reaction to the wind direction