30 Sep 2015

30 Sep 15 - September: A Great Month On The Studland & Ballard Down Patch

The month started as August ended, with a good selection of common migrants, especially at Greenlands Farm, and smaller numbers on Old Harry & at South Haven. The first highlight was a skulky Pied Flycatcher at Greenlands Farm on 2 Sep.
Spotted Flycatcher: One of eight I saw on Greenlands Farm on 2 Sep 15
Wheatear: Greenlands Farm (7 Sep 15)
I visited Old Harry on 3 Sep. There were a few common migrants, but none of the hoped for Grasshopper Warblers: which I still needed for the patch Year List. As I was getting back to Studland village, Graham Armstrong rang me to say he was watching a Great White Egret at the South Haven Houseboats. It was quickly flushed by a fisherman & later appeared in Brands Bay. It has now settled down into a routine of being seen erratically around Littlesea, Brands Bay, Brownsea & may or may not be the GWE that has been seen in the Arne area. As such it is tempting to believe it is the long staying GWE that overwintered around Studland, but visited Middlebere & Brownsea on some days.
Great White Egret: Brands Bay (16 Sep 15)
The next highlight was on 8 Sep: a long overdue Grasshopper Warbler near the front wood at Old Harry. This took the patch Year List to 169.
Grasshopper Warbler: The first of two seen in September, with the other individual being in Brands Bay on 16 Sep. This is the Old Harry individual (8 Sep 15)
Grasshopper Warbler: Old Harry (8 Sep 15)
Rock Pipit: This showy individual was photographed after seeing the Grasshopper Warbler (8 Sep 15)
I managed to get out for a few hours on nearly a daily basis somewhere on the Studland/Ballard patch & this persistence was finally rewarded on the 11 Sep with finding a Studland Tick: a Red-backed Shrike from The Rare Gate at Greenlands Farm. Frustratingly, it didn't stick around for long. Within a few minutes, it flew across the field & out of sight behind a bush. Despite looking for a further five hours, I was unable to relocate it.
Red-backed Shrike: Year Tick no 170. Greenlands Farm (11 Sep 15)
The Rare Gate at Greenlands Farm: These private fields visible from this gate have had Rose-coloured Starling, Hoopoe, Wryneck & now Red-backed Shrike
Up to 3 Ospreys were appearing in the Brands Bay up to 12 Sep, although my last sighting was on 10 Sep.
Osprey: Adult. This was my last Osprey sighting. Brands Bay (10 Sep)
Kingfishers are a more regular species around Brands Bay & Studland at this time of year. There are usually one or two which appear to set up wintering territories, but they tend to be most obvious in the Autumn. This year is no exception with almost daily sightings in Brands Bay, especially in early September.
Kingfisher: Brands Bay (6 Sep 15)
The first of the Winter visitors appeared back in Brands Bay, including the first handful of Brent Goose, as well as, up to twenty Pintails & Wigeon.
Pintail: Brands Bay (6 Sep 15)
More interesting visitors to Brands Bay were a Black Tern on 18 Sep & a Little Tern on 21 Sep. Neither lingered for more than five to ten minutes. But as I only see each species about once every couple of years somewhere in the Studland/Ballard patch, even a few minutes of views were good to see: especially as I had already seen both species earlier in the year.
Black Tern: Record shot from Brands Bay (18 Sep)
One of the most exciting Bird spectacles on the Studland/Ballard patch are the Vis Mig movements. This is best watched at South Haven, when Hirundines, Finches, Thrushes, Wagtails & Pipits & other species move North on light North based winds. Even after a few years of Vis Mig watching at South Haven, it isn't always certain whether the next day will have a good movement until the Birds start moving. But generally, Oct & early Nov are the main months for Finch movements. Therefore, I was a little bit surprised to find Siskins moving on 9 Sep & 16 Sep. Not only were they moving, but they were moving in stunning numbers. On 9 Sep I saw 888 Siskins moving North by 09:50. The following week produced a new UK total of moving Siskins with 2423 moving North, with 2071 Siskins moving in a two hour period from 09:20. This record didn't last long, as the following day over 5000 Siskins were seen flying over that morning. My first Redpolls for the patch Year List (number 171) passed over South Haven on 16 Sep. Their numbers as migrants will build up in Oct & Nov, but they are never guaranteed on any reasonable Vis Mig day.
Siskin: Just 24 of the 2423 Siskins seen on 16 Sep
The second half of Sep turned into a fairly similar pattern. Common migrants & the same species on most visits to Brands Bay, with a few days with reasonable Vis Mig movements. A call from Paul Morton who is the main man running the Birds of Poole Harbour charity, sounded interesting. He had been up at Ballard Down from pre-dawn, recording calls of Vis Mig migrants & had a Woodlark. Woodlarks are barely annual at South Haven, but Ballard Down seems to get a few more records. Presumably they don't move North or perhaps they pass high overhead at South Haven & we miss them. But more intriguing Paul said the Woodlark was in one of the fields to the East of the Glebelands estate & was occasionally singing. I decided to leave South Haven as it was too still for any Vis Mig & quickly walk up from Studland village. Paul had heard it several times, but not seen it. As I might not get to see one later in the year, I hung around on the down & finally heard it singing. It wasn't easy to pin the field down, as it didn't sing for long. After an hour, I had worked out the field & was scanning it with bins & scope, when I finally picked up a couple of Larks. Just as I got the scope on one, it flew up & started climbing & I confirmed it was a Woodlark (species number 172). Even better it started singing & was joined by a second individual. I had only given myself a 50-50 chance of seeing Woodlark for the Year List, so this was a nice bonus.
Woodlark: No photos from Ballard Down, so a recent photo from the Hartland Moor part of Poole Harbour (3 Sep 15)
The last noteworthy Bird was a Cetti's Warbler found by Graham Armstrong on 28 Sep at South Haven. Cetti's Warblers are a common breeding species around the top of Poole Harbour especially the Swineham & Wareham Valley areas and Lytchett Bay. But they rarely seem to wander from the traditional haunts & they are a major rarity at Studland. Up to about 2000, there were three records of four Cetti's Warblers & there has probably only been one or two records since. Therefore, I was keen to look for this as it wasn't just a patch Year Tick, but a Studland Tick. A couple of hours were spent at lunchtime, but I failed to even heard it. Plan B was to return in late pm to the South Haven boardwalk where I immediately heard it singing. Only a few metres into the reeds, but not visible. It moved around & sang occasionally, but finally ended up singing more from the Northerly most end of the South Haven pool. Finally, I saw a movement at the base of some reeds. Raising the bins, I was surprised to find it was a Water Vole. I had heard there had been recent sightings of droppings here, but this was a Studland Mammal Tick. I watched it for a couple of minutes before it swam off. Great to see this sadly uncommon Mammal which have declined a lot since my teenage Birding days. Finally, the Cetti's sang again & I could see it sitting in one of the trees by the waters edge. Species number 173 & more importantly, it took the Studland/Ballard patch list to 219, excluding Crap (Feral) Pigeon & Nightingale (which I've only heard). It would be great if I could make this 220 before the end of the year.
Grey Squirrel: South Haven boardwalk. The habitat isn't great for Grey Squirrels so I am guessing that fairly quickly it headed back to where it came from (6 Sep 15)
Another unusual Mammal sighting in early Sep on the patch was a Grey Squirrel at South Haven. Grey Squirrels are resident in the woods around Littlesea, Studland Village, the edges of Greenlands Farm & Old Harry. However, the appearance of one on the South Haven boardwalk was noteworthy as this is only my second sighting in the South Haven area. The previous record was of one running along the road to South Haven. But it's that time of year when young Grey Squirrels get kicked out of their family territory & wander around looking to find a new home. So they have a habit ofappearing  in unusual locations.
Autumn Lady's Tresses: Old Harry (8 Sep 15)
All good slide shows seem to end on sunset. Instead here is a dawn photo of the Isle of Wight from South Haven.
Island of Wight from South Haven: Dawn on 27 Sep 15
Looking forward to October which is traditionally a great month of Birding on the patch.

28 Sep 2015

28 Sep 15 - A Total Eclipse Of The Moon

And now for something different. Overnight there was a lunar eclipse of the Moon during a period of a Super Moon (which is when the Moon is at its closer to the Earth). This lunar eclipse also occurred on an evening of a full Moon. Most importantly, all these things coincided with a clear night, although occasional wispy clouds occasionally obscured the Moon for a minute or two. The Moon normally 'shines' due to reflected sunlight. But during a lunar eclipse, the Earth is positioned directly between the Sun & the Moon. As the lunar eclipse started, then the full Moon has a dark crescent (caused by the Earth's shadow). This continues to cast more of a shadow on the moon, until the total eclipse occurs.
Getting close to the eclipse: At 03:02 this morning. I should have got up earlier to get some early shots of the partial eclipse
Even closer to the eclipse: At 03:08 this morning. The eclipse was due to start at 03:10
Just as the full eclipse was starting, the Moon turned this lovely red colour
At this point, the Moon ends up losing virtually all of its reflected light & it turns a dull blood red colour (as the last vestiges of reflected Sun light is red light as that 'bends' round the Earth more than other frequencies of light). The only problem is there is so little reflected light that the moon is very difficult to photograph.
The 'Bloody Moon': Taken at 03:37 this morning. I like the background of faint Stars, which normally would not be possible to see this close to the Moon
This morning's photography was a matter of trial & error. Given the lack of reflected light, then a high ISO setting was used. This reduced the time the shutter was open. I found that if I left the shutter open for too long, then the Moon & Stars were drifting right & down across the camera screen & the image was blurred. Therefore, the higher ISO settings helped to reduce this drift, but at the expense of not being as sharp. All photos were taken with the camera on the tripod & with a two second delay from pressing the shutter, so any impact of me pressing the shutter should have been reduced by the delay (I haven't bought a cable release yet). In hindsight, it would have made sense to have the camera hooked up to the laptop, so I could download photos as they were taken. I could then have seen a bigger image of each photo & worked out the best settings to try. What looked OK on the back of the camera, wasn't as impressive as it was when finally seen on the laptop.
The 'Bloody Moon': A closer crop of the last photo. This was taken with the AF setting using the 400mm F5.6 lens, open as wide as possible. The ISO was 8000 & the shutter was open for 0.8 seconds. It has been cropped & sharpened, but there are no other corrections to the photo

27 Sep 2015

27 Sep 15 - The Super Moon

With all the interest about the Red Moon being seen following the lunar eclipse in the early hours of 28 Sep 15, I thought that before I got up in the middle of the night for some photos, I had better get a better idea of the settings for photographing subjects like the Moon at night. So once the Moon had risen & it had become suitably dark, then I took the camera into the garden for thirty minutes. It only took a couple of shots to confirm that I needed to be using the 400 mm lens rather than the 15-85 lens. It was obvious I needed to be photographing using the tripod & on a 2 second time delay as I don't have a remote cable. Next I tried varying the exposure settings & quickly confirmed I needed to under expose the photo by five stops. Finally, there was the AWB setting which adjusts the photo for the type of background light, including sunny, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent light etc. This changed the base colouration of the Moon, but in the end I switched back to the Auto setting, which seemed the most natural. Finally, I was able to look at ISO settings & I was surprised to find I could put the ISO as low as 100 & still photograph the Moon on 1/100 second when the 400mm lens was on its widest aperture of F5.6. But then I was underexposing the photo by five stops.
Super Moon: A Super Moon is when the Moon gets to its closest point to the Earth. This photo was taken at 20:12 with the Canon 7D Mark II & 400mm F5.6 lens, on ISO 100 & 1/100 second & underexposing by five stops. The photo has been cropped & sharpened, but no other changes made
Super Moon: The level of detail on a larger crop is quite impressive
Super Moon: Another photo with the same settings, except I changed the White Balance Bracketing to -3. I don't really understand what this setting is changing, but it does seem to have subtly changed the colour tone & the level of detail
Super Moon: Again a larger crop of the last photo

22 Sep 2015

22 Sep 15 - Flying To Catch The Dunge Empidonax

I was thinking it was about time to head out to Brands Bay for today's mid morning low tide, when I heard the pager wail its mega alert from downstairs. A quick look at the RBA website, said a New Mega Species at Dungeness. I was confused as I failed to read the message properly & hadn't spotted the new Mega species was detailed in the message. Therefore, I decided to finish off entering some recent Bird notes & wait for an update to see what this new mystery species was, before I reacted. Then two rapid calls from local Poole Birders, Marcus Lawson & Richard Webb, got me reading the message again properly. Damn it was an Empidonax Flycatcher i.e. one of those tricky New World species of Flycatchers. It had been found on the beach near the fishing boats at Dunge. Marcus was ready to leave from Poole immediately, but Richard didn't think he could leave for 90 minutes. I could leave as soon as I had grabbed the camera, waterproofs & make a coffee for the journey. While doing that, Marcus rang back to say he would wait to grab a lift as I passed a pick up place in Poole. We couldn't wait the hour for Richard. Marcus & I made good time to Dunge, after planning to avoid the two long 50 mph sections on the M3, by going via the A3. But after passing the M3 turnoff on the M27, we saw a sign to say the A3 was closed at Guildford: not good news. I nearly spun the car back for the M3, but then Marcus suggested a compromise of going cross country to the M25 via the A29, A24 & M23: this turned out to be a surprisingly good option. We arrived in the rain just after 14:00 to find a modest crowd of only 100 - 150 people on two sides of South View garden. A quite surprising small crowd for an unknown Empidonax Flycatcher. Pager messages, while we were en route, were suggesting it wasn't an Alder Flycatcher: hence it was probably a first for Britain. But it was raining & some people had probably already seen it & left. Many who were waiting on news of its identity were probably behind us on the road. Marcus had been looking at photos & suggesting Yellow-bellied Flycatcher or Acadian Flycatcher. My opinion was clear: as driver I should keep my eyes on the road, so I hadn't even seen the photos. But Marcus's thoughts sounded better to me than a probable Alder Flycatcher: having seen the first UK record of Alder Flycatcher in Cornwall.
The crowed around South View cottage: It was best looked from the area close to the telegraph pole
I joined the crowd, waiting in the steady rain, to hear it had been seen about 15 minutes earlier, but was now out of view in the garden. I got the camera & scope all set up hoping as the rain stopped, it would show itself. It did & it didn't. The rain did stop briefly, I saw a couple of flight views of a small interesting looking Bird fly low down a couple of times around the front of the cottage. The reaction from people at the other end of the line of Birders, suggested that was the Flycatcher. But it kept very low & eventually this Bird seemed to flick back low into the garden. Looks like that had been the Flycatcher, but obviously well beyond any chance of being sure for me. I waited for another twenty minutes hoping it would appear in the main garden, but no joy. Ten minutes later, Marcus walked along to where I was standing, to say he had seen it at the other end of the line of Birders & I really needed to change position. I was tempted to stay put, but was also worried that as more people arrived, that it may be difficult to get into a good viewing position at the other end of the line of Birders. So I moved & managed to squeeze into a viewing position to look into the front garden. The only problem, it was appearing near a bench & TV dish, but there was swaying vegetation & a wire fence in my foreground. Not a problem for my bins, but I was worried the camera would be more fussy. Ten minutes later, it few back into view & sat on the bench. A quick bins view confirmed it was an Empidonax Flycatcher.
Empidonax Flycatcher: The initial photo isn't going to be a great help to figure out the species. In fact, the first seven photos were of foreground, then the camera managed to get the focal point correct. Even now, it's blurred due to foreground vegetation, but there are a couple of tantalizing wingbars to be seen
Having got this initial photo, it flicked off left & out of view again. But I was pleased to have seen the Flycatcher & got a few photos. I might have got better views & a better photo, but for some totally disgraceful behaviour from the blue hat of Steve Gantlett appearing right in my viewpoint. As the Flycatcher started to show, a group of five or so people through it was acceptable to move in front of the line of Birders who had been patiently standing there & were watching it. They then started to stand up in front of the crowd. The worst offender was Steve Gantlett, who was highest up & in my direct line of sight. He deserved the verbal abuse he received. No apology was provided as he or the others left after the Flycatcher moved out of sight.

About twenty minutes later, the Flycatcher was back. Fortunately, for a longer view & without any fresh stampede in front of our group. I was in a slightly better position, but with more foreground vegetation in front of me. This time, I was even quicker to switch to the camera & was rapidly firing away on every opportunity. The guy next to me expressed some comment of surprise about the number of photos being rattled off, but in reality it was only about one hundred over several minutes. This is with my new camera body which I'm still getting use to: the Canon 7D Mark II. I finally started to fall in love with it today. It's a lot quieter & can shoot ten frames a second (compared to eight on the old camera). So both are better especially with a close Bird & in a crowd. But I've had it for about three weeks now & haven't been that happy with it during that time, as I've been convinced it was wasn't as sharp as my old Canon 7D Mark I. I confirmed that at the weekend, when I used a test pattern to tune the AF microfocus settings (thanks Northlight Images). Some test shots on the Monday showed a noticeable improvement to the sharpness. Today, the photos were looking a lot better. What the guy next to me might not have appreciated, that the 400mm lens & the internal 1.6x cropping gives the equivalent of a 13x magnification & the incredibly clear screen is almost as good as the bins, providing its focusing at the right point. So just watching the Flycatcher through the camera isn't a bad option. But there was still the foreground vegetation swaying in the wind. But every time the focus was right on the Flycatcher, then another few photos were taken. Based on some good feedback from Peter Moore about the 7D Mark II from Scillies pelagics (& other August posts) and photos on St Mary's, another bonus of the Mark II is the relative lack of grain at higher ISO settings. The light was really poor & it was raining more than not, so I had set the ISO to 2000. This was a lot higher than I would have considered with the Mark I, but I didn't want to end up with the shutter speed being too slow, if I got the chance for some photos. I should have been able to get away with an ISO closer to 1000, but wasn't prepared to try adjusting settings when the Flycatcher was on view. Enough about the camera, I will now let the photos speak for themselves.
Acadian Flycatcher: All the photos have been cropped & sharpened, but no other changes to colour balance have been made
Acadian Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher: A nice shot of the head shape
Acadian Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher: In the end, I had just these eight photos from just over 100 photos. Most were obscured by vegetation with some having nice views of the foreground or fence
Acadian Flycatcher: A rear shot showing the extensive wingbar & tertial edgings. Pity there is vegetation blurring out the wing detail of the primaries
So what species of Empidonax Flycatcher is it. I haven't had the chance to look at the books, other than the Sibley field guide that was quickly thrown into the car. Not, that I particularly rate this field guide. On the face of it, Acadian Flycatcher looks to be the best overall fit to me at this point. But Sibley isn't great & more reading is certainly needed. Something to read up in the morning. Having got some reasonable views & photos, then I decided to give up my position to let others get a chance of views.
Post Blog write up comment: I've been struggling to find decent Id information within my library, but the RBA & Birdguide teams have been hard at working this out. So happy to amend the photos from Empidonax Flycatcher: Probably Acadian Flycatcher to Acadian Flycatcher. Ultimately, there is some DNA work that will be investigated as some Flycatcher poo is currently in the post from the Dungeness Bird Obs.
Acadian Flycatcher. The uncropped sixth photo
So what are my other thoughts about the Canon 7D Mark II. I was totally gripped about the mega deal that Peter seemed to get with his new camera body (see this blog Post for details, but do not view in the presence of others who might be offended by your subsequent outbursts of bad language). But after today, then perhaps there is a special reward scheme for Birders buying this new camera body. Looks like I cashed my reward in today.

17 Sep 2015

17 Sep 15 - The Canadians Are Here

It was a fairly quiet visit to the Studland patch: a few migrants, but nothing unusual. So I was about to head for home, when the pager went off to say a Buff-breasted Sandpiper had been found at the White Nothe. This is a set of high ploughed fields about the coast path a few miles to the East of Weymouth. I have only visited this place once before, to look for the last party of four Buff-breasted Sandpipers which were around for a few days in mid Sep 11. Not one of my best weeks in Dorset. I had the week off, but had managed to put my back out over the first weekend. Late on the Monday, 12 Sep 15, local Birder Nick Hopper had found the first Buff-breasted Sandpiper for Poole Harbour on Brownsea. But it was too late to get over & I was struggling to walk due to my back problems. The next morning, the back was a bit better & I got over, but the Buff-breasted Sandpiper had already moved on. Later that day, two Buff-breasted Sandpipers were found at the White Nothe, which later increased to four (until one was taken by a Peregrine). I spent several hours on the Wednesday failing to see them & only succeeded in severely knackering my back with a lot of walking & standing around. Fortunately, I was healthy for this new Buff-breasted Sandpiper & keen to finally see one in Dorset. As soon as some more accurate directions arrived, I was heading West from Studland. A shorter walk & some on site directions from the finder, Geoff Upton, to ensure I got the right field. As I got closer, the site of Brett Spencer standing looking through a scope made it obvious which point of the field I should be looking it. It was with a party of eleven Ringed Plovers & all were quickly seen. Buff-breast demons finally put to bed (well almost, as there haven't been any further Poole Harbour records to date).
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Juv. Finally added to the Dorset List
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Juv. I struggled to see my first Buff-breast properly. The first two were flying over Predannack airfield, but got attacked by a Merlin. One was killed & the other disappeared. The next dip was seeing one at Salthouse that my mates found. It was very distant & we walked along the beach to get a closer view. As Dave Bishop confirmed it was a Buff-breast, it flew (we weren't close) & disappeared off West for good. I finally had tickable views of one at Pennington on 25 Sep 1982
Twenty minutes after I arrived the flock suddenly took off & flew. Fortunately, they landed in the next field, but not as close. Over the next two hours, the Ringed Plovers came closer, but the Buff-breasted Sandpiper kept its distance. Finally, it decided to walk a lot closer to the path & this coincided with the strongest sunlight. Perfect.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Juv. Keeping an eye on the sky was important, given there was a Peregrine around
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Juv. They have an amazing migration from breeding in the high Canadian Arctic & wintering in the Southern end of South America. Many migrate South over the Atlantic, but they run the risk of fast moving depressions sweeping then across to Europe
For the sharp-eyed, you might have spotted the Post title says Canadians, but there was only one Buff-breasted Sandpiper. But arguably Dorset's sharpest id geek, Brett Spencer, had been looking at the Ringed Plover flock. In his opinion, these weren't our regular Ringed Plovers, but the high Canadian Arctic breeding race, psammodroma. Brett has provided his rationale on his Blog (here). I must admit like the other Birders that morning, I would have probably have not thought about the origin of the Ringed Plovers, so hats off to Brett.
Ringed Plover: Race psammodroma
Ringed Plover: Race psammodroma
Ringed Plover: Race psammodroma
While I was watching the Waders, I looked in the grass in front of me & saw a couple of Roesel's Bush Crickets. This attractive Bush Cricket is rapidly expanded its range West in Dorset. In the last decade, it has spread through the Poole & Purbeck area. I know it has been seen further West in Dorset, but I can't remember where these sightings were. But I'm glad to see some more Roesel's Bush Crickets.
Roesel's Bush Cricket: Female

16 Sep 2015

16 Sep 15 - Was Last Week The Warm Up Act?

A recent Post covered a big movement of 888 Siskins moving North across South Haven on NE winds on 9 Sep 15. The winds then swung more Easterly (or South Westerly) which are poor winds for Vis Mig at South Haven. But the Siskin Vis Mig continued further East at Christchurch Harbour (CHOG) with 920 East on the 11 Sep & 820 East on 13 Sep. The forecast for this morning was light NE winds. I hadn't really picked up on the weather for a Vis Mig watch as I was more concerned about a wet front arriving from the sea. I had expected that front to have arrived by breakfast time. But I headed out, half expecting to be quickly retreating to the Brands Bay to shelter from the rain, whilst checking the rising tide. But it was dry, with threatening clouds. I started with a seawatch hoping that something might be moving/relocating after the SW gales from the previous day. But it was a long shot. However, I noticed a few parties of Siskins started to appear from 08:30 with good numbers of Swallows also moving. So given the light NE winds, I switched plans to a Vis Mig watch. By the time I had got to the Vis Mig viewpoint at 09:20, I had seen 135 Siskins going North. Time to watch & count properly. It started off steadily. Parties of Siskins coming over every few minutes & heading North. The Swallows were moving on a much broader front, with the bulk moving over the water on a 1/4 mile either side of the Vis Mig viewpoint. I clearly under counted the Swallows as my scans of the water, broke off every time I heard Birds overhead calling. Even so, in the two hours I was counting I saw 1232 Swallows moving North.
Siskin: A typical part of one of the many flocks moving this morning
But the clear highlight of the day was the Siskins. In the two hours from 09:20, I had a stunning 2071 Siskins heading North. At this point, I retreated to the car as it started to drizzle. With the threatening clouds, I was expecting worse to come. But it cleared after twenty minutes, so I headed out again, but got side tracked with a mixed Tit & Warbler flock, which also contained a Spotted Flycatcher. As I was generally Birding, I had another 217 Siskins heading North. The final total for the morning was 2423 which appears to be a new UK day record for Siskins.
Siskins: Unfortunately, they are mainly moving about 50 metres from the best viewpoint. So to try & get closer for photos, means I'm not going to be able to see all the movement. Hopefully, I will get a chance for better photos, when I get some Vis Mig company from Graham Armstrong
It's well known to Vis Miggers that Birds will coast into the wind providing it's not too strong, i.e. the follow the coastline & fly into the wind. They get lift in the same way that aeroplanes do. So that explains why I need a Northerly based wind for South Haven to work. Birds happily head into the wind along the North-facing Studland Peninsula.
Siskin: I need to get a NE wind when Graham is also at South Haven to do the counting, while I try & improve on the photos. Also a day with blue skies, rather than 7/8 grey cloud cover will be a big improvement
After my good Siskin movements last week, I have been thinking about where these Siskins had originated. First I had a play with the interactive analysis maps function on the excellent Vis Mig site. A quick play gave this excellent analysis map of the movements of Siskins since the start of August to 16 Sep. Think this link should work, even if you aren't logged onto the Vis Mig site. This shows the biggest movements have been in Dorset, followed by Sandwich Bay, Kent. But why should Dorset & Kent be so good. Clearly, these counties are both great & related: I now live in Dorset, but was born in Kent. But that seems to be purely coincidence & had to be ruled out. I needed some better theories. There seemed to be three options: 
  • Siskins moving out of the SW & coasting
  • Siskins moving South & hitting the coast, followed by coasting into the wind
  • Siskins arriving into Dorset via Normandy.
The latter isn't as daft as option as it sounds, as that is the route many Chaffinches take each year. A significant percentage of the Chaffinches moving South along the European coast, then seem to track up through Normandy, across to the Dorset coast, with many ultimately ending up in Ireland. But not having any feeling for which option was most likely (but quietly liking the French Connection), I asked around. Looks like that isn't the answer. 

This was the response from the ever helpful Clive McKay who is the UK Trektellen coordinator. I hope Clive won't mind me repeating his comments here:-
I’ve been posting on the vismig group since July about the large number of Siskins moving over the summer this year – starting in Scotland. The story is pretty straight forward – last autumn/winter was the best coning year for spruce in N Britain in so called “living memory” of various folk that I’ve spoken to (i.e. since at least since the last big cone crop up here in 2010/11). The forests appeared gold last winter rather than green - cones rather than leaves. So an “irruption” of northern birds south was on the cards, as last happened in 2011. Numbers this summer were higher than in 2011, so a big movement seemed likely. But with lots of winds in the easterly quarter recently, it seems the moving birds have been slipping through inland on a  broad front in small numbers, rather than being concentrated on the east coast. East coast sites require westerly winds to “work”, and I’ve been frustrated that there have been very few potentially good days at Carnoustie – as I was hoping to break my UK Trek British record of 2,200 from 7 Sep 2011. No record breaking counts at the east coast sites so far, but numbers have started to appear at the south coast (including CHOG and Sandwich) and your birds fit in well with this pattern.
This has been nicely confirmed by Paul Morton, the main man behind the Birds of Poole Harbour website. Paul is one of the Sound Approach team that has been doing night time recording over his garden & elsewhere. Every now & then he has put interesting recordings on the Birds of Poole Harbour website. Nick Hopper, the other member of the local Sound Approach night time team, has been recording at Portland Bird Observatory & his recordings appear on the Obs website. Paul has said this evening that he has been leaving the kit to carry on recording for a couple of hours after dawn, which seems to backup Clive's comments:-
The other thing I've noticed this year is the number of Siskin moving over my house so early in the autumn which I assume are birds making their way to the coast, and are then counted by the 'vis-miggers'. After a nights sound recording in the garden I often leave it running into the first couple of hours of daylight and when I listen to an hours worth after dawn Siskin calls almost become white noise with birds passing over (often distantly) every few minutes.
I must admit I didn't think I would get an answer to the question as to where the Siskins are coming from, so it is great to get this feedback from Clive & Paul which seem to support it.
Goldfinch: This cheeky Goldfinch tried sneaking through in one of the Siskin flocks
Unlike the first Vis Mig watch, there was a good selection of species on the move today. During the two hour Vis Mig watch, I saw the following species (all of which moved North): Sand Martin 10, Swallow 1232, House Martin 2, Tree Pipit 9, Meadow Pipit 291, Grey Wagtail 15, Pied Wagtail 1, Chiffchaff 6, Carrion Crow 6 (local movement? but the local Crows don't often cross the Harbour mouth), Goldfinch 3, Linnet 4, Redpoll 17 & of course, Siskin 2071.
Tree Pipit: Great to finally get to see a few Tree Pipits, they have been noticeable on the patch by their absence until late August. But when I checked back, most of my Autumn Studland/Ballard records are in September
One of the great local specialities of the South Haven site is seeing Vis Mig of species that normally seem to move in small hops between bushes. At South Haven, they run out of bushes & then have to cross the 200 metres to the nearest cover on the Sandbanks side. So we see Vis Mig of species that generally perfer to move in small hops like Warblers, Tits and Crests. I suspect this movement often gets missed at many Vis Mig sites. But it creates its own problem for us. The stronger species like the Finches, are mainly in flight when they past over the last bushes. Thus, they already have a good forward speed to cope with the more exposed winds at the Harbour mouth. Even if they stopped for a brief rest in the last bushes, they they are strong enough to be able to quickly get back up to speed to make it across. But the weaker fliers like the Warblers, Tits and Crests are always starting from the last bushes & trees. Thus, they are battling from a stationary position & also trying to climb to get over the Harbour mouth. Frequently, we see these species start & twenty or thirty seconds later, see the turn & rapidly head back into the bushes. So I end up having to keep a longer watch on them to see if they really make it or just turn back. Today was a typical day. There were at least ten Chiffchaffs trying to cross the Harbour mouth, with six ultimately making it across. But maybe twenty or more failed attempts.
Chiffchaff: They often make several attempts before the make it across