Winter at Holme Bird Observatory (please click for clip)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Autumn finally springs into life!

Well, the fact that there have been no updates on here since early September is a stark indication of the standard of the autumn this year, undoubtedly one of the most frustrating in recent times. Following the few bits and pieces at the end of August a barrage of westerlies halted migration its wake, with very little noted through the whole of September and early October. A brief spell of northerlies on 14th September produced a Sooty Shearwater and a good count of 70 Manx Shearwaters, whilst Balearic Shearwaters were noted daily 15th-20th, involving at least 3 birds. A Barred Warbler 2nd-4th October, and perhaps the same on the 12th, started the month of well and seawatching picked up with some strong northerlies producing 34 Pomarine Skuas and 2 Long-tailed Skuas 7th-8th October. However, the much desired easterlies finally arrived on 13th, producing a major arrival of 13 Short-eared Owls, 1 Long-eared Owl, 2 Woodcocks and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers. Over the next couple of days more Short-eared Owls, Ring Ouzels and Lapland Buntings were noted, with the outstanding highlight being the sites 2nd RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL trapped and ringed on 15th and pictured above. Warden Sophie Barker takes up the story:

I arrived at the Observatory at 7.20am to find Assistant Warden Gary, who had agreed to open up the nets on Sat, at the foot of the steps with a bird bag. I asked him 'have you caught the Rufous-tailed Robin?' he said 'nearly! - its a Red-flanked Bluetail'. Gary had just this moment extracted the bird in the 0s. I was blessed with the ringing of the Bluetail, - when I turned it over in my hand to see the bright blue rump and tail, my knees almost went from under me. This was a first year male with a moult limit in the greater coverts and a hint of blue in the median coverts. The upper mandible was pale inside, and the tail very pointed. It was in good condition carrying a healthy pectoral muscle score and a small amount of fat, and weighed in at 13.9g. The bird posed very helpfully for piccys, and then flew up into the pines on release. It was elusive and mobile for much of the day, showing on both the NOA and NWT reserves, but enjoyed by many.

A report of a brief PALLID HARRIER on 17th unfortunately failed to give itself up for the masses to be confirmed. Will this arrival prove the highlight of the autumn, or does autumn 2011 have a late sting in the tail yet?