Friday, 30 October 2015

October Migrants

Redwing (c. Brendan Shiels)

If you are watching a local headland or studying migration on one of our many offshore islands, movement and associated 'falls' of birds are central to the October scene.  There is certainly no beating the excitement of a rare find, even if its an annual occurrence, such as a diminutive Yellow Browed Warbler or Firecrest: the former should be wintering in India but finds itself as a garden bird amongst the sycamore trees of west Corks headlands, courtesy of a reverse migration out of Siberia.

The October fare here in the middle of Wicklow is a little more restrained.  We are situated on a pleasant slope at 150 meters altitude between the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers, well inland, but it has its moments too:  

 The scene around the garden boundary is quite busy, not surprising really, given the crop of ripe elderberries that are reducing in stock daily.  The 16th October marked our first movement of winter thrushes: over 25 Redwing and a solitary Fieldfare flew out of the hedges at first light, along with a good number of Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds.  This is early enough for us, sometimes it is November before we experience those kind of movements, so I expect harsh conditions are already apparent in Northern Europe, leading to an early exodus south and west.

Fieldfare (c.David Dillon)

Other visitors this month are what we often refer to as altitudinal migrants, involving birds moving shorter distances and out of nearby higher ground which is utilised for the breeding season.  So the stubbles and hedgrows have Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, the first Linnet flocks and a Reed Bunting popped in to join the few resident Yellowhammers and House Sparrows.  'Flyovers', or visible migration consists of Grey Wagtails, Crossbills, Redpolls and Siskins.  In these cases it is probably best to describe it as 'audible migration', for it is the flight and contact calls that alert you to the movement of birds.

Skylark (c.O O Sullivan)

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