REDWINGS IN THE WIND - 18 October 2014

The forecast was bad. All week it had been predicted that a deep depression would arrive here by the weekend, bringing gale force winds and heavy rain. Great prospects for a Saturday tour on Holy Island! Do I cancel and let people know in good time? I chose to wait it out, hoping that the forecasts would again be prove wrong. So Saturday came. It was raining when I woke up, but by the time I left home bound for Holy Island the weather was dry and the sky was turning blue. And it was mild. Very mild as it transpired - 18C in mid October.

What of the birds? We had a great start with excellent views of a young Merlin perched on a post near the end of the causeway. Further on, we looked in awe at the sight of a huge Golden Plover flock bathed in sunlight alongside hundreds of Pale-bellied Brent Geese. We saw around 50 predominantly young Gannets close offshore, diving continually into a small patch of sea where they had presumably spotted a shoal of fish, but they didn't seem to have much success at catching. We watched 2 tiny Goldcrest, up close at head height only several feet away from the hide by the freshwater lough.

Yet the real stars for me were the Redwings. Throughout the day we saw and heard several small flocks of these thrushes, newly arrived from Scandinavia. Migration conditions had probably been ideal when they set out on Friday night to cross the North Sea with a tail wind from the east. Yet by late Saturday morning that wind had swung south westerly and was increasingly strong. It was now a case of birds flying against a head wind and becoming exhausted in the process. No wonder they were landing on bushes around us. These were the ones that made it - the birds that got across the sea.

Mark Winter

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