Monday, 2 October 2017

Mipipitive count syndrome

Got out to Start about 06:45 this morning with low expectations and it felt unrare but it is the month of the vagrant so you never, ever know. I always get out for first light if I can simply to catch any visible migration that might be going on. If you are just looking for rares you may as well hang on if you want as they seldom seem to be around first thing. If you want to catch the vis mig it's essential you are there early. As soon as I got out of the car I could hear the odd Meadow Pipit going over, always a good sign. I headed along the coastpath towards Hallsands where I knew there would be a nice sheltered spot from the fresh southwest wind. Between 07:00 and 08:00 there was some outstanding movement. Meadow Pipits were going through fast and furious and I got a total of 1010. Other good counts were 470 Linnets and 310 Goldfinches. Also seen a low count of 6 alba Wagtails, Grey Wagtail, 17 Swallows and a Siskin. At 08:00 the movement stopped quite suddenly. As always the birds were headed into the wind, going south to southwest. I think this is the first four figure count I have anywhere before. Obviously counts are a little subjective, different observers could have way different counts from the same time and place if a comparison was made. I know when counting Woodpigeons moving through in late autumn from photos I have proved to myself I tend to underestimate. Add to that the rate the birds were coming through at times made it impossible to keep up with them and many were going by below cliff level then I know my counts are conservative. With species always going through in good numbers ( Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches etc ) I tend to ignore the ones, twos and threes and round numbers in flocks up or down to the nearest 10, works for me. Less numerous species eg Brambling later this month I get the exact number.
With this passage over I walked down the sheltered road to the light where a Blackcap was exiting the compound which was birdless. The farm held a handful of Chiffs and Goldcrests and the birds of the day, 2 Firecrests . Leaving Start a Wheatear had arrived in the car park.
I drove around to Hallsands checking the overgrown pond, the marshy valley etc but only Chiffs and Goldcrests. The more I go there the more I think Hallsands is a potential untapped goldmine re rare birds. It has had its moments , trouble is when Start is good you tend to stay there, when its quiet try Hallsands which by nature would then be quiet as well. Must try and break that habit sometime. Back on the beach there was a Grey Wagtail and a Wheatear. Good numbers of Red Admirals going through all day by the way.

Top end of Start Farm

Prime marshy habitat at Hallsands, criminally underwatched. This spot is only about 2km NW of Start Point lighthouse and less than 300 metres inland from Hallsands Beach.                                

Part of the overgrown pond behind Hallsands Beach. Noisy Cetti's Warbler in residence.

This Wheatear has found Hallsands to it's liking over the past few days.


  1. Hi Perry - title of this blog post made me laugh! Suffered with it myself on occasion. Have a great autumn. I'm gonna try and get down your way at some point this autumn. Would be good to meet up.
    All the best. Matt

  2. Hello Matt - good to hear from you. The vis mig gets a bit overwhelming sometimes, I got some clickers but reckon I would end up pressing the wrong ones and getting 6 Chaffinches and 1363 Reed Buntings. Please do get in touch if you come down this way, always good to see you. Good luck at Orcombe this autumn.

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