Reflections on Autumn 2017

Last autumn was certainly one for the history books in terms of volume of eastern waifs turning up on our shores following a sustained run of easterlies from the depths of Russia. This year has been totally different with a really wet summer and autumn and a succession of low-pressure systems (and ex-hurricanes) battering the west coast.
The effect on birds was most noticible in September when we had our first decent autumn gale for a few years - Leach's Petrels were seen all along the Lancashire coastline and a day out at Ainsdale and Formby enabled me to see ten of these along with a whole host of other sea-birds including Grey Pahalrope, Pomarine Skua, Gannets and Manx Shearwaters.
The biggest surprise was from this weekend when a Manxie was pick up exhausted from the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in the middle of Rishton - 25 miles from seawater as the crow flies - goodness know how many as the shearwater flies. I collected it and kept it overnight, feeding it sprats before it was taken to Ainsdale to be release at night on the low tide. Then storm 'Brian' has hit - though it seemed healthy and not too underweight, its chances must be slim! :(
Manx Shearwater, Rishton
Manx Shearwater having checked it's weight.
Leach's Petrel over the beach at Ainsdale
I've done a couple of east-coast jaunts - one to Hartleppol turned into a long seawatch where we had all four species of Skua, distant Sooty Shearwater and Sabine's Gull and a host of birds passing offshore but very little in the form of passerines around the area. A couple of weeks ago I decided to have a couple of days in the Spurn area - it started OK with Rose-coloured Starling and Red-breasted Flycatcher, but the lack of numbers of commoner migrants was puzzling and a bit disappointing. However the news of a Scops Owl in Sunderland had me giving up on east Yorkshire and heading north for three hours. It was worth it.
Juvennile Rose-coloured Starling with Starings, Easington
Scops Owl, Ryehope
The following day at Hartlepool I had ten Yellow-browed Warblers but just a few other commoner migrants in the form of Redstart, Garden Warbler, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers. It certainly looks like the YBW's have discovered and alternative migration/wintering route - for now.
Yellow-browed Warbler, Borough Hall, Hartlepool
The winds would normally have put a dampener on mothing and ringing but there have been some interludes that I've taken full advantage of. I've had large numbers of Gold and Greenfinches through in the last couple of months with good numbers trapped and ringed.
I had the pleasure of joining a ringing team at Hightown  a few weeks ago where we processed over 1100 Knot, leg-flagging 500 of them as part of a study on their migration and wintering haunts. It was hard work and I felt the effect the following days!!!
Juvenile Knot
Moths have been steady and happy to get a Merveille Du Jour last weekend. Now getting the typical autumn species - Mottled Umbers, Red-line Quakers, Feathered Thorn, Red-green Carpets and November Moths. Another warm mass of air is due later this week so may get something then after which we're off to Toronto for a week.
Merveille-du-jour

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