My Migweek diary 2021

Unexpected visitor

Day 1:  My Migweek; Eager to get out ringing, it came to me as a pleasant surprise, having the opportunity to ring with Ana at Holmes Gut was a new site for me with lots of potential for migrant birds. We caught a few satisfying birds, a juvenile bullfinch that was wearing a face full of berries, blackbirds that could have well been continental, and a gorgeous male chaffinch, that seemed to be a nice mixture of birds. It was great chatting with Ana, it may have been a quiet morning but it gave me time to learn more. Meanwhile Ana’s friend phoned George, who was ringing at Filey, had phoned with good news. He had just extracted a subalpine warbler! New bird for Filey ringing group, thrilled for him Ana went on to meet him after we finished our mornings ringing.

Quality over quantity

Day 2: 6.30am starts at South Landing with the Flamborough ringing group, and the stars are still out. With the weather being perfect for us but not for migrating birds I think we did well considering a steady morning. Highlights being a stunning male goldcrest, flock of long -tailed tits and saving the best till last grey wagtail! Quality over quantity it seemed, with good numbers of these wagtails passing through off the sea it was pleasurable to see one ringed. It was also lovely being in company of the Flamborough ringing group that was educating the public with their fantastic knowledge at the ringing demo. Lots of people joined the demo, and were keen to learn what ringing is all about and recognized how much effort goes into Flamborough Observatory.

Enough to raise brows

Day 3: At Bempton Cliffs with the weather being incredibly unpredictable we made the most of the calm weather getting the nets set up. On our first net round, close to the pond there happened to be a bird I hadn’t ringed before, a stunning little yellow browed Warbler! Thrilled with excitement I quickly put a ring on it, weighed it, measured it and aged it as a young bird. That was enough to put a smile on my face that continued when a flock of 70 redwing flew past, catching some good numbers. Meanwhile the wind and rain decided it didn’t like us ringing so we packed away for the day. Could you believe it by 1.30pm the sun was out and the temperature had suddenly warmed up. The kettle was on and just about boiled when thanks to Flamborough Observatory had flagged up a rare sighting. Snow bunting out on the head, i’ve never seen one before so a brisk walk along the head showed some gorgeous views of the sea followed by 22 common scoters, 4 oystercatchers and 6 people taking a wide berth among the path. My curiosity persisted and that so with another lady and her husband. “its there ” feeding off the path with not a care in the world, after great views a lady walked past flushing it, allowing everyone to get some awesome views in flight and then it landed in the same spot not fazed at all by our presence. The temperature had dropped so I decided to head back and finish my cuppa! What a day.

Bempton’s new bird

Day 4:  Ringing demo at Bempton cliffs with a great start to the morning, with lots of redwing waking up after their long journeys from possibly Denmark, Iceland and Scandinavia its such an honour to put an english ring on its leg. Later on that morning we caught a few tree sparrows, brambling, long-tailed tits and yesterday’s re-trapped yellow browed warbler. After processing the bird we had learned that within just 24 hours it had 0.3 grams showing a good source of food supply. After a few more net rounds I extracted 3 bullfinches 2 male and 1 female. I didn’t realise that these 3 bullfinches were a new species at Bempton cliffs. Taking them for granted back home, everyone seemed really excited to see them including Dave. By 11am the public seemed to be just as keen as us, sticking around to see what we might catch next. Male chaffinch was nice to see and ring but not just a male chaffinch, one straight off the sea! The males are much darker on the crown and the wing length is much longer as I have learned today. A cup of tea later and a warm sandwich, there was talk of setting up the spring traps in hope of catching some stonechats. Me and Steve were quick to set the spring traps. Seven minutes later we were ringing a female adult stonechat. Stunning birds it seemed she had a little admirer as the male sat patiently on a close teasels, waiting for her. Even a bit of romance going off at Migweek this week.

The one that got away

Day 5: The one that got away, after a good morning ringing at South Landing extracting and processing redwings, chaffinch, blackbirds, and a few wriggly wrens almost forgetting to mention, the treecreeper, with Jim and the team. In the morning I happened to mention to Tony C that I had never ringed a starling before. Very kindly he offered to take me to Jo and Tony Hood’s garden where they feed them regularly. Following on ringing at South Landing we decided to take down, heading out in hope of catching some starlings. Putting up two nets and Jo had very kindly been buying cheese to lure the mischievous starling. Eventually it worked, as they dropped down to feed and flew safely into the net. However, being as crafty as they are, it escaped out of the net, with the cheese! Nonetheless we did happen to ring some tree sparrows and bitey blue tits. The starlings will have to wait until next year.

I’m very grateful to Dave at Bempton and everyone at Flamborough Observatory for inviting me, It’s such a privilege to join, with kind, welcoming, knowledgeable ringers, giving me the opportunity to learn and ring new birds so thank you for having me. Cant wait until next year!

By Harriet Day