Thursday, 15 September 2011

National Chiffy day

As soon as I went into the garden this morning to "do" my moth traps, a short task at the moment, I was greeted with a chorus of Chiffchaff calls. Once I'd completed noting the 77 moths, the best for a few days, that were in my traps, I went to the monument. As I left the car there were at least six Chiffchaffs in the tree next to the Bluebird tea rooms. I wandered down past the paddock towards the farm and I counted quite a few more, but little else other than two striking male Blackcaps. I met Jack, who'd just done the gun site and we walked to Hope Point. In all we counted over 120 Chiffchaffs, and I got the feeling that if we'd been able to search every bush and tree there would have been many more. We watched a Hobby over the Freedown, but before it came into lens range it was seen off the premises by a rather belligerent Crow. A couple of Wheatears and a few Whitethroats completed the migrants, so in reality what had appeared to be a promising fall of migrants really consisted mainly one species.

All through the morning we were accompanied by a couple of Spitfires with their helicopter minders. Today is Battle of Britain day, and the helicopter passengers have the opportunity to photograph the Spitfires in the air space that saw so much action 71 years ago.

This afternoon there were still plenty of Chiffs round the garden and Pam and I had fun watching three trying to take a shower in the small fountain just out side the window.

They would spend time looking at it and then suddenly dance into the air and have a quick splash in the curtain of water.

I reckon that there were at least six, just around our garden this afternoon, so how many this must represent in total in the area I don't know, but it must be huge. They are mainly migrating to around the Mediterranean and West Africa, they are shorter distance migrants than there close relative, the Willow Warbler which is a sub-Saharan migrant. A few Chiffchaffs do now remain in southern Britain, although many more winters like the last one may see the end of this increasingly common strategy.

Amongst the moths this morning was the first Feathered Ranunculus of the year. This is a distinctly Autumn moth, occurring in the second half of September and October.

With it was the first Black Rustic of the year, a similarly autumnal character. This one was the earliest I've caught this species by two days. I don't think that if foretells of a hard winter to come, but it is certainly a year when many moths have occurred outside their normal dates.


Alan Pavey said...

There were loads of Chiffy's at Dunge as well yesterday, a very apt blog title!

Joe Beale said...

This autumn in SE London I've seen/heard Chiffchaffs, occasionally into double figure counts, every day for perhaps 5 or 6 weeks now. Many are local birds, but whatever the source I think this year is a good one for this species (but in contrast, very few migrant Willow Warblers passing through).