Sign of fall migration

I put another site on my eBird map today. I walked 2×5.5 km along the Grand Union Canal from Stoke Hammond to Three Locks, also from Three Locks to the northwest edge of Leighton Buzzard. The birdlife of this section of the Grand Union Canal has proved to be surprisingly interesting. The first 5 km I walked in pouring rain, although I wasn’t really equipped for that massive rain. Anyway, I tried to enjoy it as much as I could. Using a wet touchscreen iPhone wasn’t always easy (sometimes even the rain drops clicked on unwanted parts of the screen).

British weather requires efficient protective clothing for birding, what I apparently lack. © Gyorgy Szimuly

British weather requires efficient protective clothing for birding, what I apparently lack. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The site actually holds the usual bird community that can be expected for such a habitat. Amongst the unexpected, there were quite a few Mandarin Ducks; both male, female and a duckling. This could be a regional hotspot for this introduced exotic duck species.

The long boats are very popular not only for traveling but for living. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The long-boats are very popular not only for traveling but for living. © Gyorgy Szimuly

One of the boatman said, "This weather is for digs". Indeed it was dreadful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

One of the boatman said, “This weather is for dogs”. Indeed, it was dreadful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I think from now it is worth checking bird flocks as we are approaching fall migration. It’s time to think about post-breeding dispersal of tit flocks a bit differently, following my observation at km 99. I started watching a Long-tailed Tit flock of 16 birds (mainly juveniles) followed by 12 European Blue Tits and 9 Great Tits. Together with the tit flock 3 European Blackcaps and 9 Common Chiffchaffs were flitting between bushes. At least two of the chiffchaffs seemed to be worn plumaged adults. I think as the migration progresses, this area could be really attractive for birds moving south.

British White Wagtail families were feeding on a horse field. © Gyorgy Szimuly

British White Wagtail families were feeding on a horse field. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I had perfect views on preening and feeding (British) Western Yellow Wagtails, beautiful Stock Doves, a hovering adult Red Kite, differently aged adorable downy chicks of Common Moorhen and singing Lesser Whitethroats. A lonely, about a three weeks old Mute Swan cygnet were continually calling for its parents, but they were not visible anywhere close. I also saw a Common Cuckoo flying very high over the canal. I have never seen a cuckoo flying that high. Was it already on the move south?

Mandarin Ducks occupied this woody parts of the canal and raised their ducklings. Image was taken by an iPhone 5s. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Mandarin Ducks occupied this woody parts of the canal and raised their ducklings. Image was taken by an iPhone 5s. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Boat is crossing through the special sluices. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Boat is crossing through the special sluices. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As I walked on the towpath, a boatman (towman) kindly greeted me from his long boat and expressed his feeling about the amazing birds living along the canal, including the gorgeous Common Tern which was just flying over his boat. Then he mentioned, that he had seen a turnstone further south towards Leighton Buzzard. I asked twice whether that was really a turnstone, but he was confident in his observation and apparently seemed to know the birds well. I walked all along the canal from that point, but I didn’t see it.

Here is the combined eBird report from two checklists:

Mute Swan 1
Mandarin Duck 14
Mallard 16
Gray Heron 3
Red Kite 1
Common Buzzard 1
Eurasian Moorhen 19
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1
Northern Lapwing 19
Black-headed Gull 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull (graellsii) 29
Common Tern 3
Stock Dove 16
Common Wood-Pigeon 46
Eurasian Collared-Dove 1
Common Cuckoo 1
Common Swift 24
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Magpie 4
Eurasian Jackdaw 12
Rook 5
Carrion Crow 22
European Skylark 7
Barn Swallow 24
Common House Martin 8
Great Tit 11
Eurasian Blue Tit 17
Long-tailed Tit 16
Eurasian Wren 15
Common Chiffchaff 17
Sedge Warbler 1
European Blackcap 8
Lesser Whitethroat 2
Greater Whitethroat 10
European Robin 11
Eurasian Blackbird 32
Song Thrush 7
European Starling 23
Dunnock 12
Western Yellow Wagtail (Yellow) 4
White Wagtail (British) 21
Reed Bunting 1
Common Chaffinch 10
Eurasian Bullfinch 2
European Greenfinch 8
European Goldfinch 15
House Sparrow 3

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