Thursday, September 8, 2011

42+ Mistle thrushes in Phoenix Park

Tonight I set off for a mega fat burning walk in Phoenix Park to try and get rid of some of the excess Curry chips and burgers I ate over the weekend at Electric Picnic (and even more of the same the weekend before at the Dunmore East Bluegrass festival).
Good intentions, as usual, were soon happily cast aside when I heard, then spotted, several then several more then several more Mistle Thrushes flying overhead.
I'd be used to seeing a couple - at most 5 or 6 Mistle Thrushes at the one spot at the same time, so when I saw and heard so many together I was curious and went back to my car to grab my scope.
I watched them fly from the small Hawthorn trees up to the higher old oak trees, and then into the Horse Chestnut trees near Oldtown woods, north of 15 acre fields.
I did check to make sure there were no Redwings/Fieldfares in the flock, I knew it'd be too early - but you just never know - anyway, the flock were all Mistle Thrushes.
At one point they had a scare, and a huge flock of them lifted together, which was great because I was able to count 2,8,12,18,24,32,40, 42 - a definite 42 Mistle Thrushes - 42!! And there were others in addition which I could see but couldn't count as they went behind a big tree. Conservatively I'd say there were 50 Mistle Thrushes in that one section of Phoenix park.
I've never seen anything like it.

I've read that when there's loads of berries (which there are at the moment), Mistle Thrushes are happy enough to form flocks to feed from the glut, but once the berry resources start to deplete, the Mistle Thrushes single off and start to fight for the territory of certain berry trees. If I'm incorrect here, please correct me.
I'd also be interested why the Mistle Thrush is happy to form a flock at all, berry glut or no, given that they're not usually flock birds?

EDIT>>>>> from hrh Billy Clarke ' I think the Mistle Thrushes are doing what Crows do, at the end of Summer, they all gather together in a roost so that the youngsters can learn from the elders, once they've been given a chance to learn how to survive, they're on their own and it's back to survival of the fittest and they go back to being solitary defenders of individual berry trees'.
This, to me, makes complete sense, they gather together to learn their tricks of the trade and then it's up to them to put them to the test over winter. Sense.
Thanks Billy.

Also spotted a few Swallows, which after waiting a while turned out to be at least a definite 20, all still happily sailing and playing over 15 acres.
A flock of Starlings, Hooded Crows, Rooks, Jackdaws, Magpies and Wood Pigeons were other sightings - plus bucket loads of midges - compulsory cap wearing from now on in the evenings.

Also heard the screeching cat sound again in Oldtown woods - think it's prob a juv Jay, couldn't get a sighting.
For a millisecond also thought I saw a Gannet, but the large white thing with black tipped wings turned out to be a remote controlled plane - which obviously made much more sense.

As mentioned, I was an EPer over the weekend thanks to Jamie (BWI Development Ofiicer) who asked me and a few others to volunteer on the Birdwatch Ireland stand. Had plenty of good chats with birders, non birders and suprisingly, not too many drunk/ out of it people. Very nice to meet other really sound volunteers too.
30 new bwi members was a plus for Jamie, but it's the knock on effect of the chats and the visibility which I think is of value. Mind you, I would say that, I didn't sign up one single person - epic fail.
But I planted seeds in their minds about signing up, I know I did - why else when I was watching a gig later on did a woman (off her face on whatever) come right up to me and make bird noises before disappearing back into the crowd?!
Now that's a plant seeded.
Or smoked.