Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bird of the Week #9 - Goldcrest

A freshly-arrived Goldcrest in a coastal hedgerow here in Filey in late October. An active, healthy bird having made it to optimal feeding habitat after enduring the dangers of a sea crossing. Others are not so lucky.... 
They had to feature at some point, and it may as well be now, with these disconcertingly warm February days triggering their wheezily tinkling songs from local evergreens... as well as being anthropomorphically just as about as cute as a micro-dinosaur can get, Goldcrests are also arch exponents of the consistently mind-blowing miracle that is bird migration - the full spectrum of which is covered in the next few photos.

Another Goldcrest here at Filey, also in late October - this one arrived in off the sea, struggled to make landfall, and pitched up right next to me on this stone ledge, just a few metres from the waves, where I was seawatching on the Brigg. The bird was so exhausted as to barely register my presence - after looking up at me from just a few centimetres away, it promptly fluffed up and went to sleep. Despite being so tired and vulnerable, there's every chance this bird made it. 
While they're a common breeder the UK and we've a few scattered breeding pairs nearby, all the birds pictured here - like the overwhelming majority of Goldcrests that occur at Filey and other coastal watchpoints - are, incredibly, migrants, fresh in from perilous journeys over the North Sea. Incredibly, as in, they're barely any longer than your forefinger and the weight of a 20p coin, and yet they routinely make these journeys, sometimes in their hundreds of thousands, every autumn - and in fall conditions, they can be so numerous as to turn clifftop grasslands into a carpet of tiny mouselike movements foraging at your feet.

Another Goldcrest, also from the Brigg, just a few metres from the sea - this one not so fortunate. This bird must also have just arrived, and was still warm when I found it - sadly, after successfully navigating the sea crossing and its dangers, the trials of the journey were just too much.
Sadly, not all of them make it, of course (see photo captions); but enough do for it to be a successful migration strategy and a phenomenon which leaves me dumbstruck and open-mouthed with wonder every autumn.

Same species, same place, same time of year - a few metres further up onto the clifftop, where this bedraggled but successful migrant was hopping around in the weeds with hundreds upon hundreds of its brethren - every one a tiny miracle.