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Gullfjell - Visible Migration

Visible migration is one of the most interesting aspects of birdwatching im Gullfjell and the best place to observe it is around the "Redningshytten". There are a number of difficulties: an early start is essential – in mid September birds start passing shortly after 0700, it takes 45 minutes to walk up from the car park (or 1.5 hours from my old house) which means  getting out of bed VERY early. The walk up gets one nice and warm, however, after an hour or two of standing / sitting at the lookout point it feels extremely cold.  Exactly where one is positioned is critical to get the best views, or the most birds and this depends very much on the weather.

Lookout point above "Redningshytten"

The observation of visible migration on Gullfjell can be a rather "hit and miss" affair - it is all but impossible to know what level the cloud cover starts at before setting off - and once on the way there is no turning back. With cloud cover below 600m there will be no visible passage from the lookout point - although the slopes may hold thousands of birds in the bushes.

Birds observed are broad front diurnal migrants, although due to climate and topography they appear to be "funnelled" into a fairly narrow corridor.

Under the right conditions the migration can be spectacular, with a "sea" of birds filling the skies around the lookout point. Birds come at high speed, whipping past ones ears and on a number of occasions birds such as Ring Ouzel have even landed briefy on my boots,  telescope and even my head!


Weather

The weather is the deciding factor when it comes to observing visible migration, wind direction, cloud level and the amount of rain all play a role. A rule of thumb is that the stronger the wind the lower the birds fly (and thus the observer must be lower in order to see them). For best observation (but not best for the birds themselves!) there should be a headwind.

Rain tends to put a stop to passage, though light drizzle or showers may have little effect.

There is a lot to learn about this; conditions which appear ideal can produce no birds and visa versa. It seems as if there is a "reservoir" of birds which empties during certain conditions and then fills up again. It is extremely rare to have two days in a row with heavy passage.

Timing

Generally speaking passage occurs during the first few hours after dawn, but depending on the weather and how late it is in the season it can continue well into the afternoon. However, having the time, patience and stamina to do this is not always possible.

Species
The species seen are for the most part Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Siskin and Brambling. Other species regularly noted are Sparrowhawk, White Wagtail, Ring Ousel, Dunnock, Snipe, Bullfinch and Great tit. Other birds can also be seen, these have included Greylag goose, Cormorant, Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Plover, and Reed Bunting.

Other species that are not migrating are relatively few and far between (at the lookout point), but include Raven, Kestrel, Rough-legged buzzard and Ptarmigan (usually seen when flushed by hunters on the slopes above the observation point). 

The mixture of species seen depends on the time of year, with wagtails and pipits tailing off into October when the highest number of thrushes can be seen .

Interpretation of results
Counts cannot be directly compared due to the fact they are of wildly differing lengths.

After 2002 2002 2001 2000
1999  1998  1997  1996 




Redningshytten, Gullfjell
The visible migration lookout is just above Rednignshytten



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