Monday, 28 January 2019

Garden bird log for Longniddry, Lothian

This is a log of the more interesting species seen and heard in, and flying over, a small garden on Douglas Road, Longniddry, Lothian, Scotland (map), since August 2004. The garden is in an estate within 500m of high water - Firth of Forth. Unfortunately there is no view out to the sea, or indeed anywhere beyond the neighbouring houses in the estate.

Annotated species list
Detailed records (spreadsheet) - updated 1/1/19


Magic, another male Blackcap, in rowan on 10 November (2nd November record, logged every month of the year here).

A poor year for Common Crossbill compared to autumn 2018, 1 on 4 November was first since 4 November 2018!

Geese continue into November, hundreds SW most mornings and going back at night ~2 hrs after sunset. 12,342 Pinks at Aberlady on 28 October was latest autumn peak for 20+ yrs.

Jay low S over 08:45hrs 29 October, 4th record, likely unconnected to current irruption on the Continent but interesting that last here were in 2014, which was the big year for autumn movement.

Red fox behind surgery on 24 October, first record since June 2009, but many must pass unseen.

Barnacles still over in numbers on Saturday 28 September, including a flock of 380 E (from photo) at 14:50hrs.

Yet more Barnacles over early on Friday 27 September.

A small "fall" in our tiny garden on Tuesday 24 September - 2 Chiffchaffs with 9+ Long-tailed Tits, a male and a f/imm Blackcap (the latter bird seen again twice in following days eating Rowan and Elderflower berries). Several House Martins still around.

Great, first flock of nocturnal Barnacle Geese for a while, calls from a decent number over SW in rain at 23:05hrs 23 September, with 90 over SW c.09:00hrs the following morning.

A remarkable 6 Cormorants flying inland on 20 September, previously nearly annual (2004-2013 except 2008), but only 2 in last 5 years, all previous records have been singles apart from 2 in Dec-2004.

Pleasing to have a Bullfinch in the garden feeding on rosehips the same morning (one previous record of pair in garden).

3 Swift still on 9 September!

Pinks moving W over 01:50hrs 4 September, earliest autumn record here.

Noted a huge cloud of c. 1000 Sandwich Tern over coast by Aberlady at dusk on 3 September, then at 00:58hrs 3+ calling as moving S over our house.

Swift still, 2 September (getting close to latest, which was last year 3-5 September).

Another which may have eluded me, presumed f/imm Marsh Harrier - had a large apparently dark raptor distantly approaching from NE down Wemyss Road, two streets south of us, Buzzards are a routine occurrence around the village but something grabbed me about this bird so I got out phone and grabbed a distant still at 11:55:50 hrs, then some video from 11:56:16 hrs, bird then encountered mobbing from two Herring Gulls high over and veered NW, grabbed 4 stills, the first below taken at 11:56:53 hrs - bird on left is a Herring Gull which can also be seen in distance rising at bottom of second below which was previous image at 11:56:51 hrs (top right image in Tweet was first view over tree 11:56:48 hrs). Admittedly the first image below looks "different" but it is 100% certainly the same bird, confirmed as taken 2 seconds after previous image, view is direct into sun but I think difference in profile is because flight is now inclined (perhaps in response to mobbing?); overall views and analysis suggest compared to Buzzard the glide with V "arm" and flat "hand", the longer tail, the narrower wing and narrowing primaries all suggest Marsh Harrier, though images prob insufficient to prove.

[Latest addition to list of garden "near misses" - with Hobby (3), Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Water Pipit, Tree Pipit - plus some more speculative ones; waders nocturnal, which does not help with "proof", recordings needed!]

Several more parties of Sandwich Tern over in early hours on 28 August, some close and some to north nearer coast, all accompanied by Tawny hooting from Fernyness Wood.

Sandwich Terns again 01:15-01:30hrs 26 August, calm and warm.

One that got away - an unusual call of a bird flying over 16:05hrs 26 August, very like this: Tree Pipit. I wonder if any move later in the day?

Sandwich Terns over late evening 25 August, very close to house.

Med Gull hawking for flying ants amongst BHGs directly over garden on 25 August, sufficient views to check legs and confirm unringed, just second record, short video clip in Tweet. Also 2 Swift over and in evening long duets of Tawny Owl, more Sandwich Tern and a Lapwing call, not frequently heard at night.

Noctural Sandwich Terns over 24 August, a few heard so far but down on last year.

Bizarre occurrence 23:44hrs on 17 August - two clear Ringed Plover calls over to N apparently prompted a response from Tawny Owl, with kewicks from direction of golf clubhouse NW! This is 11th record of Ringo, of which 8 have been in August, but first since 24/8/16.

Swift still on 17 August.

c. 20 Canada Geese low SW over evening 11 August, only 4th confirmed record, or which only 3 flocks seen.

First nocturnal Sandwich Terns on 6 August.

Common Sand 00:25hrs 26 July; early a good candidate for Turnstone call a low soft "churee-chuh churee-chuh chuh chuh" (no recording; probably the teu call is easier for this species).

Dunlin calling 03:30hrs 22 July. Golden Plovers twice in last few days.

Grey Heron calls over 01:00hrs 15 July, third nocturnal record (after 23/6 & 16/9/16).

Great sight of a pair of Kestrels circling over on 7 July, first record of more than a single, this is less than annual over garden; male has been hunting golf course recently, perhaps they are failed breeders?

Another Moorhen calling 4 times flying S over village 02:35hrs on 22 June, already bright towards the east so would have been visible if I could have got onto it!

Never really gets fully dark at mid-summer and dawn chorus starts very early - logged Blackbird at 03:01hrs on 17 June, joining Robins already in song (cf. 02:59hrs for Blackbird on 18 June 2017).

More bumblebees on 16 June, now in excess of 100 though Tree greatly diminished, just c. 5 left, along with 3 Early, 3 Garden, a queen Buff-tailed and this single worker Red-tailed (plus 2 honey bee, 1 wasp, 1 hoverfly).

Garden teeming with life on 9 June - 2 Painted Lady (seen nearby in 2006 but tick for the garden) with 3 Red Admiral and a small white and probably over 100 bumble bees, white-tailed in majority but also many Tree and 3 Early (Bombus pratorum). In addition families of Blackbird, Dunnock and Blue Tit, and a large crop of Great Tits on Saturday.

Nocturnal migrant Quail calling over near house 00:50hrs 22 May, first two calls near house, by time I had got recorder switched on next two calls were from far to NE; very calm evening, earlier rain had ceased and sky fairly clear; 4th record from house and earliest (previous 1 June 2007, 12 July 2012, 9 June 2017).

Roaming male Tawny noisy on evening 20 May.

More terns on 19 May, sounds of large group over late evening - earlier there were 77 on Gosford Sands about a mile north of our house.

Very late return of Swift on 18 May, very high over so not even sure they are "ours" (they have been present every year since 2004, seen going to neighbour's eaves in 2011-14 but never *proved* to breed).

2+ Sandwich Terns calling high over village 21:40hrs 13 May.

Female Mallard low in through houses towards the Braid Burn evening 2 May. Kids reported pr Mallard loitering on path when they went to school, not seen that yet in our village!

Tawny hooting again in village near house, to NW, on 1 May.

pr Tawny in noisy hoot and kewick calls, to NE, 28 April.

Moorhen calls over late evening two consecutive nights 22 and 23 April.

pr Tawny again on 21 April.

Cock Pheasant calls 24 March and 7 April, not very exciting but only 4-5th records here.

Tawny hooting continuing on 22 March, Gosford Road area.

pr Mallard low over 22 March, a regular sight in spring, duck seen a week later in burn by community centre.

Tawny hoot and "bubbling-call" (call 2 in BWP, apparently common but audible only over 30-40m, hence perhaps why I've very rarely heard - described there as a mate "summons" and given by either sex) very close to house on 21 March, beginning to wonder if nesting in village.

Tree Bumblebee daily in early March, on redcurrant flowers.

Small Tortoiseshell found below freezer in garage around 3 March, flapped so placed securely high up to continue hibernation - but later gone - flown off or moved?

Tawny vocal again 01:15hrs 27 February.

Collared Dove visiting probable nest site still 26 February.

Calls from another nocturnal migrant Coot low W 01:18hrs 26 February, 12th record and by far the earliest spring record.

25 February - first bumblebee, queen Tree (also rescued one from pavement at work last week); also nice to hear the Greenfinch in song again - regular spring song (=local breeder) here most years since 2005 (only missing in 2008-10, 2013-14).

Tawny hooting and roaming through village 24 February.

Tawny calling continuously for over an hour 18 February.

Bizarre - 01:40hrs on 13 February, daughter screams having seen a large spider by her bed, while looking for it I hear a Magpie calling outside, followed immediately by Tawny Owl kewicks - one seems to be lingering in Community Centre/burn trees!

Starling and Blue Tit alarms late afternoon Sunday 3 February, expected Sprawk failed to materialise but about a minute later a wonderful lanky Peregrine appeared only about 50m over veering NW, probably a female on size (10th record, previous in 04/05/06/07/09/2x09/13/18).

Blackcap still daily into Feb, often in control of bird table; seems to confirm it definitely first arrived around 19 Jan, no way would have missed it earlier.

c. 50 redpolls low over on Sunday 27 January, record count - unfortunately did not perch for further scrutiny.

Blackcap the first on the BGBW - initially seeing off sparrows coming to bird table but eventually sitting with 8 of them eating bread crumbs, ignoring fat ball!

Blackcap still on bird table in sub-zero conditions 23 January, fighting for scraps with House Sparrows, Robin and Starlings.

Blackcap again on 20 January, on same apple.

She's back, female Blackcap present 27/1-7/4/18 see eating rotting apple on ground in garden on 19 January! Presumably same bird as hopping around on a similar circuit.

Daughter reports male Pheasant at Community Centre on 16 January, I've only seen one previously in the village, same location on 19/12/14, but heard distant birds twice.

Waxwing heard again 11:00hrs 2 January. On 6 January Collared Dove flying to and from conifer where nested in March 2018, likely either nest building or sitting - song continues for long periods.

Signs of spring on New Year's Day with Collared Dove (above) and the three tit species in song. Woodpigeon (below) is the most regular species in the garden, up to 4 at once on the tiny bird table.


[Overview of the year 2018

72 confirmed species is similar to recent, with two further additions to the list (now 106), Snipe in early March "beast from the east" snow and a very distant singing Sedge Warbler in early May; unfortunately it was a year where potentially the three best birds went unconfirmed – calls matching Wood Sandpiper on 15/8, a falcon sp. chasing hirundines on 3/9 (and again over Fernyness Wood on 4/9) which was surely a Hobby (and actually 3rd seen from garden, but none confirmed), and 2 chunky pipits giving a non-Mipit “ppzzz” call on 4/11 which seem likely to have been Water Pipits. Confirmed scarce this year included Peregrine on 3/3; more nocturnal gallinules and waders - 4 Moorhens 21/4, 5/5, 14/5, 27/7 (now at least 12 recorded), 1 Coot 9/5 (total 11), Whimbrel 5/5, 3 Common Sandpipers (1 in May, 2 Aug), 1 Green Sandpiper recorded low over house on 3/8 (second record), Dunlins on 9/8 & 4/9; then 15 Barnacle Geese on 22/9 and Waxwings 28/10, 9&18/12; nocturnal Sandwich Terns were prominent from 9/8 to 23/9, often daily; a wintering female Blackcap from 27 January was last seen on 7 April. On downside another year passed with still no record of Reed Bunting or Hawfinch.]

Full records: Excel s/s.

Older records (to end 2018)


  1. Hi
    apologies for getting in touch via blog comments. Thought you could help re BH Gull darvic rings. Ad Esk Mouth 29/8/11 white ring J1J4 and Ad Esk Mouth 30/8//11 black ring P834. Also had 2nd winter Med Gull with white ring but no details - watched for 2 hours with no luck!
    all the best
    Stuart (

  2. Thanks Stuart, good to hear from you and these seem to be Norwegian (white) and Lithuanian (black) - I'll chase them down.

    Your Med would be 32A4 reported on LBN* at Musselburgh 20 August*, a new one - ringed as a pullus on 24/06/2010 at De Kreupel Island, Ijsselmeer, Noord-Holland, also reported in Wexford on 06/04/2011; in general white is for Netherlands/Belgium/Denmark:


  3. J1J4 ringed Frognerpark, Oslo, 1/4/00 - thus a friend of metal-6158812, ringed same place same day and present at Eskside last December (see blog post*). Perhaps the colour ring had dropped off the latter bird? NB - same seen again at Musselburgh this evening (per Ian Andrews).