Saturday, 31 October 2009

False alarm

Having a quick scan of the sea off Cockenzie harbour late morning immediately noticed a distinctive 1st-win gull, on the sea with Common Gulls. Most noticeable feature was the bulky bill, with Glaucous Gull pattern, a fairly bright orange-pink with all dark tip; watching bird on sea over next few minutes was also struck by pale mantle, definitely paler than the 5 adults the bird was with (though this may have been exacerbated by the strong sunlight at that stage), and it *seemed* to be about 10% bigger than them and had a squarer head. Tertials very dark but with quite broad pale fringes, particularly at the rear. Fine streaking on head and more distinct spots on side of breast. It then flew in around the powerstation water outlet, and did some dip feeding; in flight the mantle looked very pale and the typical mantle/wing contrast of 1st-win Common Gull was not apparent. The tail-band was clearcut, as in 1st-win Common Gull (and certainly the bird was never a candidate for a small 2nd-win Herring) and the underwing pretty pale, white down the centre but with some pale brown fringing. Based mainly on structure and bill I felt it looked good for 1st-win Ring-billed and there seemed to be no feature strongly against that so I called out the news, and for assistance. Very hard to photograph bobbing on the sea, but below is one attempt.

Later after going to and fro from childrens' party etc, and missing others who kindly turned up to check it out, what seemed to be the same bird was still in the same area, on the sea more distantly offshore NE (further photos below), then coming in and circling over the water outlet, but never alighting and showing no interest when I chucked bits of bread into the sea. The bill appeared less convincing at this stage, though it was now overcast, but most crucially the tailband was apparently very clear-cut with no sign of dark on the edges of the uppertail (a diagnostic feature for RBG, but not shown by all, particularly later in winter). Other observers joined me at this stage and saw the bird in flight, now joined by another 1st-win Common Gull, and we concluded it had been a false alarm. Apologies to those who made the effort to see it and came away empty handed - must be more cautious next time!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Staying warm

Our Blackbird again in song for 10 minutes before dawn this morning (calm, drizzle and 8C), unprecedented in my experience for October. Shortly afterwards a lingering juv Swallow feeding over Cockenzie Primary School. A Red Admiral also flew down the road ystdy.

Continued Tuesday with Blackbird in song at least 07:00-07:25hrs, briefly joined by another to west providing a "dawn chorus" (together with Robin, Wren and House Sparrow).

A bright afternoon on Friday saw the orange darvic Herring Gull (1787) again on the Seton Burn, plus at least 18 Slavonian and 4 Red-necked Grebes off Ferny Ness, together with 32+ LTD; pr Stonechat still present.

Had a shot at vis mig Sunday morning but in strong wind it was more of seawatch, not a great deal moving (full count) but divers in double figures and a fluttering RNG. Where are the Little Gulls this year?!

Late afternoon saw a metal-ringed adult Sandwich Tern on Seton Sands shore, together with an unringed adult Med Gull (photo), with 2 further unringed adults on rocks by the Seton Burn.

Concluding this wk with a dusk shot of Arthur's Seat/Duddingston, no birds visible but corvids were flocking in at the time.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Wknd 17-18 October

Started with the 2nd Big Vis count Saturday morning - a few thrushes moving, plus GSW and my first vis Yellowhammer; full counts on trek; an unringed adult Med Gull amongst the nearest group of gulls feeding on Gosford Sands, tide out.

More vis on Sunday produced fewer thrushes whilst 5 Goosander were a first on vis and 2 Mute Swans went over heading inland. The same adult Med was in the same place foot-paddling in shallows, then while I was watching flew straight over my head and off S inland.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

3 colours

On the Seton shore Wednesday morning, old friends: Med Gull red-7P8, Herring Gull orange-1787 and Shag blue-CCT.

3 more Shag darvics Thursday, and a yellow-darvic GBB on Friday, which would be a first but code not read :(

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Wknd 10-11 October

Not a great deal seen on Saturday whilst on b/day party duties but still at least 15 Sandwich Terns on platforms in Granton Harbour. Also received emails confirming yesterday's colour-ringed BHG had been rung at Salamanca rubbish dump on 28/1/07 (together with some nice photos of ringing location, as per below) and subsequently seen at Pinto landfill, Madrid on 8/3/09; it is (probably) the first non-breeding exchange of BHG btwn Scotland and Spain, there having been one record in Ireland and perhaps two in England. Interesting to speculate where it may breed, possibly in Scotland but could well be Scandinavia and it's just passing throo en route south. Also got news that Herring Gull orange-1787 was again at the Seton Burn on 1 October (this bird ringed near Scarborough on 30/11/07).

Around WeBS on Sunday perhaps the most interesting bird was what I thought was a tiny Cackling Canada Goose (Branta canadensis minima) [correction - I'm advised this is a Canada x Barnacle cross, comments below!] in with the migrant Canadas at East Fenton. I've not seen this individual previously, though a range of smaller Canadas are resident in the area, some parvipes and I suspect the smallest two birds are Taverner's (though there were different opinions when one showed up at Aberlady last year). The "tiny two" themselves were present throo to May and seen again on September WeBS but apparently elsewhere today. Resident Canadas here are not more than a handful so the rest are on the move - later 23 flew throo Port Seton prom playground at an hour after sunset, with 4 Teal! Now 9 Whoopers back at East Fenton, and a very dusky Greylag x Canada hybrid. Also a leucistic Pinkfoot with entirely white wing tips flew over north of Rattlebags quarry.

Nearby at Chapel, another dodgy duck in the form of a darkish Mallard - suggestions of Black Duck but pale side of tail would rule that out; I suspect these dark individuals are not that infrequent in this area and I have tended to ignore them in the past.

En route back passing Aberlady at dusk the white phase Snow Goose was very obvious out on the mud by the Peffer Burn, as arriving flocks whiffled in to join the thousands of Pinkfeet. My daughter (6yrs) managed to spot it with her binoculars. Only 13 Barnacles seen.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Darvic rainbow

Having a rare opportunity to spend a few minutes on the Seton shore free of kids (daughter at ballet) arrived there and quickly found 2 colour-ringed Meds amongst the gathering by the burn, almost certainly regulars red-7P8 (Polish) and green-3LV5 (Belgian). Also, some darviced Shags on rocks offshore, so had to prioritise - stalk the gulls to reconfirm the Meds or go for the Shags. Went for the former and got close enough to confirm Cherry Blossom (red-7P8), also managed a pic (above) on old video camera showing much more mask on right of head (compare left). The other Med was clearly 3LV5 and seems to have recovered from limp, poor pic below.

Then, with both Meds in same scope view, something much more interesting popped up between them, a yellow darvic BHG! Had seen one here previously on 15/12/07 but really tough to get digits on a very narrow ring and failed on that occasion. A chance to get one back - at that point the battery ran out on the camcorder :( Knew I needed to be very much closer so stalked some more, trying camera again managed to get one more shot out of it just a couple of seconds before the whole flock flew - with the darviced bird never refound. Remarkably, the image could be read as "N141" [later confirmed to have been rung at Salamanca rubbish dump on 28/1/07!]

Having "completed" gulls, went for Shags and got 3 darvics (green-SPJ Isle of May 2nd-win, red-PUS Forth islands juv, blue-JLB Isle of May) in 10 birds on the "Shag rock" at Wrecked Craigs, the latter 2 being new and taking total to 29 individuals since August.

Others there - 2 Arctic Skuas (dark + pale ads) came in chasing a large gathering behind a fishing boat - one retrieving something to eat from a Herring Gull which it pursued into the sky, also Sandwich Tern past and a Sanderling on the shore amongst Dunlins; so quite a productive hour overall! Earlier, 4 Swallows and large numbers of geese over Longniddry on the school run, though looks like I missed the Snow Goose which was seen to the south near Gladsmuir - can't win them all...

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Forth entry

Tried seawatching off Seacliff again (after modest success last year with several Bonxies seen heading past into the Forth, all inside the Bass Rock, LBN report). Rather different today in very calm bright conditions, with plenty of skuas seen but only the Arctics coming inside the Bass Rock. Full counts (14:00-17:10hrs):

* RTD - 10N (including group of 7), 2 on sea
* GND - 1N
* Diver sp. - 1N (large)
* Shag - 85N, including 1 blue darvic (Isle of May) juv, plus one red darvic (Forth Islands) juv amongst 50 on rocks
* Cormorant 2N, 1S
* Grey Heron 1N (well offshore, going into Forth behind Bass Rock)
* Barnacle Goose - 10 in-off, over sea from NE
* Pinkfoot - 26 W
* Mallard - 12N
* Teal - f on sea
* Eider - 110N
* Velvet Scoter - 4N
* Bonxie - 18N (singles and 5 x 2), plus 1S, 2 on sea
* Pomarine Skua - 6N (2,1,1,2, latter including an intermediate bird, all other pale ads with spoons; all passed into Forth behind Bass Rock)
* Arctic Skua - 3W (all pale ads; all proceeded into Forth inside Bass Rock)
* Skua sp. - 3N
* Kittiwake - not counted but steady passage N, c. 100/hr, and feeding flocks of 180 and 40 well offshore

Occasionally the Bonxies indulged in a bit of chasing, once putting up nearly 1000 Gannets and one clearly had caught something in the sea, but most proceeded throo unwavering. On the Bass Rock itself at least 80 young Gannets still visible.

On way back found 2 Whoopers in stubble N of Rattlebags Quarry off the Kingston Road, and in the gloom at Aberlady 40 mins after sunset treated to the terrific sound of 20k+ Pinkfeet assembling for roost; scoping out from the gate at S of Kilspindie soon spotted the white phase Snow Goose, fortunately one of the nearest birds, taking a drink from the west side of the Peffer Burn.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Stormy weather

A quick seawatch off Port Seton harbour in storm force winds (gusting to gale force, W8) produced a few skuas, only Arctic (dark ad W close in, plus 2 E overhead) and Great (W well offshore) confirmed, with one f/imm Wheatear along the beach being the only passerine in evidence. Full counts on trektellen. Stunning scenery as the waves crashed right over the harbour wall.

En route to the harbour, a couple of Swallows feeding around Seton East Farm, getting late but a long way short of last year's records into mid-November (LBN); a further Swallow over the house on Sunday morning.