Saturday, 28 November 2009

Wknd 28-29 Nov

A TTV in NT47Z (Mungoswells) produced many of the usual suspects: plenty thrushes (the 5 species, including 100+ Fieldfare), 14 Lotti, decent FLABs (22 Goldfinch, 9 Yammer, 3 Bullfinch), a few of both sparrows, a few of the 3 common raptors, 45 feeding Curlew and 8 roosting Lapwing, but by far the best was a Barn Owl by the bridge near Luffness Mains at 13:45hrs; quickly vanished so perhaps just disturbed from roost. Particularly pleasing given the number of times I've been down that road after dark hoping to see one! By contrast, very disappointing to see no partridges in 2+ hrs in the field on an organic farm :(

Sunday was rough with both lashing heavy rain at times and a strong wind throo-out. Had a look at the Seton shore but great difficulty in just looking throo common gull species right in front of me! The remaining Mute Swan looked rather forlorn on the upper shore alone. Then checked the Whoopers gathered E of the B1345 at Fenton Barns and again couldn't get any darvics amongst 91 at dusk; photos of Whooper dance and juvs above c/o Abbie Marland; a probable ad m Merlin flew over fields but lost from view and conditions too poor to confirm; a more encouraging covey of 15 Grey Partridge present by the kitchens place, perhaps same as family of 16 seen near Rattlebags on 6 September; on journey home checked geese assembled on Aberlady mudflats, as they battled in mainly from SW (c. 2000 at 16:10hrs), but no unusual ones were apparent, certainly no sign of a white Snow Goose. Seems I may have been wrong is calling 4 juv/1st-win Whitefronts, as 2 juvs and 2 ads reported from Aberlady this morning - presumably seen better.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

More collars and darvics

2500+ Pinks at Greendykes this morning included 4 collars, FPD, IJY (at Buxley on 21/11), PXB and AIT/AIY, latter uncertain. 10 Barnacles but Whitefronts not seen. [Postscript - later it transpired that another birder turned up 10 mins after I left and promptly found a new white-phase Snow Goose (presumably one of the 2 at Strathbeg 19/10, Montrose Basin 7/11 and Loch Leven 10-23/11). This is a species I still need for my life list (self found). Oh well - certainly I have great expertise in dodging rarities, other recent examples being the RRS (perhaps same as refound by same birder in Eyemouth) and the Osprey over Esk bridge on 27/7 reported at virtually the exact time I crossed the same bridge! [Post-Postscript - it turns out the Snow Goose was already at Hoprig on Tuesday afternoon (!) but not reported on LBN and did not reach BirdGuides; this photo may be from that instance; similar situation with a Med Gull and Sandwich Tern at Seton Sands on Monday, all info from birdinglothian [Post-Post-Postscript - Snow Goose found by punkbirder Dan Brown of Sandhill Crane fame on Tuesday]].

Recent colar/darvic histories linked here for Pinks, feral Greylags and Icelandic Greylags. Whoopers too for the record. NB - these are all Excel spreadsheets but they can be viewed automatically via Scribd on so you don't need to have it installed to access.

Still plenty of Shag darvics off Port Seton, records sheet now updated with origins of Forth Islands birds (6 Craigleith, 3 Inchmickery, 3 Fidra).

Friday, 20 November 2009

Wknd 21-22 Nov

A fine morning on Friday saw heaps of birds moving on way to work - 100's Pinks over Longniddry as usual, then a single species flock of 10 Barnacles, and another single with Pinks. While watching Barnies saw throo bins high in sky behind a large flock of plovers, 280 SW; immediately afterwards 70 Lapwings high NE, all from home. Passerines on the move again, with thrushes, finches and alba wag SW along coast; then 400+ Golden Plover over Dolphingstone, feeding there in ploughed and cereal recently; finally 40 Fieldfares NE over Newton village.

Another fine morning Saturday encouraged geese out early with 1000+ over at 08:15hrs; min 3 Barnacles in 1800+ by 09:55hrs. Shame the white Snow Goose is not around any more as still need this species for the garden list! Just after midday 1800+ Pinks located in the same fields at Buxley btwn the B6371 and B6355 just S of Tranent (2 collars, one was IJY), containing at least 13 Barnacles and 4 juv Whitefronts, just as the weather closed in and heavy rain commenced (perhaps same as recent Fenton Tower birds). The latter would have been a garden tick, but it's going to be a challenge to get them from home! Photos here, group including obvious dark bird under 2nd telegraph from right in first and 3 darker birds on left in second (one showing a hint of a white shield above orange beak, i.e. 1st-win plumage). The bright-orange bills with darker nails would suggest these are Greenland race birds though better views would be needed to confirm.

En route to the geese checked the Seton Burn where a distinctive immature gull was present - all grey mantle but large all-dark beak with yellow tip, blocky head and decent primary extension - all clear indicators of a 2nd-win YLG. However, on both my pics the bird had turned its head towards me, then it flew off SW along the shore and was not relocated around Seton harbour, so will not be submittable. Hopefully it will be relocated, perhaps at well-watched Musselburgh. Lucy (LBB) was also there on the shore, shown here, with another graellsii LBB.

Sunday geese passing over again, with 10 Barnacles (7+3) seen amongst c. 1000 at 09:30hrs; one was leading a group and passed over our house directly overhead so easy for the children to see. No other interesting geese spotted, but 80 Woodies over SW looked like migrants and an imm m Peregrine went over NE.

Afternoon, around WeBS, Scaup were back on the resrs (m, f) and a beautiful ad f (correction ad/imm f!) Merlin was hunting the Kingston-Chapel road. Not much change in Whoopers, most on grass at Muirton, and this fine family, apparently b6 (all cygnets identical). In the 2005 International Swan Census only one brood of 6 was noted amongst 645 in Ireland, so either I'm mistaken or this is an exceptional family!

Finally, also at East Fortune (at dusk) were the 3 domestic variant Greylags, recently seen at East Fenton (6/9), Gosford Bay (1/11) and Gosford ponds (15/11).

Abbie Marland has provided these photos of the whitest individual at the ponds.
The other bird shown on the right is the one I consider a possible Swan Goose hybrid; it has some similarities with the suspected Greylag x domestic Chinese Swan Goose hybrid towards the foot of this page on eurobirding.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

totty wee Canada

The photos here c/o George Hogg depict a hybrid Canada x Barnacle Goose, seen at Eskmouth Musselburgh on 16 November. Distinguished from Cackling Canada most obviously by the long neck sock descending to upper breast, and the stark contrast with paler flanks, plus small white dots on forehead:

This appears to be the same bird which was at East Fenton on 11 October and perhaps flew over Port Seton prom playground amongst 23 birds after dark the same day. I'm not aware if it has occurred in our region before, but there may well be a general lack of interest in it if it has really been at Musselburgh for over a month and no-one has noticed it, or thought it worth mentioning?! More photos from Musselburgh here, c/o Gavin Hamilton.

NB - the ID of this bird and others similar is also debated on hybridbirds.

Some further superb images c/o Abbie Marland (River Esk, 20 November):

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Wknd 14-15 Nov

Saturday spent at the zoo, confirming the Night Herons are AWOL once more, but noting an abundance of Moorhens, some amongst the penguins, others strolling lawns and even one in the (sealed) stork and ducks pen which had presumably broken in?!

Sunday commenced with an attempt to cut short the goose count by getting them at roost on Gosford Sands before dawn, as per last month; failed, already vacated (also, vis there nearly non-existant, done for the year now). So trawled around usual sites in East Lothian - Whoopers now discovered unharvested potatoes in fields btwn Chapel and Congalton, but no repeat of the mass influx (389 birds) this time two years ago - only 90 present/remaining (10 juvs), and deep ruts made it impossible to get any darvics.

At East Fortune, 291 Greylags was another decent count, Icelandic immigrants betrayed by a single silver collar NAX, a regular bird in Lothian since 2002 (ringed on Iceland, July 2000, all records here). But no sign of its mate, SFJ! Also there on the resr, Northumberland Mute red-UXC (at Gleghornie last winter, and Waughton the previous year), and 550 Pinks nearby.

Back to Gosford towards dusk, and a Kingfisher was heard at the ponds. Counted at least 332 Greylags around island, plus usual accompanying 2 Greylag x Canada, 2 domestic/hybrid mainly white and grey variants, and their mate a probable Swan Goose x Greylag hybrid (similar to these), and a single lost Pinkfoot; in addition, several Greylags have some hints of white feathering on cheeks and may be back-crosses of Greylags with Greylag x Canada hybrids, or some such. They commenced flying to roost 16:30hrs and c. 355 counted out - all headed NE towards Aberlady, but 10 mins later they all flew back SW and were located on Gosford shore well after sunset; there a total of 377 birds was logged, minus variants giving 662 birds in total - marginally the biggest count yet.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Monday evening, 3700+ Pinks with at least 9 Barnacles gathered in stubble btwn Greendykes and Hopring Mains.

Tuesday morning many of same going over house at dawn but on arrival in A1 layby opposite Greendykes decoys had been set - c. 20 grey geese, Pinks being unrealistic with pale lower necks, but they worked and gunners took out two approaching Pinks in a flock of 200+, sending terror throo the rest which then continued west. I know, I know, if it wasn't for our dear wildfowlers there would be no habitat for most of our wildfowl, but still, I felt for those two after their long trek from Iceland, especially as their necks were broken by the gunner nonchalantly spinning them round one-handed.

Wednesday, more of the same with 1200 Pinks over house early on (while preparing raptors to be dispatched for analysis - Barn Owl from Dolphingstone, Buz from Whitecraig). Amongst the first 600 a yapping could be clearly heard and sure enough a single Barnacle with them. The next bunch of 30-odd birds included another Barnie that even my son (just 3yrs) could pick out naked eye. They settled today west of Greendykes - another atlas tick for Barnacle in NT47G, but how long were they left in peace there I wonder?

Thursday saw c. 1000 Pinks heading beyond Greendykes over Adniston towards New Winton.

Friday took the coast road and 1040 Pinks came inland off the sea including 3 Barnacles, obviously arriving from Aberlady. Belgian-ringed Med Gull green-3LV5 was on the shore again. Also, a LBB at Wrecked Craigs bore a strong resemblence to "Lucy", a presumed female graellsii LBB which has occurred here regularly in winter ever since being a 1st-winter bird 5 years ago; wintering immature LBB are rare in Scotland, but increasing numbers of adults are found. However, even at peak, most LBB on the coast here frequent the sandy shores (and Seton Burn area) whilst Lucy is usually on rocks around the harbour, with LWHG. Would be fascinating to know where she breeds, but presumably somewhere a long way north, perhaps Faroes or Iceland? Below is a photo compilation from previous appearances.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Wknd 7-8 Nov

With better weather finally got to tetrad NT47U on Saturday; woods around Hungary House held at least one Nutch with tit flocks, and 2+ Jays heard; scanning towards chicken sheds revealed no hirundines but on way back glimpsed one SW over Muir Park estate and a few minutes later got onto it over woods SW of the Bothy shop, c. NT459789; it was clearly a Barn Swallow.

Vis on Sunday morning at Stobshiel (edge of Lammermuirs) picked up a good flow of Woodies NE, again; also present, imm f Goshawk which looked like it had had several Woodies for breakfast, imm f Peregrine - would have hit me had I been a bit nearer the wall on the plateau, 4 Twite low NE, Jays, Crossbill, Woodcock and stunning views over to Pentlands, snow-covered hills of Upper Forth and Fife across to the Isle of May. Full counts.

Afternoon - another fine day so completed TTV in NT58Q; en route logged 124 Whoopers back near East Fenton, unfortunately in long stubble so no chance to read any rings. 29 juvs is a decent ratio (23%). Also 7 Barnacles nearby with Pinks east of Queenstonbank. Another Woodcock also seen at dusk over road at West Fenton.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Swans return

Right on cue following a weather opening for Whooper migration, as predicted by WWT on Super Whooper blog "With the forecast looking good for swan migration on Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning, we look forward to more swans arriving later on this week" - whilst delivering kids to school 4 swans came into view approaching Longniddry Primary, 08:50hrs on 4 November; naked eye view only but lead bird had the straight neck profile characteristic of Whooper and was followed by a coffee wash bird typical of juv. The other two examined less closely.

Meanwhile, within a mile of the same location and home, a Red-rumped Swallow was watched later in the day by the chicken sheds near Gosford House, together with Barn Swallow. Also seen on Tuesday in my atlas tetrad NT47U which I might have visited on Sunday had the weather not been so atrocious, now mid-week with no chance to get out conditions are perfect - typical!

Friday update - despite continuing poor weather, one Sandwich Tern remaining on Seton Sands, and Wood Pigeon migration now underway.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Snow Sandwich

"Vismig" in very unpromising conditions (continuous rain) at Ferny Ness on 1st Nov (for 3rd and final Big Vis count) produced a few interesting observations, best being 7 Snow Buntings SW offshore and a couple of lingering Sandwich Terns. Full counts on trek.

Latter are also a useful (new 10km) record for the atlas, with winter season work commencing today. There are a number of updates to the local website to make it easy to target what needs to be done next. See in particular the:

"Winter index map" - displays species per 10km square - click on any to see what's still missing (P symbols shows what's found in adjacent tetrads)

"Winter progress map" - an overview of where more effort is needed - anything in red could probably do with more work; click on any tetrad to generate a handy half-page worksheet with current records (including max counts) marked up, for taking out into the field.