Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Bleak midwinter

Weather continued cold on Monday (28/12) but bright so visited Tyninghame area to scout out Whoopers in advance of swan census (for some peculiar reason no-one reports these birds on LBN, apart from my posts last report was 31/3/07!). With the tide out, just 11 Whoopers (4 juv) in the inner bay, along with a lot of birds including 600+ Wigeon, 480 Dunlin and 4 Greenshank on the mud, and Jay and Siskin in the pines. The family park was closed due to ice but llamas could be admired over the fence:

In the family park itself was a decent gathering of gulls and corvids exploiting the animal food, plus the usual feral wildfowl, with 2 Swan Geese, an Emperor Goose, and a few domestic Greylags on the pond. Only a few remained of the 2400 Skylarks reported a couple of days ago and the Twite seemed to be down at the south of the salt marsh - c. 90 birds circling but too distant to confirm.

Heading north eventually found 58 Whoopers (14 juv) in cereal by Lochhouses at dusk, with at least 4200 Pinks feeding in the area. The Whoopers commenced leaving to roost at 16:10hrs (25 mins after sunset), just 5 remaining at 16:20hrs, flying SE to Tyninghame. Watching carefully was able to confirm the adult birds led the roost departure. As usual, a good ratio of juvs - 26.1% in these birds, with 29 juvs in 114 on East Lothian WeBS last week (25.4%). By comparison the Drem area ratio last autumn was 21.8% and in 2007 18.0%. All exceed recent UK means of 15.7%, WWT link.

Tuesday (29/12) a frozen Blindwells produced a Woodcock at each end, wintering f/imm Stonechat and Stock Dove. A crow seemed to be eating a rabbit skin on the ice, perhaps from a food cache as appeared to be frozen:

Wednesday (30/12) a quick roving records tour of NT47 produced a few ticks including a female Brambling on the track from Gladsmuir to Butterdean (below). Specific ID of 6 Redpolls on catkins in Campbell Road, Longniddry, not confirmed. At dusk 2 small wader-like birds flushed from verge at Coates were probably Jack Snipe, but need to refind to confirm. One more day to get this species for the year list!

A return trip at night drew a blank on Jacks but further Woodcocks were seen on the verge at Blakney Knowe and Wheatrig (ticks for NT47S/T); the latter bird initially retreated from the headlights but then seemed attracted to them and ran towards the car. Incidentally, the Woodcock map has been transformed in recent days - 12 occupied tetrads in coastal NT27/37/47/48 as of first two winters now doubled to 24, see latest map on BTO regional results. Seriously, if 2 can be found in merely driving five miles or so, how many might be out there in total at present - frequenting ditches, burns and woods in lowland East Lothian - surely hundreds of individuals?

On the last day of the year, with assistance from Abbie, refound the Jack Snipe at Coates - another traditional visitor there (seen last year in May!) but the first for the winter atlas in the whole of NT47 (total reaches 129); also my first of the year (species 161), having failed at my usual site, very timely! Below snipe probing in stream edge (2nd shot from Abbie later) and ethereal conditions as a snow storm moved in, followed by two shots of fleeing Jack Snipe, also c/o Abbie - 4 birds seen!

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