Sunday, 21 February 2010

Wknd 20-21 February

Can't resist uploading more Whooper pics, from WeBS on Sunday. Total c. 300 mixed swans on farm resrs, of which no more than 60 Mute so now estimating 240 Whoops (rings J3P, PL5 & UH3, again). 73 Tufties was another new record high, mainly at Chapel, presumably driven off other frozen waters, with the regular f Scaup, f/imm RBM, f Goldeneye, etc.

Also finished off last two winter TTV's, Mungoswells, which produced a Woodcock along the fantastically overgrown burn, with a couple of Goldcrests in there too, and another Barn Owl casualty recovered from field by B1377; and up in Garleton Hills, where heard news of a Barn Owl which appeared when snow was lying at a large steading, where it could hunt under cover, and was seen frequently during the worst of the hard weather. A Barnie was also seen recently at Ballencrieff - encouraging to hear of another survivor, whilst news from further afield - Muirkirk area in Ayrshire, is of many more found dead throo starvation or simply absent (ayrshirebirding).

Elsewhere, took last chance to add a few more missing atlas species for other NT47/NT58 tetrads, though failed again to find Wren in NT47F, New Winton - now may not be a good time to be looking! 132 Fieldfare were at Jerusalem Farm on the Haddington to Pencaitland road. On third attempt finally got Tawny Owl in NT57B, south of Haddington, which was a surprise as this is prime habitat and they were easily located there in spring last year. A visit to Black Wood at Clerkington, in search of owls, was a mistake, as I found myself in the midst a vast corvid roost, with deafening noise of Jackdaws all around!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Wknd 13-14 February

Started with recovery of yet another fresh Barn Owl. Apologies to those who find this news repetitive and depressing, but we have also to be realistic and recognise that despite the high rates of casualties these are not all of them, and also that this is evidence of significant numbers having survived the hard weather in this area. There has often been a late winter peak but it certainly seems worse this year, with rate significantly increased (6 casualties so far, versus previous 5-yr average of 1.4+2.0=3.4 for Jan+Feb). There may be various explanations for this, for example, wandering birds displaced from elsewhere (suggested by ringing recoveries last wk and a year ago) or local birds being forced to hunt longer due to poor condition and/or difficulty in finding food. A clue to latter will come from post mortem analysis of condition and diet, but some at least seem to be surviving well - tonight's bird weighs in at 350g which is a decent weight for a Barnie, and looks immaculate - it is really dead (broken wing)! Daylight photos here, a real beauty with the buff colour on neck sides, size and extent of spots, and darker grey in crown suggestive to me of a female - but the post mortem will confirm [was confirmed as ad f, body score 5/5, contained field mouse and voles].

On Saturday back at Seton harbour, nice gathering of gulls (above) included 2 whopping argentatus Herrings, 3rd-win and ad; dainty Lucy was still roaming the area, below on fish market, later along the high street at pub car park, but then attending Eider well offshore - first time I've seen her feeding offshore in this manner, though this is of course absolutely routine for many of the large gulls in the area which simply position themselves on the sea adjacent to diving Eider and try to steal their prey when they surface. A particularly large gathering of them today, 310+, though summer moult flocks here can exceed 600.

Last thing on Saturday, 2 Waxwings at council depot on Dunbar Road in Haddington, flew off towards town centre at dusk - perhaps some of the birds which had visited the nearby berry bushes on the bypass last year? Today they flew down to a small fir tree, but I could not see if they were taking buds or searching for insects.

Sunday, there were at least 217 Whoopers in rape at New Mains, Fenton Barns, amongst which I could only see three rings, P9P, J3P and UH3 - all shown in first pic below, second shows P9P. All these birds present in December, along with CX9 and PL5, latter last seen just a fortnight ago, which I may have missed today - nevertheless, one would have expected a few new rings with the increase in numbers, given four of the above present in only 107 birds early Dec; full darvic histories. But again could not locate the complement of the 270 reported a couple of weeks ago - these may have moved on, or possibly were a small incursion of Tyninghame birds?

At dusk, this 1st-win male Stonechat was feeding on the shore at Yellowcraigs - nice to see a survivor, hardy wee bird - and 1600 Herring Gulls gathered on Fidra with a few pairs of Fulmar on ledges.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Seton, 11 Feb

First chance to look at the Seton harbour gulls for a while found a good number around the boats, 20+ GBB and Lucy still present amongst her larger friends, now a 5th winter (earlier pics):

1500+ small gulls on the Seton shore including just a single unringed adult Med Gull, notable that hood was largely complete, though with lots of white flecking, but thus more advanced than all but a handful of BHG present.

The wintering Mute Swan remains on the shore, now quite stained reddish-brown from the burn water; I have heard she is being fed by a local resident, though I guess the light seaweed is her staple diet.

Unrelated to any of the above, but one of the Shags ringed on Forth Islands last summer (red-TIT) recovered recently at Snook Point, Holy Island - ringed as a chick on 12 June on Fidra, BTO demog blog link - not amongst those seen at Seton though.

Finally, to join the list of recent wacky observations, report of a Quail on a road in urban Edinburgh over New Year; can of worms, wintering Quail, with 19th century reports apparently not uncommon (Birds of England), and a handful of Scottish records, though I am assured that some genuine influx Quails which arrived in July have stayed into November locally (Gifford area) and there was the March bird, into April, at Reston in Borders 2008. Also two reported nationally in last couple of days, Portland and at East Hyde in Herts.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Wknd 6-7 February

Friday started with recovery of 3 more Barn Owls off A1/A720, including a pristine specimen from near Sheriffhall - seemed to be in crouching position and perhaps died after first hit (above) - and another BTO-ringed individual (GC73815) from the A1 by Macmerry Satellite Park (almost a year to the day since the Beltonford bird (GF81584) which had been ringed as an adult in Highland, near Drumnadrochit (192km distant) two summers previously). Have already confirmed the new ring is not from Lothian or Borders so this may be another similar case [confirmed ringed as a chick near Largo Bay, Fife, July 09 - presumably came over the Forth when the hard weather hit, or maybe during its initial dispersal?].

Confirmation of 270 Whoopers in the Drem area, with at least 89 still near Lochhouses on Friday (latter per Allan & Lyndesay Brown), suggests a new influx of wintering swans and there should be new darvics to read this wknd.

Saturday - in murky conditions only found 210 Whoopers in Drem area, including rings J3P and PL5, both regulars which were present in December (histories). Oystercatchers back inland in same area.

Sunday - TTV at Waughton (NT58Q) produced most of the hoped for species, including a Woodcock seen at nearly touching distance, but of course flew before I could reach for camera. A Heron, dead a few weeks, had perhaps succumbed to hard weather. Disappointingly not a single snipe along 2km of ideal ditch/burn habitat, rather a surprise. A female Reed Bunting below: