Saturday, 24 April 2010

Wknd 24-25 April

Vis at Ferny Ness Saturday morning was unremarkable, though Mipits moving nearly constantly (full counts); 2 Red-necked Grebe remained on sea and a decent gathering of 179+ Long-tailed Ducks; 3 Wheatear (m, 2f) on the turf; best was seeing pr Shelduck flying off inland behind Fernyness Wood, perhaps to feed but latest atlas maps show quite a number of records of inland breeding/prospecting, more than for last atlas. Also Sandwich Tern at last, extremely late (seen here in March before)!

Saturday pm did first TTV of new season in NT47C, gathering 55 species to take square total to 77 (now 16 confirmed, 29 probable breeding). Despite variety, low numbers of many species, e.g. Wren, most interesting being pr Common Sand, pr Stonechat, pr Wheatear, pr Mute Swan at Blindwells, with the only new confirmed breeder being Mallard there with 3 small ducklings. A Fulmar pursued a course high along the coast road, with the hint of heading off inland over Seton Sands caravan park, but then continued past Longniddry; would have been visible from home for a garden tick!

Sunday tried vis off coast east of North Berwick, towards Leckmoram Ness, with a decent passage of hirundines, c. 70/hr, (full counts), but not the hoped for Swift. Also 14 Sandwich Terns mainly NW, 1 Whimbrel, 12 Purple Sand past west but presumed local, White Wag on golf course and 2 Wheatear on shore, and a Hoodie hybrid. Best was coming across a Ringed Plover nest, very scarce on the Lothian coast these days - none at all recorded in 2007 survey, apart from 5 prs at two protected sites, whilst nearly 100 prs nested on coast in 1984 survey. Witnesed the changeover on 4 eggs, at same instant the bird leaving nest seen to have a metal ring on right leg. Fortunately not too many (dog)walkers on this section but their future looks extremely precarious - have contacted ELCRS to see if signs could be arranged.

Things in full swing on the Bass Rock, Isle of May also visible beyond the mist.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Wk 19-23 April

A mid-wk post for a change! Highlight of Tuesday was a Fulmar high north over the JCMB building at King's Buildings by the Braid Hills in Edinburgh at 13:45hrs. Whilst this species still breeds around Arthur's Seat, rather nearer the coast, there seems to be no remaining colonies further inland (see latest atlas map - dot for NT16Z does not overlap Torphin quarry (possible bird in flight?), whilst probable breeding dot much further inland looks a very unlikely location (possible grid ref error?), and info from Harry Dott in LBN post 11484, stating last known occupancy of Torphin quarry was on 13 April 2007 - post-script, Harry tells me one lonely Fulmar has been back there 2008?, 2009 and currently, so it could have been this individual); trajectory did not really suit a bird coming from latter site, but there may be other quarries either nearer (one on Braid Hills) or further inland, or bird may just have been prospecting. Reminds me of one earlier record of a bird over St Germains on 27 May 2006 - LBN post 6440 - for which I checked possible inland sites but found none.

Later, pr Wheatear on Blindwells and now 20 hirundines there, one Barn Swallow particularly richly coloured below, with rusty tones. Meanwhile the tundra Bean Goose remains at Redside - though it is getting late, a search of the BirdGuides archive reveals equally late east coast records in several years since 2000, occasionally into May, e.g. at Meikle Loch to 18 May 2005, so probably no reason for concern.

Wednesday, called in at Blindwells and traced a scratchy warble not to a hoped for first Whitethroat but a wee male Stonechat, back again with his partner, depicted, for a 3rd year at least; tempting to speculate these were some of the birds which were seen locally along the coast in the really hard weather, this seeming more likely than them having made a long distance emigration to warmer parts, but we will never know; whatever, nice to see them back!

Later, still 5 Wigeon taking the seaweed at the Seton Burn, with their friend the Mute Swan which has now been in residence since the influx of swans last September, generally on its own since mid-Oct, though joined by a friend on Monday! Ferny Ness still held a male Wheatear, with a decent gathering of scoter offshore, estimated 590+ Velvets, amongst which at least 38 Long-tailed Ducks and a fine pair of Red-necked Grebes. A feature of this blog seems to have been rather a lot of Gosford Bay sunsets, here's a variation on the theme with sunbeams throo a gap in the clouds, all reflecting off a reasonably calm sea at dusk.

Thursday - fresh Barn Owl road-kill on verge of A1 at Wallyford, to be collected later.

Friday morning - Black Swan with ad + juv Mutes sailing past Ferny Ness SW close inshore. My first, but can't be counted on any list as this is a Category E species, even though they breed in various places in the UK, as per latest atlas map - 15+ "confirmed" dots in England, plus a similar number of "probables", but only shown in Fife, Forth, D&G and Orkney on Scottish breeding map, only D&G being probable breeding. Also a Tripit over high N direct out to sea with Mipits, and 2 Smarties in same direction low over water. 28 fine breeding-plumage LTD close in.

[Postscript - as most good birds in the area do, gravitated immediately to Musselburgh, whereupon proper photos were taken].

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Wknd 17-18 April

Friday found the above Redshanks and sleeping Eider sheltering at Wrecked Craigs, Port Seton.

Vismig over Gosford Bay on Saturday afternoon produced 3 each of Swallow and Sand Martin, all low west well offshore into strong west wind, full count. A male Wheatear on the turf at Ferny Ness was my belated first of the spring.

Sunday was WeBS incorporating Mute Swan spring census, starting well with one in flight right over the house! Total 38 Mutes found around northern East Lothian sites, but only moult flocks were those continuing at Ballencrieff Mains (7), JMCP (6) and Amisfield by Haddington (13); Whoopers located at Waughton (seemed to have a limp) and 3 at New Mains, Whitekirk. Mutes on nests at Drem pools and East Fortune, the former a massive job as per pic.

Passing Redside (16:30hrs) pulled up on Whitekirk road to scope the pool (my former WeBS site, now covered by Mark) and noticed a small flock of presumed Greylags on hillside behind. Rather distant at about 850m N but amongst them there seemed to be an orange-legged bird; a few of these feral Greylags do have orange legs, and other possibilities seemed unreasonable, so I was about to go on when I thought, no I'd better check them out; got round to the cottages and scoped flock at 100m in adjacent field and lo and behold there was the same tundra Bean Goose which had been at Tyninghame on 3 & 5 April, now with 4 lingering Pinks and 10 Greylag. Nice to see it much closer though they all flew off onto the pond after a couple of minutes, and given the large "Private Gardens" sign we continued our journey.

Also on WeBS ponds, 7 Snipe Drem Pools, 2 small race Canadas (Taverner's?) remaining at East Fenton, pr Shoveler East Fenton and Chapel, with 6 White Wags at former (below), 3 Wheatear at Brownrigg with Lapwings still displaying there, pr Partridge at usual places East Fenton & Chapel and 21 Tree Sparrow at latter; double figures hirundines at Muir Park resr by Aberlady, East Fenton and Blindwells, mainly Swallows but also a few Sand Martins and single House Martins at first and last; singing Willow Warblers East Fenton and East Fortune; finally 3 Goosander on Tyne at Amisfield.

Finally, got return on last female Barn Owl recovered from A1 at Macmerry (link with pics) - confirming this one was not in quite such good condition, only 4/5 body score and generally empty apart from a very fresh Wood Mouse; an adult female which has previously bred (uterus postgravida), but we will never know where.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Wknd 10-11 April

Wknd commenced with receipt of BTO return on Barn Owl recovered from A1 at Macmerry in early Feb - ringed as a chick in July last year near Largo Bay in Fife (GC73815). So whilst not "local" it had only moved about 20 miles but had presumably made the sea crossing over the Forth, quite possibly after the hard weather started but maybe earlier during its initial dispersal.

Both days out on the Seton shore very few migrants apparent, with still no sign of Sandwich Tern which makes them very late. On Sunday afternoon a bunch of White Wagtails appeared on the shore at Wrecked Craigs, Port Seton, and proceeded to flycatch over the rocks, making digiscoping near impossible, until vigorously seen off by a resident Pied male.

Still a few Long-tailed Duck on the sea, 14 in Gosford Bay mainly in near full breeding plumage. Photo below shows sea duck settled for the night at dusk on Saturday, with another spectacular sunset over Longniddry beach.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Easter wknd, 3-4 April

Saturday took us to the East Links Family park where the only birds of interest were captives - a pair of Mandarin Ducks, both pinioned but only female with a leg ring (red tie-cord) and the resident Emperor and Swan Geese. A large domestic Mallard captured the female Mandarin and mated with it several times, goodness knows what any offspring would look like!

After, at Belhaven Bay, a single White Wagtail and at least one Scandinavian Rock Pipit (littoralis), right; headed home and at the Tyninghame turning saw geese up over the North Berwick road so pulled in at the Ware road to check them out - they alighted in flooded cereal fields on the north side. Just completing count of 410 Pinks, 1 Greylag, came across a bird with orange legs, but unfortunately walking away; only when it reached the far side of the field, c. 300m, did it turn and allow proper scrutiny - orange wedge on bill confirming it was a Bean, most likely a Taiga [Postscript - subsequently nailed by Calum Scott as a Tundra, which would be 4th record (6th bird) for Lothian after two Feb 96, two Jan-Feb 06 and a single 7/2/09 - perhaps even same individual as latter]. After watching for a short period a man with a gun appeared in wood opposite and birds flew at 18:36hrs, heading east into the Bay area. Photos poor, bird central in this one below. Also in the fields just inland of Buist's Embankment still a few Whoopers present amongst at least 8 swans visible.

If accepted the Bean Goose will conclude a long search for the species, commencing with regular trips into NE Scotland farmland with my father for several years from mid 1980's and inconclusive views of one at Marshside RSPB in Lancs throo a resident birder's scope, also about 25 years ago!

Sunday, required to visit Edinburgh, popped in at Shorthope Street c/p in Musselburgh and managed to read the metal ring on an immature Herring Gull throo telescope (GC41079) - submitted to and will post origin here when received [ringed as a nestling on the Isle of May, visible 41km ENE, 1004 days previously on 5/7/07]. Also a Sand Martin there, and 3 Chiffchaffs in song by scrapes.

Easter Monday took us back to Garleton for egg rolling, aka a Rouzel hunt; for about the 10th consecutive spring visit there were none of the latter, despite the site having apparently ideal habitat, at least as good as some traditional sites further south, e.g. Pitstone Hill, and despite others being found in the Lammermuirs, the hills directly opposite, the same day :( Check on the BHG colony showed progress to nest building and copulation with 40 birds present plus a sprinkling of other waterbirds.