Sunday, 18 July 2010

Wknd 17-18 July

Back to local atlas - after many rain delays getting in final visit to NT47X (Ugston, with 5 Crossbills over SW), thus completing all my allocated breeding tetrads. Also did topping up in NT46Z (Pilmuir - previously just two records logged, but a quick circuit produced 24 species, 7 confirmed, with a Quail in song east of East Blance (new atlas tetrad) and Sedge Warbler in the verge hedge there), and NT57H and NT57N, where I stayed until getting 10 confirmed in each. Also recorded juvenile Buzzards at two locations.

Checked Garleton again for Whinchat, negative, but saw this racing pigeon (SHU 2010 ringed green-6264/blue-20) by road on Skid Hill. Went to the SHU website to report it, thinking perhaps of interest to the owner (and I once had a thank you call from another owner after reporting one) but site displays clear messages that birds are not to be reported unless they are in your possession, how frustrating, who would choose to deliberately not know where their bird had been en route?! Oh well, each to their own.

Sunday headed out around WeBS ponds with expectations close to zero, as they rarely draw in many waders (since the demise of Lochhill at least). Surprise surprise East Fortune harboured a pristine "brown type" Mandarin, a Lothian tick for me and first for the site since WeBS counts began in 1988; that was the easy bit, working out age/sex was a bit more tricky, considering even females are in non-breeding plumage at this time of year, but critical for interpreting the record (juvenile birds are excluded from WeBS counts, and equally could not be logged for atlas if not locally bred, whilst an adult must have been there since at least May as they are flightless in eclipse, an "H" for atlas, first in East Lothian).

Signs of reddish colour in the bill, particularly around base, and orange apparent on glimpse of leg, tips balance in favour of an eclipse drake as both juvenile and non-breeding female usually have duller bill and legs, though this can be quite variable (female with mainly pink bill here); pale streaks apparent on flanks (rather than oval marks of adult female) probably of no value in distinguishing juvenile from non-breeding adults, neither the lack of white stripe at bill base as this is only shown by female in breeding plumage (though last year's eclipse drake in Edinburgh also showed it, so this is a feature perhaps against eclipse drake?!). Certainly makes more sense as an adult though, and is possibly one of the drakes seen on the Tyne earlier in the year; it certainly bore no resemblance to the scruffy female we saw at East Links Family Park in April.

Also en route a Quail calling from barley btwn Chapel and Prora (NT526803) (perhaps same as last year's Chapel Farm bird about 1km NE, but not in cereal now), a juv Common Sand on Chapel resr, juvenile Buzzards are two more locations and a male Sprawk with tiny prey into trees at Drem Ride (FF?). A fledged hybrid crow at Rattlebags quarry unfortunately can't be recorded as first confirmed breeding in East Lothian as there were a lot of young crows there and it may conceivably have come some distance. Small Torts out in great numbers, one of 10+ on thistles at Drem pools below.

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