Sunday, 31 October 2010

Wknd 30-31 October

A frustrating wknd with no internet access due to broadband fault from Friday pm until Sunday evening. No time for proper post so below is expanded from LBN message:

vismig both days, fortunately overlapping Ian's counts at Muss, confirms Musselburgh is a much better location, or Ian a better counter! My Saturday totals from Longniddry were less than a half for same period, much fewer Chaffinch, and Sunday even lower; nevertheless ystdy in total:

209 Siskin, 35 Crossbill, 18 Waxwing, 1 Brambling, 1 Rock Pipit

Siskins still moving mid-afternoon in Aberlady when another 12 Waxwing plus another extended flock (c. 200) distantly SW almost certainly Waxwing too. Full counts on trektellen. A female Peregrine was out on the mud.

Also ystdy, c. 1780 Golden Plover on the rocky shore at Port Seton, Long Craigs.

This afternoon, 89 Whoopers (17 juv, including one b5) in stubble by Rattlebags quarry (near East Fenton) included 3 new darvics, E7B, G4F and S55; latter was ringed as a juv by Allan Brown on the River Tay at Flukie Fishing Lodge, Kinfauns, near Perth on 29/1/10, last seen there 19/3/10. Also one metal only (right, perhaps same as last winter). Unusually two flew to roost towards Aberlady, passing over Fenton Barns at dusk.

Also at East Fenton, 17 Waxwings flycatching and at dusk 24 arrived at the entrance track to the main house at Fenton Barns and probably went to roost there.

Best sight of the weekend was a Tree Sparrow in our tiny garden amongst the usual House Sparrows - common enough elsewhere in the neighbourhood but our first in 7 years.

The Brambling ystdy was also new for the garden list, these being species 91 & species 92. vismig ought to eventually yield 100 species - some obvious targets still left with Reed Bunting, Tree Pipit, Twite and Yellowhammer, all regular on vis on the coast, and a few more optimistic ones needed for the final gap - Yellow Wagtail, Lap Bunt (will there ever be a better opportunity than this winter?), Snow Bunt and Rock Pipit (last three all seen passing Ferny Ness). My previous speculation on garden list targets now looks rather redundant, though one or two others may still be realistic, certainly a few more common ducks (Teal, Wigeon) and waders (Snipe, Woodcock).

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Wknd 23-24 October

Did the final BigVis count on Sunday (too much rain Saturday); on arrival at Ferny Ness 25 Waxwings were approaching from south, continued high N over the Forth, plus one heard soon after. A good passage of Fieldfare with 7 flocks totalling 335, all arriving from SW or coasting, continuing W. 69 Siskin SW in one hour. Full counts on trektellen.

Sunday afternoon, Kittiwakes spotted moving into Forth, 2 flocks totalling 105 SW, and a single juv Gannet. Immediately following another beautiful sunset all the Pinks and more came back at dusk, a flock of c. 6470 NE over Ferny Ness at 18:20hrs (updated counts)

Saturday morning - 3 Barnacle Geese out on Aberlady mud after the Pinks had departed (and 302+ Shelduck); later noted two Jays near the Tyne at Lennoxlove.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Surprise Hobby

Spotted this bird, sadly a road-kill, on the A1 at Whitecraig, by Inveresk, late last week (14/10); had been puzzled about species, roughly Kestrel sized but brown like a Buzzard and many bars seemingly ruling out all usual possibilities; so collected in early hours of Friday and despite having been squashed flat it was obviously a Hobby, quite a surprise.

As per pics above age and sex seems quite straightforward: dark brown upperparts, uniform flight feathers fringed buff, undertail coverts and thighs both well-marked all point to juv; big tear drop brown marks on thighs, and short bars on undertail (not extending to feather shaft as on juv male) confirm female. Sad end to a beautiful bird.

Nearby, remains of a Tawny Owl recovered from the Esk bridge, freshly dead on Wednesday morning, apparently juv too but need to dry out feathers. Also recently, feathers above of a dead owl recovered from Vaults Wood at White Sands, early October (per Kris Gibb, Ian Andrews) turn out to be from a Short-eared Owl, very probably an adult female; my guess is an expired migrant, just possibly a bird which expired in last winter's cold weather.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wk 18-22 October

Med Gulls in Seton roost - ad + 2nd-win (above) on shore before sunset on Monday, at sunset on Tuesday, and 3 adults out in roost on Long Craigs rocks 45 mins after sunset on Wednesday (amongst c. 4250 gulls).

NB - all of these are very much minimum counts, this time of year there are often too many birds to properly scan them all and even on the last count with most birds arrived a few were still arriving from 18:30hrs onwards; was surprised I could distinguish any Meds at all in the gloom but once you get one they are usually unmistakable. More observers would be good, last saw birders at this site over a year ago when the "yellow-legged" Gull drew a few out one night (and failed to show). This visit also accompanied by the curious sounds of 2+ Snipe calling to each other continuously out on the rocky shore, and the melodious conversation of Golden and Ringed Plovers. Immediately beforehand at Eskside in Musselburgh one female Pintail on the river, and early morning 22 Fieldfare SW along the coast road (with reports on vismig of many thousands pouring over some sites in the Pennines - trektellen overview).

At least 5 Med Gulls (4+ ads and the 2nd-win) on rocky shore by Long Craigs at dusk on Thursday - image shows 3 adults within 100 birds in west of roost; 4th adult was further east, and the 2nd-win seen well in flight over. This equals my previous best count at the site on 13 November 2006 but that included 2x 1st-win, this is the most adults together; 5 adults were present at Buckhaven in Fife 13-16 August 2009, the only other report of 5 I'm aware of being at Eastfield on 26 March this year (no info on this but one adult in four there same day).

Only 2 adult Med Gulls found on Friday, but roost patchy and spread along shore from Wrecked Craigs (Seton prom) to opposite the caravan park, more than a kilometre.

20 Fieldfare again over SW at Cockenzie and Prestonpans on Thursday morning, 15 SW over Liberton school on Friday evening.

Also this week, ringing info on Sandwich Tern photographed by Abbie on Longniddry beach on 4/10 (right front in pic); this was one of 200 individually colour-ringed by Grampian Ringing Group (left leg white ring with black letter reading down, commencing E) on the Ythan Estuary this autumn (12/9 for this bird, EVD). Perhaps a bit late for seeing any more here now (3 others reported from Normandy around same date) but worth looking out for more of these in future. Reading the rings will be fun, quite a challenge on this image!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Wknd 16-17 October

Friday afternoon saw Herring Gull orange-1787 back on the Seton Burn (present here last year late Aug to late Oct, originally ringed as an adult at Seamer Carr landfill, near Scarborough, on 30/11/07).

Saturday we were at the zoo, disappointed not to see the Night Herons after a report of their presence again at the sea-lion enclosure just last wknd, per Mark Holling. En route home a quick look at the Seton roost produced just a single unringed adult Med Gull.

Sunday afternoon, at Cottyburn on the Longniddry Railway Walk, Brambling calling and another over with Redwings. Covey 10 Grey Partridge at their regular spot by Setonhill cottages. Large gull roost on Seton shore, estimated 5100 small gulls, including a minimum of 4 Meds, 3 adults and a 2nd-winter, all unringed. A fair number not properly checked, tightly packed and hunkered down on the rocky shore, so may well have been more hiding in there.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Wknd 9-10 October

vis at Ferny Ness on Sunday failed to produce any thrushes, though 3 adult Med Gulls on the shore, amongst only 400-odd small gulls (full counts). All seemed to be unringed.

Redwing heard later at Seton East, where 2 Swallows were still hiding in the barn by the farm shop, presumably the recently fledged birds but after a couple of circuits inside flew off and could not relocate!

Around WeBS and doing the grey goose survey in the afternoon: 100 Mute Swans at East Fenton included just 2 juvs and 2 ringed birds (orange and white, i.e. Clyde and Borders origin); remarkable to see so few with rings!

Fields btwn Chapel and Prora were stuffed with birds, 590+ Lapwing, 560 Herring Gull, 40+ Golden Plover and 3 juv Ruff (2 m, f), plus small gulls, corvids, starlings, etc; remarkably, amongst feeding Lapwings were 15 Buzzards on the ground clearly taking worms, one pale morph bird entirely cream coloured below. On resr, 69 Teal, f/imm Shoveler and 279 Greylag which then flew to fields flushing feeding waders, along with domestic geese hybrid friends who accompanied them last year.

At Scoughall, a Hooded Crow in fields by the entrance road; very pale grey in right places, but when I got camera out to get some evidence flew off towards Lochhouses and not relocated. This is my first proper one in Lothian, but it is a description species so will depend on it being accepted!

Back to Newbyth at dusk, no Greylags to roost, just a single domestic goose, but this was more than compensated by good views of an otter snorkelling in the main pond; a Tawny Owl was calling nearby.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Wk 4-8 October

On Monday morning 2 juv Swallows opposite the nest site watched to dusk on Sunday evening were apparently long out of the nest; an adult was overhead in the evening and battling the wind on Tuesday evening but looks like breeding activity has ceased - will request entry to barn on Saturday to check nest.

Monday also saw 3 Med Gulls in the Seton pre-roost, a new adult with a single metal ring on right leg, plus an unringed adult and the regular 2nd-win. Couldn't find the latter on Wednesday but a right leg red-darvic adult looked very much like Cherry Blossom, not seen since 22 August. A couple of Sandwich Terns on the shore and 19 Barnacle Geese also flew past SW just offshore at dusk.

On Thursday morning a beautiful juv Chiffchaff was feeding along the burn past the Community Centre in Longniddry. Talk on vismig is of an imminent thrush invasion by the wknd, so it will be eyes to the skies again.

On cue, Song Thrushes and Redwing over the house on Friday morning, but no great flood yet. Busy afternoon - 3 Shag darvics at Wrecked Craigs, including blue-CCT seen previously, 2006 onwards, ringed on the Isle of May on 14/7/98 (so 12 yrs old). 49 GBB present, all but 8 being imm, mainly juvs, a new record count for here. First Purple Sand back on harbour wall. 5 Sandwich Tern and a dark presumed Arctic Skua offshore. Amazingly, ad m Swallow still visiting nest at Seton East, calls of juvs in barn now clearly audible, and a fledged juv (previous brood?) coming in to perch on top of door. Calling juv Chiffchaff there. Finally 17 Barnacle Geese SW over house, plus Cormorant N, 16:00hrs.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Wknd 2-3 October

Saturday/Sunday update - off Cockenzie harbour, a dark-phase Arctic Skua chasing; on Seton Burn, the regular pale-headed ad-win Med Gull (above), in 2100 birds. On Longniddry beach at dusk, a/the 1st-win Med Gull, and the Black-necked Grebe still on sea offshore. An adult Med at same spot at dusk on Sunday, sunset pic at foot.

Residual signs of breeding with a Swallow still entering a barn at Seton East [Postscript - looked up info on Swallow 3rd broods and found this in the BirdTrends report, "we have a sample size of 3382 laying dates, and quite a lot less than 1% are on or after the 23 August - the latest five, that are detailed in the standard analysis we do, were: one on the 25th August, three on the 26th August and the latest was on the 30 August, which would fledge in the 1st week of October!"; NB - still visiting nest to dusk on Sunday] and a Rock Pipit in song on Cockenzie shore [Postscript - BWP defines main song period as late March to early July, fairly frequent to early August; song in Feb, Sept (probably not infrequent in fine weather) and Oct noted by Meiklejohn (1948)].

Commencing Friday morning, an adult female Peregrine was seen over the A720 bypass at Newton; pulling in at Crookston off the A1 I was able to 'scope it a few minutes later hunting over the Esk valley, flushing crowds of gulls and corvids. Even better, between these sightings a sharp-winged raptor went S over the A1 at Whitecraig that could only have been a female Merlin, unconfirmed though; Buzzard and Kestrel completed 4 raptors in the area.

On the ballet run in the afternoon a motley collection of RTD off Seton - 2 off Seton harbour and at least 6 off Wrecked Craigs, latter included just one obvious juv, adults ranging from full breeding to full winter plumage. An unringed 2nd-win Med Gull was asleep by the Seton Burn.

Down at Ferny Ness, a couple more RTD and a straight-billed diver, 99% BTD/GND but not refound and flank not seen, plus pr LTD, first I'd seen back. Grebes included 1/2 RNG, 10+ Slavonian and the presumed returning Black-necked Grebe, which eventually showed well - this is probably its 9th return, and it seems earliest yet with only 3 previous October arrivals detected, second earliest being 9 October last year. An intriguing record from Gosford for 21/1/01 may well have been the same (perhaps evaded detection in winter 01/02?) which would make it the 11th return, and 11+ years old - which seems to be well in excess of confirmed longevity record for this species (via ringing) of 7 years; Slavonian has the same max, whilst Little has been confirmed at 13 years and GCG at 19.

Also on the shore, c. 350 Golden Plover.

Thursday - whilst the rest of the country was drowning in rare birds I was at work as usual - the most excitement was a fully leucistic Wood Pigeon on Gilmerton Road, Edinburgh, did not wait for a photo though. Thoughts on "rares" - people are fond of saying "anything can turn up anywhere" (I most recently read this in David Lindo's "urban birder" article BTO Bird Table) but the reality is distribution of rare and scarce species is incredibly non-linear. If you really want to find them you need to be both in exactly the right place and in the right time window. Those at east coast, or island, hot spots this week will have seen many and rarer species in a day than can be seen in a whole year of regular observation in other places. Nevertheless even things like YBW are regularly picked up inland down south, so never give up hope!