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!

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