Saturday, 27 November 2010

Wknd 28-29 November

Dawn view of East Lothian from top of Aikieside Hill, by Stobshiel, where snow drifting to several inches. Vismig included a few hard weather movers, including Greylags and Lapwings; a Magpie in top wood, at 300m, seemed out of place! Large gatherings of corvids and gulls in surrounding areas, some digging in snow around sheep, others sitting it out.

Atlas roving en route home produced a Jay at Bolton Muir (first pic below, second is Gladsmuir), 3 GSW and several Bullfinches.

6 Whoopers (2 juv) SW over Seton were are fine sight over the snowy fields early afternoon. Back at Seton harbour more gulls came in with boats but no reappearance of yesterday's arctic gull. The graellsii Lesser Blackback was again present, and is a perfect match in structure and head streaking pattern to "Lucy" who has been faithful to this harbour for 6 years now, invariably on her own. Some shots of her below, note flesh coloured legs.

Sunday afternoon got out to Longniddry golf course (sledging) where a single displaced Skylark was seen heading inland.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Scanning sea off Seton harbour on Friday afternoon many large gulls were present, moving btwn fishing boats coming in from mid-Forth, and many then coming into the harbour; amongst these spotted a pale juv in flight which initially settled on the high wall but then closer on the harbourmouth wall, giving scope for careful observation. Tail very pale with hardly a hint of a band, just slightly broader brown marks towards centre, primaries pale brown, not blackish as on Herring, and overall paleness is consistent with a Herring x Glaucous hybrid, i.e. a gull from the far north. Certainly a much better candidate for a proper hybrid than last year's pale Herring, which lacked the pale fringes on primaries and had a dark tail, though current bird is a little on the small side, and without the typical Glauc dipped-in-ink bill pattern shown by many such hybrids.

[Postscript - OK, some say Nelson's is strictly smithsonius x hyperboreus, the type specimen being described in Alaska (before it was realised it was a hybrid); Viking Gull has been used in Europe for argentatus x hyperboreus, but I'm not sure how definitive this is. Image galleries for Europe are hosted by Newell, Offereins, Norwegian Gulls and; as per comments on first, some deem birds similar to the current one just extreme argentatus, would be interested in any views (post a comment below)!]

Overall totals of 200+ Herring, 13+ Great Blackback, 1 ad graellsii Lesser Blackback (perhaps Lucy again, if so now wintering here for the 6th year running) and one Kittiwake offshore; down on the Seton Sands shore a single unringed adult Med Gull amongst 200 small gulls in the pre-roost. Total 7.5 gull species?!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Wknd 20-21 November

Friday night collected two fresh Barn Owl casualties off A1 (Blindwells and Knowes, latter a juv female, photos below; analysis confirmed as imm, uterus pregravida, i.e. most likely a juv), the 7th and 8th of the autumn, but surprised not to see any out hunting on a calm night. Sunday evening in calm and moonlit conditions between heavy showers one was hunting the verge of the fast A6137 road over Garleton near Byres.

Saturday morning commenced final tetrad of my original allocation, in NT47I, which is mainly sea; hoping for Blackcap or better in buckthorn but none found; best was a pale-bellied Brent on the light-green (Enteromorpha/gutweed) seaweed, at exactly the same spot as 3 on Boxing Day 2008, just after had completed timed count! Plenty Bullfinch (7) and Robins (13) but overall just 46 species seen, none new and tetrad species total stayed at 89 (already well covered in roving).

Saturday afternoon had a look at 575 Pinks in fields north of Spittal (original count 493, but click counted and got many more!); amongst these was a silver neck collar bird which at c. 500m in poor light (drizzling) was just too far off to make out, but after nearly an hour of observation finally confirmed as IXI. A Jay out in open on hawthorns was unusual.

Saturday evening on the Seton shore at dusk a relatively small gull roost, just 1350 birds on the shore, but amongst the 900 opposite caravan park entrance was 4 adult Med Gulls; one large and pale individual with a narrow mask, a second with a sooty head, looking hooded from rear (upper right centre in photo), a third with darker mask and best of all Cherry Blossom, sleek and elegant as ever; in poor light 15 mins after sunset with continuous rain thought I had no chance to get her ring but she proved the least wary of all birds on beach and managed to confirm red-7P8 at a distance of 100m or so, shot above. Now at least 9 and a half years old and still faithful to this bleak stretch of coast for most of the year (and this time of year spending 15+ hours a day out on the sea roosting!).

Sunday afternoon in really poor weather, near continuous rain and heavy at times, headed back to NT57 to search for GBB; finally got one but in flight only, heading north over Drem; also added 13 tetrad ticks and a few improved counts in the top NT57 tetrads, red on progress map; nothing exciting but a mixed flock of partridge (15 RLP, 12 Grey) was unusual at Betony Hill, 22 Mistle Thrush were gathered near Appin, and a few Golden Plovers were welcome. En route saw the collared Pinkfoot again at Spittal, code still seemed to be IXI but only one brief view before it was off.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Wknd 13-14 November

First trip to NT57 for atlas 10km top-ups. c. 36 Waxwings were circling the A1 bridge to Abbeymill east of Haddington and then flew NE and settled at berry bushes btwn A1 and A199 near entrance to Abbey Mains, new for 2 tetrads. Checked some gull flocks around Traprain but negative for GBB and also no Pochard at the only possible spots in 10km at Markle ponds and resr.

[Postscript - whilst at Markle, A.N.Other had logged 5 ads + 2nd-win Med Gull at Seton Burn, reclaiming the Scottish record for max count, formerly the 5 here on 13/11/06, since matched at Buckhaven in Fife 13-17/8/09, and more recently at Eastield on 26/3/10 (BG); the previous record of 4 birds was set at Musselburgh on 10/2/02; not sure when first record of 3 was, in Lothian may have been from 1999 onwards, but 2 together in Lothian was at least as far back as 1983; nice to have the max count back at Seton, credit to the finder!]

Off Ferny Ness earlier a single juv Gannet out on the horizon at a fishing boat (from map comparison, c. 5 miles out, i.e. mid-channel) and many small gulls moving in strong NW wind.

Sunday around WeBS - 126 Whoopers in stubble by Rattlebags quarry (top), in grass at Muirton and in crop south of Chapel included a whopping 39 juvs (31%). East Fenton held pr RBM and 2 f/imm Goosander. 555 Golden Plover in fields btwn Chapel and Prora included a remarkable ginger colour variant individual (right). 140 duck at East Fortune included a f/imm Pintail.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Wknd 6-7 November

A brief look out to sea from Seton harbour on Friday afternoon produced a Little Auk W past, which in characteristic fashion almost stalled and fell down onto the surface of the sea.

Saturday did tetrad NT47J, mainly offshore NW from Ferny Ness but with a strip of beach at low tide (hence a "low priority" tetrad); but worthwhile with 21 species logged, 300+ waders (115 Barwit, 90+ Knot, 40 Sanderling, 30 Grey Plover, etc.), 100 gulls and 100 sea duck, crow the only passerine. Just after concluding a dark skua appeared, Pom or Arctic, but departed rapidly NE before it could be confirmed! Returned after lunch when sea flat calm, totals visible then included one Black-throated Diver, 5 Red-throated Diver, 32 Slavonian Grebe, 330+ Velvet Scoter. Michael (age 4 yrs) disappeared into buckthorn and emerged to report a dead bird, a metal-ringed Shag #1416986 [chick banded 20/6/2009 on Fidra], probably dead since last winter.

Afternoon ventured to New Winton where plugged last gap in NT47 for Wren; 65 Linnets were feeding on larch cones. A Dipper showed well nearby on the Tyne at Spilmersford.

Sunday saw Tree Sparrows whirring around again and also 6 more Waxwing SW over house at 11:30hrs. On grey goose survey, Kingfisher @Gosford ponds (flew into boathouse), plus the usuals, Nutch, Jay, Redpoll, Treep, Goldcrest, Bullfinch, etc; 96 Whoopers (23 juv, including b5, b3, b2, b2, darvics file now updated) in stubble north of Chapel farm; 2 sawbills W over Fenton Barns and 2 redhead Goosander at Chapel resr; at East Fortune, 277 Greylags including an all-white domestic bird and 3 grey hybrids (above), plus f/imm Scaup on the resr. Greylags flew to Redside at dusk.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Another LEO

Sadly, another Long-eared Owl road-kill, found fresh dead (still warm and fresh blood on side of face) on the B6363 by Longniddry Farm, c. 300m SE of the Lorne Bridge, 03:45hrs on 3 November. Seems to be a juvenile (6 clear bars on secondaries, 5 on primaries) and might be a male based on various features, including alula bars and underwing primary coverts dark tips of c. 20mm (though uncertain as to how these differ on juv and got this wrong on last specimen, LBN post for 7/3/09!). Will assess more carefully later.

While out also collected another Barn Owl, reported by Colin Davison on the Haddington A1 exit slip (below); seems to be another juvenile female (analysis confirmed young female, mature inactive ovary, uterus pregravida). Part of a recent spate of reports, presumably post-juvenile dispersal, this is the 100th Barn Owl casualty logged since start of study in October 2004 (6 yrs, average 16 per yr). It will be the 42nd post mortem.