Saturday, 17 December 2011

Wknd 17-18 December

Not sure if anyone else has noticed but there are loads of Kittiwakes still in the Forth! Checking the Lothian database 1991-2010 there have been a total of 27 previous December records, only one in double figures though (15 Silverknowes, 3/12/06). Today in another brief look from Cockenzie again 20+ were easily visible, at least 50% were 1st-winters. Ystdy could only afford a 10 minute scan but in same period 32 went SW past, full counts. Most of these probably derive from feeding flocks well offshore, amongst even greater numbers of other gulls, mainly BHG, fewer Common Gull. Perhaps there is some unusual food source, or is it simply due to the relatively mild winter, with some contribution from stormy weather? Whatever, I suspect these would all be worth looking at more critically, and note the adult Sabine's Gull reported from Northumbs today (not to mention the Manx, skuas passing Flamborough today, and series of unseasonal Puffin records)!

On Wednesday doing just that, scanning a distant flock of feeding small gulls which were out towards Inchkeith, well offshore (at least a mile), picked up a medium-sized white-winged gull, brief excitement considering possibilities but as it was heading off SW towards Musselburgh, as all good birds ultimately do, it became apparent it was "just" a Med Gull, probably an adult. Nevertheless a sighting of great interest to me as I have long wondered if they feed offshore - we invariably see them on the shore, loafing or arriving for the roost (when direction seen most often from inland), and they are not that difficult to find amongst small gulls in fields near the coast up to a few miles inland, but clearly they may also feed offshore.

This is all part of the puzzle of explaining what it can be that attracts these birds to come over here from places like Poland and elsewhere on near continent, to spend perhaps 9 months of their year at a location some way north of their main breeding areas - and then when they're here spending 16 hours a day out on the sea in a roost at this time of the year. Clearly there is some decent benefit for them, relatively mild climate could be argued, though at present it's only the sea that provides that an environment marginally above freezing (for roost and otherwise), but presumably also good feeding of some sort?

Back to today and a 2nd-win Med was standing in the Seton Burn immediately afterwards. No sign of any arctic gulls, nor at Seton harbour, but a 1st-win Iceland reported from Musselburgh at evening roost gives some glimmer of hope!

Sunday - did not get out till dusk and the Seton Burn held very few gathered gulls, just 350 on shore (including one black-headed Black-headed Gull) + 400 on sea, exceptionally small gathering. At Seton harbour a fishing boat was coming in trailing c. 200 large gulls, 5 Kittiwakes in their midst wheeling over the wake; gulls which had come down on sea behind boat flushed twice so I was on the look-out for a predator and sure enough a really solid looking dark Pom Skua went past W not too far offshore; harried an adult Kittiwake then went round in a great circuit off Prestonpans/Musselburgh and headed back east offshore, there harrying a Herring Gull. Probably a juv but could not exclude a dark adult.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Wknd 10-11 December

Spent some time looking at these Grey Partridge feeding in snow at Seggarsdean on Saturday, pecking at oil-seed rape leaves and weed seeds, covey of 8, 5 more nearby. Must admit I normally just count the flocks but careful examination allows appreciation of how distinctive are male (above) and female (below). 1st-win of each sex probably tough to distinguish in the field, post-juvenile moult fully complete at 16 wks, i.e. at least by late Nov, male retains outer two primaries, with bars on outer primaries less broken and not so reduced as adult, whilst female breast without chestnut, or on a few feathers only; in c. 15% patch as large as average adult female (all per BWP). Fascinating to see them all crouch flush down with snow seconds before a Sparrowhawk whizzed past the car. Both species new for tetrad (NT57G), also added a few at Tyne by Abbeymill where 32 Siskin accompanied by 2 Lesser Redpolls in waterside alders, Goosander on the river.

Sunday did WeBS circuit (a week early by accident!) - first stop East Fenton where c. 250 swans at usual muddy field south-west of the farm, probably still c. 210 Whoopers. With them 470 grey geese, knew there was a chance of interesting interlopers and though distant and in poor light soon got a view of orange legs on a couple. Some shooting started and they flew, departing mainly N 14:30hrs. Photos taken confirmed the dark tail band and narrow white tip on one, i.e. Bean Goose presumed tundra, a patch tick for me in the Drem area, though later found there had been 31 of them there with 140 Whitefronts NW over at same spot a little earlier in the afternoon - oh well, at least have seen various Whitefronts!

On geese well worth a look at this blog post on a bunch of neck-collared Greylags which came over from Scandinavia but have already gone back again, amazing!

Back to Friday had a skua rising up from sea off Ferny Ness, harrying gulls - lucky to catch up with same later off Port Seton harrying a Kittiwake, confirming as a gingerish juv Arctic; reports of individual off Musselburgh at wknd apparently a darker bird, perhaps a few still lingering in Forth in association with late departing Kittiwakes this year? Lucy (LBB) still resident in Seton harbour for 7th winter, also seen offshore, for comparison this typical argenteus Herring on a rock at Cockenzie harbour, a couple of dark flecks in pale iris.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Wknd 3-4 December

Joined the current goose fest seeing just one of the Tundras Bean currently at Luffness Mill House en route to grey goose survey circuit on Sunday. Same plus friends further east at West Fortune Tuesday morning, including two Barnacles, one above, and a very pale leucistic Pinkfoot. Missed the two European Whitefronts found later by Jim at the Luffness Mill House field.

Actually 4 tundras seen but only three together, in foreground above separate from main flock; note the distinctive appearance of mantle on sleeping bird immediately above (left, orange legs), much browner than Pinks, moreover tertials with more distinct pale fringes.

Also on Sunday another Bean Goose briefly in the stubble by East Fortune pond, then cereal east towards Waughton. Presumably also a tundra but view too brief to nail it, just possibly the returning taiga from last winter. 485 Greylag there were only ones found for the survey (also f Merlin like a small rocket over stubble at East Fenton). Looked for this Bean again in quick circuit round early Tuesday but no Pinks in area, though 340 reported early afternoon by Mark, including a pale-bellied Brent - pretty rare inland here and completing set of 6 species of geese East Fortune to West Fortune on Tuesday morning! All part of a remarkable east coast goose influx, with single flocks of 90+ Tundra Beans and 120+ (now 140+!) Whitefronts up in NE Scotland - if lucky we may get a few more later in the winter?

Saturday vismig off Ferny Ness gave great flyby views of GND, 4 ad Whoopers and a juv f Peregrine, full counts. Even better was an SEO past the previous morning, way offshore when picked up but black wing tips confirming species - tracked it NW towards Inchkeith, then veering slightly N towards Kinghorn - presumably an incoming migrant heading W?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Wknd 26-27 November

Sparse pickings - persisted with seawatching from Seton/Cockenzie harbours (pic of latter above), on Thursday squeezed out 30 mins during daughter's ballet exam and was pleased to get 10 juv + 1 2nd-win Gannet and right at the end a dark juv Pom Skua coming down in the sea. More frustrating was a diver sp W almost certainly a Black-throated.

Back for 90 mins on Sunday afternoon, with a decent WSW5 wind and good visibility (apart from the car rocking around) - a pale juv skua soon came in from E, did some harrying, then proceeded W, most likely a Pom but did not appear that bulky and could not exclude Arctic; 16+ ad Kittiwakes W (finally got a winter record for NT47D!), also 7 Whoopers (4 juv) as per above (full count). Frustration again though with a small gull with black primary wedges and Sabine's pattern mantle, appearing dull grey not brown - in 20 mins watching, during which time it drifted out towards mid Channel, never detected any hint of black pattern on wings, nor tail tip, it was also quite white-headed - a bit late for an ad-win Sabines's though! May have felt worse had it not been for the certain juv there a month ago. Hmmmm, I wonder what more would be yielded here by investment of a little more time?!

Saturday noted one Waxwing in flight over Aberlady high street, Kingston stubbles now ploughed and free of swans.

Earlier in week brief excitement with report of a Hawfinch in Longniddry, though turning to doubt when another reported from Tyninghame, finally confirmation the former was erroneous. Oh well, we live in hope! That species, plus Cory's Shearwater, Honey Buzzard, Grey Phalarope and Water Pipit, probably the few regular Lothian birds I still need for my British/Scottish life list ;) Elsewhere Hawfinch are shot for fun, please click protest link via the CABS site.

Finally a sunset from Hoprig during the week, below; Yellowhammer singing here twice recently!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wknd 19-20 November

Latest Barn Owl recovery here (c/o CND), a very interesting well spotted individual, more pics now added below. Note the buff down onto sides of flanks. Sad as usual but images posted here mainly for reference, suspect this is a juv female, one of the darker ones found but no reason to suspect it's not alba. Will confirm with details from post mortem in due course.

Saturday midday a drake Gadwall amongst 63 Wigeon on Seton Burn, patch tick!

On the shore a yellow darvic BHG, excited to see this and suspected it was the previous Spanish ringed bird returning. Took nearly an hour of stalking until I was sitting within 50m watching it asleep on the waterline, near the stunning drake Gadwall, and could see every detail of the yellow-N141 darvic inscription - sadly without my camera though! This bird was ringed on Salamanca dump in Spain in January 2007, and may still be the only exchange of BHG between Spain and Scotland? This post shows the ringing location in Salamanca (full history). Also the regular adult Herring Gull, orange-1787, still present.

Saturday after dusk - c. 4k gulls at Seton Sands but only c. 1k on shore for checking, included a fine 2nd-win Med Gull. Could not relocate the Gadwall but light was very poor.

Sunday mid-afternoon - ad European Whitefront with 182 odd Whoopers in stubble S of Kingston Farm cottages, pic here of same having an itch at Chapel. Also round the resrs, 5 Goosander, 3 Scaup (2 ad f, 1 1st-win), m+f Goldeneye, drake Pochard, probably mostly the same crew as last winter! Missed a Pintail and 2 Gadwall seen by Colin though. Other than wildfowl - 210 Fieldfare at Drem pools, 1200 Wood Pigeon West Fortune and a juv Grey Heron on road (B1345) at Drem village.

Thereafter at Seton Burn, 2 ad Med Gulls in pre-roost (was told there were 4 or 5 ads plus the 2nd-win one day the previous week).

On Thursday previous week another patch tick in the shape of 15 White-fronted Geese out over Gosford Bay - very poor shot here at range c. 2 miles taken from Seton harbour, Fife coast in background. After wavering a bit off Ferny Ness and thinking of heading NW over Forth they headed straight for me, thought they were going to do a fly past - but the suddenly turned south - set off in pursuit but could not relocate, may well have come down somewhere as presumed same passed Ferny Ness in reverse 14:30hrs. Of most interest to me was the different jizz apparent even at great range, they never gave an impression of being Pinks and in initial head on view looked more like a bunch of Curlews, with shallow flapping on quite stiff wings.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Wknd 12-13 November

En route to Port Seton early afternoon driving past the caravan park suddenly realised bird on wires just passed was a swallow! Pulled up sharp and leapt out, quickly confirming it was a juv Barn Swallow (not visible on pics but was very pale over bill). Had to continue to daughter's ballet class but on way back bird still present perched very near same spot. Conditions mild (11C), very little wind (despite general forecast), but seemed content to sit and preen. [Postscript - presumed same just a little east on Tuesday 15 November, reported by persons unknown.]

Reminiscent of sightings of ad + 2 juvs at exact same spot on 13-14 November 2008.

Also interesting to note Clive McKay had one past SW on his Carnoustie vismig on Sunday, whilst down at Durlston (Dorset) they are still passing in small numbers most days (10's per day first wk November, now diminished, graph).

[Historical comparison - November Swallows are regular in Lothian, c. 25 birds in last 20 years (many of which roamed stretches of coast for several days, producing multiple sightings of presumed same bird) with only 4 blank years. Several recent records have been on Gosford coast, including one 6/11/10, one Gosford Bothy 7/11/09 and the three above on 14/11/08. Even more extreme, we had December records in 2000, on 2nd/3rd at Yellowcraigs, and in 1994 with records on 3rd at Aberlady, then on 4th & 21st at Dunbar!]

Saturday early hours, one greyish Tawny Owl perched in tree right by road at Jinging Hill, Garleton.

Saturday noon - small white-faced wader W past Port Seton well offshore, seemed all grey on top with an angled white wing bar towards trailing edge, bright white below; did not strike me as matching Sanderling (no strong contrasts on upperparts) and flight had occasional sudden changes in direction - if anything was even more rapid than other small calidrids, continuous rapid flapping. But, I'm not familiar with Grey Phalarope flight action, neither can I locate any examples online (or BWPi) (this is Red-necked though), so nothing more than a "possible" :(

Saturday dusk, a skein of geese larger than any I've previously seen here passed over NE towards Aberlady at 16:10hrs - hundreds of birds wide and approximately a mile long, would be surprised if less than 10000 birds!

Sunday 11 Whoopers on sea off Seton Sands in afternoon.

Also ad graellsii LBB back on harbour wall looking very like "Lucy" of previous years (if so, now a 7th-winter).

2 Purps on the harbour wall there amongst 32 Turnstone.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Return of Sandie?!

[Warning - read to end, the initial report blogged here was a hoax!]

Report of Sandhill Crane S over Dunbar 08:15hrs Friday 16 September may relate to the same individual famously tracked S in 2009, later wintering in France? Could this be the same bird as was seen in Finland on 5 September, then Estonia on 8 September? A further report over West Walton, Norfolk, on Saturday 17 September.

In retrospect, given it would have needed to break free from carrier species (Common Crane) and get across the North Sea angled very much to the west, this would seem very unlikely - as concluded by others. Perhaps more likely is there are two - the current UK one either being a new arrival, or possibly the 2009 bird retracing its route having been missed on other migrations? The east coast track is consistent with the latter view, though equally could be adopted by a new arrival if it had again made landfall on the Northern Isles.

The rest is history of course, Sandhill Crane at Strathbeg 22-26 September, possibly a couple of days earlier, where amazing photos were finally achieved; as of Thursday 29 September was again being tracked south - over Newbiggin 09:16hrs then down into Durham, Cleveland and N Yorks by early afternoon. Looks like we missed a chance in a lifetime in Lothian, oh to have been watching on the Wednesday!!!

It seems to be widely accepted that this is the same bird as initially reported mid-September, and with a lack of any other sightings this does have some logic - though many east coast sites are well watched - could it really have got all the way back up from Norfolk to Strathbeg without being seen? Possibly from Berwick (after all we missed it coming south again, though it may have been out over the sea), but even that looks a bit odd. All speculation, though availability of high res images from Strathbeg may now help. Comparison of details is possible with pics from Scandinavia, unfortunately low res but better than nothing, e.g. these for head profiles, right (Strathbeg and Estonia), and left (Strathbeg and Estonia), there may in fact seem to be some hints of similar patterns, is the cheek patch lower in the right? But the flight shot from Finland shows one nick in the left wing, not seen on Strathbeg bird. Perhaps time will tell.

Comparison with better photos from Finland seems to confirm it is definitely a different individual, much greater contrast of white cheeks on Scandinavian bird. Also discussed on BirdForum.

Postscript 1 - re comments below, time has indeed told, it later came to light that the Dunbar report was a hoax, still made it into the pages of BB though!

Postscript 2 - on 9 November the much anticipated message came through of relocation of the bird in Iberia, it has apparently found Common Cranes in Badajoz province of Spain and was seen there on 4 November, full details.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Quail recovery

This is an interesting recovery of a British-ringed Quail, shot in France on southbound migration in September. The BTO Online Ringing Report website gives details of all five previous recoveries related to UK Quail exchanges.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Wknd 5-6 November

Thursday, tip-off from Tom, this presumed juvenile Barn Owl on A1 by Spittalrigg was only second Lothian casualty I'm aware of this year, down from 21 last year (15.6 average 2004-2010). [Postscript - another on A1 at Abbey Mains east of Haddington the following week; also updated winter atlas map here to assist targeting gaps - this includes the recent additions plus a few earlier casualties which are not allowed under the BTO atlas rules.]

Friday morning saw some vismig underway with 169+ Redwing and 3 Crossbills in first half hour, then some small flocks of Starlings first half of morning, full counts.

Lunchtime, with a flat calm before rain started, a scan off Ferny Ness revealed a Great Northern Diver (ad-win/imm, not same as Dave's last week), 8 Red-necked Grebes (group 5 together), 20+ Slav Grebe, plus a male Goldeneye, at least 9 RTD, 26 LTD, 45 RBM, 80 Velvet Scoter, etc. 810 Golden Plover on Gosford Sands arrived from Port Seton, Long Craigs rocks, where flushed off by bait diggers. Herring Gull orange-1787 there (below) was back for the 3rd year (ringed Seamer Carr, 30 November 2007), but no sign of a new bird (blue-167) seen last week by Keith.

Saturday - started the usual hunt for East Lothian Greylags (grey goose survey), unfortunately they were not in usual haunts (Drem to East Fortune, nor Lochhouses, or Gosford ponds per Abbie) so drew a blank! Most of the Whoopers were in stubble by Chapel farm (accompanied by a single Barnacle Goose!), others at East Fenton and Chapel farm resrs, total 118.

Coming back planned an atlas owling trip, mainly targeting the gaping hole still in the Tawny Owl map. Success with Tawny at Birkhill, Binning (edge of gap, but new for NT57Z) and then a surprise Barn Owl out hunting by the busy road past Kamehill entrance, also new (NT57U). Did not bargain on the extent of bonfire night activities though, any owls at Gilmerton House woods (centre of gap) were keeping a low profile (though Pinks could be heard nearby at Beanston Mains, feeding under the moon). The kids were better pleased with the sight of 7 bonfires in total and great fireworks displays at East Fortune smallholdings and Kingston cottages.

Sunday - my annual trip to Aikieside Hill, Stobshiel, to monitor Wood Pigeon migration (probably a minority interest hereabouts, though Clive is keen on them up in Angus, and Chris & Ali in Fife!). Did not disappoint, 2650 NE/240 SW in just over an hour, full counts. [PS - these totals can't compare with the 10's of thousands logged at many English sites today, e.g. Pennines, max rates of 25k per hour! See map.] A few Pinks came up from the south out of Borders, descending to feed at Humbie, others were arriving from Aberlady. Stunning scenery views too.

Sunday - another traipse round in search of geese and finally found the bulk of them at dusk at Redside (345, with 85 leaving to the east); in addition 43 East Fortune and 30 on Gosford shore two hours after sunset (perhaps same as 24 over our house east at dawn?). Moreover, Gilmerton House owls proved more cooperative - after initially cursing my luck with a lot of gunfire going on in the estate an renewed bout set off agitated kewick calls from an equally irritated Tawny, thus one useful tetrad record which will appear in middle of the void (NT57N).

Monday - a Woodcock flushed from muddy puddles by minor road over A1 south of Trabroun, Elvingston, a tetrad tick for NT47R.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Wknd 29-30 October

Starting on Thursday, one pale ad Pom Skua heading slowly SE in across Gosford Bay in a brief look from Seton in morning. Big gull roost at Seton in evening, c. 4.5k, but mainly on sea and well spread out, just one ad Med Gull detected plus an intermedius LBB (below). 355 Pinks passed over Crookston NE at dusk, seemed to follow the A1 passing over Bankton then Seton Sands.

Friday morning, a little vismig was on with flock 24 Fieldfare and 2 Crossbill low over house. At high tide an ad Great Crested Grebe was feeding very close in at Seton Burn (above), quite unusual for any grebe species here. This species is barely annual on this stretch of coast now, I recall seeing 3 in September 2004 but ever since no more than a single, except for a period in December 2007 with two off Seton harbour. Two were reported again in December 2009, though I saw none that year. Suspicion may be that these are returning birds, like the Black-necked, but why so few when decent (though rapidly declining) numbers can still be seen off Edinburgh coast? Peaks at Silverknowes have been 39 in 2010, 49 in 2009, 105 in 2008, 288 in 2007, 261 in 2006; further back there were up to a thousand wintering in the Forth (standard LBR species text); we certainly seem to be witnessing a collapse in numbers locally.

Saturday over at Haddington located a flock of Pinkfeet in stubble by Seggarsdean, total c. 3100 with 88 Barnacle. Had a good look at nearly all and no collars or oddities spotted. Up on Garleton another 2300+ Pinks included a new leucistic bird, originally found by Abbie at Bangly Hill in the morning, this one nearly white on back (central in image below). Towards dusk the GCG was still at the Seton Burn, in a brief look 5 LBB and at least two ad Med Gulls amongst the gulls on the sea, but a heavy shower commencing and poor visibility.

No sign of Crestie Sunday, though I note 2 GCG reported from Musselburgh, perhaps it moved down there?

Monday morning, the "nordic" (?) Jackdaw back on the same bit of pavement on Niddrie Mains; had this been the first sighting I would have been tempted to declare it a fresh arrival from Scandinavia, in peak Jackdaw migration period. As with the "northern" Eiders previously referenced on these pages it would be nice to get some quality images of these individuals, for reference, but I suspect the interests of local bird photographers do not extend to these dubious subspecies :(

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Raven roam(ance)ing

Coming back from a meeting in Hamilton I found myself with a half hour spare at the exciting venue of Bellshill railway station, Strathclyde; after a few minutes looking around I was pondering how tough inland birding can be, semi-industrial and unremarkable landscape as far as the eye could see - yet we know even scarcities like YBW are not infrequently picked up inland, they're out there but a needle in a haystack to say the least. No, no chance of spotting anything of even remote interest right here, I thought.

No sooner, but I picked up two apparently large birds approaching from the south, almost glued together; no bins and hard to judge distance but by flapping action clearly something "big"; as they came close thoughts of raptors or herons vanished as I could see they were clearly a pair of Raven, albeit too high to really discern the wing and tail shapes. Over the next 20 minutes they were in view continuously, until the tiniest of specks that I could barely discern, a good few miles north. Throughout, they flew in formation, circling, occasionally changing direction to do a figure of eight, never more than a couple of metres apart and most of the time nearly touching. No true aerobatics, but it was quite apparent these two were close, seemingly enjoying the tightly synchronised flying.

Turning to the trusty BWP, where so many fascinating insights can be found under the various headings on things like social behaviour (many clearly derived from a lifetime's study by the cited author), I noted the following relevant comments:

"Monogamous. Almost certainly pairs for life (e.g. Heinrich 1990) ... Pairs remain together throughout year and occupy same territory year after year (e.g. Harlow 1922). Members of pair readily recognize each other individually and transmit modified vocal information directed only at mate, even over long distances (Gwinner 1964). ... Behaviour interpreted as play often reported. Studies on semi-captive birds reveal much more complex play repertoire than reported for any other bird (Gwinner 1966), including hanging upside-down, and sliding down sloping surfaces. Play sequences prone to great individual variation and group-specific play combinations arise by mutual imitation."

Another valuable reference, the BTO bird facts, tells us the max recorded age of a wild bird was 17 years. Another source states 25 years for a captive bird. Wonder how long those two I saw today have been together?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Wknd 22-23 October

"vismig" on Saturday, 21 skuas in 2 hrs, including great views of juv Pom Skua just offshore, 13 Whoopers past too, full counts.

Seawatch from Dunbar Battery (first visit!) afternoon produced at least one more juv Pom Skua (several probables) and an adult Long-tailed Skua drifting N, full counts; think this is my first ever complete set of skuas :} No other sea-watchers and was not sure where the usual watchpoint is, climbed out of the battlements to get to a spot on front rocks shielded by a wall; on way back discovered that was rather unnecessary with the path round the side! Also tried sitting just below the main battlement wall, but soon found the problem with that, for some reason people seeing a high wall can't resist going there to spit over it - missed me, but not long after got a shower of pebbles from small children. Will take a hat next time.

[Interesting that the skua flow rate there was not markedly different to in the Forth recently; average rates in Forth has been c. 15 birds/hr (100 birds, 6.5hrs counts, 3/7/19/20/22-Oct), with 43% Arctic, 15% Bonxie and majority of rest Pom; at Dunbar rate c. 12 birds/hr (24 birds, including a few south), far more Bonxie at 45%, Arctic only 15%. Can also compare with Hound Point count on Sunday, 88 birds in 6.5hrs, 58% Pom, 31% Arctic, 8% Bonxie and 2 juv LTS - suggests most of my "skua sp" are Poms! Obviously there are loads of factors, like wind, which will render attempts at comparisons nearly meaningless!]

Also Saturday - Whoopers were at Rattlebags (by East Fenton) and New Mains (by Whitekirk), flew to roost towards Tyninghame 18:15hrs (photo of arrival there the previous weekend). Sunday - confirmed 100 Whoopers back at East Fenton, in favoured stubble by Rattlebags, 23 juvs (probably six families, b5, b5, b4, b4, b3, b2?), 23% juvs ratio (can do that with no calculator!) which is very typical. 3 darvics, 2 new, i.e. yellow-H9U and yellow-S53, latter ringed and released at Loch Leven (Findatie) on 1st February 2007 after being in care at SSPCA, Middlebank (taken there from Muthill, near Crieff on 7th November 2006 in a weak condition); only other report was near Gressingham, Lancashire (SD5469) on 15th December 2008 (c/o Allan Brown), great survivor then! Previously we've had S54, ringed at Muss, and S55, ringed as a juv on the River Tay at Flukie Fishing Lodge, Kinfauns, near Perth on 29/1/10, also rung by Allan & Lyndesay; seem to be gathering a matching set of their darvics!

Passing Aberlady noted a couple of Greenshanks and juv Ruff still by Peffer Burn, also an adult Med Gull (unringed). Off Ferny Ness, now 35 Long-tailed Ducks, majority beautiful males, showing well close in; 3 Red-necked Grebes, 2 Slav, could not see our little friend (returning BNG) again though.

2 ad Med Gulls by Seton Burn towards dusk, beautiful light but no camera with me!

[Several Shag darvics read at Seton and Dunbar, details to follow.]

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Wknd 15-16 October

Above is a small part of a flock of c. 9500 geese in stubble btwn Muirton and East Fenton, filling the fields there mid-afternoon Saturday. Having started counting by 10's found them an indigestibly large number so tried again by hundreds and made it 9600. A series of 16 digiscoped photos of whole flock, like one below, enabled me to try again at home and after an hour with the clicker and a spreadsheet it came out at 9502! I'd still say plus or minus a thousand or so (would be interesting to know the official Aberlady count!).

Mainly Pinks obviously, but also 178 Barnacle Geese; just a single grey collar shows that they are quite rare now; remarkably, an adult male Peregrine was down on prey in the midst of the geese, plucking something with pale feathers, perhaps a gull, flock came with 20m of it! Finally I spotted the dark goose visible in images above (can you see it amongst the c. 680 Pinks?), but I wasn't fooled as I recognised it as the dusky Canada that had been at East Fenton last month (originally thought it was an aberrant or had some hybrid influence but now wonder whether just stained?) When the guns started and the whole flock flew this individual circled forlornly before finally going into East Fenton to join its friends.

Other geese included a few Barnacles on Gosford shore, 291 Greylags at East Fortune including one of our old domestic hybrid friends (previously speculated is Greylag x domestic Swan Goose, like this) shown below.

On the swan front had estimated 40 "cygnus sp" in the same stubble from the Intercity train on Monday so it seemed something of a coincidence to find 39 Whoopers (2 juvs) on Chapel resr - these were initially feeding in cereal at Fenton Barns.

Elsewhere, 2 RNG, 3 Slav, 6 LTD and several skuas (mainly Arctic) off Ferny Ness, also f/imm Stonechat there; 480 Lapwings Drem; drake Pintail East Fortune; another Pintail, resident Little Egret and 4 Ruff at Aberlady, where high tide coincided with dusk (below).

A rare trip to Tyninghame on Sunday, generally quiet birdwise (one Crossbill, one Chiff in Links Wood) but this dragonfly was a surprise on the beach, was not sure what it was but have been informed it might be a Vagrant Emperor (imm m?). This is a species resident in sub-Saharan African, and very rare vagrant to Britain, it would apparently be the 3rd or 4th record for Scotland! More info in this BirdGuides article (has also reached Iceland, the Caribbean and recently, Canada, not bad for an African dragonfly!)

Otherwise: 6 Greenshank on Tyne Sands beach, 3 more (or same) by the embankment. A fantastic display by a young Peregrine. Offshore c. 3300 Kittiwakes feeding over the sea in area east of Bass Rock, a single skua having a field day in the midst of them! 14 Barnacle Geese on estuary and 27 Whooper Swans (family of 5 juvs, below), all unringed, flew to roost in estuary 17:20hrs.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Wknd 8-9 Oct

Towards dusk on Saturday, in miserable weather, an adult Little Gull having a preen on Seton shore at Wrecked Craigs (rare here, my second Seton record in 8 yrs!), and a 1st-win Med in a quick look at Seton roost. Also at Wrecked Craigs, Shag green-SPJ, ringed as a chick on the Isle of May on 12/6/08 and seen previously Oct 08 an Sept/Oct 09 (photo below). At noon 30 Barnacle Geese N over Longniddry primary, then 4 more NE - poor visibility.

At usual patch at Port Seton on Friday afternoon, but limited to 90 mins (daughter's ballet class!), a lot to see - on Wrecked Craigs, Shags included red-LLZ (ad f, ringed as chick Isle of May 19/7/05, previously here 8,18,30/8/09) and 100+ Golden Plover were all European.

Caught sight of an unusual jizz seabird moving away into Forth, smallish with dark mantle but white below, very buoyant flight, then dipping and occasional plunge revealed it was Black Tern; further sightings over the period of presumably same bird eventually gave better views (first for patch!).

Meanwhile virtually every fresh scan of the Forth, in crystal clear visibility, was picking up more skuas heading W, some nice views of mainly dark Arctics, one Bonxie, close in, but most resolutely ploughing up the Forth mid-channel - a few Bonxies in particular at some height, max group four. A juv Pom gave reasonable views not too far offshore, noticeably so much more bulky than the dark Arctic just behind in, whilst a couple of bulky pale adult skuas mid-channel likely also this species. Total for the periods was 41W (17 Arctic, 12 Bonxie), plus 1 Bonxie E (full counts). [Would be interesting to compare with Hound Point for the full day, at these rates several hundred would be possible!]. Also one Manx Shearwater went west, well out.

Sunday - more yapping heard, no surprise with so many Barnies at Aberlady (3200), not to mention another 1200 at Tyninghame - I guess this is a record influx (beating e.g. 2300 Tyninghame, 630 Aberlady, 379 Barns Ness on 30 September 2009)?

Blackbird in extended periods of subsong.

40 swans Muirton-East Fenton (from train) were intriguing, with no Mutes on last week's goose circuit - will have to check out to see if they are the vanguard of the Whoopers. Incidentally East Fenton 5-yr average for this species has now reached 212, thus it becomes a site of international importance (per latest WeBS report)!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Wknd 1-2 October

Nothing new, another Med Gull, though the one above was at a new site for me - Aberlady - moreover was accompanied by another 1st-win early afternoon on Sunday; yet another 1st-win was at Whitekirk on the golf practice range later in the afternoon, also unringed. The previous evening a 2nd-win flew in at 18:00hrs to join a very modest roost on sea off Seton Burn (also unringed!) and an adult was on the sea off Longniddry c/p 2.

Grey goose count was nearly a dismal failure, a trawl of Gosford, Aberlady, Muirton, East Fenton, Chapel, East Fortune, Redside, Waughton, Scoughall, Lochhouses, Newbyth etc drew a blank on Greylags! So tried again after sunset and a great gathering was on the sea off Gosford entrance, several hundred. Suspect they had been hidden in behind Gosford woods, as many Pinks came out of that area late afternoon.

On Saturday evening in steady rain, negligible wind, 25+ Redwing calls (some groups 2 or more) 21:25-23:40hrs Saturday, passing W in rain. Some of same reported from further west by Ian at Musselburgh, also a single down in Borders by James. During same period plenty entertainment from local Tawny Owls, initially hooting over golf course but then probable youngster(s) along burn trees just over the road from us, comical calling and loud wailing. Sunday evening ad+juv Sandwich Tern calling over 22:30hrs, directly over house apparently W.

Further miscellaneous sightings: fresh Barn Owl casualty Blindwells, 560 Golden Plover on Seton shore and 5 RTD off Ferny Ness on Saturday; on Sunday, 8 Slav, 6 RNG at Ferny Ness; 6 Pintail, 2 Curlew Sand (flew in from west), 1 Greenshank and 1st-win Wheatear (depicted) at Aberlady; several Red Admirals all over; Blackbirds in winter song Gosford, 2 or 3 vocal Nuthatch in ponds area; c. 20 Swallows Spittal.