Monday, 28 February 2011

Wknd 26-27 February

All effort devoted to atlas - 2 visits to Seacliff, adding Goosander to NT68 but failing to find Siskin (bagged by Mark on the very last day!); surprisingly also added 3 species to NT69, which contains the Isle of May but all lies beyond 5km from the Lothian coast - many Gannets were visible and a flock of Pinks flew N behind the Bass Rock; 3 Kittiwakes made a beeline for a trawler also judged to have been in NT69; these are needed ticks, as the Isle of May is low on winter species and was appearing red on atlas maps, now orange (with Razorbill also logged, per Seabird Centre reports).

Passing Waughton en route the taiga Bean was visible at dusk on Saturday (just before above photo taken from the top road, sunset over Arthur's Seat, but apparently AWOL on the Sunday and thereafter).

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Wknd 19-20 February

Main priority this week was BTO Atlas as the end of the final winter period approaches, just a week to go. Did the TTV off Reed Point, btwn Dunglass and Pease bay in Borders, not a great deal on the sea and just 86 Gannets passed south during the hour.

Sunday roved around a few inland areas, failing to find Oystercatchers in NT46 or any more duck at Markle. The taiga Bean remained at Waughton (seated, as it often has been, and I presume it is unwell), with 43 Mute Swans still in cereal east of Whitekirk.

More successful at dusk - Tawny Owl calling 17:35hrs in the north-east corner of Binning Wood - conveniently (for once) just inside the tetrad boundary (NT68A), thus a much-needed 10km tick! Shortly afterwards another was hooting from The Avenue, towards Tyninghame House, this one heard by the kids who were very excited. Both birds called shortly after I had done "cupped hand" hooting in attempt to provoke a response, but whether there is any connection I tend to doubt.

Better was too come as we took the backroads home and came across a beautiful Barn Owl perched up on the straight btwn Old Stonelaws and Redside (on the Whitekirk to Waughton Road). Bird then proceeded to hover over verge still in headlights before drifting off south; also a tetrad tick, NT58Q.

Also this week have had 5 post mortems back, the most interesting being that for the Barn Owl casualty at Old Craighall, recovered off a freshly dead Feral Pigeon (blog post of 7 Dec). Analysis confirms the owl was feeding on the pigeon, thus a very rare case of taking carrion, but also that the pigeon had probably already been scavenged by something else. However, the owl (a young male) was also deemed to be in very poor condition with no fat reserves and advanced muscle atrophy. This was also consistent with the low weight (280g) and lack of any ingested food before the pigeon. Thus the primary cause of death was deemed to be starvation, and the scavenging is clear evidence of its desperation in finding food (after several days of severe weather, included deep snow cover).

As discussed in original blog post, many of our owl casualties have been in excellent condition, including those recovered in the hard weather just over a year ago, but this latest finding is more expected given the evidence we now have of its significant impact on (but not elimination of) local breeding populations. Several other reports of Barn Owls in the region, including a courting pair, gives some grounds for optimism.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Wknd 12-13 February

Swans circuit in Holyrood on Saturday morning produced a few with the new bright green darvics; Greylag DZC was still alive, right (domestic Greylags history in link right). 12 occupied herons nests at Duddingston; oh yes, the first year Iceland Gull too was unmissable on Dunsapie - was successful in grabbing 2 large bits of bread and actually looked quite bloated with food; not content, I then saw it successfully parasitise a BHG, which dropped its own bread.

Then did the NT47J TTV - this is the tetrad offshore NW from Ferny Ness; arrived early afternoon in hope of some mud at low tide but tide never dropped far enough to reveal any shore, thus had to count sea duck instead - total 689 in the tetrad: 328 Velvets, 151 Eider, 92 LTD, an unprecedented (for me) 90 Goldeneye, 19 RBM, 8 Common Scoter and rarest of all a female Tufted Duck; also 39 Slav Grebes and 3 Razorbill; all minima with birds busy diving to feed. Some reasonable counts for the TTV but poor in comparison with yesterday's 78 Slavs, also the BNG and GND seemed to be absent though had been seen earlier and disappointing to get no other divers (though these all logged for tetrad previously).

Then did WeBS, a day earlier than usual; 160+ Whoopers remained at Muirton; an ad f Scaup and pr RBM were still on Chapel; Mute flock in upper Peffer Valley, south of Dirleton, has reached 39; Grey Wag at East Fortune was the first I remember hearing for a long time, and vocal Wrens in several places was encouraging too.

The taiga Bean Goose was still at Waughton, with a dead swan below wires there (foot measurement suggest Whooper), a very sad sight considering the effort that was expended to get the bird deflectors up on the wires in April 2008 (after at least 15 swans had perished that winter, commuting between the "bean" field and the resr to roost) - photos below. Plastic disks were fitted to the 11kV line and big orange fishing float type (sourced in Leith) on the 33kV line (LBN post). The density of deflectors above where the current bird had fallen was 7 on a span - perhaps more are needed to be effective, but probably it is impossible to make it fully swan-proof given they will often fly to roost after dark. Use of fluorescent markers has been discussed but I have seen no proof advanced that these will work and I suspect they may just confuse the birds which will still not be able to see the wires themselves. For extreme cases it might therefore be better to disperse the swan flock via other means.

[Postscript - have since discovered that more frequent terminology, at least in the US, is bird "diverter", and found a couple of articles demonstrating the successful deployment of deflectors in the UK (at Abberton resr and Rye harbour). Commercial products in the UK here and use of reflective material on deflectors intended for cranes mentioned here].

Sunday had a look at the Seton roost - there was one unringed adult Med Gull on the shore off caravan park entrance, c/o Mike; 3200 small gulls roosted, the last flying onto the sea at 17:40hrs; c. 35 Herring Gulls remained to roost, but still no LBB arrival.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Domestic Greylags

Discussed before on this blog, here are the photos of the various Greylag/domestic goose variants which have been in the area for a couple of years. Seen in 2009, at East Fenton (6/9), Gosford Bay (1/11), Gosford ponds (15/11) and East Fortune (22/11) and generally at the latter location into 2011. Upper photos c/o Abbie.

Whitest bird has vague resemblance to Snow Goose but flight feathers are brownish at best, not black. The second bird is basically grey all over and the last, brownish with white face, I suspect could by a hybrid with a domestic type Greylag or Swan Goose. Possibly another individual like this, plus some Canada x Greylags are still seen occasionally.

Nicer geese below, part of the mixed Greylag/Pinkfoot flock at Fortoun Bank on Sunday. Over 800 Greylags were at the potatoes provided by East Fortune ponds during the hard weather at end of last year, often accompanied by varying numbers of Pinkfeet. The domestic variants have been present throughout.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Wknd 5-6 February

On Saturday: the Whooper herd were over at Muirton, with 880 Pinks at flood pools; nearby just over 100 Tree Sparrow with Yammers and 7 Reed Bunting by Kingston railway bridge (right); 31 Mutes (including orange-3CYP, which was at East Fenton in Nov 09) was a big increase in fields SW of Newhouse Wood resr; 340 Wood Pigeon at Ferrygate included 14 juvs, i.e. autumn juvs with no white on neck, and just one Stock Dove.

Gannets were back at the Bass, 170+ streaming north to feed; seabird centre cameras also gave us higher tetrad counts for gulls on the rock (though no sign of Feral Pigeon, still missing!) and on Craigleith, where a couple of Wrens and 2 Greylags were also seen.

Sunday rechecked the Whoopers and made it 167, plus 25 at Waughton (where Taiga Bean still present). A few geese milling around in East Fortune area but no large gatherings (total 591 Greylag, 140 Pinks). Also a female Pintail at the Aberlady saltmarsh.