Saturday, 18 June 2011

Wknd 18-19 June

A single breeding plumage Red-necked Grebe on the sea off Seton Sands in the afternoon caused me to reach for BWP where I learnt this species is mature from 2 yrs and is "doubtfuly distinct from adult breeding" (basically duller) in 1st-summer plumage. Doubly doubtful at the range I saw it, but most likely this is an "immature" and one of the two seen in May, rather than an early returning adult.

Scanning in the other direction over Gosford and Fernyness Wood revealed about 120 Swift & 100 House Martin feeding, this coastal wood always a great attraction to hirundines on muggy summer days; certainly can't all be locals, often wondered where they all materialise from!

Very exciting also to see a Swift slipping in below the eaves of a neighbour's house, the first such sighting in our seven years in Longniddry, though a handful of resident birds are present every summer. Suspected the same house last year with a pair often over but suspicions strengthened two weeks ago with one apparently coming down to same house as if to roost 22:00hrs and then a persistent screaming party of 4 a few days ago. Similar to above, perhaps noteworthy that age of first breeding of Swift is thought is between 2 and 4 years (Perrins 1970), but many immatures of all ages travel with breeding adults and establish pairs at one year old, when may also occupy sites and build a "nest". How fascinating to think that these birds might even be breeding for the first time after travelling to and from Africa for up to four years; having an annual mortality of 15-20%, and an average lifespan of 9 years, we ought to really appreciate the flocks of 120+ as seen today!

[One postscript note - these behaviours make it doubly challenging to obtain proof breeding for atlas, it is not sufficient just to see bird regularly entering cavity, some evidence of young or feeding is also needed; no chance of directly observing feeding either, another of the amazing facts about Swifts are that the juvs will leave the nest alone on their first flight, typically early morning and they never return, roosting aerially thereafter. Within days they will be powering south on the first migration; thus they are continuously airborne from leaving the nest until their first breeding attempt, which as per above may not be the following year, and first-summer birds also known to roost mainly aerially.]

At the opposite end of the speed scale this little chap rescued off Glassel Park Road earlier in the week. Another was found by the P3 kids on their outing to Fernyness Wood.

Sunday - continuing recent trend plenty Puffins visible out in Forth, small groups flying in both directions and some very close in feeding off Port Seton; perhaps I've been unobservant in the past but do not recall such an abundance of feeding Puffins before, though with 10's of thousands breeding at mouth of Forth no surprise if we do see them when conditions suit them. Quite a trek to carry food back to their burrows, 10+ miles! Also, one RTD NE past, and Buzzard finally confirmed breeding in my home tetrad.

Evening excursion by bike in hope of pinning down last week's Barn Owl site; half way there the rain came on and nearly turned back but pressed on and after a trek was in situ with a good view out over best area just after 22:30hrs; within a minute the bird came into view and a fine sight too with prey dangling below silhouetted against the fading sky. Waited 10 minutes but did not return so headed off back but it probable same, or mate, passed again with more prey 22 minutes later! At that rate it could be taking 20 mice per night for its family. BWP mentions pr bringing 17 prey in 2hrs so might be possible. Rain then strengthened, got home like a drowned rat and would have made an excellent meal for a young owl :(

Monday - with Common Sand on main pool, Blindwells gets a wader at last - just when I thought we'd had it for spring; but maybe we have, this is surely more likely a failed breeder, so autumn passage gets underway! Also confirmed breeding of Blackcap there with a family in the NW corner, but Groppers (7+ territories) at St Germains were less obliging. Good view of an adult moving in vegetation though.

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