Sunday, 28 August 2011

Wknd 27-28 August

From the "poor man's seawatching" hotspot (not) of Cockenzie a look out into a breezy Forth produced a few Kittiwakes and Sandwich Tern W and an adult Little Gull (latter remarkably my first here since Oct 08!), little else. Along at Seton a pretty adult Med Gull by the burn, unringed.

Saturday called past Aberlady - nearly 1000 small gulls in the inner bay was notable, a Greenshank on the edge of the salt marsh and a f/imm Scaup downstream of the footbridge, asleep at high tide then began to feed. Just inland at the Muir Park resr south of the village another Greenshank heard. 55 Sanderling on Gosford Sands.

First visit to Craiglockhart pond, where pr Mutes had 6 large cygnets, and 18 Tufted Ducks (upgraded to P as one female completely flightless). With atlas activity dwindling, as the BTO atlas project closes, time for some post mortems. A look at the final list for NT48 (still orange, i.e. 10-25% missing), which is mainly Aberlady/Gullane, shows 28 species missing with some form of breeding status in last national atlas (1988-1991), being: Fulmar; Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser; Dunlin, Ruff, Woodcock, Curlew, Common Sandpiper; Sandwich Tern, Roseate Tern, Arctic Tern, Little Tern; Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Fieldfare, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Rook, Hooded Crow, Common Crossbill. Neglecting a few perhaps optimistic codes from last time, notable are those we already know are gone, the terns and some waders, along with a few other genuine losses, like Cuckoo, Yellow Wag, Spot Fly, all in local decline/retreat. By contrast just 4 species added, all expected: Buzzard, Barn Owl, Nuthatch and Jay, plus hybrid crow. Have not had time to do further analysis yet but it does make you wonder why there have been so many losses - are visitor pressures relevant to any of this?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Wknd 20-21 August

Saturday visited parents up in Banchory. Was heartening to see a significant increase in House Martin numbers compared to what we had 25 yrs ago when I was logging garden records there - presumably associated with the expansion in new houses; Swallow not lost either, though much further now from preferred habitat in open country. Checked to see if I could add any for atlas and found a hefty 47 already confirmed for the tetrad (NO79D) - a good haul by the locals!

En route back casualties of four raptor species on the trunk roads, LEO by Carse Hill at Forfar, Barn Owl by Brechin, Tawny at Kirkliston and the usual Buzzards. Posted to angusbirding and Chris kindly stepped up and confirmed first as an adult male in wing moult - thus must have been there post-breeding and would be new for NO45, but of course dead birds don't count for atlas :(

Sunday - 7 Red-necked Grebe off Seton Sands but poor light and probably many more out there. Sea covered in auks with young.

Monday morning - an unringed adult Med Gull (above) amongst 360 BHG (including 6 juv, of which two still downy) on Longniddry beach east of c/p 2. From a little further afield a report of 59 Med Gulls at Newbiggin, Northumbs, represents a significant increase for that site - summer peaks have ramped up steeply from single figure counts just 5 years ago, and similar numbers to current Lothian peaks 10 years ago. Will we ever see these great flocks here?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Save the Amazon

I don't normally go off-topic but this is worth spreading, the Avaaz-run campaign against drastic change of forest protection laws in Brazil, which could have devasting implications. Click the link

More local campaigns are accessible via the RSPB's Campaigns and appeals website, you can subscribe for email updates:

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Wk 15-19 August

Delayed WeBS on Tuesday found the eclipse drake Mandarin still on East Fortune pond, good view of legs confirming unringed. A Greenshank gave a fly past round perimeter of pond at same site, a few Swift over. Juveniles of Little Grebe, Tufted Duck and Bullfinch present, with another useful addition via a covey of Grey Partridge at Balgone Barns.

On to Seacliff where proof of Stock Dove breeding for NT68 was still not forthcoming, just 4 birds in trees. On rocks at Great Car evidence of an influx from the Isle of May: 220 Shag (about half were juvs, many colour ringed), 49 Turnstone, 7 Purple Sand, 7 Knot, 3 Goosander, 25 Common Terns, 2 Arctic Tern with a single juv.

At Aberlady, a Mute Swan influx with 50 adults present (reminiscent of the influx of 42 on 10/8/08), I wonder what the record is here? Also 3 Wigeon, 11 Teal.

Off Seton Burn, 4 Red-necked Grebes.

On Monday still at least 27 Swift over Cockenzie primary, soon to be off no doubt.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Unexpected dove

Whilst checking East Lothian for fledged Collared Doves stopped at the Blackdykes turn west of Auldhame to check three on wires and was surprised to find this apparent juvenile Turtle Dove with the pair of standard issue doves! Looked twitchy so did not approach nearer, and sure enough a few minutes later took off and flew high N, lost to sight behind trees at Castleton, towards the last bit of land before Fife.

At Tyninghame Links unfortunately flushed a Barn Owl out of its roost in a tree hole but had a nice view of it flying over fields in bright sun, quickly mobbed by Swallows. A Whimbrel was also calling over Tesco at North Berwick. Elsewhere some decent gatherings of birds - 170+ House Sparrow at Knowes, may well have been a lot more, scattered by a male Sparrowhawk; 1070 Herring Gulls loafing on turf at Lochhouses included 67 juv, 250+ Greylag with them and 120+ Swallows at farm; 200+ hirundines at Seacliff, about half each Swallow/House Martin and largely juvs; 80+ Tree Sparrow in ripening wheat by bend N of Balgone Barns, mainly juvs; another 100+ hirundines at West Fortune. 10 Swift over Knowes. Fledged Bullfinch at Tynefield, young cygnet Mute Swan at Scoughall pond, bright juvenile Greenfinch at Auldhame amongst 30+ Goldfinch, many juvs. But generally poor for finding new atlas stuff, checked perhaps 20 Collared Dove and no (new) juvs seen.

These "Shaggy Mane" Coprinus comatus (I think!) mushrooms on the verge past Kingston.

No birding Sunday but at Fisherrow Links playground one ad f Peregrine came bombing over from the Eskmouth. Swifts still over the house at dusk.

Monday, 27+ Swift high over Cockenzie primary school, gathering now I think as have seen in previous years mid-August.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

On tour

Into first week August visits to relatives down south took us over the head of the Tweed (A701) then the more tedious M74, M6 and M1. The southbound journey was remarkable on two counts - the complete absence of Kestrels (this is a first, I recall counting them well into double figures on these journeys historically) and the new seabird cities of urban Birmingham, with large gulls spread over the industrial roofs as far as the eye could see - both Lesser Blackback and Herring Gull with young. So many it seems artificial eggs are now being trialled to stem the population expansion.

Along the motorways only two Tawny Owl casualties were seen (Airport Way M1 link at Luton and Coleshill by Birmingham), a couple of Buzzard but no Barn Owl. A little atlas roving at Walton-le-dale outside Preston between the Rivers Darwen and Ribble. Tawny Owls are resident here but surprisingly had not been confirmed for the atlas - a brief excursion produced an individual which flew low over our heads at Mosney after uttering a shrill "kewick kewick kewooooh" call (an exact match to "to-wit to-woo" which is often stated to be an alliteration of calls of a pair). But sadly no young squeaking. A young Goosander was on the Darwen, with a juv Sprawk over the maize fields, and Pheasant was added as a 10km confirmation.

On the way home the Kestrel count was slightly better, at three, and Spotted Flycatchers were a pleasant sight feeding young around Moffat duck pond.