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.