Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Christmas to New Year

Happy New Year to all - have had a blog holiday though tried to disseminate a few bits of stuff via LBN and birdinglothian, so this post just a few reflections on the last couple of weeks.

Contrary a year ago when we were in the grip of the snow, with a Woodcock influx and hard weather movements, what a difference with the ongoing goose bonanza and unseasonable seabirds. The latter have not been apparent in abundance but right up to the year end Pom and Arctic Skuas were logged in the Forth, and Bonxies in the North Sea. Only the Pom seen by me, a dark presumed juv proceeding into the Forth again soon after dawn on 27/12, heading for the distant concentration of feeding small gulls off Edinburgh. Given a very similar looking bird went E after sunset on 18/12 led me to speculate may be roosting on sea towards mouth of the Forth, but who knows? The Arctic was logged off Kinghorn on 30/12 (another today S off Girdleness), which was interesting as on 1/1 a huge feeding flock of small gulls (3k+) off Kinghorn were repeatedly flushed, presumably by a skua but at the range (10 miles, they were behind Inchkeith) simply impossible to see the dark skua, at least with my scope! Those same small gulls I presume responsible for the continued presence of these skuas, surely there must be some unusual food source out there? [Postscript: birdinglothian now tells us a dark Pom was off Seton again on 2/1 for 15 mins, whilst I was off reading swan darvics, typical!]

Also of interest at sea, 5 Great Northern Divers W in just 10hrs watching in December, with others reported in same period off Muss and Gullane, this seems rather more than usual. How many would have been logged in dedicated watching like some of the east coast sites enjoy? Again without any proof I speculate that some of these had got into the North Sea and were heading back W, where the vast majority of GND overwinter in Britain & Eire, though perhaps some would end up inland?

These and others all logged on trektellen, including a count for today 3/1 when above pics taken from Cockenzie - wind a steady storm force 10 at the time, occasionally must have been gusting to violent storm 11 and I was becoming concerned the car might be blown over the way it was bouncing around. Not expecting to see any real seabird passage, just curious what could cope with a force 10 wind, found that both GBB and Herring Gull were capable, even a Turnstone that was using the troughs of the waves; Shag, Cormorants, Oycs, Razorbill and even a Feral Pigeon all made valiant attempts but eventually either ditched in the sea or blew down wind. All birds ditching in the sea, even gulls, went in with a great splash! Pan tiles smashed all over Seton High Street, sadly my hat also blew away, soon exceeding the speed limit down the main road :(

Now to the geese; it would be tedious to list all the details but 21/12 was a memorable day with a chance encounter of 59+ Bean Geese at Harelaw in my home tetrad (NT47N) on a non-birding trip. Mixed feelings though, after making a careful count had to dash home to get camera and "put out the news", wasted a few minutes on that and on return every last Bean had gone, leaving only the Greylag hosts and 3 Pinks (presumed flushed by a chap going for walk round same field, never seen a living soul in same field previously, or since!). Writing the "description" presented a few challenges, but I have no doubts there were at least 59 Beans there, almost certainly 60 and perhaps one or two more hidden, if accepted this would currently be a record count for Lothian. A few other double figure counts elsewhere since so perhaps they subsequently fragmented? The same Greylags were in same area a little north towards Gosford saw mill on 2/1, no surprise to see the 2 ad Euro Whitefronts here amongst them. Geese at same spot on 3/1 but not checked.

Finally, brief comment on swans - the "western East Lothian" flock have all converged on dumped potatoes on Prora ex-landfill, counted 223 though a few flying around so definitely a minimum. Amusing to see them behaving like toddlers, a couple squabbling over the remains of a particular rotten potato, whilst standing next to a great mound of them! Got only one darvic from gate where view is very restricted, but site is alarmed and has CCTV, fortunately got to speak to site manager and able to approach a bit closer, getting 3 of 4 yellow darvics (PL5 shown, ringed as cygnet at Martin Mere 30/1/01, returning there till 2005 but regular here since 2006); frustratingly no sign of red-ASB (half read at Rattlebags earlier in year); may not have chance now to try again!

PS - with my recorder hat on it is of course record submission time of the year, and a few have arrived (many thanks); if still using the Excel s/s I have an updated version using current Scottish list names (common names, saves typing "Eurasian" all the time) and also what I find to be a handy weekday lookup (minimises date errors, certainly for me) if anyone wants one, indeed will link here shortly. I appreciate all correspondence received, I'm really struggling for time though, especially with a very busy teaching semester just starting, not to mention family duties etc, so please bear with me for replies to emails and don't be offended if they are rather brief and to the point!

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