Sunday, 12 February 2012

Wknd 11-12 February

With Lothian Iceland Gulls now into double figures, not to mention Kumlien's, and the intriguing prospect that the Blindwells Smew were roosting on the off Seton, there was only one place to go on Saturday evening! Started at Longniddry Bents where one beautiful ad Med Gull (dark mask only) was amongst the mainly BHG roosting offshore, tide fully in. Also one ad LBB on the sea. Scanning the sky repeatedly but no small duck appeared and turned out later the Smew had not been at Blindwells anyway. Then off Seton Sands mainly Common Gulls on the sea, total small gulls perhaps 3k, also 31 Wigeon, 3 RBM and a Teal there. Light very poor even at sunset.

[Postscript - how sad that these birds are still being flushed by "birders"; I was able to see them perfectly well from the gate! Don't these "birders" have telescopes to watch birds throo?! Certainly makes one think about putting out news of rarer species, I suspect I will adopt a more cautious approach in future.]

There were also an unusual gathering of Herring Gulls on the sea, 200 off the Seton Burn and another 90 in a single species group further offshore - they often keep to themselves/hog the rocks at Long Craigs to exclusion of small gulls. Historically this species has not roosted in any great numbers here, though several hundred can often be present in the pre-roost, arriving to wash and drink at the Seton Burn, many tend to head off along the coast to roost presumably off North Berwick, where some at least are recorded roosting on the Bass Rock. With poor light after sunset it is often hard to determine if any stay to roost, though I have also encountered 50+ in Seton harbour feeding after dark, under artificial lighting. Curious to see if tonight's birds would stay I looked again at c. 18:00hrs, by which time it was really dark, and those which were immediately offshore from the Seton Burn were still discernible there on the sea, giving every impression that they were remaining to roost, perhaps first time I have got concrete evidence of this. Maybe also significant that it was pretty mild and calm, certainly for the time of year. Again, nothing all white was apparent in their midst, the various Icelands presumably drawn to other gatherings of roosting gulls further west?

Sunday - WeBS circuit; commenced Drem pools, annual Snipe census (I don't like to flush them more than once per year) - only 4 Common Snipe seen, no Jacks this year, though a bonus with the rear end of a Water Rail scurrying away, second for site after one 11/11/07 (since 1975). Jack Snipe are hard to flush, you need to walk and pause, they tend to sit tight unless you stop, same was true of the Water Rail, it ran a second or two after I stopped. At East Fenton, first returning Oyc in residence. Chapel resr was better for Snipe with 19 out on the bank feeding, a regular sight now, amongst them 4 Redshank and a rare inland winter Dunlin, 75 Lapwings nearby. Full wildfowl count was 42 Mallard, 25 Wigeon, 22 Tuftie, 7 Teal, 3 Goosander, pr Goldeneye, juv Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, injured Pinkfoot, no Scaup though. At East Fortune some Bean Geese remain, a minimum of 11 amongst nearly 1000 geese at potatoes and in stubble south of the ponds. Also 6 White-fronted Geese (2 ads, 4 1st-win), 8 Barnacles, c. 490 Pinks and c. 495 Greylag. A neck-collared Pinkfoot was a challenge to read, something like LJG! Then Prora for the Whoopers, still present on potatoes; 4 darviced birds seen, 2 yellow (one was X6C, other too muddy) and two red, both indecipherable though left leg rung bird likely ASB seen in November. Will have to try again, not easy with the thick mud there! All told added 6 atlas tetrad ticks and about 10 count upgrades.

[Photo top is view over Waughton resr towards Traprain Law and the Lammermuirs beyond.]

Mon/Tue a bizarre occurrence of seeing a male Sprawk hunting over Prestonpans at exactly the same spot, heading the same way, at the same time both days (viewed from the train) - presumably same bird on a daily routine?

Wed taking the car to work for first time in a while spotted two more raptor casualties en route, a Buzzard on the B6363 and a wood owl on the A1 at Wallyford, turned out to be a very rufous juv Tawny. Coming home checked for the Smew and watched them 17:30-17:55hrs when still settled on Blindwells pool; generally inactive, just following a male Tuftie around at east end, but occasional became alert and dipped/raised heads, wing arching twice, washing and wing flapping once but no signs of departing to anywhere else to roost.

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