Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Wknd 24-25 March

A thick sea haar descended on the coastal strip from dawn Friday. Figuring this would make Fife hard for migrants to see I spent some hours on the local coast hoping for early returners, but apart from a surge of Mipits on Saturday (unusually going mainly NE in the fog), and an abundance of bumbles bees (+ Red Admiral) little was seen, counts on trek.

Rooks in Fernyness Wood seem to be in great numbers this year, now 94 nests (86 in wood, 4 station c/p, 4 Kitchener Cres (photo), 3 of latter in a tall Highclere holly, which seems an unusual choice but 63 tree species have been used per BWP); this compares 54 nests on 12 March, 18 on 7 March, 10 on 16 Feb, with nest building in full swing throughout (a couple still incomplete). Comparing historical counts here these are unfortunately patchy but 86 nests in 1992, 65 in 1994 then my own counts of c. 30 in 2005, 35 in 2006, c. 30 in 2007, 33 in 2009 (3 Kitchener Cres), 40 in 2010 and 57 last year (when c. 39 in sycamores, 6 elm, 4 beech, 3 dead sycamore; 3 in birch in Kitchener Cres). So why the great expansion?

Around the area other local stuff included: Mute Swan on nest at Blindwells (first breeding there as far as I know, after years of residence), Shag darvic blue-ZPL at Seton, Stock Dove in song in great sycamore in front of Longniddry primary (occasional over, but this is first seen in the village in eight years), pr Mallard on burn by community centre again, and a dead male Sparrowhawk (above) at same location, lying in the burn, with House Sparrow feathers on adjacent bank; this was freshly dead overnight so I was curious of cause of death, there is nothing apparent so will send off to vet [Postscript - diagnosis was collision injury, skin inside right thigh torn with bleeding and bruising, ventral abdominal wall bruised with some internal bleeding; small passerine prey in gizzard consistent with House Sparrow, so injuries perhaps sustained in chasing it? Whatever, a sad end to a fine bird, though quickly replaced by others]

Also on Friday minimum 36 Slav Grebes off Longniddry beach, many in breeding plumage, and pr Goosander fishing in shallows at Gosford Sands on Saturday.

Back at Ferny Ness Sunday, nothing new, only 31 Slav Grebes off Longniddry beach by 18:00hrs, 83+ LTD, 173+ Velvet Scoter. 2 RTD flew NE towards roost late afternoon.

Finally, c/o tip off by Tom a new Barn Owl casualty on A1 near Overhailes, a beautiful and pristine specimen, presumed juv male (below); careful examination of last week's from A720 at Newton suggests it's a 2nd-win male, completely white below and only p7 is apparently replaced in primaries, excluding a juvenile. It had been crushed with a mouse, i.e. mouse fur and teeth outside owl, could it have been struck on prey?

Yet another fresh casualty on A1 by Macmerry Ind Estate on Monday, heavily spotted, presumed juv female, photos below. Still another reported from A199 in Tranent, on Tuesday, apparently crushed in centre of road. Interesting that there were no casualties in spring last year and now 4 within a fortnight - we've already exceeded last year's record low total for casualties.

Comparison of the Overhailes and Macmerry individuals shows how distinctly different they can be, these mainly male/female differences though also age related [postscript, post mortems confirm upper bird as an ad male in good physical condition, containing two field mice; lower one is a young ad female (mature inactive ovary, uterus pregravida) also in good condition but containing no prey.]

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