Saturday, 28 April 2012

Wknd 28-29 April

Lacking any bird photos from the day here's some digiscoped flowers at Ferny Ness, bluebell and white deadnettle (this may seem perverse but I find, as for insects, digiscoping gives that nice blurry background by default). A couple of Brents in the pools amongst the Long Craigs rocks off Seton did not wait for me to return with camera! Hastily initially called pale-bellied, later had some doubts but fortunately Geoff got a photo confirming dark-bellied, much rarer in Lothian (10 spring records 1998-2011)! Also a decent spring count of 72 Sandwich Terns there, and by the end of the pipe an odd gathering of "large birds" with Mute Swan, Grey Heron and GBB standing together.

Other bits and bobs - the rookery by the viewpoint at Prestonpans had 30 active nests (counted only 3 there last year) plus 7 at Bankton, also 24 at Macmerry industrial estate. A quarry site held a remarkable Little Grebe nest, a floating structure against a sheer rock face tethered to a protruding willow twig. Back down at Gosford there was a great gathering of Sandwich Terns fishing in the Bay, mainly off Craigielaw, with a steady progression of birds coming in to rocks by pipe at Gosford Sands, some with fish for courtship feeding (one robbed by a Herring Gull which stooped on it). By the time there were 77 on the shore there were still at least 205 fishing offshore, probably more missed along at Seton. Previous spring counts in excess of 100 (1991 to date) have been 126 on 15/5/07, 132 on 10/5/95 and 110 on 13/5/91, all recorded by wardens at Aberlady (Harrison, Thomson and Gordon respectively). So why the current influx, presumed mainly Isle of May birds?

Back home the first House Martin was back, previous return dates being 30/4/11, 24/4/10, 9/4/09, 28/4/08, 26/4/07, 23/4/06, 27/4/05.

Sunday terns had diminished, just a small bunch on shore (below) - along with 107 Barwits, 85 Knot, 54 Oyc, 48 Dunlin, 29 Grey Plover, 24 Curlew and a Sanderling.

Sunset on Sunday over Longniddry Bents c/p2 bog, no sound from the Grasshopper Warbler though!
Back at the Ness on Monday morning a single Whimbrel in the mist.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Wknd 21-22 April

A Moorhen picked up freshly dead on road at Skid Hill, Garleton Hills, gave opportunity to examine the subtle beauty of its plumage, particularly the underparts - a species we may assume is rather dull and take for granted! Note the jet black of central undertail contrasting with white outer panel provides the rear end signal - used both in alarm (Tail fan) and pair greeting (Tail flash), per BWP. The broad white tips on the rear underbelly are shown by both sexes in fresh plumage, but their extent here may suggest this individual is an adult female: "Like adult ♂, but feathers of central lower belly and vent more broadly tipped white, appearing mainly white or mottled grey and white, rarely uniform dark grey; in fresh plumage, white fringes to tips of feathers of lower breast and belly broader on average, sometimes not completely disappearing by wear as in ♂" (per BWP).

Also at the pond there, Mallard ducklings out (b7) and BHG colony in full swing (4th year of occupation, normally fails).

Saturday did some atlas roving around Vogrie & Crichton (first visit), breeding evidence included juv Mistle Thrush on verge at Ford, Chiffchaff bringing feathers one-by-one to line its nest deep in a clump of grass at Vogrie, several active rookeries (10 Ford, 9 Dewartown, 19 Crichton, 16 Blackcastle); also good views of Nuthatch at Vogrie. Single Swallows in several places (including first over our house), Willow Warblers widespread. Grasshopper Warbler in song on Blindwells northern perimeter on Sunday afternoon.

Nevertheless at Ferny Ness later on Sunday no hirundines, nor any other migrants, were seen passing offshore, seems a generally slow arrival this year. 18 Sandwich Terns were fishing Gosford Bay/on Greencraigs, pr Shelduck were again prospecting eastern c/p area, 50 Grey Plover on Greencraigs island; 42 RBM, 16 LTD (mainly breeding plumage), 3 Slav Grebe on sea; single RTD east.

Back to Friday and a Purple Sandpiper and very pale grey (leucistic?) female Eider were at Wrecked Craigs, Port Seton; chatted to Archie Mathieson and his wife there (ex-Aberlady warden). Seton roost numbered 650 BHG, 10 Common Gull (just 3 ads) and 26 graellsii LBB (though BHG were also heard over the house heading to the coast several times btwn 22-23:00hrs, perhaps coming from colonies inland?).

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Wknd 14-15 April

Finally got first Swallows passing offshore in Gosford Bay, Sandwich Terns now more regular (counts); sea duck seemed diminished from last week but harder to count, just 4 Slavs detected and one distant RNG. Gosford Sands above with approaching shower late afternoon.

Seton roost gets hard to monitor into April with birds less tied to the burn and BHG in particular spread widely over the sea, hard to check. At dusk on Friday there were still 1380 BHG but not checked properly for Meds; Saturday had a feeding concentration of 800 BHG in Gosford Bay, something in the water attracting them. At dusk on Sunday (pic below) had a good look throo 1160 BHG mainly concentrated off Longniddry Bents (just one on Seton Burn), 125 Common Gull (all but two on Seton Burn itself) down to just 16 adults, also 140 Herrings and 5 LBB. Looks like the white-wing invasion has truly passed us by now with another blank winter here :(

Photos documenting latest Dolphingstone Barn Owl casualty (22nd such here on this 3 mile stretch of A1 Tranent to Whitecraig since 2004), presumed male (no spots at all):

Also the greyer Tawny from Huntington, a juvenile/1st-win:

Yet another Barn Owl casualty reported Tuesday on the bypass east of Fairmilehead junction, per Tony; I choose to look at the positives here which is that 6 casualties in a month is indicative that there are still a lot about despite two very hard winters; last year's breeding success was not great locally (3.5 young fledged per successful pair), total breeding pairs well down (approx halved) but perhaps more young have survived this last winter with better weather?

[Post mortems on last two Barn Owls confirm the pale unspotted bird as an ad male in good physical condition, containing two field mice; and darker spotted bird is a young ad female (mature inactive ovary, uterus pregravida) also in good condition but containing no prey; ad m Sparrowhawk was a presumed collision injury, it had been in less good condition with some muscle atrophy.]

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter 2012

On Wednesday a single Sandwich Tern on Seton shore with small gulls (1220 BHG, 490 Common Gull, 16 ad LBB), first I've seen back. Snow still visible on Pentlands viewed from Longniddry Bents the following morning (above).

Saturday on WeBS, Mute Swans on nests at traditional sites at Drem pools and East Fortune (stick nest). A curiosity was 6 new crow nests around Drem pools but none apparently occupied - two with orange twine woven in. Also a Razorbill just off Sea Green at Aberlady was unusual.

Sunday's highlight was two prs Sparrowhawks displaying over Longniddry - the full display of the male Sprawk is really a spectacle; most interesting with male picked up dead just a fortnight ago, I guess these pairs related to those breeding in west of village and in Fernyness Wood. Seton roost was further depleted though quite scenic at dusk, view here and a sunset from a couple of weeks back.

Update on rookery counts, these now counted, many egg shells below nests:

199+ Huntington, western Garleton Hills
117+ Longniddry station wood (increase from 92 on 24/3)
106+ Craig Wood, East Linton
22 Amisfield, Haddington
c. 20 Macmerry Industrial Estate
19 Drem village
18 Seton Sands caravan park
5 Prestonpans station

The previous highest nest counts I can find in the Lothian database 1991 to date are 125 at Gosford on 5/4/91 and 114 at Berwick Law on 12/4/09. Prior to that high counts all in 1990: 139 Milkhall Crossing, 252+17 Castlelaw (Penicuik), 153 Mortonhill/Frogston, and highest 288 Castlelaw in 1988.

Finally, a grey morph Tawny was found freshly dead at the biggest rookery here, not apparently a road casualty so another mystery - will send off for post mortem (along with another spotless Barn Owl specimen from A1 at Dolphingstone).

Postscript - post mortem came back with chilling findings - puncture wounds to thighs and deep bruising with lacerations on back cranial to tail again with deep bruising - "appearance of bullying or aggression injuries" - thus a suggestion that the Rooks had taken offence at its presence in their colony; vet's view that in that case it must already have been weakened and thus unable to escape.