Wednesday, 23 May 2012

More gular patches

Another candidate for Continental Cormorant (sinensis) at Duddingston Loch, far shore, 23 May. Also watched at close range while fishing confirming gular angle in excess of 90 degrees. Compare Geoff's photos of 1st-win at same site in Jan 2010.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Wknd 19-20 May

Continuing NE winds had pushed Manx Shearwaters into the Forth, with 32 passing Seton in 30 mins early afternoon Friday. Always a fine sight as they loop and skim over the sea, definitely one of my top species and don't see enough of them here usually. Could not stay to count more, though movement was steady and no doubt many more would have passed. They were accompanied by a few Fulmar and 20+ auks, including several Puffins, with another Puffin close in off the harbour mouth.

Also at Wrecked Craigs rocks as the tide came in a pair of Common Tern courtship feeding, my first back this year, one shown above amongst some of 56 Knot and other waders. Only one of the Knot was showing any hint of breeding plumage, though of course some could be immatures; but for many of these high arctic breeders "summer" is extremely compressed, just weeks on the breeding grounds in mid-summer and then by July they are coming back. Certainly did not feel like summer here today, with steady rain, biting wind and a temperature of 7C felt rather more like winter.

Gosford Sands held the usual 96 Barwits, very few other waders.

Visited the Scottish Bird Fair on Saturday with the kids, there was plenty for them to do!

Sunday - May WeBS as usual produced very little of note, most waters nearly deserted - only points of note were a pr Shelduck flying E over East Fenton/Chapel and Lapwings back over fields at Brownrigg, tussling with a crow; now a very rare breeder in East Lothian farmland (only confirmed at 2 other sites N of the Tyne), another of my favourite's I don't see enough of! Rescued a Mallard duckling from a deep tank at Drem sewage works, not sure it would have survived to fledging in there!

Wrecked Craigs, Port Seton again had a colour-ringed tern, remarkably the same colour code as the last two (red/lime) but red upper not lower - another from Forvie, marked there in 2009 per Alistair Smith.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Wknd 14-15 May

During the week had checked again for the drake Surf Scoter which routinely appears on our coast in early May (having failed to see it last weekend, but then reported from Ferny Ness on Tuesday), found it again on same spot on the sea on 9 May as it had frequented back in 2010 (10-15 May), NNE from Wrecked Craigs. Curiously that year what was presumed to be the same then moved on to Musselburgh on 15 May, where a drake has appeared every year since 1997 (except 1998), but was reported again at Port Seton the same day, but there were then 2 drakes at Musselburgh 17-18 May - the obvious conclusion being the first report at Musselburgh was a new bird later joined by ours from Seton! Then as now the intricacies of the self-found listing rules mean I still need this species for my British list, but it would feel a bit of a cheat, we can almost set our calendars by it. Nevertheless, did look for it last year and failed to see it, and have checked a couple of times since and not seen it again. On Saturday there was a similar group of Velvets in a similar area - one of which was apparently a female with an abnormally large white patch at base of bill, but surely a Velvet, perhaps imm f. As usual, vast majority of birds very distant and hard to check details - and photos of Surfie, at estimated range well over 1km, little more than a speck, hence none for this post!

On longevity, if we assume it is the same bird and was an adult in summer of 1997, its hatch year was 1995 or earlier, making it a minimum of 17 years old - no wonder it's set in its ways!!! Can't find a confirmed age beyond 10 yrs in quick web search, though Velvet has reached 21 yrs.

Not a great deal else apparent on Saturday, a steady hirundine passage in better weather and for first time since last summer could not spot a Long-tailed Duck. 20 odd Common Seals were out on Craigielaw Point, their favoured spot, and 103 Barwits remained on Gosford Sands.

Some proper wind and rain the previous on Thursday set up a nice little seawatch but apart from impressive shearing by a few Fulmars and terns battling the wind nothing exciting was seen. Wind returned again on Sunday, a decent SW6 gusting over the Forth - scanning the same patch of sea off Seton hirundine passage at a total standstill but a single Swift went throo, well offshore battling over the sea - in photo above it is the speck in front of bow of distant tanker. "Counts". At 15:30hrs 3 scoter sp flew in from NE, one certainly gave impression of the Surfie but they came down on sea a good mile+ offshore and due to sea condition (see photo) only got glimpses thereafter. But per birdinglothian the Surfie was there both morning and afternoon, someone with better eyes/optics than mine! More positively a Common Sand on the Seton Burn was my belated first of the year.

Looked for Surfie on way home on Monday and this time was there on same small patch of sea, c. 3km offshore just east of N off Wrecked Craigs; fortunately the light was briefly good after a shower so easy to spot. With 12 Velvet Scoter, a few others scattered around. Also one Smartie W past.

More nocturnals

On Monday took a detour en route home to look for atlas nocturnals, specifically Woodcock, in Midlothian (where current map suggests major decline, but likely just under-recorded). First stopped at the bridge by Lions Lodge near Oxenfoord Castle at about 21:00hrs, immediate clues there were owls around with Blackbirds persistently alarming; after listening for half an hour two Tawnys had confirmed their presence in wailing and kewick calls, perhaps two more based on centres of alarm calls but no young heard, neither any Woodcock.

Went on to woods along B6367 east of Preston Hall which I thought looked good for Woodcock when driving past a couple of weeks ago - within a minute a sneeze call heard, then a few minutes later a roding bird went over, fortunately traversing from NT46D into NT46C and NT36X, all new atlas tetrads.

Tawny also heard there and was just about to go when I spotted a freshly dead owl on verge just in front of car, sadly an adult Tawny (but see below). Considering I'd pulled up at random and may not have seen the bird otherwise goodness knows how many more there are, certainly this species still seems to be thriving locally despite the two bitter winters. Our local atlas map still needs a lot of work, the suspicion is that most of the "losses" are simply lack of monitoring.

Finally pulled up just south of Gladsmuir 22:00hrs, wailing Tawny calls could be heard emanating from Butterdean Wood, several within a minute. Will need to return to confirm breeding here!

Looking more closely at this Tawny specimen age confirmed as 2nd-summer, based on replaced outer primaries p5-p9 (right wing shown, same apparent on left underwing); thus the inner primaries are all retained juvenile feathers, though on this bird they have a more solid looking sub-terminal band than on many.

The most useful info on ageing these birds is the chart c/o Henk Van Konig displayed in this blog post. Whilst BWP indicates that: "primaries start with p1, p2, p3, or p4, halting with p8, p9, or p10" clearly they have not started with p4 on this bird, Henk's chart shows that p4 is replaced only on c. 67% versus 95% moulting p5. This bird is also very similar to the 2nd-summer female in this post c/o South Notts Ringing Group (photo). That one had moulted some secondaries (s8-9), the current bird had s6 missing so was already in moult (in adults, flight-feather moult starts early May to late June, suspended early September to late November, per BWP), and seemed to have replaced s8-10 last year (secondaries numbered from primary junction inwards).

Another example showing a 2nd-winter (slightly younger) also has p1 replaced, which is a bit unusual per Henk's chart. Final lesson here is these moults can vary considerably, thus perhaps some merit in documenting.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Wknd 4-5 May

A Great Crested Grebe was a welcome sight off Ferny Ness on Saturday morning, having only seen one in Lothian last year. Also on the sea a Puffin, 6 Red-throated Divers, only 9 summer Long-tailed Ducks and 90-odd Velvets in sight. 99 Barwits on Gosford Sands.

Later at Wrecked Craigs, Port Seton, 61 Sandwich Terns on rocks included 5 ringed, of which only one colour-ringed, shown above. The same combination seen here previously (Forvies tern), one of 300 young marked at Forvie National Nature Reserve, Aberdeenshire, in 2008.

Also during the day, first Whitethroat for me back at Blindwells, definitely late (still no Common Sand there!), also my first Swift over Esk at Musselburgh.

Sunday - Whitekirk BBS turned up very little, single House Martin back at church tower, single Sedgie in song on Peffer Burn, Crossbill heard at Binning, and 2 Wheatears nearby at Waughton, migrants presumably. Further Whitethroats at Whitekirk and Prora.

Late Sunday - female Wheatear at Ferny Ness, had me stumped when flew out of buckthorn but refound it on N shore. Offshore, 19 Long-tailed Ducks, one RTD NE, but could not see grebes of any sort. Also Lesser Redpoll over, could this be a very late migrant or are they lurking somewhere locally? We have them most years in spring, have recorded song flight in April and July. Checked trektellen, migrants passing N Norfolk till last week so certainly it could still be a migrant, perhaps from a more northerly location?