Friday, 29 June 2012

Wknd 23-24 June

Got behind with updating blog due to travelling, but last weekend had several darvic and colour rings in brief local excursions - red-CWE Shag at Seton harbour above, with green-AZL and blue-ZLP also there, all juv/imm.

On Seton/Gosford shore still 130+ Sandwich Term, many courtship feeding (these are not breeding at Aberlady or Isle of May, so why they are still here in unusually high numbers for June I'm not sure). Amongst them many ringed, c. 1 in 4 with metal, colour rings or darvics, the latter including red and white darvics from Forvie (two each, white-EDS and white-EVC) and "red over lime-right" apparently resident here since 18 May or earlier. EDS was ringed as an adult on the Ythan in August 2010; EVC was also ringed there in 2010 but was a recapture, ringed as a chick on the Farnes back in 1998, so now 14 years old. The longevity record is 30 yrs, 12 yrs is a typical life span.

Nice to have so many rings to read in mid-summer! Looking back to winter and Whooper darvics discussed here see also summary article just published in Scottish Birds 32(2) June 2012 pp. 164-167.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Wknd 16-17 June

Mainly atlassing at present trying to improve breeding evidence so not a great deal to post as "news"! The male Yellow Wagtail continues to hold territory at Penston, singing from the shed roof and in song flight over the field east. On Tuesday evening after watching the shed for a while I heard its song from the other direction and there it was on the fence at the east end of said field, off the bend in the road. Did not linger to have its picture taken, slightly better effort than last above. It seems clear now that this bird is not feeding young, so there is no active nest, at least not yet, and despite the extended residence in mid-June neither has there been any sign of a second bird so either its mate is very tied down on a nest (in which case would Mr not be providing her with food? - no, apparently this is exceptional, per BWP) or what seems more likely this an unpaired bird on the very edge of their range here. Also per BWP "unpaired ♂♂ may sing thus for lengthy periods (Dittberner, H. & W., 1984, in German)."

Also remarkable but in a negative sense is lack of local Quail so far - having now spent a fair amount of time round Falside Hill, Buxley, New Winton, Tranent, Macmerry, Penston, Elvingston, Redcoll and so on, all occupied at times in previous years, not a squeak! Also Grasshopper Warblers are very thin on the ground locally, nothing at all from Blindwells recently though it may be true that they are very quite when active with broods. But I suspect they are down. BirdTrack confirms down nationally to early June.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

More breeding atlas

Now in fifth season of six, some may assume local atlas work is all done and dusted but far from it! Though we have reached reasonable coverage for the commonest species in the most well visited areas many others are still well down, e.g. the updated maps (30 May) show common species like Wren, Dunnock and Song Thrush with many "losses" even in Lothian, particularly the West, where all tetrads visits are now done. The suspicion is that these losses aren't simply declines in status, though there may be an element of that too. Things are even worse looking at nocturnals with drastic "losses" for Woodcock particularly in the west still a cause for concern, likewise Tawny Owl is still poorly represented even in Midlothian.

Does it really matter, can't we just plot the results and forget it? The problem is if we cannot achieve broadly similar coverage we end up not being able to make a great deal of sense of the comparisons with the previous atlas - whilst significant losses and gains may still shine through, for others there will be a lot of doubt and difficulty in interpreting the results. Plus there are very few active workers now so there's still a lot to do!

Not able to find time during exam season finally got back to Preston Hall (more nocturnals of early May) and pulled up at same layby opposite Fleming's Wood just after 22:00hrs on 7 May - remarkably a Woodcock went over in roding flight with 30 seconds, and on its second transit sparked off a calling Tawny. This is mildly encouraging, with only a few minutes spent at this spot in these two visits Woodcock easy to find, now converted to "T" for permanent territory, and logged on first visit for 3 new tetrads - hinting that many/most of the losses on our maps are just lack of coverage, as suspected. Also had success later that evening with Tawny at Dean Bridge by New Winton, but no Woodcock there.

With local reports of Quail on the increase suspected they must be back in numbers locally but actually have drawn a blank on several visits to regular haunts up to 12 June - in particular on still evening of 10 June went out after dusk round Redcoll, Cottyburn back-road, Seton Mains, Seton Chapel etc - despite some time listening remarkably also not one owl heard and just a very distant Grasshopper Warbler at Seton (the many territories of Sedge & Grasshopper Warbler, plus Reed Bunting, all eliminated by the new golf course - though the latter has brought some welcome new fresh water pools, already well used by gulls and also Mute Swan & Mallard).

Tried again for Quail on Tuesday 12 June in daytime, some time around Redcoll limekilns were some very nice habitat for them, cereal crop up to several inches on gentle slope overlooking the Forth, also Laverocklaw, Elvingston, Hoprig, Macmerry and Penston, all negative - found here in last Quail influx but perhaps they have not penetrated to these areas this year?

However at the last location some compensation by way of a Yellow Wagtail, singing from the eastern-most shed roof (top pic above) - quite a rarity in Lothian away from their stronghold around Torness/Dunbar, which itself is the most northerly location of confirmed breeding in the UK (per last BTO bird of the day map for 19/4/11). Indeed it is only the second Yellow Wag I've been lucky enough to see locally (first was in adjacent tetrads of NT47S/X, but seen only on 11 May 2008, though perhaps also a couple of days previously per Abbie) and we have only two more reports further west in the local atlas. The current date would suggest it could be a resident bird so I'll check again to see if there's a pair and/or breeding attempt there. Checking archives to 1991 there are very few potential breeders away from Torness, confirmed in last atlas for Drem (1993) and a previous July record from Coates (2006), also May records for Athelstaneford (1991, 1997) and Prora (2000), a final late August record at latter site in 2004 perhaps also a migrant. Bird still present Wednesday, per Abbie!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Jubilee wknd 2-3 June

Arrived at Seton late afternoon, first birds seen looking out were 3 Manx E, so they are still in the Forth. Not long afterwards spotted fins
protruding from water close in, proper fins, not porpoise, which is any case very rare here. After watching for 10 minutes had a view of side of a presumed Bottlenose Dolphin, 3 in total. Poor photo of fin right seems to match this species, some are catalogued for Aberdeenshire. There were a few in the Forth in 2009, they are apparently becoming more regular here.

Checked again later but no further sign, though two more Manx, also on the sea, 5 splendid summer plumage RTD, Puffins and lots of Gannets close inshore (count).

Coots' nest at Blindwells W has yielded two small young, also Mallard b7 but the colonising Stonechats of 2008-2010 are sadly lost.

Sunday visited Seton Chapel/House for atlas top up, pleased to find Spot Fly there, my fourth local record after one in neighbouring Seton Dean 6/6/04 and a couple in Gosford Estate 2009/10. Also there, GSW at occupied nest and family of fledged Blackcaps. At Blindwells, a male Wheatear at one of the settlement mounds qualifies as a potential breeder I think, new for tetrad as such though many occur on passage; presumably appreciates the new habitat of great earth banks, where migrants often seen. Several Skylark "FF", also Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting seen carrying food, taking confirmed breeders in NT47C to 47 (99 species in total); still at least 10 more which very likely do breed including Feral Pigeon, Pied Wag, Mistle Thrush and Greenfinch so more visits still needed!