Sunday, 30 September 2012

Wknd 29-30 September

Grey goose count on Sunday - did a big circuit of East Lothian - Pinks included 3470 at Elvingston/Cottyburn, 2230 at Brownrigg, 1550 at Queenstonbank (one silver collar, probably TVT, see below), plus another 1800 over the house at dusk when arriving home; some of c. 1k Barnacles at Aberlady pictured above. Also en route: 2 Shoveler and f/imm Scaup at Chapel, f/imm Wheatear Brownrigg, 8 ad Whoopers Lochhouses with 55 Pied Wags with one ad m White Wag in turf fields by entrance road, and a fine ad Peregrine hunting Scoughall.

Predictable stuff too on morning watch from Ferny Ness, 2 Bonxie & 8 RTD W past, ad Med Gull on the shore. Sandwich Terns still in residence with 8 feeding way offshore out in a windy Forth. Ailing Guillemots still apparent, one still alive was dispatched in a messy manner by a young Great Blackback in Gosford Sands shallows, which was later displaced by an adult, whilst 4 more lay on the shore at Ferny Ness, 3 in a row on the upper beach.

Just before midnight on Monday a flock of yapping Barnacle Geese went over SW (full moon, cloudless) whilst early Tuesday more went over in a clear blue sky, flock 130 plus 8 in another flock of Pinks. House Martins suddenly absent.

Wednesday - recovered this fresh Barn Owl casualty of the A1 westbound entrance slip at A720 junction, Old Craighall. 21 Barnacles went S over house.

Thursday - 4 ad Whoopers SE over Port Seton shops, also c. 875 Golden Plovers on the rocky shore at Long Craigs and ad Med Gull (unringed) by the burn. At Blindwells lots of Skylarks chasing around, some in song in the sunshine, also f/imm Shoveler and f/imm Gadwall still in with the 20 Wigeon. Chiffchaffs constantly calling.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Wknd 22-23 September

A few Bonxies heading in Forth on Friday afternoon and Saturday. All heading up mid-channel purposefully. Amazing to think these probably following a route followed for many generations, i.e. the Forth then overland to the west - though there is no apparent "way out" when entering perhaps they had taken the same route when younger or with other skuas and thus "know the way"? Also a steady stream of Red Admirals coming "in off" from Fife direction. Seen 99% of the summer's butterflies in the last 10 days - one small patch at The Dean, Longniddry, had 5 Small Torts, 5 Red Admiral, a Peacock and a Comma last weekend, also found a Small Tort in the house!

Also on Friday, 95 Canada Geese around East Fenton, no Whoopers back there. Passing Aberlady, one SEO hunting the salt marsh (reported here also 21/22 August). Later one road casualty SEO collected off A1 Blindwells (another tip off from Colin); tail feathers sufficient to identify as ad female (ad based on solid tip to central, female based on 3 good bars on both webs of upperside of outermost feather, see earlier male); also in moult with P7 less than half grown (see second last). En route had seen a meteor streaking down over Hoprig, apparently part of a wider influx. Wonder if the owl was too?

Sunday at Ferny Ness again but still no wind so no hope for seabird/vismig passage; nevertheless the glassy sea did enable a count of duck etc, at least 33 Red-necked Grebe in range (could not spot any Slavs or LTD) and initially perhaps a dozen Red-throated Diver but the latter were moving west and on next complete scan added up 25 on sea plus 3 W. Velvets went out to limits of visibility where clear water became shimmer but at least 380 in that range. A Bonxie went W but soon after presumed same E so perhaps milling around. 2 Barnacles tagged on behind Pinks passing W offshore, also a single f/imm Goldeneye SE and a f/imm Scaup NE past, latter not that common here over the sea.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Wknd 15-16 September

These Canadas (and Curlew!) came out of Gosford Bay at dawn on Saturday, but pitched up on Longniddry beach and later flew back - the white-headed hybrid tells us they are the locals from Musselburgh. A Bonxie was amongst the Kittiwakes offshore and a few hirundines passing - absolutely no comparison with the hordes passing along the Fife coast opposite - proving again that Mipits etc prefer coasting especially if there is a bit of windy up and some haze offshore as per today.

162 Barwits and 41 Sanderling on shore amongst the throng of gulls. "Best" came last with a young Peregrine flushing the feeding Barwits off the shore then driving one into the sea - with each swoop the terrified Barwit splashed a few flaps along the surface of the water but never got airborne - after 5 attempts the Peregrine gave up and drifted off, the Barwit briefly remained swimming out on the sea like a strange brown gull then promptly flew back to the shore apparently unharmed.

Not much moving at Ferny Ness on Sunday morning, always worth it though to see the hirundine battling across Gosford Bay in the wind. Presumably same imm f Peregrine flushed off the point by a Kestrel as I arrived 07:30hrs, later spotted Mediterranean Gulls 3rd-win white-32A4 and an unringed 2nd-win amongst the feeding flock along the shore of Gosford Sands. House Martins are still in the nest on next-door neighbours!

WeBS in the afternoon produced very little, just a few wildfowl back, no waders! Wheatears were at Chapel (2) and Brownrigg (3), one shown here.

On way back a large gathering of geese was seen feeding in stubble near Lochhill farm, perhaps 3k+ in the area; amongst them a leucistic Pinkfoot first spotted by Abbie earlier in the day, perhaps a returning bird as we seem to get a few of them.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Wknd 8-9 September

Scanning the Forth on Friday produced very little probably due to lack of wind, only point of note was a feeding flock of Kittiwakes a good 2+ miles offshore but perhaps 3 miles long, probably >1k birds.

Saturday morning was little better at Ferny Ness, with a trickle of Mipits, one Grey Wag and a unusual Yellowhammer (perhaps not a true migrant?), nothing to compare with large hauls of passerines on Fife side, and still no skuas (full counts) (perhaps 1500 Kittiwakes feeding offshore). Then at 8:20hrs spotted a large-ish raptor well offshore out to the NE, initial thoughts of eared owl quickly became "large diurnal raptor" then as it approached it became apparent it must be a Marsh Harrier. Gained height as it approached the coast till nearly directly overhead, scope-filling views at one point (but given low expectations upon leaving home had not bothered to root out camera, so frustratingly no pics!) At this point it seemed to be on a trajectory SW heading directly for our house so I made off home but sadly never saw it again.

Anyway, it was a male, based on obvious grey panel on rear of upper wing, but underparts had very little pale grey evident and were mainly brown with bars/striations; the plumage of young male Marsh Harriers evolves with age, some helpful pics on Pewit's blog at least showing variability (1st/2nd sum - lower pics, 2nd-sum, young adult, another young adult and an old adult). Today's bird a reasonable match for the two young adults, certainly more advanced than the 2nd-sum, but nothing resembling the old adult. No tags visible either.

Afternoon - whilst at Seton looking at various Med Gulls on the burn got a text to inform me there were 6 there when I could only see 5 (!) - couldn't believe that the Lothian record (6 on 13/11/10) had again been matched this time actually being there in situ but still missing it - however transpired there was double counting of a 2nd/3rd-win which Ian had also been watching (white-32A4 shown right)! The others were red-7P8 (recognisable from her yellow tip bill before legs became visible), 2 white-headed unringed adults and a classic 2nd-winter (all together on sand). Then an adult with a mask behind eye appeared in burn, which photos (one below) confirmed was different, so 6 after all. Given there had been three 2nd/3rd-win last week decided to have another look at dusk and indeed there were two different 2nd-win (plus two pale-headed adults and red-7P8) so a total of 7 altogether, though not all in view at once. We can probably expect many more given the Northumbs peak has risen from 3 in 2005 to 68 last year, with Scottish peak rising to 12 in Fife in same period.

Also at dusk 44 Pinks flew SW over Gosford Sands and c. 62 large geese flew past Seton over Gosford Bay, of which c. 52 Canada, perhaps 4 good Greylags, 2+ Greylag x Canada hybrid and a white-headed hybrid; they flew in towards Gosford House. Ian tells me there were 55 Canadas in the estate a fortnight ago so it seems likely these are local birds not moult migrants - indeed the white-headed bird could be our old friend from the Esk. If they are locals then perhaps same as 33/34 on 16 & 24 August. We've not previously had a local resident flock here as far as I know (my only previous record in Gosford being a single on 4/10/08).

Continuing on the theme of "less desirable" species our garden Woodpigeon has again pulverised our garden stone-crop (Sedum caeruleum) for lining its nest. Given their great abundance not surprising that they are quite a common shorebird at Seton too, see top pic - this is a rather bleached adult with plenty of brown in the wing, not a youngster.

Sunday - Pinks were passing over high S first thing in the morning (some had already reached Titchwell by yesterday); then Bryan kindly alerted us all to the fact that the Pilot Whales were off Cockenzie, arriving at my usual seawatching spot on the bank above Cockenzie harbour to find a crowd of twitchers, well perhaps double figures including us! Met Morg in the field for first time in years - and he also got some footage documenting the event, my own photos were dire. During early phase of viewing around noon a bunch seemed to be circling, but soon afterwards they started motoring WNW, heading directly for Inchkeith; as time went on they steadily veered N then NNE in a great arc and by 14:30hrs I judged they were well over on the Fife side heading towards Largo Bay. My own count was 17 animals, 2 or more were smaller calves.

Otherwise - Seton foreshore held 470+ Golden Plover (37+ in image below, not easy to see on the barnacle rocks!) and first 4 Teal I had seen back, following first couple of Wigeon on Friday. Not much effort on Med Gulls but at least one adult there. Back home and the 60 odd mainly Canadas came over the house just before 18:00hrs, so they are certainly not on active moult migration, looks like the local Edinburgh/Musselburgh gang have taken to roosting at Gosford, not a particularly welcome development though it provides a bit of variety with a species never seen from garden in 8 years until a couple of weeks ago. House Martins still feeding young in the nest on our next door neighbour's house, with 27 over in the evening.

Monday morning - 40 Shags on Wrecked Craigs with several darvics; briefly scanned offshore looking for the whales and had a couple of Red-throated Divers W past, within the next couple of minutes another 13 went west, could have been many more had I had more time to watch. Also received a report that the Sandwich Tern red-ESF seen at Montrose on 11 August had been up at Cairnbulg near Fraserburgh on Saturday - whilst here in the Forth they have diminished drastically in last couple of weeks; just goes to show that their migration is not as simple as one might assume!

Tuesday early hours - nocturnal migrant Sandwich Terns (ad+juv) SW over as rain was clearing; numbers have dwindled rapidly (my counts: 385 7/7; 280 11/8; 110 26/8; 73 1/9; 12 7/9).

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Wknd 1-2 September

At dusk on Saturday turned right at the road end (instead of left to Seton) and had a look at Gosford Sands (above) - good choice as there were in excess of a thousand each of gulls/terns and waders. Quickly totalled 540 Knot, 50 Sanderling and 40 Grey Plover, then spotted a "black dot" amongst distant terns towards Ferny Ness - knew what it must be but had to get to the saw mill entrance to confirm. Fortunately was still there, one tiny juv Black Tern, my first on the ground here (after one feeding off Seton last October). Also 5 Arctics in the tern flock. They flushed, and as they flew low along the shore the little one deftly "dipped" from a puddle whilst keeping up with the group. Resettled and looked set to roost, photos below from half an hour after sunset. Soon after that yet more birds began to arrive with the Greylags coming in to roost.

Earlier had passed Aberlady - 8 Wigeon first I'd seen this autumn. Scanning off Cockenzie early afternoon auks still in evidence, one being eaten by a Herring Gull though. 40 Kittiwakes in a feeding flock way offshore which a single Manx flew through, few migrants (though a probably whale sp on the Fife side).

Sunday morning - very little vismig at Ferny Ness, contrast passerines moving at Elie Ness and Inverkeithing opposite, though I probably started a bit too late. ad Med on shore.

Dusk Sunday - 5 Med Gulls along shore: 2nd-win on Gosford Sands, 2 ads on Longniddry beach, 2 more 2nd-win by Seton Burn, though one of latter may have been a 3rd-win. Less expected was a juv Common Gull on Gosford Sands with a dark orange darvic on left leg, too distant unfortunately [PS - seems to have been one ringed in NE Scotland this summer]. An ad GBB was consuming a freshly dead auk by the Seton Burn.

Back to Friday, the Seton roost held a 2nd-win Mediterranean Gull, unringed, also some darker birds amongst 57 LBB.