Monday, 26 November 2012

Wknd 24-25 November

Owls were the focus this week as finally got round to doing something more concrete about the gaps mentioned in last week's blog. Summary of sightings on two nocturnal excursions with atlas interpretation:

* Tawny Owl, call, Tyninghame House (NT67E) - tetrad tick
* Tawny Owl, 2, call & in tree by A198, Bruce's Circle, Binning (NT68A) - count increase
* Tawny Owl, on telegraph pole West Craig, Redside (NT58Q)
No Barn Owls along East Lothian lanes, where already recorded in nearly all tetrads!

* Barn Owl, on fence by B6363 Penston (NT47L)
* Tawny Owl, on telegraph pole Nisbet Loanhead, Boggs (NT47K) - tetrad tick
* Tawny Owl, in tree by A6093, Easter Pencaitland, (NT46P) (shown above)
* Tawny Owl, in tree by Halkerston Glen, Middleton (NT35N) - tetrad tick
* Barn Owl, on fence by Pikeham Wood, near Rosebery (NT35I) - tetrad tick
* Barn Owl, on fence by B6372, Arniston (NT35J & NT36F) - both tetrad ticks
* Barn Owl, on fence by A198, St Germains (NT47H)

Also a fresh Barn Owl casualty recovered from A1 by Whitecraig A6124 bridge.

Rain made conditions less than ideal in early hours of Sunday, though seems not to deter hunting Barn Owls. Nice to find some of these in the identified gap in the map in NT35/NT36, clearly they are there and the recorded distribution is still mainly a reflection of coverage; numbers definitely still depressed in East Lothian though, seems a long time ago that I recorded 4 Barn Owls one night along the road to Drem, only 5 miles. The casualty could be a local bird or equally could be a winter migrant from elsewhere, it is well established that dispersing birds are far more likely to perish in this manner.

Missing Tawnies map now updated in last week's blog, still more work to be done in Midlothian. Interesting that one Tawny Owl (Binning Wood) responded to my poor imitation hoot - doubt it was fooled but something stirred it to call; departing from same spot another Tawny was perched not 50m away, it had not called but had perhaps come to investigate the noise?

Another curiosity was to see two Robins out on the road in Longniddry, during continuing rain, at 02:45hrs - presumably taking worms, Jim assures me this is a routine observation under streetlights before dawn.

Switching to white birds, nothing surprising found at Seton - pre-roost on shore at dusk on Saturday included ad Med Gull (probably ringed, but not confirmed), a white darvic BHG (probably one of those reported this autumn from Musselburgh, could not confirm code though), two "pink" Black-headed Gulls of which one was very rosy and two strongly hooded Common Gulls. Had another look for a Cormorant roost at Cockenzie on Sunday afternoon but not many birds there by 15:30hrs, <20.

Tuesday evening - yet again at Seton Chapel in search of Tawny (after several blank visits in the summer), after 10 mins heard a sharp "kwep" which sounded rather more like a Coot than an owl, tried some mouse squeaking and then by the full moon I saw an owl shaped silhouette flying up among the trees south of the east gate, my first confirmed nocturnal visual ID of Tawny Owl. So another is proved to be there where I always suspected it would be given the beautiful habitat, woe betide any mouse creeping around there on a still night like today.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Wknd 17-18 November

The young Red-necked Grebe remained in residence on Saturday, exact same spot on resr; did not disturb it for more photos. The Whoopers had moved from Prora to other ploughed fields, perhaps ex-potatoes, south-west of East Fenton towards Fenton Barns; could not get a good count but 150+ there.

Scanning the Forth produced very little of note - skuas harder to find this year, just a couple of young Gannets and 6+ Slav Grebes off Ferny Ness Saturday, whilst a Black-throated Diver flew W past Port Seton early afternoon Sunday. The latter was my first here since May 2010 - a few possibles/probables in the gap but always tricky to confirm, sometimes easier in flight than on the sea as RTD can often show a white flank patch. Totalled my Lothian divers since 2004 and came to 523 RTD, 15 GND, 11 BTD (and 15 diver sp) which puts confirmed BTD at just below 2%!

Atlas is up and running for the final winter, my main priority will be missing owls and to assist the following two maps show tetrads where recorded in breeding but not yet in winter (updated to 25/11):

Three visits to New Winton/Boggs drew a blank but I believe Tawnies are there so will try again. Any assistance with these gaps most welcome - also for three other resident species shown below. In general struggling to find new tetrad ticks in our area, just 4 so far in 7 trips round East Lothian since 1 November (so 11 in total with those added by Jim/Abbie), though quite a few count increases with flocks of various species feeding inland in mild conditions/following ploughs.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Wknd 10-11 November

A 1st-win Red-necked Grebe at East Fenton Farm resr was a first for me on my WeBS circuit, indeed it may be a first record "inland" in this area. Came within 20m fishing, rather too close to digiscope but got one above and a few below as it sailed away. Checking previous inland winter records these are less than annual in Lothian: Duddingston Jan 2006; Gladhouse Jan 2002; Linlithgow Feb 1999; Gladhouse, Seafield Pond, Lochhouses Pond, Linlithgow, Duddingston, Cobbinshaw Jan-Mar 1996, Linlithgow Nov 1996; Linlithgow Feb 1988, Whiteadder Oct 1982, Feb 1983, Harperrig Apr 1979. Most records on large waters in late winter.

Whoopers still numbered at least 290 on Saturday, now feeding in (presumed) harvested potato fields N of Prora; watched at dusk Sunday to get the roost details, 182 flew from 16:35hrs onwards, with 25% going to Chapel resr and the rest to East Fenton Farm resr (the usual main roost for this herd in recent years), the last birds going at 16:59hrs (50 mins after sunset).

On goose census, 310+ Greylags (including 6 white/grey birds) at East Fortune, also a drake Gadwall there. Drake Pochard back at Chapel (returning?), a fine drake Goosander with 5 f/imm. Approx 100 Greylags roosted on Gosford Sands both nights, observed over an hour after sunset though as pure silhouettes.

Previously, on Friday, small flocks of Waxwings over home, Seton Chapel and Joppa cemetery, all in flight SW observed from my work commute.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Wknd 3-4 November

Whoopers at Prora now number 290+; I made it 39+ juvs (12.8%) but Ian saw 46; these totals obtained Sunday after struggling to count them on Saturday with flock spread all over the ex-landfill site, feeding mainly in stubble but also going onto flood water and roaming around. Two new darvics were confirmed, yellow-P4C (ad) and red-AVJ (juv) - latter on the left above - Ian added red-BLX and yellow-Z3K (ads).

View of most of flock on Sunday obtained from the top of the Hopetoun monument (c. 300 swans visible but 2 were Mutes, 7 more Whoopers on grass west of the railway at Prora Farm), plus some other landscape views - view towards coast (Dunbar cement works visible on horizon) and towards Edinburgh (our power station still operational, but possibly for not that much longer).

Also on Saturday - four domestic Greylags plus the resident white-faced grey hybrid goose in field west of East Fortune. The white birds actually had some brown in primaries and partial tail-bands which may assist it tracking them, presumably the same were reported the previous day from Tyninghame. There was a further pale hybrid goose with them at East Fortune, much paler than the resident grey hybrid.

Later on Sunday, Tawny calling at Drem Ride (NT48V), not a new tetrad though. NB - winter atlas tetrad priorities, for final season, are here. The green is really for diurnal species though, gaps in the nocturnal map are still apparent, I hope to get to Midlothian at some point in the winter as the Tawny map there is still pretty thin.