Monday, 24 December 2012

Wknd 22-23 December

Owling in a break in the weather Saturday evening - Tawny Owls at Limetree Walk, Tyninghame, and in holly by minor road south of Gilmerton House (pics) - but drew a blank at other suitable locations and no Barn Owls seen. Probable Woodcock flushed off verge on minor road between North Berwick and Kingston, at Kilmurdie.

Comments posted to SEScotBirdAtlas group on Barn Owls: "Coming back to the issue of Barn Owl numbers, Ray had commented about signs of a recovery but if so would not seem to apply to lowland East Lothian! There are several indicators of a depressed population in Lothian as a whole, including decline of overall annual total of sites where recorded (increased from 35 in 2004 to 100 in 2008, but closer to 30 again last year, despite atlas effort), observed absence from previous regular hunting sites, fewer occupied breeding sites (dropped 8 to 3, in 11 monitored), fewer road casualties (4 last year, 20+ in 3 earlier years since 2004), etc. On top of this there may be clues that we are suffering more, perhaps a lot more, in the lowlands. As discussed with Mike (McDowall) recently it might not be a coincidence that the 4 monitored nest sites below 100m remain vacant (often more extensive better habitat for them on higher ground). Taken all together and with the difficulty in finding them in traditional areas in lowland East Lothian I'd be surprised if we had even a quarter of what existed earlier in the atlas period, perhaps even down towards 10% or so."

Somewhat depressing, but worth monitoring and documenting, one day they will surely be back. Meanwhile turned to the other mid-winter staple when birding becomes tough, the wintering Whoopers. Some nice mounds of potatoes now provided on the ex-landfill near Prora, but unfortunately the whole area a sea of mud effectively defeating attempts at ring-reading (3+ still present, probably including juv red-AVJ). Presumably happy with this food source as many were roosting on the feeding ground by late afternoon. Same problem with seeing the entire flock for a proper count so waited for the roost flight - commenced 16:13hrs (33 minutes after sunset) and proceeded in dribs and drabs, 5 to 30 birds every couple of minutes until typically the largest group was the final batch of 48 birds at 16:37hrs (58 minutes after sunset). A real challenge to get an accurate count at 1 mile range in poor light but the estimate of 237 was 12 more than had achieved in the distant flock count whilst many still massed around food mounds. All seemed to go down to Chapel Farm resr to roost, avoiding having to rise over the railway into the strong wind to reach East Fenton. So again a good number overwintering here, long may it continue. The next challenge will be the WWT census on 15 January which requires an age breakdown! Geese also apparently still around in reasonable numbers too, totalled 1630 Pinks in ploughed fields north of Rattlebags, East Fenton, viewed from Queenstonbank.

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