Sunday, 15 December 2013

Wknd 14-15 December

Mainly white and black birds again this week! Bugged by this puzzling 46* Whooper ring, called in at Drem and found it amongst 92 in cereal immediately west of the B1345, no doubt about it yellow-46I. The source of the confusion is this bird's ring has moved up its leg from tarsus to tibia, in fact this seemed to have happened when it was at Prora last winter between Jan & Feb - which I did not notice at the time and has since made me think one of them was a mis-read (=an error!).
Moreover have never previously seen a bird with ring on tibia, and surprising how it could have moved up, but possibly this occurred when landing on water? This same bird is the one which wintered on the Blackwater estuary in southern Ireland for 3 winters from 08/09 and now back with us for the third subsequent winter, an interesting switch in habits. Originally ringed as a female cygnet at Jokuldalsheidi on Iceland in August 2003, and also there in August 2006. [All rings]

Also did a bit more roaming around checking the rookeries and logging nests. Recounted the rookery at Chalkierigg, by Cousland, nests now very obvious with 20W+19E (cf. 35 found in March), so not far off. At Ford 20 apparent (cf. 9 in March). Also rechecked Humbie (NT46L), no sign of any nests there this year. Some nests now beginning to disintegrate with strong winds, perhaps some have already disappeared? Other atlas additions were Buzzard NT46B, Crow NT46C and Woodpigeons NT46H, NT46S, NT56C & NT56D. On Sunday at Hailes castle added Jackdaw (below) and another Woodpigeon for NT57S. There were also 10 Swallow nests in the roof of the brewery/bakehouse, 8+ had been used this summer, and a used Song Thrush nest right next to the road (second below).

It should be noted that after the atlas data entry cut-off of end of October we now have the final download from BTO, so there is also no point in editing any records via the online system, e.g. in response to validation queries. All such corrections or additional records will now have to be made on our local database, anything for Lothian can be sent to me. We wanted to keep the door open for late records to catch any additions via annual records submitted at the year end, early submission of such will be helpful in allowing us to finally close the archive.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Wknd 7-8 December

Whoopers on Sunday totalled 145 (just 18 juvs=12.4%, very low), with the main flock of 95 in cereal at Drem pools which included darvics orange-ZBN (ringed Martin Mere early 2013), yellow-46I (formerly wintering in Cork, ring moved to tibia Jan-13) and a new one yellow-BVU (above, ringed Iceland last summer). There were another 23 at East Fenton (cereal) and 27 at Chapel/Prora (potatoes).

Grey goose census took me to East Fortune where over a thousand geese were lurking in fields just west - 815 Greylags, 310 Pinks and a Barnacle Goose, plus the usual feral/hybrid Greylags. On ponds a good number of duck, in fact made it 153 Mallard and 153 Teal, that one is going to look like a transcription error! One ad graellsii LBB at East Fenton.

On Saturday noted what are presumably this years brood of hybrid Greylag x Canadas surviving at Eskside, 4 or 5, quite dark backed. At the river mouth 800+ Knot put on a good display and nearly 1000 Oycs were roosting.

A few more atlas confirmations, Magpie NT57H, Carrion Crow NT47X, NT57G & NT58A. On airport bus during week added Woodpigeon (mainly multiples of) NT17L, NT17R, NT17W and NT27B, and Carrion Crow NT17L, NT27B. The previous weekend had added Woodpigeon to NT58D, Magpie NT58S, whilst House Martin UN at Sunnyside, Betony Hill was a tetrad tick for NT57P; also recounted rookeries at East Linton confirming upper end of original estimates (6 UN at Prestonmill). Unlike previous atlas winters which were very distracted by finding living birds it is clear that plenty of useful stuff can still be done for breeders via nests - may go for one more trip to West Lothian to log nests there too.

Nordic Jackdaws (Stockholm)

An apparently resident Nordic Jackdaw at Craigmillar in Edinburgh has previously featured on this blog, and Geoff's, so when at Stockholm airport this week I was on the look-out for this species to see what they look like on home territory. Spotted a few on the slushy pavement outside Arlanda terminal 4 but they flew off before I emerged, so spent 20 minutes trudging round seeing nothing more than a Hoodie and a Magpie. All of a sudden they were back and appreciated the remains of my breakfast, half a slice of black bread - thereby managed to get some photos of two birds with just a hint of a collar, though they seemed grey enough given the light. Two others had slightly more marked collars, none very pronounced though. Stockholm ought to be well into the range of monedula but clearly they can vary.

Second individual:

Have previously refered to the Offereins papers (1, 2) but also found these reports on a Pembrokeshire blog, including a resident breeder there which is clearly "Nordic". Despite the very small sample from Sweden, I feel more comfortable now about accepting that the Craigmillar bird is the real deal, I'm less confident about speculating on origins, instinctively I feel that rather than an individual wintering bird pairing and thus getting stuck in the "wrong" country it has to be more likely that our own resident population includes small numbers of birds matching this appearance?

On the other hand, no doubts about the purity of the Hoodies here, with no hint of dark in undertail coverts:

My trip also took me to LuleƄ at the head of the Baltic but in the short daylight the only additional species seen was Raven!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Wknd 9-10 November

Heading out for WeBS/ICG goose count Sunday afternoon spotted this imm m Sprawk which had just taken a Feral Pigeon, still flapping, at Mungoswells. Was immediately plucking it and within 20 seconds 2 crows had arrived to engage in jackal like behaviour sniping around the edges.

One crow lost heart and flew off, the other looked more wary when the Sprawk was plucking, short video.

Goose-wise just c. 350 Greylags plus the domestics at East Fortune; found just 45 Whoopers at East Fenton but amongst them was yellow-46I, ringed on left tibia (unusual, vast majority are tarsus rings), thus confirming suspicion about ringed bird photographed by Abbie at Prora on 25 October. This is the bird which wintered on the Blackwater in southern Ireland 3 winters from 08/09, first seen here on 18 Feb 2012 (ringed in Iceland August 2003). A covey of Grey Partridge south of Redside was another pleasing sight, though too late now for a breeding confirm likely a family, if so the 11th brood I'm aware of this season in Lothian (thanks also to Mike, Abbie, LBN and twitter):

Certainly would have hoped for a few extra young after such a good summer, regardless they are just a shadow of former status here. 700 corvids, mainly Jackdaws, went to roost in adjacent Craig Wood. The East Fenton Whoopers flew to roost at Chapel at 17:01hrs, 46 minutes after sunset (typical here).

A urban oddity was this cock Pheasant at the miner's club in Macmerry:

Dawn on Lammermuir edge at Stobshiel was pretty but a poor Woodpigeon passage, my 500-odd being less that 0.1% of the UK vismig total for today (map)! Did find a nest along road past Stobshiel Mains which is a confirm for NT46W and confirmed crow in NT56C, Aikeyside.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Wknd 2-3 Nov

In search of Woodies (garden version above) went up to Stobshiel at dawn on Saturday - a poor movement there though, probably not cold enough yet to really get them moving! Some compensation in a covey 12 Grey Partridge near Ewingston (NT46X), and 2 ad Whoopers S over Boggs on way back.

Probable Collared Dove nest at Gladsmuir above, also had 10 birds nearby at Penston. So atlas has finally wound up for live birds, the final Collared Dove upgrades in this last season can be seen below - latest uppermost, toggle for changes - an increase from 17 to 36 confirmed in East Lothian plus a few more confirmed elsewhere this season and 12 other additions/upgrades to probable.

All of a sudden lack of leaves mean nests are much more visible, crow is the main one on the agenda now with still lots of gaps for confirmation, current and last atlas compared below:

Sunday - just 133 Whoopers, 126 at Prora, 7 East Fenton, though did not check Rogarth where a pair of Mutes had reappeared last week. Of these just c. 21 juvs, a low ratio at 16% (nationally c. 18% per WWT Martin Mere 2/11, tweet by Kane). The Prora herd feeding in stubble right by the road, so obvious as to attract attention from passing motorists, 5 stopped in the half hour I was there and two got out of cars with cameras pursuing them along the field edge until every last swan was flushed off the stubble onto the pools. Suited me, as legs were then visible but disappointing just to get a single darvic in the whole flock, and that one a new one - orange-ZBN - my first orange darvic (plus metal rings left and right, latter a limping bird - struggled to read those!); web search only confirms it is a WWT ring and that one had been used in 2011, so perhaps this colour replaces the red ones - Kane's excellent blog has vanished though so can't check! This also means none of the regular darvic-ringed wintering birds from previous years have appeared yet so probably more are still on their way.

An adult graellsii LBB was hunting for chips in the Hunter Square behind the Tron Church, South Bridge, on Wednesday, fresh plumage but quite a light one, legs duller yellow than typical in summer.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Wknd 26-27 October

Hmmm, rather similar topics to last week here, mainly swans and doves - Whoopers coming in now with at least 153 back at Prora/Chapel/Kingston on Sunday, including above bunch in stubble south of Kingston cottages. The majority were roosting in grass behind Prora, totally inaccessible for rings; Saturday at least got a breakdown of 19 juvs in 104 birds, 2xb5 and 4xb1, Sunday had 2xb2 including the two above.

Also at Prora 3 Ruff (m, 2f) still present, flying low over Whoopers on pools, presumed same as per Chapel on 13/10, probably from the 10 there on 22/9.

For atlas, mopped up Blackbird for NT58H, whilst looking for a nest at Dirleton found a Linnet nest like a fortress, so surrounded by dense hawthorn stem could not even reach into the cup to check lining.

Also crow in NT57Z. 8 Collared Doves in East Linton/Preston Mains included one juvenile. Also went back to Scoughall where was convinced I'd had a young bird in flight last week but had then hidden in trees towards dusk - this time 8 birds obligingly perched up and in their midst the youngster below (2nd from right). I never imagined atlas would still be "alive" this late in the season, and some may rightly ask whether these can be safe confirmed breeding records - without finding a nest it can't be proved of course but there seems little reason to doubt these are the resident birds which you can see there on any trip to Scoughall.

During the week also saw a Woodcock flying out SE from the wood at Meadowmill sports centre at dusk (18:30hrs) on Thursday, presumably to feed in fields. Other updates - Monday added Woodpigeon to NT37K, NT37Q but was eluded by the Collared Doves in NT47B; remedied latter on Tuesday, when also added Collared Dove, House Martin, Blackbird and Magpie to NT46J, Collared Dove to NT46P and Blackbird to NT36T on way to/from work; also found a used Linnet's nest in NT36T, Fordel Mains - had confirmed at Southfield via FL on 1/8; Thursday confirmed Woodpigeon in NT37V, also b9 Grey Partridge at Myles Farm - without too much effort have found several families this year so looks like they have profited from the better summer.

Summary of Collared Dove status mainly in East Lothian settlements in recent weeks:

  • Ballencrieff: 30+ (several juvs)
  • Tranent: 18 (1 juv); E: 8 Muirpark Road area (1 juv); W: 5 Lammermoor area; N: 3 Doocot Brae area, pr Bankpark
  • Penston: 10 (1 juv)
  • Longniddry: 9 (1 juv); SW: 5 Glassel Park Rd west (1 juv); NE: pr Community Centre area; pr Kitchener's Cres area
  • East Linton: 9 (1 juv); E: 5 Preston Mains; Centre: 4 (1 juv) library
  • Pencaitland: 8 (1 juv); Centre: 6 Doocot Way (UN); W: 2 Broomrigg (1 juv)
  • Gullane: 8 (1 juv), in north from Goose Green to Muirfield Park
  • Scoughall: 8 (1 juv), at farm
  • Port Seton: 7; East Links/Castle Road estate
  • Danderhall: 7 (2 juv); SE: Newton Church Rd/Campview Terr area
  • Prestonpans: 5 (1 juv); SE: Thorntree Cres/Gardiner Terr area
  • Seacliff: 5 (1 juv)
  • Lochhill: 3 (1 juv)
  • Highfield, Kingston: 3 (1 juv)
  • Wallyford: 4; E: Oliphant Gardens area
  • Athelstaneford: 1 ad by school
[Edinburgh - Lammermoor Terr, The Inch: 3 - no breeding season records!]

All minimum counts, but some may be close to current population in these settlements.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Wknd 19-20 October

Whoopers back near Rattlebags quarry, first spotted by Abbie on Friday. 19 adults feeding in stubble with a few thousand Pinkfeet, 12+ Barnacle Geese, no darvics or collars seen but one Whooper had a metal ring.

Atlassing - looked in a buckthorn bush at Linkhouse Wood, it contained a Woodpigeon nest as I hoped, so another gap filled, NT58H.

Ferny Ness at dusk held 450+ Golden Plover, flushed by a male Sparrowhawk.

Sunday - an adult white-phase Snow Goose with c. 4k Pinks in cereal and stubble north of Kingston Farm (above); also 39+ Barnacle Geese, Pinkfoot with silver collar TZI (Lintrathen Dec 07?), another Pinkfoot with dull orange legs (see below, otherwise entirely Pinkfoot, and similar to one seen Aberlady 29/9), one leucistic Pinkfoot (largely cream, some brown patches, see below - not the Snow Goose!) [see Dave Appleton's page for more examples of these three, especially the orange legs]; presumed same white Snow flew into Aberlady at dusk, c. 1k already there 17:50hrs, close to 4k arrived en masse just after 18:00hrs, whiffling into the roost.

More atlas: finally confirmed House Sparrow in NT58L, at Highfield (last gap in NT58), confirmed Woodpigeon in NT58S (first bush checked in Blackdykes strip) & NT58W (Gleghornie, where also c. 130 Mallard); walked Seacliff to Scoughall and found another 30+ Woodpigeon nests, for example at least 14 in < 100m buckthorn at the bank below gate above Car Rocks. At Seacliff confirmed Magpie (UN); at Scoughall confirmed Blackbird and Greenfinch for NT68B (UN), also Goldfinch nest found, but Collared Dove eluded me (6+ ads present); did confirm Collared Dove at Seacliff in NT68C, ad and 2 nice juvs (below). So Collared Dove still going strong but otherwise it is really just nests now, my rate of confirmations today only about 1 per hour, from averages of 3 or so in September, and 10 or so at peak in summer.

Final photos of coast from Chapel Brae - Scoughall to south and Bass Rock to north, now much more sparsely covered with Gannets.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Wknd 12-13 October

The Bass today, rather thinned out now and could only see about 10 young still on the rock, one wing flapping.

Birds catching updraft on south-east cliff above. A pair of Ravens were doing even better playing in the wind over the coastal cliffs, including tumbling drops.

Grey goose census (ICG) was more productive than last month with 370 Greylags at East Fortune, accompanied by 650 Pinks, 41 Canada Geese, just one Greylag x Canada hybrid, 4 white domestic geese and the "grey" goose, about half of the Greylags shown above, spot the white ones! Otherwise on WeBS, 3 Ruff remaining on Chapel farm resr, no Whoopers apparent anywhere.

Atlassing: confirmed Woodpigeon for NT58F (used nest by entrance track, driven past here every month for 6 years!), NT58X and NT68B. Also found a nice Blackcap nest hanging in trailing holly branches at Halfland Barns, pretty exposed from beneath but about 2m off the ground - photos below show its remarkable construction, how do they weave it and tie to stems?!) The only live addition of the day a family of young Collared Doves at Waughton (NT58Q); same confirmed in Danderhall (NT36E) on Monday, Prestonpans (NT37X) on Thursday, Longniddry Glassel Park Road (NT47H) on Friday (6th attempt, one juv amongst 5 resident individuals) - after 6 years of regularly passing through all of these! wish I'd been more alert to these earlier in atlas as many possible confirmations muct have been missed due to timing of standard fieldwork! Final shots below are last weekend's young juv Swallows which were still being fed on wires at Pressmennan farm.