Monday, 25 February 2013

Wknd 23-24 February

Finally fling for the local atlas, after 6 years of recording of course there are gaps remaining! Managed a few additions amongst snow showers on Sunday, making a rare trip south of the Tyne - Lapwings back in fields at Chesters farm, and a single Brambling in amongst 80+ Yellowhammers at Mainhill. Most unexpected was the above adult Egyptian Goose at a grain heap on the flood plain east of Abbeymill, Haddington - no rings or wing clipping apparent so may well be a wanderer from the English naturalised population (thus Category C). One accepted Scottish record from Shetland last year, though I believe there have been a number of other reports over the years. Interestingly despite texting full details to BirdGuides they did not carry it, presumably as deemed "common", their lowest species category - though contra recent habits they did feature a Med Gull at Prestonpans! [PS - there was an Egyptian Goose at Holywell pond, Northumbs just two days previously, with Greylags and a Euro Whitefront, interestingly same species mix at same site a year ago (6-9/3/12) - coincidence? Also, Mike's pic on BirdGuides is a bit better!]

On nocturnals, some success with Tawny Owls calling with wavering hoot at Halfland Barns (NT58X), both days, others hooting near Newbyth and Waughton and a Woodcock flushed at dusk in Kamehill wood (NT57U) on Sunday. With extra third party reports now 14 tetrad additions for Tawny (map in last week's blog updated). Fresh Barn Owl casualty on A1 at Whinny Loan, off Falside Hill (near Tranent) Monday - two recent excursions over Falside drew a blank but they are lurking there somewhere.

Other bits and bobs - a nice adult Med Gull coming into full hood, unringed, by Seton Burn on Saturday afternoon, ad graellsii LBB (presumed "Lucy") on rocks by Seton harbour (first LBB seen back on Niddrie Mains/KB on 18 & 19/2); also Great Crested Grebe off Wrecked Craigs Saturday, grebe replaced by a Red-necked, with a large diver way offshore, on Sunday. Whoopers still feeding at Drem pools, dusk view over Chapel resr on Saturday shown below - sunset on winter atlas.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wknd 16-17 February

Last 2 weekends in winter atlas and we hit a great one for owling with two very calm evenings. Back to the previous Tuesday had done a couple of hours mainly in NT58B/K/Q - optimistic when two Tawny hoots heard between the house and the car 5 feet away, but that was it, not a sausage heard nor any Barn Owls seen. Decided to target dusk and got back to same locations on Saturday, with success on Tawny at 18:00hrs at Rockville Heughs (NT58K), soon after near Stonelaws (NT58Q) then later at Links Wood, Tyninghame (NT68F). Barn Owl seen on telegraph pole near Newbyth (NT58V), also two quite vocal with screeches, presumed pair (female does call, at least occasionally), at a new tetrad. Calling of the latter and all of the Tawnys apparently prompted by my attempts at hooting calls, which is thus a first for me with Barn Owl - clearly it does not matter much what the hoot sounds like!

Sunday went to Chesters hill fort south of Drem, again, remembering how depressing the last visit in search of Tawny had been, one evening before Christmas, though not ideal weather then. This time had hardly even got in situ at east end of the fort when hooting of 2 or 3 Tawnys commenced at 17:45hrs from Kilduff Hill (NT57D), following by one hoot in the small wood east (NT57E). Back at home popped out to the car and heard a great din from 2+ Tawnys very close north, perhaps in Gosford Road gardens or golf course edge, continuous repeated ocarina hoots and quavering calls - clearly they appreciate the mild still conditions. Regularly hear them from home but usually distantly in Fernyness Wood, only twice previously roaming through the village.

Typical findings then, one day you make a lot of effort and return empty handed and wondering how they can ever be located, the next and owls seem just too easy to find. Fundamentally depends on their mood and inclination to call, unless you can prompt them with hoots (or a lure), but calm weather and dusk are hugely more rewarding in general than even slightly less favourable weather conditions and any time latter into the night.

Thus we have 11 tetrad ticks for Tawny in East Lothian so far this winter (of 220+ atlas tetrad additions in total here), updated map above; Tawnys probably occur regularly in several more tetrads even in this area though there are a few which are largely farmland and they may be rather scarce. Overall we're hopefully getting closer to an actual map of distribution, rather than coverage, but perhaps only in this relatively confined region. [Map updated 24/2, now 14 additions]

Other than owls - Waxwings again on our road, visible from back window in tree over the rose hip by Wemyss Burn bridge at junction of Forthview/Douglas Road - 3 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. Also on Saturday a Nuthatch calling twice in Longniddry Dean, my first there and a tetrad tick for NT47H, now four additions this winter in adjacent tetrads with NT47M, NT47S (2) and NT47T. Also finally added Siskin there. Possibly releases, but 4 Red-legged Partridges at Brownrigg on Saturday was a count increase from 2! Did BTO thrush survey at Cottyburn, just 5 Blackbirds but now 3 Song Thrush in song. Chaffinchs also now in full song, also incipient song heard from Yellowhammer. Again no Grey Partridge found in former haunts at Setonhill, this will be one omission in the atlas.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Wknd 9-10 February

Most of the "Drem" Whoopers were again in cereal S of Drem pools on Sunday afternoon, a few birds creeping into neighbouring tetrads (addition for NT48V); amongst 175+ got only one ring, though many were asleep; after completing WeBS called at Prora and found most had now arrived there where a fresh mound of potatoes had appeared (transpires they were flushed from Drem by horse riders). Perhaps they had called at Chapel resr as most also had clean legs so had a good chance to read rings - re-sightings of red-BLX (ad), red-AVJ (juv) and yellow-46I (ad), also a new one red-ATX (ad), pretty sure also a new juv red-AVI, presumably sibling of red-AVJ;
sad sight of one bird with a cracked yellow ring stuck on its foot (right), hard to read code with large chip, perhaps DV3 (seen here once 5 yrs ago), bird was limping but looked generally OK, actively feeding.

Surprising not to see any of the other yellow rings recorded this winter (PL5, P4C, X4R, Z3K), with still 200+ birds present, also it now looks like old timer UH3 must not have returned, for first time since winter 01/02 (ringed as an adult on Iceland in 2001). Prora flock very vocal today, frequent bouts of bugling or triumph calls breaking out in different areas, many young birds joining in; pic of one trumpeting circle above, though partly obscured by the CCTV security mast. Can't help but think they are in good heart with upturn in food and longer days now.

Not a great deal otherwise - annual snipe hunt at Drem pools yielded just 4 Common Snipe. 8 ad Mute Swans at Waughton. Three flocks of several hundred Woodpigeon. Buzzard total got into double figures! One Jackdaw on the Prora landfill had a hint of a white stripe on side of neck, not an obvious Nordic though; perhaps 100 other definitely spermologus!

Monday evening - Tawny Owl again hooting at New Winton, towards Winton Lea.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Wknd 2-3 February

A view of Craigleith above, briefly bright but pretty blustery on Sunday afternoon; 50+ Fulmars on ledges, with many more over the sea; the only new bird was a Greylag Goose on a rock in Milsey Bay, tetrad tick for NT58S; no geese inland where seen last week but Rooks (125) also finally added to NT58R

The Whoopers had moved en masse to a new food source with some potatoes dumped in field S of Drem pools, 184 there plus 29 still at the landfill (one metal ringed shown) so 214 still in the area.

At dusk at Seton, one ad Med Gull, lower edge of hood well developed, among a better gathering of gulls flushed onto the sea, c. 4k of which c. 75% were Common Gull

Saturday - still calm early evening so went in search of owls, just 4 weekends to go to plug those gaps in atlas maps! First went to east end of Tyninghame Links and down to Little Binning Wood in search of Tawny, but negative, same at some other spots in NT58K/Q but wind was getting up late evening. Did get two Barn Owls, one by Dirleton Castle Mains by A198, another by B1345 near the kitchens place south of Fenton Barns, both perched on fences. Then went over to Falside Hill, New Winton, etc, no more owls seen but one recovered off A1 Dolphingstone, below, a particularly well-marked bird, spots also indicate it is a female.

The previous Wednesday had come cross our old friend the Nordic Jackdaw, on the same patch of grass on verge of Niddrie Mains Road where seen on previous occasions, presumed same seen by Geoff at Craigmillar about 500m SW. Following Tuesday, one Waxwing on Tranent A1 junction south roundabout.