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.

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