Monday, 29 April 2013

Wknd 27-28 April

Showery with some SW wind on Sunday so I popped down to c/p 2 for a very brief look into the Forth early evening - there were many sheering birds moving west, most were Fulmars but also Manx Shearwaters, welcome back. View above of silhouetted Inchkeith, plus a shower mid-Forth. Welcome also to the local Sedge Warbler, was hoping this would be back after successful breeding last year and sure enough on arrival a subdued warbler was rattling through various species in a mimicry-laden song from hawthorn scrub (not many reeds yet).

Back in the village only 3 Willow Warblers seen along the burn left over from influx last weekend, still all silent. With them now both a male and female Blackcap, presumably just back as I have checked the area every day.

On Saturday went for the rookery recount of the great colony at Pishwanton near Gifford. Made it 525 full-sized nests this time, of which perhaps 450+ occupied (???) and a great cloud of birds swirling over. Breakdown by tree species was c. 68% scots pine, 12% larch, the rest in deciduous trees along burn ranked as alder, sycamore, oak and birch. This appears to be the largest colony in Lothian at present by some margin. Pics above from Longniddry rookery, now rather rearranged with now slightly fewer nests in main wood but a new batch at Longniddry farm.

Kevin provided a Tawny Owl from Roslin, seems to be an adult male (4+ cy), rufous morph; wing entirely adult, no retained juvenile feathers which can persist to 4th spring, but careful scrutiny of the wing shows s3 is rather worn - not all secondaries are replaced every year. The undertail also shows the very speckled patterning, much more defined bands on a juvenile. Sex by length of central claw (c. 15.0mm, <17.8mm = male), also wing length c. 260mm (female 275mm). Recovered not far from a road, so possibly hit by a car - or maybe old age given it was likely born in 2010 or earlier, thus must have lived through one of the very severe winters. Bad news for its family too, young Tawny's out since a while back in some parts of the country.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Wknd 20-21 April

Tried vismig at Gullane, the King's Chair, early Saturday - not a lot moving but my first spring migrant Bramblings, also two Tree Pipits and Grasshopper Warbler in song (full counts). Constant song from Willow Warblers.

Friday - 2 Yellow Wags low N over cereal east of East Bearsford, east of Haddington (11:45hrs); several Swallow and Sand Martin back at Abbeymill; early afternoon a minimum of 550 Velvet Scoter on flat calm sea spread over Gosford Bay and Gullane Bay, also 27 Long-tailed Ducks and 6 courting Common Scoter close in. 14 Sandwich Tern.

Sunday back on rookeries, got up to Lammermuirs edge in search of historic colonies extracted from cards at SOC for the 1975 census; found one in an exposed location in a high shelter belt near Snawdon Farm, 250m asl, but well down on its former 290 nests. Views above of Quarryford pond (first visit!), 55 Greylags there, and an different view of Cockenzie power station looking down Daneskine Burn/B6355 from Darent House. A pleasure to see displaying Lapwings and hear chipping Snipe at same spot.

Monday evening - 12 phylloscs within 100m along the tiny Wemyss burn past Longniddry community centre - all definitely identified were Willow Warblers. An unprecedented fall here, no more than a single ever previously! Strangely silent, in half a hour just one short bout of hooet calls from one bird, clearly none believe this will be their breeding territory. With them, a pair each of Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit. Tuesday evening, still 8+ Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff and the Goldcrest, all feeding low down close to burn with frequent fly catching sallies, still silent. Chiff settled on an exposed bramble stem a foot off the ground at dusk and looked set to roost. First juv Robins out being fed! Wednesday, still 7 Willow Warblers, all entirely silent. Thursday, still 5 Willow Warbler, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff still along burn. Good practice on naked eye ID, more confident on separating the Chiff since Monday.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Wknd 6-7 April

Been neglecting my Port Seton "patch" in favour of rookeries of late, so no surprise when last weekend heard of another good bird dug out by Keith when I was off duty, a drake Surf Scoter. Presumably one of same as had been seen on same patch of sea in 2010 and last year, those visits being well into May, there were also mid-April records in 2009 and 2010 for Gosford Bay. Finally got round to looking on way home from work Friday and was surprised to see two drakes there, not that far offshore c. 1km. Brief rising display then a chase round on the sea with lots of splashing; hope they impressed the single associating female scoter, presumably a Velvet but would have been nice to see closer! Then resumed diving. Exceedingly poor record shot showing two white napes below.

Called in again the following morning but by the time I arrived the action was all over, missed a juv Glaucous which had been on sea, flew to harbour and north. Also heard that a Great Northern Diver had passed. Mipit passage was well underway though, accompanied by Siskins and a single Pied Wag, a Shelduck flew east. My usual deserted corner of the prom had five guys with scopes and after half an hour one drake Surfie was detected amongst a small bunch of Velvets, probably a good mile offshore. Prior to that I had had a glimpse of white nape amongst 4 scoter much further out, not far below the horizon, but could not confirm - however the two had been present earlier.

Not aware at the time but the wintering drake Surfie had still been at Ruddon's Point on 2 April, so presumably our second drake is that bird - how did it find the other? I made a small chart of late spring Surfie records in the Forth which shows their patterns of occurrence, after a period of some stability more changes of late. All gets very messy when assessing under self-found listing rules, needed to be >10km from other sighting of same (OK, c. 22km), also >6 days since previous report, so strictly I could have added this in 2010 (20 days gap) but did not feel right!

Rest of Saturday back on rookeries, first young heard and some colonies still expanding, one small one also found abandoned. Still 15 Mute Swans at Rogarth.

Sunday - nearly 7 hours in Longniddry's Dean Wood (finally fixing the rope swing), hoping that Chiffchaffs might finally be back too - only one heard very briefly early afternoon, interestingly sang just once, then 10 seconds later a good distance north and not again, clearly a true migrant hurrying on.

Back to Friday, Pencraig rookery recounted at 36 nests and a decent one spotted at Monkrigg, not counted but 30+ nests. Also observed a presumed pair of Stock Doves performing a sychronised high flight for over a minute, rising and falling in parallel over a wood by the Tyne at Sandy's Mill, near Haddington, and finally descending to a large tree - this type of behaviour seems not to be included within descriptions of display flight in BWP.

Back to Thursday - out of the area on trip to Banchory, saw 16 Waxwings there at the top of Arbeadie Road, was lucky to detect them via hearing the trills of flock in a back garden as car windows were shut - a gentle call but can be far-carrying. Only Barn Owl noted was a casualty on central reservation of A90 at Nether Careston just south of Brechin. Also saw a juv Whooper Swan on Forfar Loch, no Sand Martins.

Earlier last week, a fresh Barn Owl casualty on A1 westbound, on the embankment opposite entrance to Queen Margaret University, sadly crushed.