Monday, 20 May 2013

Wknd 18-19 May

Getting going on the Woodcock survey, at least the local version thereof where we are attempting to discover if the dire status revealed in the local atlas thus far is a fair picture or not. I started at Cuddie Wood where a roding bird reported for 2011 by local resident. Fortunately one was immediately apparent as I arrived, and perhaps same was heard later over Butterdean. I'd had roding birds are Butterdean and nearby Hodges at dawn in 2008 atlas visits. A single Tawny calling from Liberty Hall and 2 Barn Owls on way home made a good first excusion.

Less success on Sunday will pre-dawn visits to Harelaw by Longniddry, and Kilduff. Thereafter did BBS at Whitekirk/New Mains. The highlight was a pair of Lapwings on the "set-aside" S of main road by New Mains, anxious female and full display by male, what joy to see after eight barren years for this species here! Also Sedge Warbler continuing to expand in oilseed rape crops. Lowlight was a roe buck with its antlers tangled in an electric fence. Got a hold of it but very badly tangled so could not free it without tools. Clearly had been there some time, also had pulled most of the fence bases out so was in danger of getting free trailing the whole fence, or getting body tangled too, or injuring itself by wild thrashing. Decided no time to waste calling for help so went home for a knife and brought my son Michael to assist. Initially was still thrashing badly and got rear leg to knife to kick it off. Also now had a loop of the fence round neck and would not tolerate that being touched. Finally managed to hold him again by one antler and he allowed me to cut steadily through the 20 odd nylon cords, each with embedded wire mesh, without ever pushing back towards me. Once free, though still decorated with a bunch of orange twine, he hurtled away over nearby fence, but then in field beyond leaping with a kick and clearly very glad to be free. There is very useful guidance online on handling stranded deer and the dangers thereof, nevertheless I think confronted by a similar situation I'd do the same again as it could have ended much worse.

Evening at Blindwells Minewater Treatment Scheme (top) was impressed by the now matured reedbed, with at least one singing Sedge Warblers at each level (a few others outside) and several prs Reed Bunting. Perhaps still too wet for other waterbirds to nest but one Moorhen resident seen. En route a Yellowhammer in song from within Longniddry, in trees between A198 Main Street and Glassel Park Road. Also one Short-eared Owl seen over the top of Blindwells, wheeling to plunge on prey at frequent intervals, a wonderful sight (my first there). Finally at home while posting this blog, one Common Sand calling over 00:05hrs, then two screech calls from Barn Owl at 01:15hrs, (fourth record from the house) and then another Coot NW 02:05hrs.

Wknd 11-12 May

Spotted various goslings at large on the Eskbank accompanied by a range of Canada and Greylag parents/guardians (flickr photos). The bunch immediately above certainly belong to Canada Geese parent and look pretty distinctive with rather yellowish hue, also a hint of an ear spot and a darker patch on crown. Contrast the Greylag goslings immediately below and the most reliable distinction is in fact the bill, both the structure (with a noticeably larger nostril) and the colour, the Greylag goslings having a pale tip.

The ones below being looked after by a Canada and Greylag are a little more tricky to ID! Not as obviously yellow as the Canada goslings, but seemingly with a distinct nostril but no pale tip, they seem not to be Greylag either. Though they could be hybrid young I expect could also be slightly older Canada goslings - time will tell. I dug up one other set of young goslings in care of mixed parents, these actually look like Canadas to me, also posted on the hybridbirds Canada x Greylag page but with no further comment yet.

I have certainly seen a precedent for Canada goslings being cared for by a Greylag "parent", this at East Fenton in June 2007, no doubt about those:

One of the regular local Canada x Greylags on Eskbank here too:

Otherwise still busy with Rooks this weekend, getting to Midlothian and polishing off several in NT26 needing 2013 counts: 116 The Glen Road, Flotterstone (in sight of ranger's hut), 98 Woodhouselee, 154 Pentlandfield, 80 Thornton; also 25+25 at Kingsacre golf course. This completes 6150 nests at 200+ colonies in Lothian this year, the only remaining omissions of possibly >10 nests being Soutra Farm (NT45P) and Woodhall Dean (NT67R) - could not find the rookery at the latter but birds present in fields.

WeBS was unremarkable, Mute Swans on nests Drem and East Fortune. The issues at one site are worth mentioning though. When I log on to BTO WeBS online for all Lothian sites I get a list of 6 "key sites" in Lothian, automatically selected on basis of submitted counts, these go as follows: Forth Estuary (83420), Gladhouse Reservoir (83139), Linlithgow Loch (83001), Lochhill (83304), Threipmuir and Harlaw Reservoirs including Bavelaw Marsh (83111), Tyninghame Estuary (83405). Spot the odd one out? Lochhill the flood pool on the edge of the Garletons was drained by the landowner in September 2009. Consultation with various parties at the time, and RSPB representatives meeting the farmer, led to advice that from a protection point of view it was a grey area. SPAs (and other "international" sites in Britain) are "underpinned" by SSSI's, the guidelines of which cover only semi-natural habitats; thus there is no intensive agriculture land within SPA's. The Firth of Forth is an SPA, and land that is "functionally linked" to an SPA, in spite of being outside the site boundary, ought to derive protection from the Habitats Regulations - i.e. the protection should follow the birds, but that this is the grey bit. Formalising the protection by getting "cropped land" extensions to SPA's might also be feasible, RSPB have been pressing for, but not currently and likely to take many years. In terms of the drainage itself, this is another complexity since it is not regulated per se but existing drains are required to be maintained. The latter may be different for a field within the actual SPA. Beyond this are the impact of flood risk on which SEPA might have a view, I consulted separately on that and was informed there are another set of considerations here and that enforcement is the weak link. I kept quiet about all this at the time in the hope that things might change and sure enough in the last couple of years the pool had main recovered, presumably as the drains blocked, and things were looking up. Nothing to log for May WeBS though with the scene below, re-drained:

So left again just with the happy memory of seeing those hundreds of Wigeon grazing in an undisturbed setting (such a rare and valuable commodity along our Lothian coast) a peak of 562 birds in December 2007, the vast flocks of geese (including wintering Barnacles at times), not to mention quite a few "good" waders :(