Sunday, 30 June 2013

June 2013 (wknds 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30!)

A busy month rather disrupted by travel so blog updates have stalled! No particularly exciting "news" anyway, most effort on atlas topping up. Some very interesting pictures are now emerging in the final (6th) year of the local atlas but there is still a lot of work to do. My crude estimates are we still need of order 500 tetrad additions and/or breeding confirmations to approximate meet the results of the last atlas in East Lothian alone, with perhaps four times that in the six 10kms west of Edinburgh. The position for nocturnals is still pretty weak in some areas. Woodcock in particular are down at perhaps 10% of last atlas - the suspicion was this was mainly down to coverage but this season a concerted effort has been made (aligned to the ongoing BTO Woodcock survey) and we have found them apparently absent from many traditional haunts.

My own successes were 3+ different birds roding over Butterdean and Cuddie Wood on evening of 12 June, with remarkably two flying together silhouetted against the orange sky at dusk when I first raised my bins at 22:20hrs. Observations sufficient to upgrade to probable breeding (T) codes for 3 adjacent tetrads (NT47K/L/Q). I also saw a Tawny in the older trees adjacent to Boggs Farm on 5 June, and Barn Owl again nearby which confirms a territory but no time to follow up. Then on the night of 17-18 June I made an excursion to the upland forestry of West Lothian and some adjacent suitable Woodcock woods; none of the latter were found, neither any LEO, but Tawnies at 7 locations (Calder Wood, Selm Muir Wood, Crosswood, Camilty, Harburn, Hartwood and Woodmuir) including one family of young at Crosswood. Given BS3 gives very approximate territory densities in suitable habitat of 10 prs Tawny Owls per 10km but 10 prs Woodcock per tetrad it is clear our Woodcock have collapsed in certain areas. The only other nocturnals located were Grasshopper Warblers at Hartwood and Pate's Hill.

Further Tawny success at Seton Chapel, with one juv calling, seen well just feet above my head in a dead tree, then joined by an adult calling "kwep-kwep-kwep" twice as it peered anxiously alternately at me and its offspring. Have tried Seton every summer during atlas but thus far had just a single sighting on 7/6/11, and none in winter until 29/2/12, so either they had been keeping a very low profile or they have more recently colonised. A single young Tawny remains in Fernyness Wood, have recorded its hunger call. Thus the Tawny map is now updated as per below:

Tawny Owl is clearly still very widely distributed, though we still have a big loss of confirmed breeding tetrads in Midlothian (compare previous atlas map). Otherwise on atlas topping up also spent a day in West Lothian focussed in NT95/NT96, including nocturnals got 25 tetrad additions with 112 upgrades. So the Blackbird map (below) is looking a bit better:

Some other species still have far too many possible dots, e.g. Skylark, Wren and even Woodpigeon. Atlassing more locally, finally got proved breeding of Stock Dove at Seton Chapel, the "pair" seen recently were and adult and an immature, perhaps a couple of months old, so maybe the parent female is on eggs again? Woodpeckers fledged young again there and Siskins seem to be in residence thus another candidate to upgrade. Now 54 confirmed for NT47C, still also chasing Greenfinch and Grasshopper Warbler to confirm. Siskins must again have bred in Longniddry with daily sightings in our part of town, also our new colonist Swifts are back at our neighbour's house, a very encouraging sign given how poorly they are apparently faring elsewhere.

Back at Seton shore for the first time in a while spotted the Cormorant depicted top, gular angle looks pretty good for sinensis but I was not convinced on size and bird was away from others gathered on Wrecked Craigs precluding a direct comparison. 334 Eider in a moult flock there, also 35 Common Scoter offshore. Our regular Great Blackback yellow-E29 was back again on the Seton Burn, records now summarise as: ringed chick, Berridale (Highland), June 2009, seen here as a juvenile Oct 2009 (code unconfirmed), then 2nd-sum March & July 2011, 3rd-sum August 2012, finally 4th-sum March and now June 2013. No remaining obvious signs of immaturity about it now:

Finally have now confirmed that the suspected hybrid goslings at Musselburgh (May blog posts) are indeed Greylag x Canada, so have documented their appearance when very young (flickr picture set). Also on the Esk, family of 5 cygents (parents NUH, IJU), a large number of Eider ducklings and at least one brood of young Goosanders.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Wknd 1-2 June

Success at the second attempt for Mute Swans at Blindwells, 7 small cygnets (flooded out last year).

Meanwhile the Eskside goslings are all developing but still a bit tricky to confirm. Comparing the mixed parents young (above) with the pure Canada and pure Greylag goslings of similar age it is clear that they are definitely not pure Canada - the latter still have entirely black bills, with more pronounced nostrils and quite obvious tufts at the ear; being sure they are not pure Greylags (photo below) is more tricky, though they do have rather dark bills, and definite tufts at ear which are not at all apparent on the pure Greylags; time will tell, hopefully they will not all perish or disappear before we can find out!

[Postscript 29 June - yes, my hunch was correct, a bunch of hybrids located this afternoon at the mouth of the Esk with same parents in attendance, record shot (mobile) right.]

Sunday - atlasing and final Rook sites in Midlothian, added 14 tetrad ticks and 56 upgrades, 27 at confirmed level; also found rookery at Ankrielaw (81+ nests), with Tree Sparrow nest embedded in one part of it, and another mass of Rooks NW of Halkerston; thus the Lothian total inches forward by another percentage point, now 77% of 1975 total (6362 nests, cf. 11262). A complete list of sites and comparisons is now linked here, if you find a rookery please check it is on this list! One remaining probable omission is the Glencorse dam wall, with 44 nests in 2011, we have no 2013 count. Casual records of rookeries have been close to zero for many years, and even amongst dedicated bird recording folks there has not been that much enthusiasm for this census, with a very few exceptions - but to me each species is important and of interest in its own right and seeing the efforts of our long-suffering resident Rooks rewarded as their young finally fledge must be something worth admiring!

During the week, accompanied Longniddry P5 to Binning Wood on Tuesday, best birds were a flock of Crossbills flushed by a hunting Sparrowhawk, addition for NT57Z; also confirmed Pheasant there via egg shell, and found a clump of Barn Owl nape feathers - species not recorded in NT57Z in either breeding or winter - not for want of trying - so looks like we missed them!