Sunday, 23 March 2014

Wknd 22-23 March

100 Whoopers still today, 9 juv (b4, b2, b2, b1), 67+19 in favoured grass fields at Prora (pics) and Muirton, the rest at Upper Mill Burn, Dirleton. Coincidence on total as juvenile number is different from last week. Most busy grazing at times, which also revealed a ringed individual, yellow-UL9, the first sighting of this bird here, seems to have arrived since mid-Feb, another indication of turn-over. [Post-script - still c. 50 Whoopers at same place from train on Tuesday]

One last look for Blackbird nest at Longskelly, failed, but found a nice little Whitethroat nest which is a breeding confirm for NT58D. Grass structure, lined with needles of Scots pine, first two pics below. A nearby Woodpigeon nest consisted entirely of pine twigs - these pines just over the fence on Archerfield perimeter. Atlas analysis is now well underway and some of the warbler change maps, including Whitethroat, are quite fascinating, may do a separate post on that if time.

Seton roost - BHG up again at 1610, vast majority now in full breeding plumage.

During the week Oycs on roof of engineering labs daily, flying in piping like crazy every time, then having a nap before flying off to feed again; 2 prs over one day.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Wknd 15-16 March

100 Whoopers remained, 13 juv (3xb2) including 27 at East Fenton (above). Others Upper Mill Burn and Chapel but most were loafing on grass behind Prora farm, distant view below Garleton Hills below, these latter included ring yellow-46I still.

A trip to NT25 added a few last Woodpigeon nests (double checked they were old as many new ones now in action), plenty of Rook activity, and a Nuthatch at Nine Mile Burn saw mill NT15Y (not recorded in atlas!).

Seton roost modest c. 1950 on Sat (630 BHG 60% full breeding), c. 2200 Sun, just 2 & 4 LBB respectively, 2 BHG's with Norwegian darvics, just a few birds apart on shore, but as usual too distant to confirm codes.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Wknd 8-9 March

Seton roost dusk Saturday: c. 2000 BHG many now hooded, c. 1350 Common Gull, 1 ad-sum Med Gull - above, a fairly rare sight for me, can't remember the last I saw in full breeding. Still had orange tip on bill, unringed.

Morning tried vismig at the King's Chair over Gullane Bay, not a lot of movement, wagtails and Siskin were best (full counts); out in the bay a minimum of 630 Common Scoter, mainly concentrated into rafts, with a GND diving just off the Point.

Sunday - many Whoopers on the move now (Whitburn, Linthrathen) so checked on ours to see if any remained, total 127 (26 juv, b4, 2xb3, 4xb2?) mainly Drem Farm, also 5 each at Fenton Barns and Upper Mill Burn, with 21 Mutes (10 juv) still in rape by Fenton Barns vegetable processing. Yellow-46I still, which is a useful end of winter date, don't expect she will be here much longer. Anyway, no major departure from here yet.

Seton at dusk was similar to last night with a large concentration of summer plumage BHG off Longniddry c/p 1; a single Med Gull again, also an unringed adult but some white on forehead - without photos I'd have been doubting whether last night's bird really had a full hood. 130 Herrings flew in and drank then all departed NE.

Gosford+Seton shore held 236+8 Barwits, 192+62 Curlew, 8+38 Wigeon, with 270+ Velvet Scoter in the bay at dusk.

During the week - Nuthatch song from Fernyness Wood opposite the station, and Rooks building in Kitchener Cres and at Longniddry Farm, the station colony seems to be out of favour.

3 larger size Woodpigeon nests below, the first nearly a foot deep, sadly not Jay nests.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Wknd 1-2 March

Atlas work on nests really drawing to a close now, with so many species already underway with the next season - our own garden Woodpigeon entering leylandii at location of presumed nest since at least 23 February and Rooks all back en masse at colonies. Since mid-December nearly 500 more nest-tetrads, of which 220+ breeding confirms, these mostly Woodpigeon also 75 Carrion Crow, 20 Magpie, 3 Rook, 1 Jackdaw, 10 Buzzard, 2 Linnet. The vast majority of easy targets have gone anyway, last weekend mopped up Magpie for NT48R (Nisbet Road, Gullane - a location where there had been pioneers in the last tetrad atlas, map, but now with confirmed breeding all the way to North Berwick and beyond) and Carrion Crow at The Dam bridge, Tyninghame, right over the A198 (how did I miss it the first time?).

Had always planned to make an effort on that more colourful corvid at the end - of the 26 breeding confirms for Jay achieved in the whole of SE Scotland atlas only two had codes relating to nests, ON at Vogrie and Stevenson House. Initially focussed on woods around Gilmerton House, with Jays present on both dates checked, 16 Woodpigeon nests and many squirrel dreys in a circuit round perimeter, also confirmed Jackdaw for NT57N and GSW for NT57P, but Jay itself proved tricky! One Jay-like nest found had clearly been occupied by a Woodpigeon last season but from its bulk I suspected had originally been Jay; all the Woodpigeon nests were in holly, there were probably others in thick ivy and that's most likely where the missing Jay(s) are hidden. During the week was tipped off about a dead Buzzard at Setonhill wood and checking there finally stumbled across the holy grail with a pair of Jay nests in ivy, poor photo above shows the lower nest, the other is about a metre higher. One Jay (nape?) feather recovered below.

This current weekend did a wee count of Woodpigeon nests in trees round the Community Centre near our house in Longniddry, this is <1 hectare with c. 200m wood/hedge around perimeter, I found 24 nests and probably missed a few in denser cover. None occupied there but some re-built recently. No sign on Sunday of the Chiffchaff seen briefly there late Saturday, naked eye view from 5m max confirmed a drab grey-brown individual with black legs, but no call heard before it disappeared. Surely too early for a returning migrant so likely a wintering bird.

Later on Sunday went to Yellow Craig for one final check on the tiny fragment of coast in NT58D, hopes that 100+m of buckthorn would hold Blackbird - none found but Linnet was new - photo below.

A heap of feathers in the buckthorn had me initially puzzled, but I believe are a mixture from predator and prey, Sparrowhawk breast feathers and possible Fieldfare primaries:

The Herons were back in their nest by the mound in the Plantation, even zoomed in to the canopy this first photo looks somewhat Darren-Woodhead-esque, spot the Herons!

Perhaps two other nests in same tree but smaller and unoccupied, I believe there were two occupied here in 2011.

While here took the opportunity to scan the sea for the queen, she was soon picked up c. 600m NNW off Longskelly Rocks just west of Fidra, unmistakable with that "squashed" head profile, which made me feel just slightly better having checked sea duck here late Nov specifically looking for King Eider and seen nothing. My first of this species for nearly 30 years, last was the famous Ythan drake which summered at the Forvie colony for many years.

Gulls this week - nothing rare apparent in the Seton roost at dusk on Saturday, challenge of reading BHG darvics with 2 white amongst 100 birds on shore, a nice big inscription 2A15 and a much narrower Norwegian ring J*. 2 adult Med Gulls present, one mainly winter but a second all dark on nape, a red right ring so likely Cherry Blossom, she will be off very soon back to her colony in Poland. Just a single ad LBB which is poor for first week March!

Swans - of order 100 Whoopers in cereal S of Fenton Barns with c. 25 swans west in oilseed rape probably including some Mutes.

Owls - one Tawny Owl casualty on A1 just east of the Wallyford A1 junction 17/2 and a fresh Barn Owl just east of the Dolphingstone A1 junction 1/3, latter per Tom; the former was an adult, the latter is ringed GR05053 and a very white bird, presumably a male [PS - this one was an only chick at a local nest near North Berwick 10 miles ENE and ringed on 12 July 2010 by Tom himself, thus a very similar recovery to last also ringed by Tom 8.5 miles ESE and recovered just 500m east of this one - see below]; on way back from recovering spotted one hunting from the fence at the top of Blindwells - my first this year!

Lothian Barn Owl stats now since Oct 2004: 126 road casualties, 72 collected, 57 post mortems; 77% female; 36% juv/21% imm/43% ad; 4 rings:

  1. GR05063 ringed as chick (b1) nr North Berwick Jul-10 recovered Dolphingstone Mar-14, 4 cy
  2. GC42727 ringed as chick (b5) nr Haddington Jul-07 recovered Tranent Mar-12, 5 cy
  3. GC73815 ringed as chick Largo Jul-09 recovered Macmerry Feb-10, 1 cy
  4. GF81584 ringed as breeding ad f nr Drumnadrochit Jul-07 recovered Beltonford Feb-09, 4+ cy