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

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