Monday, 28 April 2014

Wknd 26-27 April

A good weekend benefitted by the easterlies with rain which brought goodies for others on the east coast. At dusk on Saturday an influx of terns to Gosford Bay with a minimum of 164 Sandwich gathered on the shore at dusk, repeatedly flushing with a great clamour as the tide moved over the sand. Reminiscent of the 282 here on 28 April 2012, not sure if there are any higher spring counts, not since 1991 I think. 590+ BHG added to the noise, waders mainly Barwit.

Went back to check on same on Sunday, immediately spotted a tiny bird on the shore amongst the waders, almost wagtail like, and after a wait of 5 mins it flew to confirm my suspicions, the unique whirring jizz of a Little Tern. Watched it for half an hour as the tide flushed it every couple of minutes, unfortunately too small to pick out in any of my photos. From database seems this is fourth Little Tern record here since 1995, only other records were singles 20/7/05, 12/5/01 and 2E 29/4/01.

Meanwhile 10+ Sandwich were all that remained, 2 pairs stood beside each other mating in unison (!); these were also joined by an Arctic Tern. Waders included 99 Barwit and 56 Grey Plover, also a pair of Shelduck which tend to appear here in spring but I'm sure never breed right on the coast. Common Sandpiper and female Wheatear on the rocky shore.

Cycled to Blindwells in the afternoon and found Whitethroats back, 2 males singing against each other, along with Grasshopper Warbler, in areas south of west entrance. A House Martin amongst Swallows feeding over main pool. An interesting large falcon with jesses was circling over, my best guess was a Saker or hybrid, not an adult Peregrine. It was pursued by 2 Kestrels, also a third present and 2 Buzzards. A squealing Water Rail was a pleasing find at the artificial reedbeds - perhaps still a candidate for home list as a nocturnal migrant?

Dusk and back again to Gosford, only 114 Sandwich Terns gathered but visibility barely 200m with heavy drizzle, more could be heard beyond/fishing. Down at Seton just 270 Herrings and 10 LBB, no sign of the Iceland Gull reported from "Tranent" early evening, this c/o Ken. So I then headed off on a rare "twitch", got onto the Iceland just after sunset, still feeding in cereal south-west of Dolphingstone A1 junction with a few Herring Gulls. Grey-ish feathers on mantle suggested to me that it was a 2nd-win/sum, in which case I suspect it could be the Musselburgh bird, but have not seen any photos of the latter. Exceedinly poor photo below even by my standards, it was also raining by this stage!

Together with Barn Owl a good batch of year list additions so I totalled my patchworkchallenge list for the first time this year, comes to 107 with several bad omissions including Grey Partridge.

Better shots of Longniddry beach and Long Craigs rocks at Seton viewing towards Inchkeith from dusk on Saturday below.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Wknd 19-20 April

Heading out for WeBS/waterbodies survey on Sunday, and passing the furniture place at Fenton Barns, two gulls on the roof, easily overlooked and I drove past; a few seconds later pulled up, that Herring seemed to have yellow legs !? reversed and got above pic of the pair - right hand bird fairly bulky, intermediately dark grey mantle, red orbital, solid yellow legs and ... thick band on P5! But I knew it would be another morganii hybrid. Started preening and sure enough, the thick band on P5 is only on the outer web, nothing on inner, inset pic - an even band is needed for YLG. A less obvious hybrid than some though, I'm not sure that the leg colour is out of range for YLG, see also shot below where clearer.

Also had a narrow dark subterminal band on the bill, shown better below, so probably immature, perhaps 4th summer - and given the apparent size seems to be a different bird to the more slender individual seen last week which had more of a LBB jizz about it. So now two breeding season records to complement Geoff's array of winter sightings and these birds are presumably resident and breeding somewhere locally - I wonder if any of the local seabirds people have noticed them?

5 swans at Chapel probably Mute, all Whoopers finally cleared out.

On nests, old Goldfinch at East Fortune NT58K and Linnet at Prora ex-landfill NT57J were breeding confirms. Frustratingly young Robins at large at former site, failed to prove these in 6 years and now too late! Did slightly better with the Woodpigeon at Fenton Barns dairy, beady eye just visible:

Water bodies were not very exciting, Tufties at Mungoswells farm resr, Prora farm resr (first visit, pic below) and East Fortune. Had previously seen swans flying in to the Prora resr, looks a great site, deep set, just a shame it is so inaccessible within the secure area, indeed this was my first visit after 10 years of visiting adjacent Chapel. Waughton farm resr nearly dry, good mud but no waders. At Drem pools the fishery owner has suffered bad losses to otters and now has an electric fence round the main pond, Mute currently inside the fence, which may actually help it?

Early on Sunday counted sea ducks off Ferny Ness with a stunning breeding Slavonian Grebe close in, a ravenous horde of 57 Red-breasted Mergansers on a fishing mission through the shallows, a marvellous flock of c. 100 Long-tailed Ducks on glassy sea to NE with 25 more off Seton, and a total of at least 645 Velvet Scoter scattered over the Bay, some well offshore. Only one decent group of feeding Common Scoter out mid-Forth. Now 4 Sandwich Tern on rocks (two off Seton yesterday). A Sand Martin sang cheerily as it flew directly over W and a Blackcap was in song from the scrub, not a morning for migration though.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Wknd 12-13 April

Winter not quite done - still 19 Whoopers (6 juv) at Chapel in grass - winds must be hindering their departure.

In the same area, in excess of 1000 LWHG, mainly Herring of course, also 29 LBB and what I presume is my old friend, a intermediate dark-mantled yellow-legged bird which has set off alarms for me since summer 2008. Thanks to Geoff's efforts I'm now much more confident that this is a LBBxHG hybrid, structurally it is quite slight compared to Herring, quite a long narrow primary projection, large white primary tips and crucially pale yellow legs, no match for the bright orange-yellow on some adult LBB. As we know many Herrings don't travel so far in winter it may well be that is is one of the same Larus morganii which winter on the Edinburgh coast - though seemed to be a full adult, also unringed so not the same as Geoff's last. Didn't manage any good shots but the bird is quite obvious on this pic below the left-hand end of the seeder:

Also 3 White Wagtails amongst 25+ Pied following plough with the gulls. Having done swans and gulls did a spot of atlas nests, much more difficult in the space of a week as the hawthorn has flourished, nevertheless within 100m of hedge at Craighead Cottage found an old Linnet's nest (confirm for NT58A), also a Goldfinch first below; then at Mungoswells 200m of hedge contained 3 Blackbird, another Goldfinch second below (confirm for NT47Z), remains of a Dunnock nest and a fine Whitethroat (apparently!) made of grass and lots of blue twine:

Admittedly it is hard to be sure these old Goldfinch nests are not 7 years old or older, but in these cases I'd had 7/11 individuals during TTV's in NT47Z/NT58A, enormously more likely they had bred and I'd failed to find the nest. One occupied nest spotted at Fenton Barns:

Back to the morning, tried vismig again at the King's Chair, Gullane, after so many Mipts passed Cleveland yesterday - only a few passing here, expect brisk wind depressed any decent movement (full counts).

Saturday - single Swallow flew over football training on Longniddry playing field, into strong wind, female Sparrowhawk again over the wood. Dusk produced 670 BHG (80% ad-sum), 120 Common Gull, 12 LBB at the Seton roost, though as usual the BHG were all concentrated east off Longniddry c/p 1.

Wknd 5-6 April

Set off to do vismig on Saturday but spotting a clear bay covered in seaduck stopped off to count them - totals: 47 Slavonian Grebe – all breeding plumage, many courting and pair displays, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 132 Long-tailed Duck – many flying back and forth, 90 Red-breasted Merganser – pair displays, 797 Velvet Scoter, 1 f Goldeneye, 10 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Diver + 1 E. Eider not counted but late afternoon 196 (79 ad m, 24 eclipse m, 93 f) at Port Seton rocks/harbour.

A male Wheatear on the shed roofs at Cockenzie harbour was my first.

During the week, Herring Gulls followed on from Oycs in mating on roof of engineering labs, photo above. Also at King's Building - Grey Heron feeding flights, 4 in last couple of weeks - a couple of years ago I had a request from a student studying the Duddingston colony for her honours thesis, she wanted data on feeding movements but checking the Lothian SOC database I discovered no-one had ever recorded any - seems this was an oversight!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Wknd 29-30 March

As expected a significant departure of Whoopers, just 37 remaining (6 juv) munching grass at Muirton, no sign of yellow-UL9.

On the same entrance track within 100m, 3 nests, a beautiful ball of grass lined with some hair and feathers, a Linnet; another with 30m (BWP mentions neighbourhood groups, some nests within a few metres), finally the remains of a Dunnock nest mainly roots remaining also feathers in the cup. Both species are breeding confirms for NT58F, 25 is not bad for nearly all arable farmland. Could probably have found a few more Linnets with systematic searching, tricky now as hawthorn leaves are emerging and laying is typically late April.

Seton roost at dusk - c. 1050 BHG, 600 Common Gull and 1 ad-sum Mediterranean Gull. 51 Wigeon.

During week - Oycs on roof of Engineering labs daily, mating again, also a frentic party of five birds over. Herring Gull also mating on same roof. Will these be happy bedfellows I wonder - Oycs presumably well used to living amongst multitudes of gulls.

Rook nests at Longniddry now 27 Longniddry Farm, 22 Kitchener Cres, 15 Fernyness Wood, 4 railway station c/p - a remarkable redistribution as just two years ago virtually all were in the main wood, and at the farm only 1 of 9 nests survived the winter but 3 on 14/3, 10 on 20/3, 18 on 24/3, 27 on 28/3. Nests first built at station car park last year and initially plundered to build new nests to west now themselves rebuilt and occupied! Possible that the bulk of the sticks used in the nests are recycled from year to year? Does rebuilding provide a benefit in reducing parasites resident in the nest I wonder?