Monday, 30 March 2015

Wknd 28-29 March

Some better pics of the Fenton Barns hybrid gull, presumed LBB x HG, first seen there last April but likely same as per other sightings in the area since 2009. For first time, long call was observed, with head vertically down initially coming up to 45 degrees during the brief (truncated) call, followed by mate behind; thus in contrast to the vertical upward angle shown by YLG and LBB. Red gonys spot clearly confined to lower mandible, also contra YLG. However the orbital is pretty reddish, thus closer to LBB. Probably not of direct relevance here, but this is an interesting blog on the yellow-legged LWHG in Finland - I think I would've overlooked the majority of the 1st-wins though, given their already huge variability.

Nearby at Kingston, another old friend, a leucistic Woodpigeon - perhaps the same as first seen near Waughton in May 2010, at East Fortune in May 2011 and more recently at Brownrigg; watched the bird feeding in crop for 5 minutes before it was flushed by a cyclist and alighted in trees at Kingston House 600m east; I then drove south to look at Whoopers and was amazed to again see a leucistic Woodpigeon perched on the railway lines at Betony Hill, presumably the same bird but it had flown 2.5km due south as I was driving down past Congalton! It then flew north to feed in the valley west of COngalton Gardens.

On swans, Whoopers cleared out as expected, with just 35 remaining, of which 20 juvs, these typically slowest to depart. So counts have declined as follows 256 (50+ juv) 28/12/14, 212 (44 juv) 2/1/15, 177 (37 juv) 17/1, 165 (40 juv) 1/2, 160 (29 juv) 8/3, 131 (17+ juv) 15/3, 80 22/3, 35 29/3. Soon the last will be gone.

On owls, yet another Barn Owl dead on A1 at Macmerry, the 14th since mid-Jan, yet there had been only two previous cases since last June, a bit of a puzzle though clearly the recent spate is evidence of many of last year's young dispersing (6-7 post mortems expected); Mike McD recovered an LEO beneath powerlines at Gifford, I may do a post on sex/age but this looks like a juv m to me.

On gulls, a big movement of BHG with 6k at Seton on 14/3 now much reduced, 480 on 21/3, 430 22/3, 200 28/3, 225 29/3, with 90% of those remaining being immatures, i.e. mainly 1st winters. The odd rosy pink individual as usual. Common Gull more stable with 1300 14/3, 1400 21/3, 1900 22/3, 1300 28/3, 1500 29/3. All numbers estimates, as per usual at gull roosts. Windy this weekend with birds sheltering behind pipe and remaining on shore long after sunset, typically they begin flying onto the sea around then. Despite the apparent spring movement, no other species of gull drawn in and last two Med Gulls were on 14/3.

Previous week - this beautiful Jackdaw with "brown" plumage aberration looking bronze, at Niddrie.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Garden bird log for Banchory, Kincardineshire

This is a log of the more interesting species seen and heard in, and flying over, a suburban garden on Woodside Road, Banchory, Kincardineshire, Scotland (map). The garden is in an area of detached housing adjacent to terraced council housing. At the time of most of the records listed the nearest open farmland was about 100m to the north-west (but it has since receded to over 1km), and the nearest "wood" was a conifer plantation only just beyond that. The nearest open water is at the Loch of Leys and the River Dee, approximately 1 mile to the north and half a mile to the south respectively.

Annotated species list
Detailed records (Excel spreadsheet)


Red-letter day for parents with a Red Kite thermalling over, 29 March (first record in 48 years!)


First update for this garden for a while - Waxwing on bird table today (25/2), though looked in poor shape - presumably struggling to find food after arriving in the last month or so as part of the small late winter influx right down the east coast. Photos:

Another bird in a garden elsewhere in Grampian is known from colour rings to be a returning bird, as reported on the BTO demog blog, here.

Another change from earlier years is that Magpie is now regular in the garden.


50 Waxwings were again present on 28 March.

In week of 27 February all four thrushes were feeding in the garden (Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush & Blackbird). The Fieldfare was coming to bread on a daily basis and was seen on the bird table on 2 March when snow was heaviest. It is much more able to hold its own with the resident Blackbirds which are vigorously defending "their" food source, and probably pretty annoyed about these various intruders. The Redwing, apparently shyer, spent more time skulking under the hedge, perhaps hoping to pick up scraps left by the larger thrushes.

Waxwings were back at the end of February, with 20+ seen 25-27 February, but a second-hand report of "200" up the road.

On 23 February a Redwing was present in the garden squabbling with Blackbird for scraps of bread under the bird table and in flight (and coming off worst). Snow was lying at the time. This behaviour may be unusual in the UK, though it seems to be perfectly normal for Iceland.

36 Waxwings showed up in the last week of January, including eight colour-ringed birds - all ringed locally by the Grampian Ringing Group, in Aberdeen (4), Aboyne (3) and Inverurie (1). All of the Aberdeen-ringed birds had also been seen subsequently in other places on Deeside, i.e. Aboyne (3) and Westhill (1). All but the Inverurie bird had been ringed on or after 24 December 2004.

Note on local Waxwings

These records prompted me to make a review of our Waxwing records in NE Banchory between 1985 and 2005 (birds also occured in earlier years but I made no systematic records). A total of over 500 birds-days were recorded distributed over 14 out of the 21 years.

Strong regional correlation is shown with over 10 birds logged in Banchory in every year when peak flock size exceeded 100 in the North-East Scotland Bird Report (NESBR) region whilst in every year with regional peak flock size was below 10 no birds were seen. In the other years (10-100 peak flock size regionally) normally 1-10 birds were seen in Banchory. The ratio of local to regional peak flock size is fairly consistent at around 15%.

Most birds have occurred in Banchory in December with a linear decrease through to April (latest record 23 April 1985). No birds have been seen in October whilst birds arrived in November for the first time in 2004.

Birds have most often been found feeding on cotoneaster berries (frequency 65%), with gean, rowan, apples, hawthorn and rosehip visited in decreasing frequency. Rowan may actually be preferred but berries tend to be exhausted by the time the birds arrive, as are geans (cherries). Amongst the cotoneaster varieties, Cot. bullatus seems to be most favoured, followed by the taller Cot. simondsii and the hedge-forming Cot. horizontalis. The latter is the most common in the area, mainly on Raemoir Road, and has normally been the major food source exploited.

Study data is summarised in this linked spreadsheet.


Herring Gulls, which in earlier years were an abundant visitor passing overhead to the local refuse dump, are now much reduced in numbers. An analysis of records from 1984 to date has shown a reduction to less than a quarter of the former population.


Magpie again on 24 December. 2 Mallard over the same day.


A Magpie was present during week of 17 November - confirming increased presence.

A couple of Treecreepers on our ancient pear tree on 17 September.


Hooded Crow nearby on 22 December.


4 Waxwings on 27 December.


Male Chaffinch observed tapping for long periods on house/garage windows from early March through into May, presumably in aggression towards its reflection. Placement of a Snowy Owl picture in the relevant window detered it for 4 days, but tapping subsequently resumed at a reduced intensity.


2 late Swifts in last week of August.


2 Waxwings late March/early April.


A Magpie was seen again at Christmas (all sightings up to this point being 23/12/84, 22/12/90, 23/12/93, 28/12/94, 26/12/96)

A female Blackcap was present end of March/early April. Common Buzzards were seen regularly soaring to the north in early April. A pair of Goosander flew N on 6 April (3rd record).


Male Blackcap and 30 Fieldfare were present in late December.


Hooded Crow recorded again on 26 December.

A male Blackcap was present in February.


First record of Hooded Crow for the garden with a single S on 27 December - species number 63.


Five years after the breeding record, a Goldcrest was singing in the sitka spruce again on 19 April.


Long-tailed Tits and Waxwings (17) were again present in December

A Tawny Owl was heard on 27 March - species number 62.


Over 100 Pied Wagtails were seen circling over a presumed roost site.

The second Spotted Flycatcher for the garden was present on 4 September, just 2 calendar days later than first sighting in 1987.

A Common Buzzard was seen on 28 March - first for garden, species number 61 - and three were seen displaying on 5 April. A pair of Lesser Redpolls were also present end of March/early April. Buzzards and Lesser Redpolls were still present in July.


Long-tailed Tits were seen in December and 300 thurshes (Fieldfare and Redwing) passed over on 18 December.

2 Goosanders overhead on 6 October (2nd record).

Male Lesser Redpoll in song during July - first record, species number 60.

3 Reed Buntings present end of March/early April first record, species number 59.

1700 Rooks and Jackdaws were seen in a roost flock during January.


Golden Plovers were heard calling overhead during the night on 3 October (the day before I left to start university) first record, species number 58.

2 Goosanders circled over the garden on 5 September first record, species number 57.

Migrant Meadow Pipits were seen on 12 occasions between 24 July and 21 September.

A male Brambling was seen on 22 March, first record, species number 56, and Curlews were seen flying N on 24 March.


A Spotted Flycatcher was present on 2 September first record, species number 55.

Migrant Curlews were sighted high overhead in July and both male and female Common Whitethroat in August.

A Yellowhammer was perched in our birch tree on 4 May - first record, species number 54.

Goldcrests bred in a tall Sitka Spruce tree in our neighbour's garden, being seen first on 26 February and last on 20 July. These were the first individuals of this species ever seen in the garden!

A Lapwing flew N on 14 March and Waxwings were present on 20 March.

A male Blackcap was seen in January, February and March.


Between October and December 8 flocks of Greylag or Pinkfoot geese were sighted.

Migrant Curlews were seen moving south high overhead, the first being 11 birds on 28 June.

Swallows bred in a neighbour's porch and despite attentions of local cats a single bird fledged on 20 July. Willow Warblers were seen regularly with up to 8 birds in the garden on 7 August, when a Common Whitethroat was also present. 3 broods of young House Sparrows fledged as last year (c. 15 May, 27 June and 6 August).

Adult Cuckoo seen on 27 June.

A lost female Pheasant was observed walking down the road behind the house on 23 March.

Up to 8 Waxwings were present in January, February and March and on 15 March we watched them drinking from gutter above our back door while eating breakfast.


A party of up to 15 Long-tailed Tits visited the garden at end of November and twice in early December.

30 Siskin were present on 18 September.

House Sparrows had a good breeding season with 3 broods fledged (c. 27 May, 12 July, 18 August). Blackbirds were also very successful with up to 35 individuals in the garden. Up to three Willow Warblers were also seen in early August.

Single Waxwing seen on 15 January and 1st year male Blackcap on 2 February.


Magpie S on 23 December - the only individual seen during 1980's though birds present on farmland c. 1 mile to N.


Active Blackbird nest in quince bush beside our front door, 13 May


Active Mistle Thrush nest in pear tree outside my bedroom window, 9 May

[1967 - parents moved to house on Woodside Road.]