Sunday, 1 January 2017


1/1/17: Another year completed, and not much to add to last year's "patchwork" report below - after an excellent start to the year in January 2016, with some wind in the Forth, the year ended in a similar fashion to most, with December being only blank month, annual totals hardly changing: 2016 140sp/178 pts; 2015 142sp/175pts; 2014 140sp/174pts; 2012 139sp/180pts.

Some nice breeding birds, with multiples of Reed Warbler and Gadwall, and plenty of rings read (180+ Sandwich Tern codes, gulls of 6 species, Shags). But after last year's speculation actually failed to add any species, Gull-billed Tern being someone else's find. Particularly regret failing to find what would have been my first mainland YBW, being able to afford time for just a few cursory trips round the Bents when they seemed to be being found all over the country ;( Always bad timing with start of teaching semester. Also missed Pom Skua, Jay and Woodcock, suspect latter not in normal haunts due to mild weather, Poms are often distant here and it needs lots of time to get them close enough to confirm. Fell even further behind adjacent patch at Aberlady, credit to Mike for turning up even more goodies there, and others on coast here have been in a different league in terms of rare birds. Will keep up local BirdTrack logs, when I can, and ring-reading, but suspect effort to squeeze out a few more species from patch is not really justified so will give patchwork a miss this year.

4/1/16: Not managed to post much of late, but time for a quick year end review and look ahead. Due to various constraints, and WeBS excepted, nearly all my "birding" is now done locally along Seton, Longniddry and Gosford shore, with regular Blindwells visits as blogged here for 2015. Having gone over fully to BirdTrack I can now extract some stats on records logged, just for this patch in 2015: 2854 records totalling 41164 birds of 135 species over 148 lists; subset at Blindwells was 1054 records totalling 6712 birds of 81 species over 44 lists. 7 more species recorded but not in BirdTrack (offshore/flyovers and the owls), so patchwork total 142 species. Whatever, it is small beer compared to many of the top BirdTrack-ers and patch listers but probably more than I had time for as it stands! Considering I tend not to log roost counts it tells me that altogether I must have seen/scanned through well into the 100,000+ birds here during the year. BirdTrack also gives you a graph of species accumulation for selected sites and species per month, a rather slow start! Added graphs for Eider, Velvet Scoter, Oyc and Med Gull:

Competing in the "patchwork challenge" has been an eye opener in many respects, even when "streamed" by removal of the best hot spots to a dedicated "islands league" it is very hard to keep up! In fact it was only the comparative league (handicapped based on previous years) that I was any good at, and unfortunately mainly because I was busy with atlas in 2013 so had a poor list then hence an advantageous handicap. This is obvious from the final annual totals of species/points: 2015 142sp/175pts; 2014 140sp/174pts; 2013 123sp/149pts; 2012 139sp/180pts (having just added Feral Pigeon, previously overlooked, to all these lists!!!). So 2015 was a new best total for species, but could not match 2012 points. I am aware of two species seen by others on the patch in 2015 that I missed, Willie's Quail at Blindwells, and Lesser Whitethroat at same location and per Jim at Longniddry Bents. I narrowly missed Cuckoo which was seen flying along the A1 just off patch and was disappointed also to fail on Pomarine Skua, not enough time in November :(

Particularly interesting this year with Mike Hodgkin competing on the neighbouring patch at Aberlady (I had to borrow his Peregrine for my own list for much of the year!) - I think he found 20 species which I missed, including 6 I have never seen on my patch (Pintail, Hen Harrier, Water Rail, American Golden Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Greenshank, Roseate Tern, Little Tern, Black Tern, LEO, SEO, Kingfisher, Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Mealy Redpoll, Twite, Lapland Bunting); visiting Aberlady on Christmas Day and seeing the array of 250+ Shelduck floating in the inner bay, a species I would be delighted to see a mile west, reminded me it can indeed be a magical spot!

With now 11 complete year lists for this patch it is also interesting to look at a yearly species accumulation list. It was good to add five new species this year (LRP, Green Sand, Ruff, Jack Snipe and breeding Reed Warbler) though it has to be said that three of those were probably a consequence of the main gate at Blindwells being closed in late spring so that disturbance from dogs at the main pond was diminished, something which is unlikely to apply in future, indeed the whole area may become a building site! So have now recorded 177 species here and inevitably it will be increasingly hard to add any new ones. What might they be? Having dug into local records I note the following 20 species which have occurred historically (last/only dates):

  1. White-billed Diver (31/7/91)
  2. Black Stork (29/5-2/6/46)
  3. White Stork (8/4/96; 12/4/03)
  4. Crane (23/4/00)
  5. Storm Petrel (30/8/93; 14/11/04)
  6. Bean Goose (15/2/03)
  7. American Wigeon (17/12/95-18/3/96)
  8. Hen Harrier (18/11/14)
  9. Pallas's Sandgrouse (June 1863) "A small number settled in some fields near Longniddry … remained there 2-3 weeks"
  10. Western Sandpiper (24/8/97)
  11. Spotted Redshank (15/10/95)
  12. Wood Sandpiper (20/5/14)
  13. Forster's Tern (21/2-10/4/95)
  14. Turtle Dove (20/5/92, but former breeder)
  15. Long-eared Owl (26/6/11)
  16. Common Redstart (25/4/08)
  17. Icterine Warbler (5/7/95)
  18. Rose-coloured Starling (5/7/95)
  19. Twite (regular!)
  20. Corn Bunting (8/3/96, but former breeder)

In addition there are several others that I am aware have been reported but not yet with accepted records: Balearic Shearwater, Red Kite, Hobby and Water Pipit. I'm not sure if a King Eider has ever been seen between Aberlady and Musselburgh, but must now be a possibility, with other potential candidates being Snow Goose, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Phalarope, Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Gull and Raven. So, looks like more of the same is needed, peering at those Seton gulls may still be my best bet, though after 11+ years of regular weekly visits, or more, and so far only a single Iceland and Glaucous to show for it, I suspect it will be hard work...