Monday, 28 January 2019

Garden bird log for Longniddry, Lothian

This is a log of the more interesting species seen and heard in, and flying over, a small garden on Douglas Road, Longniddry, Lothian, Scotland (map), since August 2004. The garden is in an estate within 500m of high water - Firth of Forth. Unfortunately there is no view out to the sea, or indeed anywhere beyond the neighbouring houses in the estate.

Annotated species list
Detailed records (spreadsheet) - updated 1/1/20


A bit OT for a blog on 'garden birds' - but amazed to find this Small Tortoiseshell flying round my head in our front room on 18 January - where had that been hiding?! Released it in garage, was soon back to sleep...

Greenfinch in song 18 January, normally not heard till around mid-February in recent years.

Social gathering of 23 Magpies on 10 January matches previous peak count from 27 January 2005.

Cheery Coal Tit in song on New Year's Day.


[Overview of the year 2019

76 confirmed species is one of the best, but with no additions to the list (now 106, only 13 additions in last 9 years) – though an apparent Marsh Harrier (photos & video) on 1 September and a probable Tree Pipit on 26 August would have been! Scarcer species included Waxwing and Peregrine in Jan, nocturnal Coot in Feb (12th record), male Pheasant calling Mar-Apr (4-5th records), Moorhens consecutive nights in Apr (c. 15 records), another nocturnal migrant Quail in May (4th record, and earliest, 22/5), another Moorhen in Jun, Dunlin in Jul (13th record), Kestrels in Jul (first record of pr together), Ringed Plover in Aug (11th record) plus Common Sand (now ~24 records), Med Gull in Aug (2nd record, first to be filmed!), 20 Canada Geese in Aug (4th record), large numbers of Barnacle Geese in Sep (including 380 over on 28/9), Jay in Oct (4th record), Crossbill in Nov (poor year for them) and Tree Sparrows in Dec. Tawny Owl(s) took up residence within the village, in the spring, for the first time. Greenfinch still resident in breeding season, but a poor year for Grey Wagtails. Latest record of Swift with 3 still on 9 September. Status of Blackcap is changing, with a returning wintering bird in Jan-Feb (though it may have perished/moved on), but m+f in autumn were only 2nd November record here. There was also an invasion of Painted Lady butterflies which reached our garden on 9 June.]

Large group of Pinks NE over late evening 30 December, more at 16:55hrs on New Year's Eve.

3 Tree Sparrows in garden amongst House Sparrow at feeder (grain from Townhead) - a fairly regular flyover but this first in the garden since 14/9/15 (also 31/10 and 3/12/10 when first recorded).

Woodpigeons hiding in the bushes and mating near former nest, 29 November, could we see first ever December nest here (previous juvs in nest Nov and Feb)?

Even better, now pr of Blackcap, in rowan on 19 November, taking the last berries on ends of branches that thrushes and starlings failed to reach. Robin not happy!

Magic, another male Blackcap, in rowan on 10 November (2nd November record, logged every month of the year here).

A poor year for Common Crossbill compared to autumn 2018, 1 on 4 November was first since 4 November 2018!

Geese continue into November, hundreds SW most mornings and going back at night ~2 hrs after sunset. 12,342 Pinks at Aberlady on 28 October was latest autumn peak for 20+ yrs.

Jay low S over 08:45hrs 29 October, 4th record, likely unconnected to current irruption on the Continent but interesting that last here were in 2014, which was the big year for autumn movement.

Red fox behind surgery on 24 October, first record since June 2009, but many must pass unseen.

Barnacles still over in numbers on Saturday 28 September, including a flock of 380 E (from photo) at 14:50hrs.

Yet more Barnacles over early on Friday 27 September.

A small "fall" in our tiny garden on Tuesday 24 September - 2 Chiffchaffs with 9+ Long-tailed Tits, a male and a f/imm Blackcap (the latter bird seen again twice in following days eating Rowan and Elderflower berries). Several House Martins still around.

Great, first flock of nocturnal Barnacle Geese for a while, calls from a decent number over SW in rain at 23:05hrs 23 September, with 90 over SW c.09:00hrs the following morning.

A remarkable 6 Cormorants flying inland on 20 September, previously nearly annual (2004-2013 except 2008), but only 2 in last 5 years, all previous records have been singles apart from 2 in Dec-2004.

Pleasing to have a Bullfinch in the garden feeding on rosehips the same morning (one previous record of pair in garden).

3 Swift still on 9 September!

Pinks moving W over 01:50hrs 4 September, earliest autumn record here.

Noted a huge cloud of c. 1000 Sandwich Tern over coast by Aberlady at dusk on 3 September, then at 00:58hrs 3+ calling as moving S over our house.

Swift still, 2 September (getting close to latest, which was last year 3-5 September).

Another which may have eluded me, presumed f/imm Marsh Harrier - had a large apparently dark raptor distantly approaching from NE down Wemyss Road, two streets south of us, Buzzards are a routine occurrence around the village but something grabbed me about this bird so I got out phone and grabbed a distant still at 11:55:50 hrs, then some video from 11:56:16 hrs, bird then encountered mobbing from two Herring Gulls high over and veered NW, grabbed 4 stills, the first below taken at 11:56:53 hrs - bird on left is a Herring Gull which can also be seen in distance rising at bottom of second below which was previous image at 11:56:51 hrs (top right image in Tweet was first view over tree 11:56:48 hrs). Admittedly the first image below looks "different" but it is 100% certainly the same bird, confirmed as taken 2 seconds after previous image, view is direct into sun but I think difference in profile is because flight is now inclined (perhaps in response to mobbing?); overall views and analysis suggest compared to Buzzard the glide with V "arm" and flat "hand", the longer tail, the narrower wing and narrowing primaries all suggest Marsh Harrier, though images prob insufficient to prove (compare Marsh Harrier flight action).

[Latest addition to list of garden "near misses" - with Hobby (3), Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Water Pipit, Tree Pipit - plus some more speculative ones; waders nocturnal, which does not help with "proof", recordings needed!]

Several more parties of Sandwich Tern over in early hours on 28 August, some close and some to north nearer coast, all accompanied by Tawny hooting from Fernyness Wood.

Sandwich Terns again 01:15-01:30hrs 26 August, calm and warm.

One that got away - an unusual call of a bird flying over 16:05hrs 26 August, very like this: Tree Pipit. I wonder if any move later in the day?

Sandwich Terns over late evening 25 August, very close to house.

Med Gull hawking for flying ants amongst BHGs directly over garden on 25 August, sufficient views to check legs and confirm unringed, just second record, short video clip in Tweet. Also 2 Swift over and in evening long duets of Tawny Owl, more Sandwich Tern and a Lapwing call, not frequently heard at night.

Nocturnal Sandwich Terns over 24 August, a few heard so far but down on last year.

Bizarre occurrence 23:44hrs on 17 August - two clear Ringed Plover calls over to N apparently prompted a response from Tawny Owl, with kewicks from direction of golf clubhouse NW! This is 11th record of Ringo, of which 8 have been in August, but first since 24/8/16.

Swift still on 17 August.

c. 20 Canada Geese low SW over evening 11 August, only 4th confirmed record, or which only 3 flocks seen.

First nocturnal Sandwich Terns on 6 August.

Common Sand 00:25hrs 26 July; early a good candidate for Turnstone call a low soft "churee-chuh churee-chuh chuh chuh" (no recording; probably the teu call is easier for this species).

Dunlin calling 03:30hrs 22 July. Golden Plovers twice in last few days.

Grey Heron calls over 01:00hrs 15 July, third nocturnal record (after 23/6 & 16/9/16).

Great sight of a pair of Kestrels circling over on 7 July, first record of more than a single, this is less than annual over garden; male has been hunting golf course recently, perhaps they are failed breeders?

Another Moorhen calling 4 times flying S over village 02:35hrs on 22 June, already bright towards the east so would have been visible if I could have got onto it!

Never really gets fully dark at mid-summer and dawn chorus starts very early - logged Blackbird at 03:01hrs on 17 June, joining Robins already in song (cf. 02:59hrs for Blackbird on 18 June 2017).

More bumblebees on 16 June, now in excess of 100 though Tree greatly diminished, just c. 5 left, along with 3 Early, 3 Garden, a queen Buff-tailed and this single worker Red-tailed (plus 2 honey bee, 1 wasp, 1 hoverfly).

Garden teeming with life on 9 June - 2 Painted Lady (seen nearby in 2006 but tick for the garden) with 3 Red Admiral and a small white and probably over 100 bumble bees, white-tailed in majority but also many Tree and 3 Early (Bombus pratorum). In addition families of Blackbird, Dunnock and Blue Tit, and a large crop of Great Tits on Saturday.

Nocturnal migrant Quail calling over near house 00:50hrs 22 May, first two calls near house, by time I had got recorder switched on next two calls were from far to NE; very calm evening, earlier rain had ceased and sky fairly clear; 4th record from house and earliest (previous 1 June 2007, 12 July 2012, 9 June 2017).

Roaming male Tawny noisy on evening 20 May.

More terns on 19 May, sounds of large group over late evening - earlier there were 77 on Gosford Sands about a mile north of our house.

Very late return of Swift on 18 May, very high over so not even sure they are "ours" (they have been present every year since 2004, seen going to neighbour's eaves in 2011-14 but never *proved* to breed).

2+ Sandwich Terns calling high over village 21:40hrs 13 May.

Female Mallard low in through houses towards the Braid Burn evening 2 May. Kids reported pr Mallard loitering on path when they went to school, not seen that yet in our village!

Tawny hooting again in village near house, to NW, on 1 May.

pr Tawny in noisy hoot and kewick calls, to NE, 28 April.

Moorhen calls over late evening two consecutive nights 22 and 23 April.

pr Tawny again on 21 April.

Cock Pheasant calls 24 March and 7 April, not very exciting but only 4-5th records here.

Tawny hooting continuing on 22 March, Gosford Road area.

pr Mallard low over 22 March, a regular sight in spring, duck seen a week later in burn by community centre.

Tawny hoot and "bubbling-call" (call 2 in BWP, apparently common but audible only over 30-40m, hence perhaps why I've very rarely heard - described there as a mate "summons" and given by either sex) very close to house on 21 March, beginning to wonder if nesting in village.

Tree Bumblebee daily in early March, on redcurrant flowers.

Small Tortoiseshell found below freezer in garage around 3 March, flapped so placed securely high up to continue hibernation - but later gone - flown off or moved?

Tawny vocal again 01:15hrs 27 February.

Collared Dove visiting probable nest site still 26 February.

Calls from another nocturnal migrant Coot low W 01:18hrs 26 February, 12th record and by far the earliest spring record.

25 February - first bumblebee, queen Tree (also rescued one from pavement at work last week); also nice to hear the Greenfinch in song again - regular spring song (=local breeder) here most years since 2005 (only missing in 2008-10, 2013-14).

Tawny hooting and roaming through village 24 February.

Tawny calling continuously for over an hour 18 February.

Bizarre - 01:40hrs on 13 February, daughter screams having seen a large spider by her bed, while looking for it I hear a Magpie calling outside, followed immediately by Tawny Owl kewicks - one seems to be lingering in Community Centre/burn trees!

Starling and Blue Tit alarms late afternoon Sunday 3 February, expected Sprawk failed to materialise but about a minute later a wonderful lanky Peregrine appeared only about 50m over veering NW, probably a female on size (10th record, previous in 04/05/06/07/08/2x09/13/18).

Blackcap still daily into Feb, often in control of bird table; seems to confirm it definitely first arrived around 19 Jan, no way would have missed it earlier.

c. 50 redpolls low over on Sunday 27 January, record count - unfortunately did not perch for further scrutiny.

Blackcap the first on the BGBW - initially seeing off sparrows coming to bird table but eventually sitting with 8 of them eating bread crumbs, ignoring fat ball!

Blackcap still on bird table in sub-zero conditions 23 January, fighting for scraps with House Sparrows, Robin and Starlings.

Blackcap again on 20 January, on same apple.

She's back, female Blackcap present 27/1-7/4/18 seen eating rotting apple on ground in garden on 19 January! Presumably same bird as hopping around on a similar circuit.

Daughter reports male Pheasant at Community Centre on 16 January, I've only seen one previously in the village, same location on 19/12/14, but heard distant birds twice.

Waxwing heard again 11:00hrs 2 January. On 6 January Collared Dove flying to and from conifer where nested in March 2018, likely either nest building or sitting - song continues for long periods.

Signs of spring on New Year's Day with Collared Dove (above) and the three tit species in song. Woodpigeon (below) is the most regular species in the garden, up to 4 at once on the tiny bird table.

Full records: Excel s/s (updated 1/1/20).

Older records (to end 2019)

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

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 Kite - third for garden, circling high over on 12 January.


Red Kite - second for garden, circling low over on 16 January.


Red-letter day for parents with a Red Kite thermalling over, 29 March (first record in 48 years!) species number 64.


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 occurred 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 (or close lookalike) 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 [PS - hybrid not excluded, but an obvious bird].


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 thrushes (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.]