Monday, 26 June 2017

Autumn Already? (24/6/17)

As I was weighing up my options for where to go on Saturday morning, I got a message via Facebook from birding buddy, Jacqui, suggesting an early morning visit to Morton Lochs. As one of my options being considered was Tentsmuir Point (in the hope of maybe a Little Tern), I figured that I might as well, and maybe head out to the coast afterwards, or to the Eden estuary. I wasn't particularly hopeful of seeing anything new for the year-list, and with increasingly strong westerlies forecast I didn't think my lack of hope was particularly misplaced. I did however hope that I might be wrong.
Skylark
I headed out at around 0715 and on my way to the bus stop managed a quickfire 4 species - Herring Gull, a loudly chuckling Magpie, some high-flying Swifts and a House Sparrow. I hadn't expected to catch the bus so I was pleased to not have to walk the mile to the bus station. I had arranged to meet Jacqui at St Michaels at around 0745. As I walked through the City Centre I added an Oystercatcher, a Pied Wagtail and a few Feral Pigeons. From the bus to St Michaels, a Lesser Black Backed Gull near the bus station, a few Woodpigeons, a Swallow, a Grey Heron stalking something in a field by a burn, and a Carrion Crow were all added.

It didn't take too long to get to Morton Lochs and we soon added a few more species as we wandered slowly along the road to view both Lochs. A Robin showed well at the car park. Out on the northern Loch were a few Little Grebes, some Mallards, Mute Swans, a Coot and at least one Tufted Duck. A Coal Tit showed in the trees. A rather smart looking male Bullfinch landed in a bush nearby but flew off again before I could get a photo. Checking out across the fields by the access road, I spotted a distant Skylark and Black Headed Gull. We wandered back to the car park to head to the Railway Hide adding a Chaffinch to the list.

A slow wander along the track to the hide gave us a few more species - Goldfinches and a Willow Warbler as well as a few Goldcrests and a Blackbird or three by the boardwalk in to the hide. Things were quiet out front with an eclipse plumage Mallard, a Little Grebe family of 2 adults and 3 youngsters as well as a Moorhen out on the water. A pair of Woodpigeons were in trees west of the hide. A Buzzard appeared over the trees. Swifts swept over the tree-tops, with Sand Martin much lower. Walking back to the car park a Chiffchaff was seen but there were no further additions. As expected the walk along the path opposite the car park gave us nothing new.

We added House Martin from the main hide but nothing else of note, though there were 6 Grey Herons lined up opposite. We popped into the Red Squirrel hide when Jacqui spotted a Bank Vole out in front. There were also 2 Red Squirrels and a few birds feeding on the seeds. Great Tit, Chaffinch, Robin and Dunnock all gave good views as did a male Pheasant which wandered through just in front of the hide. We heard Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling and eventually managed to see one in flight, though another was seen as we headed into the corner hide. A Kingfisher was spotted low over the water and it disappeared from view near the road, either continuing on to the othe Loch or perching in the roadside trees. A drake Wigeon was seen from the road, stood out on the bank with more Mallards. A singing Sedge Warbler remained hidden from sight. Blackcap and Song Thrush were seen before we made our way back to the car where a Bullfinch flew up into the trees behind us.

Jacqui had things to do at home, so she dropped me off at Guardbridge. The hide was empty when I got inside and things looked rather quiet (as expected) out front. Within seconds of opening the window, a Little Egret flew in and landed in the river mid-stream. Not a bad start. I was joined in the hide by a couple we had seen at Morton Lochs. Another couple arrived shortly afterwards. There were a few Grey Herons around. Scanning found Shelducks, Mallards, Goosanders, Curlews and Lapwings dotted around as well as Lesser Black Backed, Herring, Common and Black Headed Gulls. A surprise on the grassy area behind the Guardbridge Inn and the conifers opposite was a young Mistle Thrush. I heard but failed to see a singing Reed Bunting.

Within the hour, the hide emptied again leaving me to see what I could find. Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Robins and Dunnocks showed at, or below, the feeders. A pair of Linnets landed on the barbed wire fence opposite. A Great Black Backed Gull was seen perched atop the former paper mill building. Well out in the river a number of Cormorants stood around wings held out-stretched. A small party of Jackdaws flew past. Jacqui messaged me to suggest a walk out to the George Evans hide at Balgove Bay (after driving to the golf course first). I agreed and she said she'd pick me up in around half an hour. Another couple I've met before in the hide arrived and just as I was about to leave the Little Egret re-appeared.

The walk across the golf course gave us Rooks, Meadow Pipit and a young Skylark as well as Swallows zipping around low over the fairways. Once inside the hide we could see the gulls and waders mingling together on the mud - Herring, Lesser Black Backed, a few Great Black Backed, Common and Black Headed Gulls along with Oystercatchers, Curlews and Lapwings. Out in the river were a small group of Eiders and a much larger group of Red Breasted Mergansers totalling at least 80. There were a few Mallards around as well. Starlings swept past the hide in small groups throughout our visit. Carrion Crows and Jackdaws as well as a few Rooks foraged around on the mud.

Although high tide was supposed to be around 1600 or so, the tide didn't take long to completely cover the mud. I spotted a Stock Dove flying in to land among the corvids. A Grey Heron which took off was mobbed briefly by the same corvids. A couple of Whitethroats showed well out to the side of the hide. As Jacqui watched them a golf ball landed on the embankment next to the hide. Within a minute a loud thump against the door signified that the visiting American golfer whose shot had just missed the hide with his first shot had succeeded in hitting it with his replacement shot. Jacqui popped to the door (which is how we know he was American) to tell him where his first ball was when he arrived and he headed off again to complete his round.

Gannets could be seen diving out in St Andrews Bay, though they appeared much closer to Out Head than they actually were. A couple of Grey Seals could be seen 'bottling' out in the river. A pair of Dunlin streaked past, low over the water. Jacqui found an Osprey hovering near the radar on the base and there were a few Buzzards hanging in the wind over Reres Wood and the base. A Yellowhammer and later a Reed Bunting flew past and just as we were about to give up for the afternoon I spotted our first Tern of the day, well out in the river. Photos confirmed it to be a Sandwich Tern and once it had passed we walked back across the course to the car and back to Guardbridge.

Jacqui headed for home again and I decided to revisit the hide despite the tide being still rising. A quintet of Redshanks among the flooded grass opposite added to the list. A Great Spotted Woodpecker gave good views on the feeders, and a Collared Dove popped in at the other feeders. The LIttle Egret showed again, roosting out on the saltmarsh alongside a Grey Heron. An Osprey could be seen hovering over the bay, above the farm buildings. With the list for the day stuck on 69 species, I happened to stand up and spooked a bird from the wall below the front of the hide. It called as it flew low over the river. An unexpected bonus bird - a Common Sandpiper. Along with the slight increase in wader numbers in general, it appears that "Autumn" migration movements have already started. A couple of young Carrion Crows begged for food from an adult giving some nice photo opportunities.

Just before 1700 I decided to head for home with 70 species of bird, 3 species of mammal and a few insects to show for roughly 10 hours worth of birding (including my first Ringlet butterflies of the year at Morton Lochs, my first Yellow Shell moth of the year on the golf course, and a Red Admiral at Morton Lochs. Blue Tailed and Common Blue Damselflies were both seen also). One of the insects photographed appears to be a species of Capsid Bug (Grypocoris stysi) which the distribution maps in the fairly recent Insects of Britain & Ireland book by Paul D. Brock (published in 2014) do not show the species as being found in Fife.

Willow Warbler

Grey Heron

Buzzard

Common Blue Damselfly

Toadlet

Little Grebe

Grypocoris stysi?

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

Bank Vole

Pheasant

Robin

Common Blue Damselfly

Carrion Crow & Little Egret

Carrion Crow & Buzzard 

Linnet & Mute Swan

Grey Heron

Little Egret

Meadow Pipit

Woodpigeon

Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull & Oystercatcher

Carrion Crow

Pied Wagtail

Carrion Crow

Lapwing

Shelduck

Dunlin

Oystercatcher

Eider

Curlew

Mallard

Osprey

Grey Seal

Red Breasted Merganser

Little Egret, Grey Heron & Curlew

Osprey

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Carrion Crow

Collared Dove

Carrion Crow

Mistle Thrush

Redshank

Species seen - Blackbird, Blackcap, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Eider, Gannet, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Sand Martin, Sandwich Tern Shelduck, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling, Stock Dove, Swallow, Swift, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Whitethroat, Wigeon, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Yellowhammer.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Shorter Longest Day (21/6/17)

Although the weather looked less than promising for getting out birding on Wednesday with Nat, we made arrangements on Tuesday evening to try and get out anyway. The rough plan was to visit some of the hides in Angus (Kinnordy, Murton, Balgavies, Montrose etc). Doing so would mean we would hopefully manage to stay dry and with some luck also manage to see some good birds. Nat had stuff to attend to first, so it was around 0930 when I headed out to be picked up. As it turned out, the weather forecast had improved a lot with the really heavy rain not due until the evening, though it was likely we would still encounter a few showers.

Marsh Harrier
Swifts circled round overhead, while a Herring Gull sat atop a chimney - unlike the one the previous morning (a suspected local breeder) which had swooped at me a few times as I headed for the bus stop. My plan is to try and distract it with food - throw some scraps of bread its way and see whether it decides it can always go back for the food while 'chasing' me away. Hopefully, its instinct will be to concentrate on the food and I can continue unhindered to the bus stop. A Feral Pigeon flew up onto another roof and a Woodpigeon gazed down from a lamp post. A small group of Starlings flew up onto a different roof. I could hear House Sparrows chirping noisily but didn't look for them.

Nat turned up seconds later and we were off. Lesser Black Backed Gulls were seen on Clepington Road. Very little was seen on our way north with only Carrion Crow and a circling Buzzard added before we reached Loch of Kinnordy. Although the car park was empty there was a novice birder in the hide, and a mini-bus from Kindrogan Field Centre arrived as we headed in. As it turned out they were in search of Orchids rather than birds with Common Twayblade being their target. Out in front of the hide things were rather quiet with only a few Mallards on the water, some Mute Swans further away, a few Lapwings and not much else except Swifts, House Martins, Sand Martins and Swallows zipping around low over the water.

Nat spotted the female Marsh Harrier low over the reeds as she quartered the area, before dropping back down out of sight. A Sedge Warbler which had been singing non-stop made a couple of song flights and I finally managed to see it, Nat having seen it a few times already. She didn't stay down for long and we had good views for a few minutes. A Black Headed Gull flew along the back of the Loch and a Moorhen flew across in front of the hide and into the reeds. The Kindrogan group came in and managed to see the female Harrier. Shortly after they left the male put in an appearance. We decided that with not much happening we would wander along to the Swamp Hide. A juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker showed quite well, and a pair of Treecreepers chased around among the trees. A Blackcap was heard but proved to be rather elusive.

The vegetation at the Swamp Hide was very high meaning that it was difficult to see much. A couple of Tufted Ducks were out on the water and a Common Gull flew past. A couple of Water Rails called from very near the hide but were impossible to see.  A Lapwing flew in but we decided to move on again. We had a bit more luck with the smaller birds in the trees and bushes on our way back along the track. A pair of Goldfinches were first, followed by a male Chaffinch. A singing Willow Warbler went unseen, as did a Reed Bunting. A Large Red Damselfly gave us good views as it rested on a leaf by the boardwalk. Wren was heard singing loudly but not seen.

Great Tit and Blue Tit were next to be added, along with Long Tailed Tits. We tried to get Great Spotted Woodpecker for the novice birder, and he did eventually manage a glimpse of the bird after we'd left him. Tree Sparrows were seen on the way to the East Hide, but there was nothing else to be added other than a Goldcrest high in a conifer near the feeders, though the male Marsh Harrier gave us good close views as it flew past the hide, but my camera decided to not focus and I mostly missed the possible shots. After a heavy shower of rain had passed through we headed back to the car to move on to Murton. A pair of Collared Doves were seen at the end of the road as we arrived back at Kirriemuir, with Blackbird, House Sparrow and Jackdaw seen as we passed through the streets. Rook was seen near Forfar but otherwise it was rather quiet again.

At Murton, Nat decided to stay in the car to have a spot of lunch while I headed into the hide. A Small Magpie moth was resting on the window and I took a few photos with my phone before opening the hatch to look out on the pool. Black Headed Gulls, Coots, a pair of Redshanks, a pair of Woodpigeons, a few Lapwings and some Mallards were all that was to be seen initially. The heavy rain shower arrived minutes later, meaning Nat got stuck in the car, and I got stuck in the hide until it abated a bit. A few Pied Wagtails were seen out on the algae covering large parts of the pool, and a Robin showed in the gorse near the hide. A Song Thrush was seen across the far side of the pool with a Pied Wagtail.

I spotted a Teal drake, some Greylags and a couple of groups of Lapwing youngsters of slightly different ages over at the other pool while I waited for Nat to come in. When she did, I added Yellowhammer to the list, with a male singing from a small tree nearby. We headed for the other hide once the rain had almost gone off. A couple of Redpolls displayed overhead and a pair of Dunnocks were briefly seen in a bush by the path. A Chiffchaff sang from the trees behind the small wooden hut but wasn't seen. Once inside the hide the rain decided to resume with added vigour. Nat spotted a Pink Footed Goose among the Greylags and a number of Oystercatchers flew in. A singing Reed Bunting showed well in a small bush. A Grey Heron flew in just before the rain finally went of. As it was now after 1400, we decided to call it a day rather than pop into Balgavies, and headed back down the road.

48 species seen (and a few others heard only) despite the weather and time of year, was not a bad haul, and we managed to stay dry. The Small Magpie moth was a new one for me too, so well worth heading out after all.
Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Lapwing & Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Large Red Damselfly

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Pied Wagtail

Coot, Redshanks & Lapwing

Lapwing

Yellowhammer

Pied Wagtail, Lapwing & Song Thrush

Pink Footed Goose & Greylag Geese

Species seen - Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Coot, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Lesser Redpoll, Long Tailed Tit, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Pink Footed Goose, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Sand Martin, Sedge Warbler, Song Thrush, Starling, Swallow, Swift, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Treecreeper, Tufted Duck, Woodpigeon, Yellowhammer.

Heard only - Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Water Rail, Willow Warbler, Wren.