Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Quick Once Round (26/4/17)

On my midweek day off this week I had to pop into work for a meeting which unfortunately lasted much longer than it was expected to. I had intended on doing some birding afterwards, hopefully managing to catch the tide on its way in, at Riverside Nature Park, so had taken a camera (not my usual kit) and binoculars with me. It was almost 1600 when I left work to walk to the Nature Park.

Blackbird

I hadn't noted down the birds I'd seen on the way to work at lunchtime, but from memory they were Woodpigeon, Starling, Herring Gull and Carrion Crow. On the walk down to the park I did see a few more species than earlier. Chaffinch, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Robin were all in trees and on the grass by the path. A pair of Herring Gulls glided over and a Wren flitted around among some broken branches on the ground. A trio of House Sparrows flew into a hedge and a Robin stood on a fencepost as I passed. A Feral Pigeon flew over and a Carrion Crow rooted around where the grass had just been cut.

Reaching the Invergowrie bay end of the park I scanned from the bridge. The tide was well in and Herring Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls mingled on the water. A pair of Shelducks were nearby. A Feral Pigeon perched on the bridge, and a Woodpigeon flew across the road and into the trees behind the nursing home. A Chaffinch flew out of the hedge by the park entrance as I headed down to the hide. A flock of Starlings and some Carrion Crows were in the field. Scanning from the hide I added a pair of Mute Swans and a few pairs of Mallards to the list.

A pair of Teal were over by the reeds and further out in the bay were a number of Black Headed Gulls and a couple of Common Gulls. A Cormorant flew past behind them downriver. I headed for the Lochan next, picking up Goldfinch, Yellowhammer and Jackdaw on the way. Things were quiet at the Lochan with a few Teal and a Herring Gull all there was to see. I heard a Pied Wagtail calling but failed to see it. Walking on a bit I added a Song Thrush to the list and a singing Willow Warbler. A Dunnock showed among the branches of a tree which was quite green already. A Blackcap male peered back at me from the same tree moments later.

A Swallow swept over and further round a pair of Robins looked set to mate by the path before they spotted me and flew back into the trees. A couple of male Blackbirds and another Song Thrush were feeding by the path as well. I cut up and over the hill following the path over the top, further north than the viewpoint. One Skylark took to the air from beyond the composting area, but the hill was quiet. A dog walker (and son) with an off the lead dog had passed that way as I'd entered the park, but it wasn't entirely certain if they were on the path or not - though I suspect not, given that I could see most of their legs. The only other dog walker I saw in the 'upper' end of the park also did not have his dog on a lead. Neither of the two dogs seen were wandering far from the owners, and seemed to be more or less under control. There was one lady using the area behind the car park to exercise her dog off the lead as intended and she put the dog on the lead to go back to the car park.

I eventually added Pied Wagtail to the list near Buzzard Wood. I heard but failed to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A Buzzard with some food in its talons was harassed by a couple of Carrion Crows over the fields. A pair of Oystercatchers flew in to land in the fields. A few Greenfinches were at the front edge of Buzzard Wood and a Snipe flushed as I wandered along the edge of the boggy area trying to confirm a Reed Bunting which flew in (it was). With the time approaching 1720 I headed for the exit. A small group of Linnets flew off across the grassy area near the gate, and a House Sparrow was feeding in the field along with a flock of Woodpigeons and another of Starlings. A pair of Carrion Crows were unworried by me passing them a matter of a few feet away towards the underpass at the railway line.

Nothing new was added on the way home and I ended the shortened birding 'outing' having seen 34 species (33 in the park and 1 outside the park not seen in the park - Wren). It has been quite some time since I last had the chance to bird the park at that time of day and the lack of dog walkers did seem to result in more birds on the ground around the path edges. The tide state meant that waders were notable by their absence, and there were a few other birds that I hoped I might see but didn't, but a worthwhile hour or so's birding.

Buzzard & Carrion Crows

Buzzard & Carrion Crows

Buzzard & Carrion Crows

Oystercatcher

Snipe

Snipe

Species seen in the park - Blackbird, Blackcap, Black Headed Gull, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Cormorant, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Mallard, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Shelduck, Skylark, Snipe, Song Thrush, Starling, Swallow, Teal, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Yellowhammer.

Seen outwith - Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Song Thrush, Wren.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Some Birds Are Bigger Than Others (22/4/17)

I decided that I would attempt to actually do some birding this weekend, rather than sit around at home as I'd done the previous two weekends (mostly). Having a guided walk to lead coming up in two weeks time at Riverside Nature Park, I thought I should see what was around. As a bit of a bonus it turned out that the airport was scheduled to get a rather large visitor, and as the hill at the park gives a good view of the comings and goings I figured I might as well attempt to get some photos of the visiting aircraft also.
Carrion Crow & Buzzard

I did snooze the alarm a few more times than I planned to, so it was just before 0800 when I left to catch a bus into town. Herring Gull and House Sparrow were first onto the list and Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Lesser Black Backed Gull and Feral Pigeons were seen from the bus into the city centre. Oystercatchers on the grass at the University were a bit of a surprise before I reached the park at around 0835 or so. A Buzzard being chased by Carrion Crows greeted me as I crossed the road, while a Chiffchaff called in the trees by the railway line but I couldn't see it. Into the park I headed where a Blackbird was on the grass and a Woodpigeon flew off from the trees towards Buzzard Wood.

A Herring Gull glided over as I walked in the direction of the car park and the hill. Dunnock, Goldfinches and Starlings were all visible on the way and a Chaffinch flew over. I reached the hill as the visiting aircraft was turning out by Tayport. An RAF transport aircraft, an Airbus A400M Atlas C.1, it was by some distance the largest aircraft to use the airport. A Meadow Pipit called as it passed overhead as I watched the Atlas descending, while a few Skylarks ascended round about also. As the plane was only due t be on the ground for around 30 minutes I stayed put taking the occasional photo, while scanning around for birds.

A Sand Martin zipped over, while down in the bay I could see Mallards and Cormorants on the pipe, with a number of Shelducks on the water. Redshanks and Teal were the most numerous birds apart from the Herring Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls further into the bay. A Rook overflew, and one of the Skylarks landed on the opposite rim of the raised area on the hill. Another landed briefly on the back of the bench further across the hill. A Jackdaw was next to fly past the hill. Out over the river a Grey Heron flew low into the bay. I found a Curlew among the Redshanks, and a Mute Swan was near the mouth of the burn.

Eventually the Atlas took off giving me the chance to get some pretty decent photos. With that out of the way I headed down the hill to do some more birding. There was a pair of Ringed Plovers beyond the building work by the recycling area, and a Yellowhammer flew up the hill. A Linnet was singing from the top of a small bush and a Reed Bunting male was perched in another small bush not far from the picnic tables. A Swallow flashed overhead as I wandered towards the hide to check the area around the mouth of the burn. A Common Gull and a pair of Oystercatchers flew over. The first Pied Wagtail of the day was another flypast.

Feral Pigeons were in their usual spots on the bridge over the railway, while a Chiffchaff was in the trees at the hide. A Pair of Gadwall was still in the burn. A Stock Dove headed over at pace towards Invergowrie as I walked back from the hide heading for the Lochan. A Grey Heron, a pair of Shelduck, some Mallards and some Teal were there along with a pair of Oystercatchers and a pair of Jackdaws dropped in for a drink. A Song Thrush shot across the path further on, and the first Willow Warbler that I'd managed to see at the park flitted around in the bushes.

A Robin skulked in the bushes, and being in just the right spot meant I was able to see a Magpie atop a bush over the fence. A Great Spotted Woodpecker headed east towards Buzzard Wood. I watched a Wren pose for a few seconds before a singing male Blackcap distracted me. I did another circuit of the park but failed to add anything else, though I did find a dog walker whose 2 Spaniels were off the lead and rushing around below the bushes not far from the Lochan. The white haired woman owner was aware that they were meant to be on a lead but claimed that she was keeping them off the hill, though when she'd noticed me initially she'd half-heartedly shouted to the dogs who both totally ignored her. Needless to say she did not put the dogs on the lead when she passed either.

I had a chat to a cyclist who was photographing the birds at the end of Buzzard Wood before I eventually managed to find a male Bullfinch round the corner having heard what sounded like a Sedge Warbler, and also found a female House Sparrow at the eastern end of the small wooded area to the north. A Greenfinch male was perched in the bushes by the boggy area and a Coal Tit was one last find before I decided to call it a day and to head up towards Ninewells to catch a bus back into town, having seen 47 species in the park.

Species seen at the park - Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Common Gull, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunnock, Gadwall, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Ringed Plover, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Sand Martin, Shelduck, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling, Stock Dove, Swallow, Teal, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer.

Also 3 species of butterfly - Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and White sp.

I walked up over the grass in front of the WL Gore factory adding Jackdaw to the outwith the park list. A singing Blackcap was in the trees at the top end of the path into the Tech Park, and a Song Thrush hopped across the path as I searched for the Blackcap which eventually showed well. A pair of Magpies were on the driveway up to WL Gore's factory. A Coal Tit and a Robin were in the trees near the Magpies. As I walked up towards Ninewells a skein of Pink Footed Geese flew over the trees. At the road, I could hear a Bullfinch calling and managed to see it fly across the road and into a conifer near me.

I crossed the road to the Arboretum and had a slow wander round. Blue Tit, Blackbird, Dunnock, Great Tit and a Chiffchaff were all seen, while up in the trees there were plenty Jackdaws and Woodpigeons. A Stock Dove called from one of the large mature deciduous trees and watched me rather warily as I wandered past. I have a feeling that is the first time I've seen Stock Dove at Ninewells. Having done enough exploring I waited for a bus that never came before walking up to the main road to catch a bus into town and home, instead of my original plan to be out all day, with the colder than expected temperature being a major factor in that decision.

Outwith the park, I had managed to see 21 species, most of which I also saw in the park (only Pink Footed Geese and Great Tit were seen only outwith the park). Although I failed to see any of the three hoped for warbler species at the park it had been a worthwhile exercise just to get up and out.

Carrion Crow & Buzzard

Teal

Skylark

Skylark

Skylark

Grey Heron

Herring Gull

Cormorant

Redshank, Curlew & Oystercatcher

Skylark

Ringed Plover

Reed Bunting

Shelduck

Buzzard

Grey Heron

Jackdaw

Yellowhammer

Gadwall

Willow Warbler

Starling

Small Tortoiseshell

Pied Wagtail

Blackbird

Blackbird

Shelduck

Species seen - Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Great Tit, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Magpie, Oystercatcher, Pink Footed Goose, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Song Thrush, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon.

A few bonus pics of the Airbus A400M.








Friday, 21 April 2017

Easier Than Expected (19/4/17)

My midweek outings with Nat have been rather few and far between this year for a variety of reasons and I was looking forward to catching up with her this past Wednesday. However circumstances dictated it was not to be, so I had a decision to make. Where to go on public transport that could still give me a chance of adding to my year-list. I had 2 or 3 options that gave varying levels of likelihood of seeing 'new' birds. I eventually decided to explore the Angus Coast for the day.

Jackdaw
It was around 0830 when I finally made it out the door which meant getting to the bus stop on the Arbroath Road for 0839 was going to be rather tight. At that time of the morning there is always the chance of the bus being late and with major roadworks in the city centre to contend with, the likelihood was that the bus wouldn't be on time. I couldn't take the chance that it would definitely be late so I knew I was going to have to maybe even break into a run to ensure I made it in time. The list for the day got off to a good start with 7 species seen within the first minute. Most of these were the usual suspects with Woodpigeon and Feral Pigeon, Herring Gull and Lesser Black Backed Gull, House Sparrow, Starling and Carrion Crow all seen in a short stretch.

Arriving at the bus stop a minute or so before the bus was due I was able to watch a male Blackbird and a Goldfinch rooting around on the grass behind the bus stop. A burst of song from a bird was familiar but it took me a moment to recognise what it actually was. A Willow Warbler, and I could see it in the still bare branches of a small tree behind the bus stop. This was a nice stroke of luck, my first year-tick and I hadn't even made it onto the bus yet. I knew I was likely to see more of the species later anyway but it was good to get one of the targets so early on. I ha decided I would head first to Carnoustie where I would walk along to the Craigmill Burn and then up and down Craigmill Den before either heading back to Carnoustie or on to Easthaven depending on how soon a bus to Arbroath was due.

From the bus I was able to see a few more species with Blue Tit, Collared Dove, Magpie, Jackdaw and Rook all joining the earlier sightings on the list. As I walked down towards the beach at Carnoustie I was sure I could hear a Sandwich Tern's distinctive call on the cold wind. Reaching the grassy area overlooking the rocky shoreline I spotted a party of Sandwich Terns out on the rocks. Year-tick number 2, and another easy one at that. Despite the colder than expected temperatures it was shaping up to be a decent day out. Scanning along the shore I hoped I might chance upon a Whimbrel, but my luck wasn't stretching quite that far. I did manage to add a few more species though with Oystercatcher, Eider, Cormorant and Grey Heron on the rocks along with a few Great Black Backed Gulls. Out over the sea I could see a few passing Gannets.

I headed down onto the beach after a passing dog spooked a party of Linnets in my direction. The first Pied Wagtail of the day was seen picking around on the sand. Curlew and Redshank were spotted out by the water's edge as I neared Westhaven. A Cormorant landed on one of the poles before a Rock Pipit flew past. A single Oystercatcher was the only wader on the sand though the number of dog walkers around probably played a part in that. I wandered on in the direction of the burn. A skein of Pink Footed Geese headed along the coast but still out over the water, obviously headed back home after their annual visit. Ahead of me I spied a pair of Shelducks on the beach which obviously had also seen me and waddled off towards the water's edge. A Skylark lifted from the field bordering the railway line, and a Meadow Pipit flew up from the grass behind the Murray Haulage yard.

A single drake Mallard was out on the rocks at the mouth of the burn and there were plenty of Herring Gulls also, but there was a distinct shortage of waders. I crossed the burn and headed up towards the level crossing to find that a train was due so I waited for it to pass, adding Stock Dove to my list as I did so. I checked the burn for Kingfisher but saw none, though a Dipper did fly upstream under the bridge. A Song Thrush pair flew across the burn to just below the house. I was surprised to find a trio of Teal on the burn warily watching me. Chaffinch and Great Tit were in the trees below the rather noisy rookery and the first Yellowhammer was added a bit further on. A Wren popped up across the burn before I heard and then saw another Willow Warbler singing from the top of a tree across the other side. It flew over into a nearby tree and I took a few photos.

One of the local Buzzards hung in the air above the trees towards the farm buildings at the top end of the Den. A male Bullfinch flew out of a tree next to the path and disappeared out of my sight-line round the bend. A pair of Buzzards were chased off by a number of Rooks, with one Buzzard giving me close views as it flew past me along the line of the road at the northern end of the Den. I wandered along the burn hoping for Grey Wagtail. A Dunnock was spotted first, and then a Grey Wagtail male with bright orange rings on both legs. A female Grey Wagtail was nearby along with a male Yellowhammer down for a drink.

I headed back into the Den where I heard but failed to see Long Tailed Tits. I did manage to add Robin and Blackcap to the list before a Swallow headed over. I cut up to the field to walk around the outside of the Panbride House grounds. I spooked a pair of Grey Partridges from the edge of the field but failed to add to the list before I set off for Easthaven. A male Blackcap was singing in trees by the wall at the road and gave me brief views. A few Skylarks and Rooks were seen on the walk to Easthaven but it was rather quiet. I arrived around 20 minutes before the bus to Arbroath was due, so I headed down to the beach to see if there was anything of note around.

A pair of Yellowhammers were in at the edge of the small burn which flowed down to the beach. On the beach I found a trio of Oystercatchers by the water's edge, and quite a few Pied and White Wagtails on the beach. A single Dunlin flew across the bay and disappeared in among the rocks on the beach before I wandered back to the bus stop. Coot, Mallards and a single Mute Swan were seen from the bus as we passed Keptie Ponds but I couldn't see any Tufted Ducks and I didn't really have much of a time window to explore as I wanted to catch a bus to Auchmithie in the hope of seeing Puffins, before walking back along the cliffs, with a few detours along the way, back to Arbroath.

I only had around a 15 minute wait for the bus and following the 20 minute journey I went to check the area around the football pitch behind the village. House Sparrows and a Greenfinch were easily seen here and after a bit of searching Tree Sparrow was also added. I could hear a Corn Bunting singing from somewhere to the south, but there was no obvious sign of the bird. I wandered down the hill to the bench around the half-way mark where I sat and scanned along to the north. Finding 3 black and white birds on the water, 1 of which looked Pufffin-like I took a quick photo which confirmed that in actual fact all 3 were Puffins. My 3rd year-tick of the day, and just as easy as the first 2 as well.

Fulmars were on the cliffs as were a number of Herring Gulls, but I failed to see any more Puffins. I walked down towards the beach and was rewarded with views of the resident pair of Stonechats posing prominently atop the vegetation by the track. A surprise was a male Grey Wagtail which flew in and landed on the almost vertical face of the cliffs. Out above the water I picked up a few passing Kittiwakes. having seen most of what I was likely to around the village I decided to walk along to Windyhills Farm before taking the track down to the cliffs where I would walk south to Seaton Den. From there I'd head up through the Den then along the road to the caravan park where I'd walk down the track to East Seaton Farm and from there down the hill to Victoria Park at Arbroath.

I heard but failed to see a male Pheasant as I crossed the fields. I did manage to see a Reed Bunting though and reaching the south-west corner of the field at the main farm track I found a Corn Bunting along with a good number of Yellowhammers. One of the Yellowhammers looked rather green-ish with a very grey nape and had me wondering exactly what I'd found. Photos appeared to show just a slightly odd coloured Yellowhammer, but it did have me wondering for a few seconds. Reaching the cliffs, I scanned down into the bay where a few Guillemots and Razorbills were on the water, while on the cliffs I could see Kittiwakes nesting. A track led down from the path a short distance on and curiosity meant I had to see what I could find.

What I found was a small seabird colony that was invisible from the path, the birds on the water giving the only indication that there might be something to see. As Kittiwake was a bird I still had to get video of I took a short clip and found I'd also got Razorbill in the clip, another bird I didn't have any video of. A Shag was on the water with a mix of auks and gulls. There were also a few Fulmars nesting on the cliffs with one pair being situated next door to a Herring Gull pair with the female sitting on a nest. Uneasy neighbours I would suspect, with both being as likely to be aggressive and dangerous to the othres. At the top of the slope I found a dead Common Shrew. Nothing much else was seen until I neared Seaton Den where offshore out in the bay I spotted a pod of Dolphins. Always good to see, even if it is only their dorsal fins breaking the surface every few seconds. Seaton Den was relatively quiet though I did find a Chiffchaff near the top end. I heard a second one on the walk along the road towards the caravan park but didn't manage to see it.

The walk down the edge of the park proved to be almost fruitless with only a few Blue Tits and Chaffinches seen. A Swallow swooped around the farm buildings at West Seaton Farm. I walked along towards the cliffs where I was surprised to find a few Sand Martins hawking around near the end of the cliffs and over the nearby field for insects. I tried for a photos but the usual 'connection' problem made things tricky so I ended up with only a single worthwhile photo. Walking back along into town I stopped regularly to see if I could see anything offshore. Gannets, Kittiwakes, Cormorants and 3 Red Throated Divers took my final total  for the day to 65 species, including 3 year-ticks (in bold). I stopped to photograph a pair of Jackdaws on my way along to the harbour area where there were only a selection of gulls on the water offshore at Danger Point. I headed to the bus station and home.

An enjoyable day, even if I ended up with rather tired legs after walking what turned out to be around 11 miles (measured on Google Earth out of curiosity), with 3 of the easiest year-ticks I've had all year.
Sandwich Tern

Pink Footed Geese

Pied Wagtail

Teal

Willow Warbler

Great Tit

Buzzard

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

Swallow

Willow Warbler

Song Thrush

Blackcap

White Wagtail

House Sparrow

Goldfinch

Puffin

Linnet
Stonechat
Grey Wagtail

Corn Bunting

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Razorbill

Guillemot & Kittiwake

Razorbill

Fulmar

Herring Gull & Fulmar

Fulmar & Herring Gull

Bottlenose Dolphins
Sand Martin
Meadow Pipit

Jackdaw

Jackdaw

Species seen - Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Collared Dove, Coot, Cormorant, Corn Bunting, Curlew, Dipper, Dunlin, Dunnock, Eider, Fulmar, Gannet, Goldfinch, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Partridge, Grey Wagtail, Guillemot, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kittiwake, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail (and White Wagtail), Pink Footed Goose, Puffin, Razorbill, Redshank, Red Throated Diver, Reed Bunting, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit, Rook, Sand Martin, Sandwich Tern, Shag, Shelduck, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling, Stock Dove, Stonechat, Swallow, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer.