Saturday, 9 December 2017

Cold Afternoon (9/12/17)

Despite the cold weather forecast for below zero temperatures all day, I decided that I couldn't just sit in all weekend which is very easy to do at this time of year. Despite this plan I didn't get up until much later than intended so it was noon before I was ready to venture out into the cold, though I was well wrapped up and thankfully the winds were much lighter than originally forecast which meant that I wasn't as cold as I thought I might be. It can be hard to stand around looking at birds in a bitingly cold wind with your fingers feeling like they are going to fall off, and your body shivering making holding binoculars or a camera steady rather tricky, which is why I prefer to try to avoid those conditions when possible.

Bar Tailed Godwit
It was a minute or two to noon before I got out the door. A Woodpigeon on a nearby roof kicked off the list for the day and a couple of Feral Pigeons flew over seconds later. A Herring Gull was stood atop another roof. I was headed for a frozen Swannie Ponds first to check for ringed birds. It is much easier to read rings when the birds are stood around on the ice, and with decent light, it can be easier to get photos showing the characters on the metal rings. A Starling flew onto a small bird table in a front garden of a tenement on Court Street, while a Jackdaw peered out from the gutter on another roof edge. A pair of Magpies flew up from a garden further up the road, with one landing on a roof, and the other choosing to land in rather unorthodox manner on the vertical edge of the corner of the tenement, more like a Blue Tit would than a corvid.

Carrion Crow and Blackbird were added on Clepington Road, followed by both Black Headed and Common Gulls flying over. A detour via Mains Loan/Mains Terrace produced a single flyover Chaffinch and a couple of perched Woodpigeons only. Arriving at the ponds, they were both mostly frozen over as expected. Mallards and 16 Tufted Ducks shared the one area of open water. A single Coot was further over and a Moorhen appeared on the island a while later. The Mute Swan family were at the lower pond. There were a few interesting looking Herring Gulls including a very darkly plumaged bird with an almost solid coloured belly which made me think of American Herring Gull as a possibility but a look online failed to find anything quite so similar.

There were a few Common Gulls around among the Black Headeds, though as almost always it was the latter which held the ringed birds. I found at least 5 ringed birds on the ice. Two metal ringed birds - EY?????, and the upside down ringed bird which now appears to read EY?7591, as well as Scottish ringed yellow 2XLD, and regular wintering Norwegian ringed pair White J4U2 and Green JN69. A Robin flew up into the lower branches of a small tree as I passed, and as I was about to leave the ponds a small flock of Siskins overflew. A Blue Tit was in a garden as I headed for Eastern cemetery to check for winter thrushes. A large flock of Mistle Thrushes and Redwings flew towards Baxter Park almost prompting me to change direction.

As I neared the cemetery I spotted a distant bird rather high in the sky. The flight was distinctive and I was certain it was a raptor so out came the binoculars and I eventually got a topside view which confirmed it as a Sparrowhawk. Entering the graveyard a single Goldfinch flew over and within a few minutes I found a number of Redwings and Mistle Thrushes but still no Fieldfares. They were mostly perched high in the taller trees and flying down to feed on the Yews. I managed a few close encounters but had to make do with more distant photos. A Wren scolded loudly from a small bush by a gravestone. As I watched the Wren I spotted a Buzzard fly into land on top of a tall conifer and attempted a stealthy approach somewhat spoilt by thrushes flying out from almost every bush and tree, before the Buzzard did likewise.

I continued onwards in the direction of the Stannergate adding a House Sparrow near the shops at the foot of Craigie Avenue. A Curlew was on the beach with a few Carrion Crows and a Grey Heron was roosting out near the end of the harbour area. Another Grey Heron flew from the end of the pipe a bit further east onto the beach as I was nearby allowing me a few photos. A Cormorant was fishing around the same area and another went upriver. Much further along I added a single female ider to the list for the day before finding a pair of Oystercatchers nearby. A large skein of (presumably) Pink Footed Geese were seen out over the sea off Tentsmuir. Another lot went upriver a while later. A Mistle Thrush was seen perched in the top of a tree near the yacht club. The first Redshank of the day was spooked by a dog on the beach near Douglas Terrace and a Dunnock showed reasonably well in a small bush by the road.

Along towards the lifeboat station a second Curlew was seen, with one of each of Black Headed, Common and Herring Gull in close proximity, while a Cormorant hunted just a foot or so offshore. A Rock Pipit was heard and then seen at the eastern side of the lifeboat station. There was only a single pair of Mute Swans and a relatively small number of gulls on the shore at Beach Crescent, though a Great Black Backed Gull was on the water just offshore and a few Turnstones picked around among the pebbles. At least three Pied Wagtails were feeding along the pavement but were scared off by a number of walkers. A Cormorant and Grey Heron were on the rocks by the castle and a pair of Eiders were on the river near them.

A single Linnet was seen on the beach with Starlings and House Sparrows before the whole lot were flushed by a Spaniel being exercised on the sand. I headed into the small nature reserve where I found another small group of Linnets which landed in a tree by the railway line. A few Blackbirds were seen, as well as a Blue Tit and a small party of Long Tailed Tits. By now the sun had set and the light was starting to fade, but I was determined to add a few waders to the list along the shore. Bar Tailed Godwits were around at their usual area of beach, and a number of Ringed Plovers and Turnstones were a bit closer in. The gull roost didn't seem to hide anything unusual. I passed a birder with a scope at the small car park who appeared to be going through the gulls.

More Ringed Plovers were on the beach along with a number of Dunlin. More Bar Tailed Godwits were by the water's edge and I found a Grey Plover stood looking rather nervous near them. The first Wigeon were nearby, along with some Mallards. I added Goldeneye and Goosander offshore by the burn mouth, as well as a second Grey Plover. Unfortunately by now the light was making identifying birds rather tricky so I called it a day and headed for the bus. A Wren was feeding on the ground by the footbridge ramp. Luckily for me, I decided to check the travelineScotland app on my phone as I walked to the bus stop and found a bus was due, so I ran the short distance to the road where I arrived at the bus stop about 20 seconds before the bus.

All in all a decent enough afernoon's birding with 47 species seen, though nothing particularly unusual among them. With a similar route most likely on January 1st, weather permitting, it gives me an idea of what I can expect to start 2018 with.

Black Headed Gull (J4U2)

Herring Gull

Black Headed Gull & Herring Gull

Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull (2XLD)

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

(rather dark) Herring Gull

(rather dark) Herring Gull

(rather dark) Herring Gull

(rather dark) Herring Gull

(rather dark) Herring Gull

Black Headed Gull (J4U2)

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

Black Headed Gull (JN69)

Mistle Thrush

Redwing

Blackbird & Robin

Redwing

Redwing

Wren

Buzzard

Grey Heron

Carrion Crow

Curlew

Black Headed Gull

Oystercatcher

Redshank

Starling

Great Black Backed Gull

Pied Wagtail

Eider

House Sparrow

Bar Tailed Godwit

Pink Footed Geese

Dunlin & Ringed Plover

Wigeon

Goosander

Mallard & Goldeneye

Species seen - Bar Tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Eider, Goldeneye, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Grey Heron, Grey Plover, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Linnet, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Pink Footed Goose, Redshank, Redwing, Ringed Plover, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit, Siskin, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Tufted Duck, Turnstone, Wigeon, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Sunday Searching (3/12/17)

Once again the weekend's big plans were a bit of a write-off with Saturday spent at home and Sunday looked like heading the same way until I decided  really should go somewhere. Trying for Snow Buntings at Tentsmuir didn't look feasible given public transport on a Sunday and available light left, so I eventually settled for a rare Winter visit to Riverside Nature Park. I was hoping to see Woodcock or even a roosting Owl, both of which I've seen at the park around this time of year. My main reason however was to try out a new piece of photographic equipment which should, in theory, make flight shots much easier.

Grey Heron

The light wasn't looking too great when I headed out just before 1300. A Herring Gull on a roof got the list off to a fairly typical start, with Feral Pigeons high overhead following seconds later. As I had just missed a bus into town, I walked down to Dens Road to catch the number 22. A tree near the traffic roundabout held a few Blackbirds and a single Redwing. A Carrion Crow flew over Dura Street. While waiting at the bus stop I heard a Goldcrest calling from the trees opposite and eventually managed to spot its tiny shape as it flitted around among the branches. A Magpie was seen from the bus on Arthurstone Terrace.

I walked down Glamis Road to get to the park, Having chosen to stay on the 22 instead of having to wait in the city centre for a more direct bus. This decision turned out to be quite productive. A pair of Collared Doves flew over as I walked down the hill. On Riverside Avenue I added a Mistle Thrush in the top of a tree as well as a Chaffinch and a Great Tit by the steps down from the roadbridge over the railway line. A single Goldfinch overflew before I spotted a single female Bullfinch in a tree beside me. It was joined by another 3 birds - another female and 2 males, but they all flew off before I managed to get the camera out of my bag. A Blue Tit was next onto the list before I finally reached the park entrance at around 1350.

A Carrion Crow flewover as I walked into the park. I could hear Redwings calling from behind me but failed to see them. A large skein of Pink Footed Geese could be seen flying over Invergowrie Bay. A Siskin landed in the trees behind me before a Woodpigeon flew into Buzzard Wood. A Goldfinch was seen as I walked down the side of the wood on my wayto check out the boggy area in front. A Grey Heron flew up from the edge and landed a short distance away on the grass, before flying away again but not too far. The boggy patch was rather more boggy than I hoped which limited my exploration to check for Jack Snipe. There weren't even any Common Snipe around, or at least if there were they were staying put.

A few Chaffinches flew over and the first Magpies, a trio over by the road, were seen. Walking round towards the hill, I spotted a couple of Jackdaws overhead and then a flock of Redshanks feeding up on the newly cut grass up on the top of the slope. The first time I've seen them doing that. A Blackbird landed in a nearby tree and a Robin was seen in the lower branches of the hedge. A herring Gull glided over in the direction of the bay. The Lochan was frozen over with the Redshank flock stood out in the middle on the ice, which made for an unusual photo opportunity.

I headed along to the hide next, though with the tide already in, and quite high the only birds seen were more Redshanks roosting on the railway embankment by the water. Further out across the bay were a few Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls. I walked back along to rejoin the main path adding a flyover Stock Dove pair to the list. A pair of Teal were on the water down from the picnic area, while much further out on the river were a number of Mallards. A Cormorant was seen from the top of the hill as it hunted in towards the burn mouth. Another was seen flying upriver past the airport.

As I headed back down towards the car park, I heard a Bullfinch calling and a bit of exploration found a single bird which flew off away from me before I managed to find where it was perched, though it did confirm that there was one around. Feral Pigeons were seen up towards Ninewells with a displaying male strutting around atop the main tower identifiable through binoculars through its behaviour. I headed towards the exit via Buzzard Wood where a Jack Russell off the lead was wreaking havoc in the wood, putting up all the birds. This worked in my favour adding a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a flock of Redwings to my list. A Wren landed in a weedy patch at the edge of the boggy patch before it flew into the wood. The owner of the out of control dog came round the corner seeming rather unconcerned about what her dog was up to. She did finally spend some time trying to call it back as I headed off round the corner.

A bird on the wires by the road looked thrush shaped and a quick photo in the gloom showed it to be a Mistle Thrush. With the light fading even more I decided to head up to Ninewells to see if I could find a Tawny Owl, but as I reached the bus stop I noticed the bus was due and decided I might as well take the chance to head for home instead of what was likely to be a rather futile attempt to add another species to the list followed by a no doubt lengthy wait for a bus home.

In total I managed to see just 24 species in the park, and 14 outwith, of which only 4 weren't seen at the park also. Not the greatest afternoon's birding, and the jury is still out on the photo equipment. Setting it up properly proved tricky without a stable support, though it did make tracking flying subjects easier than using the viewfinder, so I will give it another try next time out.

Carrion Crow

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Pink Footed Geese

Great Tit

Redshank

Redshank

Redshank

Redshank

Pink Footed Geese

Black Headed Gulls & Herring Gulls

Mallard

Teal

Redwing

Mistle Thrush

Species seen outwith the park (4 species only seen outwith the park in italics) - Blackbird, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Herring Gull, Magpie, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Feral Pigeon

Species seen in the park - Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Pink Footed Goose, Redshank, Redwing, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Siskin, Stock Dove, Teal, Woodpigeon, Wren.