Friday, 19 May 2017

Waders Wanted (16/5/17)

With a poor weather forecast on Monday I had chosen to stay in bed a little later only to find that the forecast heavy rain never really materialised, meaning I probably could have been out and about. I had a list of places to try and visit on this latest week off work, as well as a list of potential target species, so with this in mind I decided to try The Wilderness and Letham Pools for migrant waders as Musselburgh Lagoons and Tyninghame Bay in Lothian had both had a selection the previous 24 hours.
I decided that I would visit Guardbridge first, to check the small reservoir and then a quick scan from the hide in the hope of maybe a passing Ruff, or a Spotted Redshank. With this in mind I headed out at around 0840. As is often the case with a slightly later start there seems to be fewer birds around. Woodpigeon, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull and Feral Pigeon were all seen in the space of a few seconds before House Sparrow was added near the bus station. From the bus to Guardbridge I was able to add a few more - Swift, House Martin, Rook, Jackdaw and Carrion Crow.

There seemed to be plenty of activity as I wandered along towards the small reservoir at Guardbridge, with Swallows zipping round between the old paper mill buildings and the Motray. A Grey Wagtail flew from off the old stone bridge and a Collared Dove perched on a chimney. From the reeds a Sedge Warbler chattered and churred and whistled, while overhead a Starling glided with a beakful of food from youngsters somewhere. A Dunnock and a Song Thrush were seen near the end of the road, but there was no Grasshopper Warbler heard this time. The only birds on the mud at the reservoir were a pair of Shelducks, though another Grey Wagtail did join them briefly. Reed Bunting was seen on the way back to the main road.

Things were quieter than expected along at the hide with very few birds around. A Chaffinch was at the feeders, a Magpie flew over, and a Pied Wagtail flew past calling. A few Oystercatchers were rather distant on the mud, the Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls congregated in their usual spot at the bend in the river downstream. An Osprey was on one of the posts well out in the estuary and there was one much closer on the post near the Fife Bird Club hide. On the river were a few Mallards but there was very little else to see.

I headed across the road to catch the bus to Ladybank adding Goldfinch to the list. There was even less to add on the bus journey with a single Skylark fluttering above a field being the only add. I watched Swifts swooping over the street as I waited 15 minutes for the bus to Letham, deciding that this was a better option than walking to Letham. Instead I would try Letham Pools and Mountcastle Quarry (for Garden Warbler, with a little luck) and then walk back to the Wilderness then to Ladybank for a bus either to St Andrews, Dundee or Guardbridge depending on what time I made it back. A Grey Heron overflew the bus as we passed the wood between Angle Park and the main road.

Arriving at Letham I quickly scanned the pools from the main road. Mute Swans, Shoveler, Lapwing, and Mallard before walking to Mountcastle Quarry. I was able to add a showy Willow Warbler and a Goldcrest collecting insects relatively easily, before a quick look at the pools found a Coot, a few pairs of Greylags, including one with a few goslings, a Mute Swan pair with cygnets, a pair of Gadwall which flew off and a Buzzard being harassed by a pair of corvids overhead, and a few Little Grebes up the far end. The other pool had a larger group of gulls including a single Great Black Backed. A Great Crested Grebe was seen further along as was a Tufted Duck. A family party of Long Tailed Tits flitted through the bushes.

I then spent the next 20 minutes or so attempting to see the noisy and constantly singing Garden Warbler that I could hear, and even see the tree it appeared to be in. Unfortunately a bush was between me and the tree giving an extra layer of greenery to foil my attempts to see the grey songster. A Blue Tit was the false alarm at one point as I attempted to see what was making the leaves moved from a viewpoint below the bushes. Eventually my persistence paid off and I was rewarded with poor, but definite views of the Garden Warbler. The two photos I took were completely inconclusive due to the leaves in the way but I'd had good enough views of the parts that mattered.

With one of my hoped for birds added I headed back round to check the two main pools. A pair of Teals kept my attention for a while with the female looking a little Garganey like but with the sun coming out the heat haze coupled with the rather strong wind made it very tricky to view even with the small scope I had brought with me. A birder I didn't recognise drew up in a car and he asked what I'd seen. I told him about the female Teal and he checked it out through a far better, and steadier scope, confirming my suspicions that it was only a female Teal, albeit one with a strong black eye stripe and a white spot at the base of the bill (female Green Winged?).

In addition to the Teal there were large numbers of Mallards, a few Shelduck, a Moorhen or two, Coots, a single Pochard, a few Pink Footed Geese, at least two Redshanks, a single drake Wigeon, a couple of Great Crested Grebes and as well as Gadwalls and Tufted Ducks, also one or two Black Headed and Common Gulls. Sand Martin, Swift and Swallow all struggled into the wind, but shot off at great speed with the wind behind them. The other birder didn't stay long and soon headed off. With none of the hoped for small waders, not even a Common Sandpiper or a Dunlin, I decided to start my walk towards Ladybank.

There wasn't too much added on the way, with Pheasant, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit and Stock Dove being the only additions. A Whitethroat stayed out of sight despite little cover in the bushes it was singing from. I did manage to see 2 Brown Hares in a field near the nursing home on the way, and heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling nearby but didn't manage to see it. Arriving at the Wilderness I found that it was also rather quiet. The same birder I'd met earlier at Letham turned up and he had worked out who I was, and introduced himself - Chris McGuigan, the person I report all my ringed bird sightings to. It was good to finally put a face to the name.

He didn't stay long and finding little of note neither did I. A Common Sandpiper was the only new bird for the day's list. All along the length of the walk, moreso in the sheltered spots, I'd seen Orange-Tip butterflies and once or twice I had a male keeping pace with me before it veered off to chase another of its kind, be it male or female. Knowing that the buses through Ladybank were rather clustered together time-wise, I hurried along the road, missing the X53 back to Dundee by a minute or two. The St Andrews via Letham bus was due at around the hour mark, but a few minutes extra wait would mean I could go direct to Guardbridge and be there 20 minutes or so sooner than via St Andrews. So I decided that made most sense. A Peregrine flew up to its nest site as I was passing Cupar.

The faulty keypad on the door at Guardbridge had been replaced between my morning visit and my return and entry was a lot less hassle than it had been earlier. Although the tide was on its way in there weren't too many more birds to be seen. A single Redshank sat on the mud opposite and a group of 7 Goosanders swam and fished their way down the opposite side of the river. A few Cormorants could be seen distantly out on the mud. A party of Black Tailed Godwits were stood in the water further downstream round the bend and a Red Breasted Merganser was seen in flight as I watched a Curlew chase another bird.

I was joined by Neil Redpath who was trying out a new teleconverter on his camera, which now gave him roughly equivalent to a 400mm reach. He wasn't convinced it was working but a quick experiment with my lens set to the same length, resulted in the required proof. We were joined by another birder, Paul Ross who incidentally had commented on a facebook thread myself and Neil had had recently. He found a female Pintail that he'd seen earlier in the day. I'd had non-conclusive views of a probable Whimbrel (confirmed later) just before he'd arrived but couldn't relocate it. I haden't realised how quickly the hour I'd spent in the hide had gone, when Ranger Ranald Strachan arrived to lock up. I headed for the bus and home.

A decent enough day, though slightly disappointing given the possibilities at this time of year, with only the 1 year tick (in bold) added among the 67 species seen.


Willow Warbler

Greylag Goose

Greylag Goose


Great Crested Grebe

Teal & Shelduck

Tufted Duck


Orange-Tip (female)


Mistle Thrush


Gadwall & Common Sandpiper

Mute Swan



Black Headed Gull

Black Tailed Godwit

Species seen - Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Black Tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunnock, Gadwall, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Little Grebe, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Pink Footed Goose, Pintail, Pochard, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Sand Martin, Sedge Warbler, Shelduck, Shoveler, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling, Stock Dove, Swallow, Swift, Teal, Tufted Duck, Whimbrel, Wigeon, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon.

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