Thursday, 10 August 2017

Good Stuff At Guardbridge (9/8/17)

Wednesday is usually a birding day for me, as regular readers of this blog will be well aware. However, this week, I did something other than birding in the morning. I played footgolf with a friend from work at Drumoig. Although I wasn't actually birding or kitted out for birding (no bimoculars or camera), I'm rarely not aware of what birds are around when I'm outside. There did appear to be a nice variety of species around the golf course and nearby. Highlights were probably Golden Plover flock high above a group of 3 soaring Buzzards, and a single Swift, which may yet prove to be my last of 2017. There were also Pied Wagtails, Coots, Little Grebe (heard only), Skylark, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Oystercatchers, Swallows, House Martins, Woodpigeons and a few corvids. As those were from memory, there may well have been others that have slipped my mind.

Osprey (Blue FP7)
The footgolf was enjoyable and we were finished up around 2 hours later. I decided to head to Guardbridge for the afternoon in the hope of spotting a less common wader or two as the tide came in. Having been dropped off at home just before 1220 I was organised and back out again for around 1235. Herring Gull was the only bird seen as I waited for the bus into town. Feral Pigeon and Woodpigeon were added as I hurried to the bus station just in time to catch the 1254 bus to St Andrews.

Cormorant was seen as we crossed the bridge and House Martin and Swallow were seen later though otherwise birds were notable for their apparent absence.I headed into the hide, which was relatively busy with a couple and a teenage son at one window and an older couple from Crail at the other end of the hide. I set up my tripod and scope at my favoured window. There was some discussion about a big bird they could see somewhere out in the estuary. Once I was organised I asked where the bird was, though I had my suspicions as to what it would be. As it turned out, I was correct with my suspicions. An adult White Tailed Eagle far across the north side of the river towards the base. Not a bad way to start the birding from the hide. I let everyone see the bird through the scope before checking for Osprey on the posts out in the estuary. One of the posts did have an Osprey perched on it.

With the raptor duo on the list I started to scan through the likely more run of the mill birds - Redshanks, Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Curlews, Black Headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, and a Lesser Black Backed Gull or two. A couple of Great Black Backed Gulls attempted to harass the Eagle but it wasn't particularly concerned, flapping its wings a few times as they swooped low above it. I found a few Grey Herons. I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling and spotted it exactly where I expected to see it - over in the conifers hanging onto the highest tree-top. Mallards and Goosanders were next along with Carrion Crow before I spotted the characteristic shape and flight of a tern. Terns are relatively unusual so far up the river though I have previously seen both Common and Sandwich here. My bird was down by the river bend gull roost and I managed to photograph it a few times despite the heat shimmer and the distance. Rather than the more expected Common Tern it appeared to be an Arctic Tern. Another nice bird to get.

The family group left a little later happy to have seen the Eagle and the Osprey. Their place was taken by Art Sangster and conversation about birds and aircraft passed back and forward (Leuchars had an RAF Super King Air in the circuit and a Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter had crossed the estuary southbound. A pair of US Navy MH-60S Seahawks had also headed south over St Andrews Bay - very unusual, though as there is currently a US Navy aircraft carrier somewhere out at sea off Scotland, not wholly unexpected). The feeders were visited by Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. A Mute Swan put in an appearance and while we were looking elsewhere a party of Canada Geese arrived downriver. I happened to be stood up as a Kingfisher flew low past though no-one else managed to see the bird. We had heard it call earlier as it flew off from the wall below the hide where it had apparently been perched unseen until the loud bump of a camera lens (not mine) falling over onto the windowsill spooked it.

A pair of Linnets flew over and a pair of Collared Doves popped into the bird table outside. The couple from Crail had left, though there space was soon filled by the McPhersons from Peat Inn who were slightly disappointed to discover just how much they had missed already. A Common Gull glided by and as the tide came in it pushed the waders in closer. I scanned through them hoping for a Ruff, or a Curlew Sandpiper or maybe a Spotted Redshank. A single Black tailed Godwit and a Dunlin were as 'exotic' as it got. Two Little Egrets were seen out in the river, having suddenly appeared. As the tide rose higher I heard a Common Sandpiper calling a few times before I eventually saw it flying low over the river.

We were joined by yet another regular, Neil Redpath, and a Fife Bird Club lady member whose name I'm not sure if I know. She was the one who spotted a Sparrowhawk carrying prey circling up higher into the sky, before we all managed to lose sight of it. By now the tide was in and it was a case of scanning the water mostly. I found distant Eiders and Red Breasted Mergansers and we watched a distant Osprey well out over Balgove Bay. A Common Sandpiper with a swollen foot showed well on the wall down from the hide. A Buzzard flew into the Coble Shore reserve. Everyone except myself and Neil headed off soon after. A Coal Tit popped into the bird table and I eventually managed to add Tree Sparrow to the list for the afternoon when a pair stopped by at the table.

An Osprey with a blue leg ring which appears to read FP7 attempted to hunt above the river, eventually disappearing over the trees to the south of the hide. A second Osprey which I initially thought was the same bird, but photos showed otherwise (this one was unringed) also scouted out the river in front of the hide giving us decent photo opportunities before it too disappeared over the trees and out of our view. A Wren showed down among the rocks in front of the hide. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew over to the conifers before a small flock of gulls dropped in to the water just 'round the corner' opposite the hide. Surprisingly these were mostly Kittiwakes, not a species I can recall having seen here before.

With the time just before 1700 I called it a day and myself and Neil headed out to catch our respective buses home. I added Jackdaws in Leuchars and Rooks near St Michaels to the list, taking my afternoon total to 44 species. Despite not picking up any year-ticks it had been a worthwhile outing with some pretty good birds seen.
White Tailed Eagle

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Arctic Tern, Mallards & Goosander

Arctic Tern & Mallard

White Tailed Eagle & Great Black Backed Gull

Little Egret

White Tailed Eagle

White Tailed Eagle

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk

Canada Goose

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Oystercatcher

Osprey (Blue FP7)

Osprey (Blue FP7)

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Kittiwake
Species seen - Black Headed Gull, Black Tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Eider, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Martin, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Kittiwake, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Little Egret, Mallard, Mute Swan, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Sparrowhawk, Swallow, Tree Sparrow, White Tailed Eagle, Woodpigeon, Wren.

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