Thursday, 5 August 2021

Taywatching (1/8/21)

It was rather wet for a large part of the day on Saturday and even after the rain stopped it looked like further showers might still happen, so I stayed at home, rather than head out birding somewhere. With Sunday meant to be better, though still a little cooler than of late, I decided I should really try and get out birding. By the time I got out of bed, it was around high tide at Riverside Nature Park which meant that I would be struggling to get many waders on the list for the day. As I would rather be seawatching at this time of year I decided to see if the outer Tay Estuary at Balmossie could produce anything of note (though I figured that stronger, more prolonged easterlies would likely be needed). As I would be sea-watching I chose to leave my camera at home and took a scope and tripod with me instead. I knew I would likely be tempting fate and wishing I'd taken a camera with me...

Osprey

I headed out at around 1005 for the long walk to Balmossie. Swifts, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Feral Pigeon, Goldfinch, Lesser Black Backed Gull and House Martin were noted on the walk towards Baxter Park. I added Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Blue Tit and Bullfinch within the park boundary. Greenfinch, Woodpigeon, Wren and Magpie were next as I wandered down to the cycle path along the northern edge of the harbour. Birds were in relatively short supply unfortunately though I did hear a Willow Warbler and see an adult and juvenile Buzzard as I wandered along to the Stannergate, as well as a 2-Spot Ladybird and a young Shieldbug (probably Hairy?).

I stopped briefly to scan through the Herring Gulls just offshore at the Stannergate with one bird looking a little like a Caspian Gull - though I suspect it was just a 3rd year Herring Gull retaining a dark eye and with a slightly longer looking beak than normal. A singing male Linnet, a few Black Headed Gulls and a few Oystercatchers were all seen as I continued on along the esplanade towards Douglas Terrace. A Blackbird was seen by the railway line near the yacht club sheds. Long Tailed Tits were in the gardens opposite when I reached Douglas Terrace and a Grey Seal was prowling around just offshore.

A singing Dunnock was in a garden as I neared the lifeboat jetty where I was able to add Common Gull, a couple of Redshanks and a small flock of Turnstones as well as a roosting Grey Heron. I made a brief stop by the castle where a female Eider was resting on the rocks just offshore and a Rock Pipit made an appearance just before a Pied Wagtail flew over. I detoured into the small local nature reserve but disappointingly the only thing new there was a Robin. I reached Balmossie just shortly before 1200 and set up my scope to see what I could find.

A few Curlews and Oystercatchers were dotted around with Herring Gulls, Lesser Black Backed Gulls and Black Headed Gulls on the rocky shore. There were some Goosanders in the water but on the pipe to the east there were well over 100, probably 200+ in total. Way offshore at Tentsmuir Point I could see a couple of hundred Gannets circling and diving. I counted at least 116 Mute Swans and found 2 Goldeneye nearby. There were a number of Cormorants on the shore over at Tentsmuir Point, and 30 or so Bar Tailed Godwits on my side of the river, some still looking rather smart in breeding plumage. More scanning produced a few Mallards in eclipse plumage plus Rooks and Jackdaws as well as a few Turnstones nearby. After about an hour I spotted a bird hovering off to the east just offshore from the caravan park at Monifieth. It was an unexpected Osprey.

I watched it circle for a while before it successfully caught a fish and headed inland northwards. A short while later I spotted a second Osprey circling at the same area, with a third bird a bit further away and higher. One of the birds eventually came much closer, circling just off the mouth of the burn before drifting back east again. Not long after that I had 2 Ospreys off the mouth of the burn, one of which caught a small fish but dropped it. Both of these seemed to continue upriver. Another Osprey was seen fishing in the same area as the first before it circled up higher and I lost sight of it as it headed inland. I then realised there was one hovering in front of me and this one caught a fish just off the burn mouth before being pursued by a few gulls then circling up on a thermal where it was joined briefly by a Buzzard before it disappeared into the cloud.

A pair of Common Sandpipers flew out from under the bridge and a larger flock of Bar Tailed Godwits and a few Knot dropped in beyond the pipe to the east. I picked out a few distant Sandwich Terns and had a possible Greenshank head east out around mid-river. Around 1600 I decided I was unlikely to add anything else at the mouth of the burn and decided to head for home. Having not seen any small waders I decided to check an area of the beach where they can be very easily overlooked. Thankfully for me, my task was made much easier when a couple of walkers on the beach flushed a few birds and I saw where they landed. They were mostly Ringed Plovers but there were a small number of Dunlin with them. In addition there were a few Starlings also picking around among the seaweed.

A couple of Common Seals were seen hauled out on a sandbank but there were no further additions as I wandered slowly back to Dundee and home. A detour past Swannie Ponds did add a Swallow, a few Coots and a Moorhen taking the day's list to 52 species of bird. The Ospreys were a definite surprise, though given the numbers that can be seen using the Eden Estuary at this time of year, it should really have been quite obvious that they would also use the Tay away from Invergowrie Bay as well. As it isn't really an area I visit very often at this time of year in 'normal' times it hadn't crossed my mind that they would do so. Still seems like there is much to be noticed locally. As I didn't take a camera with me, all photos illustrating this post are from May 2018.

Mallard

Coot

Osprey

Common Sandpiper

Swift

Osprey

Moorhen

Woodpigeon

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Grey Seal

Gannet

Greenfinch

Linnet

Grey Heron

Eider

Sandwich Tern

Gannet

Blue Tit

Blackbird

Rock Pipit

Redshank

Magpie

Buzzard

Cormorant

Goldeneye

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Pied Wagtail

Osprey

Osprey

Swallow

Oystercatcher

Dunnock

Mute Swan

Herring Gull

Bullfinch

Chaffinch

Buzzard

Common Gull

Black Headed Gull

Birds - Bar Tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Eider, Gannet, Goldeneye, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Knot, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit, Rook, Sandwich Tern, Starling, Swallow, Swift, Turnstone, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Mammals - Common Seal, Grey Seal.

Monday, 2 August 2021

From The Basin To Easthaven (26/7/21)

With the weather having been so hot recently and July not generally being the most interesting month overall from a birding perspective, I haven't done very much birding other than the more incidental stuff while on my way to/from work. With Monday being a holiday and the weather forecast being a little cooler, at least in the morning, I was contemplating doing something though I wasn't quite sure where would be best to go, even allowing for my limited options. Fortunately, Ian messaged me to see if I fancied a trip along the Angus coast. Of course I did, having not birded that area since last August (I think). There was a very good chance of adding significantly to my year-list (which is of secondary consideration this year to my Dundee list). Fingers were crossed.

Wood Sandpiper


The weather when Ian picked me up at 0730 was a bit overcast and grey but also much cooler than of late (thankfully). I'd had a look out of the window earlier to kick off my list for the day - Starling, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon, Dunnock, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Jackdaw, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Blue Tit and Swift all providing a platform to build on - though all were seen later in the day as well. Once underway towards Montrose Basin which was to be our first destination we added more species - a cloud of House Martins over Clepington Road at Mains Loan, Coots at Swannie Ponds, Black Headed Gull at the Douglas playing fields, Swallow at Elliot, and House Sparrows at Marywell. Not a bad selection from a moving car.

Our main target at Montrose Basin was a Ruddy Shelduck - a bird that can prove tricky from ground level as it is prone to disappear down into one of the numerous channels if the tide is out. The tide was well out when we arrived at the Maryton Steps area to scan. Yellowhammer and Robin were heard as we wandered down to the mud at the foot of the steps. I soon had my first year-tick in the shape of a calling Greenshank which did take a bit of actual finding, though we did eventually find 4 or 5 of the birds. A Shaded Broad Bar moth was resting in the grass beside us. Common Tern was the next addition to the year-list with a few birds hunting over the main river channel, calling loudly. Cormorant, Curlew, Goldfinch, Mallard, Mute Swan, Lapwing, Redshank, Shelduck, Woodpigeon, Great Black Backed Gull, Eider and Rook were all noted. I then picked up an Osprey hunting over the river, with a second bird further east noted later.

With no sign of the Ruddy Shelduck we moved around to The Lurgies for a different perspective and some slightly different habitat. Here we were able to add Goldeneye, Stock Dove, Greenfinch, Linnet, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler, Greylag Goose, Goosander (with youngsters), Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Reed Bunting, Little Egret and Common Gull. The sun threatened to break through the cloud which brought out the butterflies (and other insects) - Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Green Veined White, Small White and Ringlet. We hoped we might find Green Sandpiper at the top end of the Lurgies but there was no sign of any, nor anything else that was slightly less common. We did add Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunlin, Pheasant, Red Breasted Merganser (with youngsters), Moorhen and Kingfisher on the walk back to the car.

We decided to head for Lunan Bay for a quick scan offshore but not before having a quick look at the Basin from the raised viewpoint of the small single track road that cuts the corner back to the Arbroath Road. Within seconds I had found the Ruddy Shelduck and I was able to get Ian onto the bird using his scope. A Buzzard circling a little to the west and a few Swifts were also noted as well as Common Seals hauled out in the centre of the Basin. We had spent a bit more time at the Basin than was ideal which I suspected would likely impact on our available time elsewhere as the day progressed. Quite surprisingly our stop at Lunan Bay did add a few new species to the day's list with Razorbill and Guillemot, Shag, Sandwich Tern, a couple of Velvet Scoters and a few small groups of Common Scoters seen on what was a flat calm sea. A nice surprise was a distant Great Skua feeding on something on the surface (maybe a young Auk?) - a welcome year-tick along with the Scoters for me.

We quickly moved on for a brief look over the wall at Auchmithie for me to add Puffin to my year-list. A small group of 4 and another pair were noted before we headed for Arbroath to scan through the gulls for Mediterranean Gull. Kittiwake, Rock Pipit and a Kestrel were seen at the Victoria Park area before we moved on to the harbour area. A Turnstone was the only addition there. A lack of parking had meant we passed on the largest group of roosting gulls, on the rocks behind the Old Brewhouse which may have been our best bet of getting our target bird. Thankfully though, luck was on our side anyway. A stop at the back of Jumping Joeys did produce a handful of gulls with one small group in particular being even better than we had hoped for. Along with 3 Black Headed Gull adults there was a sleeping Mediterranean Gull with the black hood standing out well despite the bird's roosting posture.

My attention was then drawn to another small gull sleeping atop a rock a little to the left. It looked a little smaller than the Black Headed Gulls and the hood on the bird also appeared to be black. There was also black visible on the underside of the round tipped wings - another of our target birds for the day - an adult Little Gull. A juvenile Gull a little to the left of the group then caught my eye and I realised that it was actually a juvenile Mediterranean Gull. Had time been on our side I would have suggested a quick look at Elliot but we moved on to Easthaven where our main target for the day of Yellow Wagtails would be our focus.

As the sun was now shining the car park and beach were rather busy. We headed east towards Hatton water treatment plant where the birds have been seen again this summer. A Rabbit was noted in one of the horse fields along with a Meadow Pipit and a number of Pied Wagtails. Moving on again a Sedge Warbler was a nice surprise competing with a singing Reed Bunting by the path to see who could sing the loudest. As we were checking every wagtail and gull our progress was slow and we had already written off a visit to the Craigmill Burn mouth for later (though Little Gull was the main target bird there). Ian had a brief view of a Wheatear that I missed. At Hatton we found plenty of wagtails but they all seemed to be Pieds. Ian spotted a sandpiper by a small pool on the seaward side of the path which surprisingly proved not to be a Common or even a Green but an unexpected Wood Sandpiper juvenile - a bird that I thought I'd missed any chance of getting as they are more often seen moving northwards in late Spring.

The bird proved quite wary for us, flying off a couple of times as cyclist or walkers passed though returning twice, which did allow me to get some photos and video much closer than my previous sighting of the species. On the third flight the bird headed west towards the other pool by the railway line though we didn't see it there later when we passed. The bird was also seen at the original pool by others over the next few days, and appeared to be much less wary . We ventured a bit further on eastwards but failed to get any definite Yellow Wagtails. As we headed back a wagtail flew down to the beach and when I went to have a look someone stood up from the dunes - who turned out to be someone I follow on Twitter (@dmsk), as we ascertained later.

By now the tide was coming in fast which meant that we were able to add a few more species by the water's edge on the walk back to the car. An adult Knot in breeding plumage and a grey youngster were seen along with a Dunlin but were spooked by walkers. A rather smart looking leucistic Black Headed Gull was a surprise and I was able to get a few photos of it. A small group of terns and gulls were spooked a few minutes later before I was able to confirm Arctic Tern among them. Thankfully my photos showed there were both Arctic and Common (though no Roseates - one I'd hoped to get either at Arbroath or Westhaven - though it is still slightly early for them). Offshore I spotted a Gannet feeding among more gulls and terns.

As we neared the car park another wagtail flying down to the beach prompted another stop. Despite scanning I failed to find any sign of the bird but a group of gulls on the sand were checked through. These were mostly Black Headed and a few Common Gulls but I also spotted an adult Meditrerranean Gull and had a couple of glances of a few others with partial paler hoods. Photos showed that there appeared to be 4 individuals present. The whole group was put up by a group of teenage dog walkers before we called it a day and headed for home.

As expected it had proved to be a very productive day's birding. It was really good to catch up with Ian and also do a spot of birding along the coast. We ended the day with a total of 78 species (plus Wheatear), which was just short of the lower end of the total I thought was potentially possible (between 80 and 100) though there were a few other stops factored in that would have helpedus to be able to reach that total. It is always a struggle to fit in every possible stop along the Angus coast in a day's birding as there is always something which crops up and tends to throw out any sort of pre-planned timetable.However, as with the Wood Sandpiper it is usually something good. I ended up with 11 year-ticks taking me to to just 1 short of 150 species seen this year (117 of which have been seen in Dundee). We're just coming into my favourite time of the birding calendar when opportunities for finding something really good seem to increase and which I plan my annual leave from work around. Here's hoping for a really good Autumn's birding.


Shaded Broad Bar

Osprey

Common Tern

Stock Dove

Linnet

Reed Bunting

Red Legged Shieldbug

Greenshank

Goosander

Wren

Green Veined White

Greylag Goose

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Red Breasted Merganser

Shelduck, Ruddy Shelduck & Mute Swan

Swift

Buzzard

Great Skua

Puffin

House Martin

Kestrel

Little Gull, Black Headed Gull & Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull & Black Headed Gull

Little Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Meadow Pipit

Black Headed Gull

Reed Bunting

Sedge Warbler

Black Headed Gull

Meadow Brown

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Black Headed Gull & Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull & Black Headed Gull

Linnet

Oystercatcher

Swallow

Swallow

Oystercatcher & Curlew

Arctic Tern

Sandwich Tern

Knot

Common Tern

Common Tern

Lesser Black Backed Gull

Common Tern

Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull

Mediterranean Gull, Black Headed Gull, Common Gull & Carrion Crow

Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull & Black Headed Gull

Birds - Arctic Tern, Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper, Common Scoter, Common Tern, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Eider, Gannet, Goldeneye, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Skua, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Greenshank, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Guillemot, Herring Gull, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Kittiwake, Knot, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Little Egret, Little Gull, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Mediterranean Gull, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Puffin, Razorbill, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit, Rook, Ruddy Shelduck, Sandwich Tern, Sedge Warbler, Shag, Shelduck, Starling, Stock Dove, Swallow, Swift, Turnstone, Velvet Scoter, Willow Warbler, Wood Sandpiper, Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer.

Butterflies - Green Veined White, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White.

Mammals - Common Seal, Rabbit.

Moths - Shaded Broad Bar.