Thursday, 26 August 2021

Sunny Day Surprises (18/8/21)

As Summer gradually transitions to Autumn I'm trying to get out and about on my mid-week day off in particular, in the hope of managing to add something to my Dundee list for 2021. I set myself a target of 125 species all seen/heard from Dundee for this year and although at one point it was looking a little doubtful, a few unexpected species have made it look a bit more likely. There are still some species I probably should have seen by now, but haven't, so I know there are still species available to help me reach my goal. With a 'good' Autumn it may just about be possible to hit 130 but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. For last Wednesday's outing I chose another visit to Riverside Nature Park with an early start in the hope of perhaps getting a few migrants on the list. I arranged to meet Lainy a little later in the morning at the park again too.


I had hoped to make it out for around 0500 but it was around 35 minutes later that I finally headed out. With a lack of birdsong things appeared rather quiet. Feral Pigeon, Magpie, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Starling and Goldfinch were still noted as I headed in the general direction of the Law. I added Blackbird and Blue Tit around there before heading downhill towards Dudhope Park. I heard a calling bird from high above and stopped to make sure I'd heard it properly. It called again and I had confirmation of my suspicions, as well as a Dundee 2021 tick - Tree Pipit. Oddly, in 2020 I had by the 11th of August seen my final Tree Pipit of the year in Dundee, following a productive couple of weeks, whereas this year they appear to be moving a bit later. House Martin, Lesser Black Backed Gull and Wren were next onto the list for the day.

Although I had planned on a more direct route than my last visit I decided to check the football pitches next to the University playing fields. I managed to get Black Headed Gulls and Pied Wagtail from there as well as a Cormorant out over the river. A pair of Greenfinches flew off from the trees and across the road and both Chaffinch and Goldcrest were heard but not seen before I finally reached the park just a few minutes before 0700. I was soon adding birds to the list for the park - Robin, Great Black Backed Gull, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Herring Gull, Magpie and Wren were all seen or heard within the first few minutes around the eastern end. Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Bullfinch and Blackbird followed as I wandered along to check out the Lochan where I counted 8 young Moorhens.

A Linnet flew over as I wandered towards the hide next for a quick initial look at the bay. Curlew, Greenfinch, Pied Wagtail, Feral Pigeon and Sandwich Tern were spotted but most of the birds were still very distant with the tide being still rather low. A surprise as I headed back into the park was a family of Sedge Warblers near the eastern end of the track from the Invergowrie end entrance. My first Tree Pipits at the park this year then passed overhead and over the next hour or so, at least another 20-30 were heard or seen. There also seemed to be plenty of hirundines on the move with a mixed group of mostly Sand Martins and Swallows heading westwards hawking insects as they sped over. A pair of Stock Doves added to the run of 'new' birds for the day's park list. Reed Bunting and Willow Warbler were then seen nearby.

I had a quick look at the birds in the bay from the southwestern 'corner' of the park, noting Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Black Headed Gull, Black Tailed Godwit, Mallard, Oystercatcher and a very welcome Dundee 2021 tick in the shape of a Greenshank sleeping by the pipe. Lainy had messaged to say she was on her way so I headed round to the car park to meet her, arriving just as Adam drove in to drop her off. We decided to head up the hill first in the hope of some additional vis-mig as there had been more Tree Pipits passing over as I'd wandered to the car park as well as hirundines. A Yellowhammer was sharing a bush with Whitethroats, Reed Buntings and a Willow Warbler as we passed. A Meadow Brown butterfly flitted along the path edge.

From the top of the hill we were able to see our first Grey Heron and Cormorants of the park visit as well as Lesser Black Backed Gull. With the amount of mud in the bay shrinking by the minute we wandered round to the hide again get a better view at the waders though not before Lainy spotted a Blackcap and a Starling overflew. A few Teal were a welcome addition near the mouth of the burn. A pair of Tree Sparrows headed west giving me my third new Dundee 2021 tick of the day. We stopped at the hide for a quick look on our way to have a look from the Invergowrie side of the bay. A few Dunlin were in among the Redshanks and from the higher, and better, vantage point offered by the bridge over the railway line, Lainy found us a Lapwing.

As Lainy was unaware how much of the opposite side of the bay was actually accessible, we took the opportunity to kill a bit of time before the tide pushed the waders into view from the hide by doing a spot of exploring. This didn't add anything new for the day - except for a Mediterranean Gull I found later in photos (though I had mused about the possibility of there being one in the bay) but which wasn't seen from the Dundee side anyway, so although on the list for the purpose of this post, it isn't on my personal list for the day, and I still need one for my Dundee 2021 list. The rather limited view provided by the hide these days did allow us to note Common Gull and a pair of Knot before most of the waders flew off, leaving some Redshanks and a lot of gulls on the mud that remained visible. On our way out Lainy spotted a moth and managed to get photos from which I eventually managed to work out it was a July Highflyer.

It still wasn't even 1100 but the temperature had risen quite a bit with the sun shining brightly. A House Martin passed westwards over us and a Buzzard was spotted off to the north. Butterflies were beginning to appear although the wind was stronger than on our previous visit. Small White, Small Tortoiseshell and Large White were picked up quite easily with a Green Veined White and a Small Copper dropping in close to where we were sat at the picnic benches later when we stopped for some lunch. In addition we also saw Peacock and Red Admiral at the Buddleia near the car park which had proven productive previously, later in the day. At the Lochan I spotted an interesting looking caterpillar on the screen itself - which turned out to have been a Grey Dagger moth caterpillar.

I hadn't set any sort of target for the number of species I hoped to see at the park but there were still a few species we'd yet to encounter that are usually quite regular so we kept looking though things felt very quiet overall as the morning turned to afternoon. A Coal Tit and a Sparrowhawk were noted in the vicinity of the car park although a quick once round of the lower half of the park proved disappointing. We'd passed a birder/photographer at the car park and we ran into him round by the picnic tables later and stopped to chat, having just had great views of the Sparrowhawk attempting to hang in the wind above us, and being blown backwards slowly.

It turned out he was Keith Milne, a Fife based birder/photographer who recognised me from some of my online posts - which seems to be happening quite regularly this year at the park (if nothing else it shows that there are folks looking at what I post, which is always welcome). I thought I knew his name too but I may have been confusing him with someone else - though I have now started following him on Flickr. We had another surprise when I happened to look up and saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying in the direction of Invergowrie across the bay. Unfortunately my directions were somewhat lacking and Lainy failed to get onto the bird.

We had another look from the hide and I happened to mention the lack of Kestrels compared to the early years of the park when Kestrel seemed almost guaranteed. As we walked back into the park from the hide I spotted a raptor just to the north and was very surprised to see that it was a Kestrel! Lainy arranged for Adam to pick her up at 1500 and we decided to have a quick blast round the lower half before then. At the Lochan on our way there we added a few Common Darter dragonflies though there were no Damselflies to be seen this time. We bumped into Keith Edwards as we were about to search the lower half and ended up chatting until pick-up time anyway. Adam dropped me off at home which, as always, was very much appreciated.

All in all, a very good day out at the park with 3 Dundee 2021 ticks (Greenshank, Tree Pipit and Tree Sparrow) taking my total to 120 - just 5 short of my target. We managed a total of 56 species of bird in all - only 1 of which was seen outwith the park (and 1 which was only noted from photos later). In addition, despite the stronger winds we also were able to see a total of 8 species of butterfly which is a very decent return, as well as a new moth for me, and a new moth caterpillar. A few individuals of one Dragonfly species rounded off the list for the visit. Thanks again to Lainy for the company/conversation/extra pair of eyes, and Adam for the lift home once again. The record for a day at the park stands at 63 species and was set on the 31st of August. Not sure it is definitely beatable but I will probably try to at least get close to it around that time.




Curlew & Sedge Warbler (?)

Black Headed Gull & Sandwich Tern

Sedge Warbler

Sand Martin

Willow Warbler

Redshank & Common Sandpiper


Reed Bunting

Black Tailed Godwit & Redshank


Reed Bunting & Whitethroat



Tree Pipit

Teal & Redshank

Curlew, Redshank, & Teal


Tree Sparrow

Herring Gull & Great Black Backed Gull

Tree Pipit

Redshank & Dunlin


Sandwich Tern, Black Headed Gull & Lapwing


Black Headed Gull & Mediteranean Gull

Curlew & Black Headed Gull

Dunlin & Redshank

Grey Heron

Curlew, Redshank & Knot

Dunlin, Knot & Redshank

Black Tailed Godwit

Common Darter


Small Tortoiseshell

Meadow Brown



Great Spotted Woodpecker


Lesser Black Backed Gull


House Martin




Common Darter


Birds - Blackbird, Blackcap, Black Headed Gull, Black Tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Greenshank, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Martin, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Knot, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Magpie, Mallard, Mediterranean Gull, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Sand Martin, Sandwich Tern, Sedge Warbler, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Stock Dove, Swallow, Teal, Tree Pipit, Tree Sparrow, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer.

Italics - Not seen at the time, discovered on photo.
Underline - Seen outwith the park only.

Butterflies - Green Veined White, Large White, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White.

Dragonfly - Common Darter.

Moths - Carpet sp., Grey Dagger (caterpillar), July Highflyer

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