Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Skywatching In The Sunshine (8/9/21)

Something I've been intending to do for a few years now but which I hadn't yet got around to doing, was to get up early during Autumn migration time and head to the summit of Dundee Law (a 500ft hill in the middle of the city) to see what passes by. From observations on my walk to work I suspected that at least some birds use it as a navigational aid and there is always the chance that something unexpected might turn up. With some fog forecast for first thing in the morning on Wednesday followed by unseasonably hot temperatures I decided that it would be as good a time as any to give vis-migging from the hill a go, as it doesn't take too long to get to, and I could sit and watch from one of the benches. Unfortunately I didn't get up in time which meant that by the time I was ready to go, I'd lost the first 2 hours of daylight - which tend to be the more productive time of day. However, as always, nothing ventured, nothing gained....

Sparrowhawk

I headed out at about 0835 to what was already a warm morning with slightly hazy blue skies above. I had only gone a very short distance when the first few Meadow Pipits passed overhead. I then added Robin, Feral Pigeon, House Sparrow, Herring Gull, Magpie, Goldfinch, Jackdaw and Carrion Crow before I reached the top of the Hilltown. The walk from there up to the top of the Law added Starling, Coal Tit, Blue Tit and Chiffchaff to the list. I found a spot near the back of the hill and began noting what I saw and heard. There was a small group of House Martins hawking just to the west of the hill but they seemed to move on after a minute or two.

Meadow Pipits were heard and seen, generally single birds or pairs, though there were a few larger groups as the morning progressed. There were some Swallows noted too, both adults and youngsters. The Tay was very much fogbound and it might have proven more productive to have been closer to the river, however there was a fairly steady movement of birds, mostly Meadow Pipits, Swallows and House Martins. I heard Song Thrush and Blackbird from further down the hill. Around 0930 the first Grey Wagtail of the morning headed over westwards. Ten minutes or so later the first Sparrowhawk of the morning put in an appearance. A Chaffinch was seen in flight briefly though it appeared to be a resident bird rather than one moving through.

Around 0945, I turned round to see a large bird passing the top of the hill. It was an unexpected Osprey carrying a half-eaten fish. I watched it continue roughly northwest before it circled higher in the sky somewhere near Clatto Reservoir (I think). A Wren was heard alarming loudly somewhere down the slope behind the hill. A Siskin was then heard around 1015. A Red Admiral butterfly flitted past also heading west. Things began to quieten down a little about this time though it was still the same main 3 species moving and a few more single Grey Wagtails. I had another few views of Sparrowhawk hunting around the hill. Scanning to the north added Black Headed Gull and Lesser Black Backed Gull.

As the fog cleared from the river I was able to add a Seal species and a few Cormorants on a small sandbank just south of the V&A museum building. A Small White butterfly and another Red Admiral were also seen. After 4 hours counting I totalled up what I'd seen and heard - there were numerous Meadow Pipits in particular that passed by unseen so the numbers are a minimum based on calls or actual sightings. There were 2 Siskins, 45 House Martins, 35 Swallows, 5 Grey Wagtails and 87 Meadow Pipits. I had a couple more views of Sparrowhawks and 2 Buzzards before I called it a day and headed for home and the chance to get out of the sunshine and unseasonal heat.

While not overly exciting with regards the species on the move, nor the total number of species recorded (broadly similar to a walk to work) I would say it was a worthwhile experiment and given the lack of likely opportunities to get further afield it is something I will probably attempt again this Autumn. It is only a mile or so from home so the only effort required is a 15 minute walk (and the getting out of bed thing, of course). I managed a total of 27 species, mostly on the way to the hill, rather than from the top. The Osprey was a welcome bonus bird and it was particularly interesting that it headed inland to the northwest given that we are in September and most Ospreys will probably have headed south by this time next week.

House Martin


House Martin


Chaffinch


Grey Wagtail


Meadow Pipit


Sparrowhawk


Sparrowhawk


Herring Gull


House Martin


Meadow Pipit


Carrion Crow


House Martin


Meadow Pipit


Carrion Crow


Swallow


Swallow


Swallow


Osprey


Osprey


Osprey


Osprey


Osprey


Herring Gull


House Martin


House Martin


Herring Gull


Meadow Pipit


Meadow Pipit


Meadow Pipit


Sparrowhawk


Sparrowhawk


Carrion Crow


Magpie


Meadow Pipit


Sparrowhawk


Sparrowhawk


Sparrowhawk


Meadow Pipit


Herring Gull


Meadow Pipit


Cormorant & Seal sp.


Swallow


Swallow


Carrion Crow


Swallow


Sparrowhawk


Buzzard

Birds - Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Grey Wagtail, Herring Gull, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Magpie, Meadow Pipit, Osprey, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Swallow Wren.

Butterflies - Red Admiral, Small White.

Mammals - Seal sp.

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