Monday, 10 January 2022

0927 : Broughty Frustration (5/1/22)

Having taken the available opportunities to get out of Dundee to do some birding with Ian on Monday and Tuesday I had to try to add something new to my Dundee list on Wednesday. Unlike last year's list there were no really obvious targets that were more probable than just possible. My original plan for my days off had been to visit both Riverside Nature Park and Balmossie twice before I had to return to work. Weighing up the options I decided that Balmossie looked marginally more promising for actually delivering new birds for the Dundee 140 list. I was hoping in particular that the Great Northern Diver might still be around, as well as Sanderling, Grey Plover and Red Throated Diver. With Sanderling and Grey Plover both being rather late additions in previous years, they were far from guaranteed though both had been seen relatively recently when I've visited.


Thoughts of an early start fell through again so I headed out around 1020 for the walk to Balmossie. I hoped I would still have a decent amount of time to watch the tide coming in before I headed back home, hopefully with a few new additions on the list. Feral Pigeon, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Magpie and Blue Tit were immediate additions to the list when I stepped outside. House Sparrow followed a minute later with Starling and Jackdaw a little further on. I reached Swannie Ponds around 1035. It was standard fayre there with Mallard, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Coot, Common Gull, Black Headed Gull and Herring Gull. There was no sign of either Moorhen or Goosander, both of which I had managed to see on the 1st.

My next birding spot was Eastern Cemetery with Dunnock noted on the way there. Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush, Redwing and a Song Thrush were noted as I passed through the graveyard, though it seemed extremely quiet. The first mammal of the day was also seen there - a Grey Squirrel. I added Great Tit and Goldfinch on the walk to the Stannergate. Once again, it was a fairly normal mix of birds that I found on the shoreline, and out on the river - Oystercatcher, Curlew, Goldeneye, Red Breasted Merganser, Turnstone, Redshank and Eider. I was hoping that things would pick up a bit once I reached Broughty Ferry. Pied Wagtail and Rock Pipit were noted near the castle and a Shag was on the rocky island just offshore.

From the raised viewpoint of the castle I could see there was a decent sized flock of Bar Tailed Godwits on the beach a few hundred metres east. Between me and them were a number of dogs and their walkers. It was almost certain the Godwits would not be there by the time I walked the relatively short distance along to see them. Sure enough just minutes later, they were gone, along with the Oystercatchers and Redshanks that had also been nearby. A small flock of Wigeon headed for Fife from the Balmossie area. Knowing there was little likelihood of adding any waders on the stretch ahead of me with the dog walkers still on the beach, and along the water's edge, I decided to visit the small nature reserve.

This proved to be even less productive than the recent very quiet visits with only Wren and Coal Tit found. I headed back to the waterfront and walked along the fenceline. A Cormorant was seen flying by. I found that the Bar Tailed Godwits had relocated to the rougher bit of beach that the Dunlins and Ringed Plovers (both present) seem to favour. There were also a few Knot as well as Oystercatchers, Redshanks, and Turnstones. As I had wandered along the fenceline I had spotted a 'birder' with binoculars walking up to the few birds still around sending them fleeing in all directions. Undeterred he'd do the same with the next few birds (mostly Godwitts, Redshanks and Wigeon). With hundreds of birds ahead of him and no indication he intended to leave the water's edge I could see what was about to happen.

I intercepted him just short of the Godwits and asked him if he was intending continuing along the water's edge. He said he was. I pointed out that he would flush everything, as he'd already done to the few birds that he'd already encountered. His answer was that the birds would be better off 'over there' anyway (gesturing in a Fife-wards direction). Given that there was nothing to stop the birds from being there already, it was clearly not their preferred destination. I explained that I've been trying to explain to the dog walkers about not flushing the birds as they try to feed/roost to which he commented ' good luck with that!' - oblivious seemingly to the fact that they at least had the benefit of having the excuse of being ignorant of the birds need for the beach, unlike himself. He mainatained that he was not 'new' to birding, so he was seemingly well aware of what he was doing and the outcome. He eventually wandered off a bit further up the beach and headed towards Balmossie, where he ventured out onto the pipe (I've seen him do this before from a distance) flushing the closer waders and gulls. The numbers were relatively small compared to what he would have managed to clear from the beach had I not said anything.

The exchange had annoyed me, perhaps more than it should have, but what chance do the birds have if the dog walkers can watch as 'birder's flush everything and then justifiably be able to argue that why is it ok for 'birders' to do that, but not for them? Given that there are relatively few areas of completely undisturbed wader feeding/roosting areas on shorelines between Aberdeen and the borders, attempting to minimise disturbance where there will likely always be some, should be the very least that we, as birders, should be trying to achieve. Rant over......back to the birds.

At the burn mouth I added a few more Goldeneye and a couple of Great Black Backed Gulls. A Grey Wagtail popped in by the outflow but was spooked by more walkers. A very distant swan towards Barry Buddon was a lone Whooper Swan, new for my Dundee 140 list and a pair of Common Scoters were photographed in flight out over the river. I had a chat with a trio of Jehovah's Witnesses about the birds on the shore and inadvertantly managed to persuade them to try not to flush the birds along the shore when out walking in future. In contrast to the earlier 'birder', a younger guy with a very large video camera and tripod got himself into position to film the waders as the tide came in down on the shore, without disturbing anything and was ignored by the birds feeding close by. He was just packing up as I left, so I didn't get a chance to ask if the footage was for anything in particular.

I was still rather irritated as I walked back homewards and didn't manage to add anything new except a Grey Heron in flight before I reached the end of the docks. There was a Grey Seal drifting around around the lifeboat station and from halfway along the Stannergate I noticed that there were hundreds of birds in the air around Tentsmuir Point, though too distant to work out which species, or even which family of birds they were. Needless to say, something had disturbed a LOT of birds. A small bird flew into the tree ahead of me, and a quick check, and a photograph or two, gave me my first Dundee Linnet of 2022. Across the other side of the road a small party of Long Tailed Tits picked through the trees with Rabbits feeding below them on the ground. My only other addition to the list for the day was a Sparrowhawk which flew up into trees by the Mayfield playing fields before flying off again seconds later.

I arrived home around 1615, still frustrated and annoyed by the earlier encounter, having seen/heard 50 species, of which 3 were new for my Dundee 140 list, taking me past the halfway mark to 71. I do have a photo of the 'gentleman' in question but I'm not going to post it here (for now) in case he has reconsidered his birding 'strategy' since Wednesday. I suspect our paths will cross again and I will be able to see for myself. Incidentally, I do know of another relatively local birder who has been known to check that area who is likely to be a LOT less polite/diplomatic should their paths happen to cross (if he's still flushing everything in his path).

Herring Gull
Red Breasted Merganser
Bar Tailed Godwit
Bar Tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Dunlin
Wigeon, Ringed Plover, Dunlin & Bar Tailed Godwit
Bar Tailed Godwit
Bar Tailed Godwit, Knot & Oystercatcher
Redshank, Curlew & Bar Tailed Godwit
Herring Gull, Goldeneye & Oystercatcher
Bar Tailed Godwit & Knot
Great Black Backed Gull
Dunlin & Turnstone
Rock Pipit
Pied Wagtail
Common Scoter
Pied Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
Grey Seal
Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull & Common Gull
Turnstone & Redshank
Red Breasted Merganser
Disturbance around Tentsmuir Point
Herring Gull

Birds - Bar Tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Common Gull, Common Scoter, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Eider, Goldeneye, Goldfinch, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Knot, Linnet, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Redwing, Ringed Plover, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit, Shag, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Tufted Duck, Turnstone, Whooper Swan, Wigeon, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Mammals - Grey Seal, Grey Squirrel, Rabbit.

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