Monday, 7 February 2022

0937 : Consolation Prize (6/2/22)

The weekend was rather frustrating with rain on Saturday and a chill wind making birding rather pointless and unlikely to be particularly enjoyable in the conditions. On Sunday, there were snow showers forecast, some of which apparently did arrive - though I wasn't lookimg outside at the time and managed to miss the heaviest of these. The sky did partially clear around lunchtime and I decided that I would head out somewhere. Caird Park and the Dighty Burn for Kingfisher were my chosen locations and target bird. Given that it was still relatively windy I didn't think my chances were particularly great of catching up with a Kingfisher but I certainly wasn't going to see one while I was sat at home. There were a few other slim possibilities too that I might chance upon - Lesser Redpoll, Fieldfare and Brambling in particular.

Jack Snipe

I headed out just after noon for the walk to Caird Park. I decided to go via Arklay Street and Graham Street rather than Court Street and Mains Loan, though I wasn't expecting to see too much regardless of which route I chose to take. Herring Gull and Woodpigeon were no surprise to start the list off. It then took a few minutes before I managed to add anything else - Feral Pigeons, in this instance. House Sparrow and Blue Tit were noted as I neared Clepington Road. Goldfinch and Carrion Crow were both seen on Graham Street but as there was a football match being played on the playing fields near the bottom I didn't manage to add any gulls there.

There were golfers out on the 18 hole golf course which again didn't help with seeing too much on the walk down to the Gelly Burn. Chaffinch, Wren and Siskin were noted on that stretch however. At the top pond there were a couple of Mallard upending to feed and the Grey Heron was stood on a branch of a tree on the island, which did make for a different photo to those I've taken there before of the (assumed) same bird. A Magpie flew into one of the trees nearby and a Moorhen was seen on the lower pond along with some more Mallards. Not unexpectedly there was no sign of any Kingfisher. A Black Headed Gull drifted over and a Jay called noisily from a tree by the path up to the castle, as a Blackbird picked around on the slope opposite.

I managed to add Long Tailed Tit to the list near the old graveyard opposite Mains Castle before I wandered down to the Dighty Burn to check the area near the small weir where I've found Kingfisher previously. High overhead I spotted a Buzzard slowly drifting on the wind. A second bird glided over to join it before both disappeared over the trees into the park. There was no sign of any Kingfisher on the burn so I wandered upstream along the old road which runs next to the burn. I hadn't gone too far before I heard a Dipper singing and managed to spot it perched on a fallen branch. It flew a short distance to a stone in the middle of the burn where I was able to get a few decent photos which showed the bird was ringed and although most of the ring was readable I think I'm likely missing the last digit, meaning I'm unlikely to be able to get a full history for the bird.

I wandered on again, passing a few more Long Tailed Tits and Blue Tits in a hedge along with the first Great Tits of the day. I almost walked right past a pair of Bullfinches feeding on buds in the trees on the opposite side of the track. When I realised they were there I stopped and watched them for a few minutes. I had chosen to travel relatively light with my Nikon D7100 & Tamron 150-600mm instead of my usual gear and I found it rather frustrating as I tried to get it to focus on what I wanted it to. Despite this I did manage to get some reasonable photos of the pair before I continued on to the small Trottick Ponds nature reserve.

Among the Mallards and Tufted Ducks on the water there were a few Goosander as well as the local Mute Swans, Coots and Moorhens. A pair of uncharacteristically tame Moorhens came in close to within a foot or two of where I was, which did mean I got better Moorhen photos than I usually manage, despite the focus issues. The local Black Headed Gull flock were checked for ringed birds but I failed to see any. I added Coal Tit to the list as I wandered further round the reserve. Overall however there seemed to be more people around than there were birds.

I spotted an area of reeds and brambles that I'd never really paid any attention to before. I decided it warranted at least a quick look. I could see that within the main area of reeds there was what looked to be a slightly wetter and more open area. I wondered about the possibility of Snipe and cursed myself under my breath for having left the thermal imager at home. I managed to pick a route through the reeds to this more open area. Just as I reached the edge up went two birds. There was the distinctive Snipe alarm call as they both flew off. One landed at the other end of the open area while the other flew around the area before flying off to the north before returning and landing again.

Jack Snipe seemed to be a possibility given the behaviour of the bird which had landed quickly compared to the other bird which I had managed to get poor photos which showed it to be the expected Snipe. I considered the possibility of access to the other end of the open area as I could see that there was raised banking which overlooked it. If it was possible to look into the area from there then I could come back again with the thermal imager and get a better idea of how many birds there might be unseen among the vegetation without any need to get too close. I wandered round for a better look.

I was in luck, it was indeed possible to pick my way past a few stray thorny Bramble branches to where I could look down into the wet area. Up went a single bird. It gained some height and flew around the area twice before dropping down again and landing towards the area where it had been earlier. I had attempted to get a few photos and was sure I'd managed to get some sort of photos but I didn't look at them at the time. I was distracted by some movement among the reeds. A black cat-like animal skulked away while I tried to get the camera to focus and failed. It appeared to have a longer tail than a 'normal' cat and appeared to be a little larger, though compared to a Border Collie seen from a similar distance shortly after, I suspect it was just a slightly larger 'normal' cat after all.

Also in among the the reeds was a pair of Roe Deer, one of which watched me warily before I wandered off again so as not to cause any further unnecessary disturbance. This was the first time I've seen Roe Deer in this particular area, though I have seen them a little further up the hill to the north before. I knew Snipe was new for my Dundee 2022 list but I talked myself out of the other bird being a Jack Snipe as I hadn't really had a good look at it, and the ID was more or less based on the typically Jack Snipe behaviour. Still, it was good to find a site for Snipe given the drying out of the previous 'good' site at Riverside Nature Park. However, when I got home and looked at the photos on the PC it transpired that the second bird which flew around was indeed a Jack Snipe - my second Dundee 2022 (and year-tick) of the day. An unexpectedly nice consolation for missing out on Kingfisher.

I headed back down past the ponds adding Jackdaw and Robin before crossing the 9 hole golf course in Caird Park for another look at the ponds. Goldcrest, Oystercatcher and Grey Squirrel were all noted on the walk across the course and there were a few more Jays seen by the ponds. A Dunnock picked around on the path ahead of me by the lower pond. I decided not to divert to check Swannie Ponds having seen most of the species I was likely to see there (bar Common Gull) and instead headed for home. I realised I hadn't seen Starling just seconds before I heard one 'singing' and spotted it on a chimney opposite as I wandered back down Court Street. The Starling took my total for the day's outing to 35 species of which 2 (in bold) were year-ticks as well as Dundee 2022 ticks. My total for Dundee this year is now at 83 species. Only 57 species required to reach the target figure of 140 now....

Grey Heron
Mallard
Grey Heron
Buzzard
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Bullfinch
Bullfinch
Bullfinch
Bullfinch
Bullfinch
Bullfinch
Bullfinch
Long Tailed Tit
Long Tailed Tit
Tufted Duck
Moorhen
Goosander, Black Headed Gull & Coot
Goosander
Goosander
Black Headed Gull
Black Headed Gull
Tufted Duck
Moorhen
Moorhen
Black Headed Gull
Black Headed Gull
Moorhen
Moorhen
Moorhen
Moorhen
Coot
Snipe
Jack Snipe
Roe Deer
Chaffinch
Dunnock
Jay
Jay

Birds - Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Coot, Dipper, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jack Snipe, Jackdaw, Jay, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Siskin, Snipe, Starling, Tufted Duck, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Mammals - Grey Squirrel, Roe Deer.

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