Tuesday, 22 February 2022

0942 : The Joy Of Six (19/2/22)

As I've mentioned in the previous post, the weather on Saturday was probably the best it has been so far in 2022 and birding was a must. Having had the surprise sighting of the 'mystery Falcon' as I was getting organised to head out, my enthusiasm levels had increased and I was really looking forward to getting out. My plan was to head for the Dighty Burn between Whitfield and Douglas in the hope of finally catching up with a Dundee Kingfisher this year. If I was unsuccessful I would continue on to the lower reaches of the burn before it arrived at Balmossie, in the hope that I might find one somewhere along there. Then I would check the birds around the burn mouth before heading home along the river front. With blue skies and little wind the conditions were almost perfect for February.

Buzzard

I headed out a bit later than planned because of the Falcon's interruption to my preparations, at just after 1015. Herring Gull, Blue Tit, Magpie, Feral Pigeon, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Carrion Crow and Woodpigeon were all noted as I headed up to Clepington Road. My intention was to have a quick look at Swannie Ponds on my way past. A skein of Pink Footed Geese passed westwards to the north and Blackbird, Starling and Greenfinch were spotted before I actually reached the ponds. It was a typical mix of birds there with Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Coots, a Moorhen pair, Goosanders and Mute Swans, as well as Black Headed, Common and Herring Gulls. I continued down the Kingsway and along Longtown Road to Douglas Road.

I reached the bridge over the burn at around 1045, around 30 minutes after having left the house. Oystercatchers were heard and a few Goldfinches were noted before I spooked a pair of Collared Doves from the water's edge where they had been out of sight below the banking. Moving on again, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Chaffinches were all seen in the trees bordering the football pitches. With a bit of effort I finally spotted a small flock of Redwings I could hear calling in the treetops. There were a number of birds loitering around some feeders that someone was refilling as I passed, but there was nothing new for my list for the day among them.

To the north I spotted a distant raptor circling and dug into my bag to get the camera out. The way it circled I suspected it was probably a Peregrine. Unfortunately it had disappeared behind the trees by the time I got the camera out. A passing dog walker stopped to chat and by the time she'd gone there was a falcon in view to the north. This one was a Kestrel. It may have been the bird seen earlier or it may have just been coincidental. A few minutes later I spotted a very distant Buzzard being harassed by a corvid and above them both was a Sparrowhawk. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew past as I chatted to another dog walker.

I then continued on along the edge of the burn scanning ahead for Kingfisher. Instead I found Lainy, out enjoying the great birding conditions too. We had a slow wander on along the burn, noting a Song Thrush and the first Dipper of the morning. Long Tailed Tits and Goldcrests flitted around in the trees before we spooked an unseen male Pheasant which flew off across the burn. Another Buzzard was seen soaring high in the sky, which drew unwanted attention from a Peregrine. We snapped photos as the Peregrine repeatedly swooped at the Buzzard before losing interest and both birds going their separate ways.

We were watching a pair of Dippers around 15 minutes later when I spotted a raptor to the north. I expected it to be the Peregrine again but it wasn't. Incredibly it was the same falconer's escaped bird I'd seen earlier from home but now relocated around 2.5 miles further to the east. We both took photos as the bird circled over the recycling plant buildings. The gull flock which roosts on the roofs had all taken flight and were making a lot of noise. I glanced up at them to see why and spotted a large dark shape among the circling birds. "White Tailed Eagle!" I said to Lainy who had also just spotted the bird. The falcon was forgotten about as we concentrated on the Eagle. I pointed the bird out to a passing walker who was trying to see what we were photographing. The Eagle was once again the female bird from Fife with two wing tag attachment points visible on our photos.

As we were photographing the Eagle, something caught my eye almost directly above us, but much higher than the gulls and Eagle. This turned out to be a Sparrowhawk and within a few seconds it had been joined by a second Sparrowhawk. By this time the Eagle had drifted back south of the burn and incredibly yet another raptor species showed up as a Kestrel then flew past us. We had seen 6 species of raptor in less than 20 minutes along a very short stretch of the path by the burn, and all within the city boundaries. We were both sporting big grins by this point, finding it hard to believe what had just happened. Around 20 minutes later another trio of Buzzards put in an appearance with one being forced down by the crows and which then gave us great views as it perched on the buildings to the north, watching us intently as we photographed it posing nicely in the sunshine with the blue sky behind.

A pair of Bullfinches and a Grey Wagtail were noted as we reached the end of the path by the road. We had intended on crossing and checking out the next stretch of the burn but instead decided to head north along the smaller burn which ran along the front of the forner Michelin factory site. By this time I'd made up my mind I wasn't going to continue on to Balmossie so we decided to do some exploring instead. We had good views of a Grey Heron which was starting to show breeding colours around the eyes and bill base on a small half-hidden and mostly frozen pond alongside a pair of Mallards. We decided to try to find the track along the burn which I'd explored the other end of. We found a likely looking track and sure enough found it took us to where I hoped it would.

Unfortunately things were rather quiet in among the trees except for a few tits and finches and the odd Wren. We discovered that the burn had recently overflowed making the track rather wet along most of its length in below the trees. However, there was enough of a dry-ish route to ensure we didn't get too wet. Rather unexpectedly we found ourselves at the end of Barlow Avenue having just spooked a Grey Heron from the side of the burn. From here we added Jackdaws, Curlews, more Oystercatchers, Rooks, another Buzzard, and some Black Headed Gulls. A Pied Wagtail was heard but not seen. After a bit of a break to have something to eat and to decide on where to go next we headed back along the edge of the burn to where it met the Dighty again.

A Siskin was added before we headed back across the main road to the stretch of burn where we'd been earlier. We spent some time watching the Dippers along here, including a territorial dispute between 2 birds flying parallel to the burn and around 10 feet in the air by the path, with at least one of the two birds singing loudly as they sped by us. This is the second time I've seen this sort of behaviour in this area. They flew past us again a little later. A birding friend I haven't seen for a few years, Joan, and her son, stopped for a brief chat before Lainy and I headed back along the path. There was no sign of any Kingfisher, but we had more views of the Dippers, including a bird that I'd seen the previous week, which looked like it could be a Black Bellied Dipper, a continental bird here for the winter, rather than one of the locals. A Jay was spotted by Lainy perched low in a tree near where I had Water Rail earlier in the year.

There were a few Coal Tits with Great and Blue Tits around the feeders as well as a Robin. We decided to walk up to Swannie Ponds to round off the day's birding. We stopped to photograph a very confiding Grey Heron a little further on, which only flew across to the far side of the burn when another 2 pairs of walkers stopped beside us for a look. Another Buzzard cruised by very high in the sky as I photographed a Carrion Crow perched on a fence. As we headed up Douglas Road, I mentioned having seen Roe Deer on a piece of wasteground by the junction with Ballindean Road. As I was about to point out where they had been I noticed that there were actually 3 of them in behind the fence, despite the time of day. At Swannie Ponds we had good views of Coots, Goosander and some of the gulls. There were 3 ringed Black Headed Gulls seen, all Norwegian birds - the former JN69 (which has lost its plastic ring), Green J63P (whose plastic ring is also damaged now) and White JMK7, all of which are regulars in winter around the ponds.

As the sun disappeared into the thin layer of clouds the light began to go and we reluctantly decided to call it a day. Adam arrived to pick up Lainy and I walked back along the road. Although I had only managed to note 49 species (unless I add in the 'mystery Falcon to make it 50) it had been a really enjoyable and memorable day's birding. The 6 species of raptors in 20 minutes and all from more or less the same spot is something I've only come close to doing once before - with 5 species in one of the Angus Glens early in 2020. The 5 that day were 3 Golden Eagles, a White Tailed Eagle, a Red Kite or two, a Peregrine and a Buzzard. With a Red Kite having been seen this week over at Morton Lochs and St Andrews it surely can't be too long before Red Kite starts to appear more regularly around the eastern end of the city. Fingers are crossed, having seen one last year over the western edge from Riverside Nature Park on two occasions. I make no apologies for the amount of photos illustrating this post below (it was a very good day's birding).

Pink Footed Goose
Kestrel
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Buzzard
Peregrine
Peregrine
Buzzard & Peregrine
Peregrine
Peregrine
Pheasant
Dipper
Buzzard
(Saker? Falcon)
(Saker? Falcon)
(Saker? Falcon)
White Tailed Eagle
White Tailed Eagle
Herring Gull & White Tailed Eagle
Herring Gull & White Tailed Eagle
Sparrowhawk
Herring Gull & White Tailed Eagle
Kestrel
Kestrel
Sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawk
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Dipper (possibly a Black-Bellied Dipper)
Dipper
Buzzard
Dipper
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Buzzard
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Grey Heron
Curlew & Oystercatcher
Starling
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Dipper
Buzzard
Buzzard
Dipper
Grey Heron
Jay
Coal Tit
Coal Tit
Grey Heron
Grey Heron
Grey Heron
Grey Heron
Carrion Crow
Coot
Coot
Black Headed Gull
Coot
Coot
Coot
Black Headed Gull
Black Headed Gull
Black Headed Gull (white JMK7)
Black Headed Gull (former green JN69 & J63P)
Common Gull
Coot
Coot
Black Headed Gull (former green JN69 & green J63P)
Coot
Coot
Coot
Black Headed Gull
Coot
Black Headed Gull
Black Headed Gull
Herring Gull
Common Gull
Carrion Crow
Goosander
Goosander
Herring Gull
Goosander
Goosander
Goosander
Goosander
Goosander
Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck
Mallard
Tufted Duck
Black Headed Gull
Common Gull
Tufted Duck
Black Headed Gull
Common Gull
Common Gull

Birds - Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Coot, Curlew, Dipper, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Jay, Kestrel, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Pink Footed Goose, Redwing, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rook, (Saker? Falcon), Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Tufted Duck, White Tailed Eagle, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Mammals - Roe Deer.

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