Friday, 26 April 2013

Turkey wishlist

Sevgili Baba Noel (Dear Santa)

In my upcoming visit to Turkey I would like to see the following lifers, please
Any sort of Crake
Great Snipe
Scops Owl
Caspian Tern
Moustached Warbler
Audouin's Gull

All other lifers and interesting species gratefully appreciated



Cold, sunny, windy, with nothing at all of note unless you count two 2cy BH Gulls - the species has been absent here for a couple of weeks. Highlights of the morning were this curious Pied Wagtail and an almond croissant with my coffee.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

HOB fights back!

Two Wheatear in a field in NT1390 on the way home from work keeps HOB in touch with Cullaloe

Cullaloe coming up on the rails ...

Escaping my notice yesterday was the emergence of Cullaloe as leader in the Hill of Beath (67) versus Cullaloe (68) "battle of the patches" - bantamweight. Visits to both since then produced the long-awaited Linnet for Cullaloe (now 69) and nothing new for Hill of Beath.

Honours on the warbler front coming up might be expected to go to Cullaloe (Blackcap, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Gropper) whereas a sweep of those would be a very decent result for Hill of Beath - not out of the question though. The first four could be OK, and Gropper certainly breed not very far from there.

To stay in touch it will need to pick up some migrants - might struggle for Sand Martin, at least until autumn when I am more optimistic. Cullaloe, too, could struggle once these summer birds are settled in.

One species I'd love to get for HOB would be Quail - some nicely ploughed fields await, and it still has to pick up GS Woodpecker, which should also be doable. There's quite a strong crossover between the two sites, with the vast majority of the species list shared. The species that aren't shared tell you a bit about the differences between sites:

HOB but not Cullaloe: Whooper Swan, Partridge, Collared Dove, Waxwing (all previously recorded at Cullaloe)

Cullaloe but not HOB: Wigeon, Water Rail, Merlin, Jay, GS Woodpecker, Dipper, Grey Wag

You could guess that Cullaloe's burn is better and more productive (Grey Wag, Dipper), that it has more open water (Wigeon), and that there are more reeds (Water Rail). You'd be right. You might also guess that HOB has more arable fields (Partridge) and more houses (Collared Dove, Waxwing) which would also be true.

Come the autumn, all being well, it should also be apparent that Cullaloe has an advantage in exposed mud, with a handful of wader species to be expected. Hill of Beath will have to make up ground from the skies.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Toad Time

Inverkeithing morning saw nothing especially noteworthy, although a summer-plumaged RT Diver was nice to see.

Lunchtime at Cullaloe produced a pitiful species list, although as is often the case the last five minutes proved the best, with Sparrowhawk taking the total to 68. Beautiful day though, and toads around the spawning ground were probably the highlight.

Short primary projection, black legs

Pair in probable nest area

Mr (?) Toad

Let the spawning begin

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Cullaloe +2

Sand Martin finally at Cullaloe, and a surprise GBB Gull amidst a movement of Herring Gull west over the reserve 13:10-13:50

+2 => 67

After being all on 65% a few days ago, all three patches are now on 67%

Inverkeithing +2

Sand Martins last night and a Whimbrel this morning takes Inverkeithing to 84 species and 67%

One Swallow. Doesn't look like it feels summery

A few days to go before by first break of the year, and over 200 complete Birdtrack lists already. Only 492 short of 5000 records, which I'll be close to by Friday evening - half of my target for the year in four months.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Weekend Garganey (?)

The biggest success of the weekend, and bonus bird,  was undoubtedly the almost immediate showing of the predicted Garganey. Remarkably, though, I didn't also predict Tufted Duck, which ought to have gone with it. The first Tufty group that carried the Garganey was too far out, I thought, to be worth trying to photograph. The second group (see below), was slightly closer, but not by a huge amount. Given the result, I definitely should have tried to photograph the Garganey, but you live and learn. I had kind of hoped that it would be in the harbour, but I'm not complaining! The rareness of these shouldn't be underestimated, with only one sighting in spring last year. This means that on both occasions I have seen Tufties I have seen a Garganey with them. Perhaps even more oddly, there have been 10 Tufties both times.Last year's were on 31st April.

(I have since found out that there was a Scaup in Inverkeithing harbour with Tufties yesterday, and am wondering whether the pale upperwing of a Garganey could be mistaken for the pale upperbody of a Scaup at that distance. Could I have made that mistake? Sadly, I don't think that's entirely impossible. I may have to "reject" that record as unsatisfactory, which is a a bit of a blow. Even worse, I didn't see the Scaup)

More predictably than that, Willow Warbler and Swallow both turned up at Hill of Beath, with WW in every square of my HOB route and a couple of single Swallows, or possibly one that was following me.

Westward bound Tufties

cropped and oomed

Friday, 19 April 2013

Predicted next 10

Cullaloe ...
Sand Martin (23/4)
Linnet (25/4)
Tawny Owl
Sedge Warbler (8/5)
Blackcap (18/5)
Whitethroat (18/5)
Garden Warbler
House Martin
Gropper (18/5)

Next bonus bird ... Marsh Harrier

Actual - Sand Martin (23/4), GBB Gull (23/4), Sparrowhawk (24/4), Linnet (25/4), Sedge Warbler (8/5), Shelduck (14/5), Blackap (18/5), Whitethroat (18/5), Gropper (18/5)

Inverkeithing ...
Sand Martin (22/4)

Common Sandpiper
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern (8/5)
Whitethroat (10/5)
Blackcap (18/5)
Whimbrel (23/4)
Tree Pipit

Next bonus bird ... Garganey

Actual - Tufted Duck (21/4), Scaup (missed, 21/4), Sand Martin (22/4), Whimbrel (23/4), Common Tern(8/5), Whitethroat (10/5), Swift (16/5), Blackcap (18/5), House Martin (20/5)

HOB ...
Willow Warbler (19/4)
Sand Martin
Swallow (20/4)
Tawny Owl
Sedge Warbler (11/5)
Blackcap (18/5)
Whitethroat (11/5)
Garden Warbler
House Martin (12/5)
Gropper (9/5)
Kestrel (already seen - doh!)

Actual - Willow Warbler (19/4), Swallow (20/4), Wheatear (25/4), Tree Sparrow (9/5), Gropper (9/5), Sedge Warbler (11/5), Whitethroat (11/5), House Martin (12/5), Swift (15/5), Blackcap (18/5)

Next bonus bird ... Osprey

How about five?

Five Swallows?

Yep - summer

Species 65 for Cullaloe at lunchtime. Also four Buzzards and there's still a pair of Pochards.

Interestingly this makes all three patches stand at 65%. I feel like this means the targets I have now are probably reasonable since Cullaloe is a known quantity for over a decade and Inverkeithing is probably fairly close.

The ones that got away (again)

Dropped into Cullaloe this morning on a beautiful sunny day - not the best for vismig, but maybe something "springy"? Finally got Bullfinch on the list, bringing the year total up to 64. If you had asked me when the best time to see Bullfinch was I would have said "April, eating emergent leaves" (actually willow catkins), so fair enough - still quite late, though.

As I was about to get into the car to make for Inverkeithing I scanned the horizon and to my surprise a flock of geese was making its way north along the ridge on the east side of the reserve. I had my camera in my hand, but blocked by obstacles I only managed one shot. Naturally, today had to be the day of sunshine, and they had to be between me and the sun! I quickly (ok, desparately) tried to get my scope from the boot, and managed just as it became academic - scope and full sun behind your subject don't mix well. I was pretty sure that they weren't Greylags on structure (head and neck in particular), and as they passed they sounded to me like Beans, although at that point they were behind the ridge. I'll have a look at the photo to see if it reveals anything, although I'm not hopeful.

OK - so in close up you could possibly just about say that the head is more Taiga Bean than Pink-footed, but it would be pushing it to say anything conclusive - gutted. That would have met my target of adding one new species to Cullaloe for the year, as well as being a pretty decent record :(

At Inverkeithing there wasn't much to write home about, although there was another pair of Bullfinch.Also a Turnstone had dropped in, one RB Merganser remained hanging about, and a Swallow briefly quartered the quarry rim, baffling my camera's autofocus for a while, before moving on.

So Cullaloe goes to 64, only one species behind HOB, and has finally picked up Heron and Bullfinch, the most obvious omissions from the year list.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

One Swallow does not a summer make

But it is nice to see all the same!

Before I got out of bed this morning an Oystercatcher peeped it's way over my house, which is the 65th species for hill of Beath this year, and it maintains its slender lead over Cullaloe. I was happy to see a lack of rain and made my way to Inverkeithing in very blustery winds. The Forth Road Bridge was toying with closure to high sided vehicles. The sky was quite bright, and I tucked into a sheltered spot in front of Prestonhill Quarry. Looking out to sea was fairly fruitless due to the waves, although it was nice to watch the Fulmars gambolling around along with the odd gull.

Quickly I could spot migrating finches. These are a nightmare here usually because they pop up on the bushes singing and you're never quite sure if they were there all the time or they just arrived - I'm sure Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Linnets all pass through, but in stealth mode.

This morning there was no doubt though, as trickles of these all, plus Siskins, battled west along the path into the teeth of the wind.Most came in small groups or twos, while Mipits came mostly as singles. In the middle of this came the nicest surprise of the day - my first Swallow of the year. For the second year in a row I have now seen Swallow before Sand Martin.

I took a brief trip to the south side of the harbour, where there is a Sand Martin colony, but there was no sign there either. There were Willow Warblers though, so two new species for the Divit takes it to 81 species, while Hill of Beath goes to 65 species.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Drip, drip drip, little april showers

Woke up early and saw the weather wasn't as bad as anticipated, so I legged it outdoors ASAP. A half hour at Cullaloe under leaden skies provided the first Willow Warblers of the year - a welcome surprise. Sadly by the time I got to Inverkeithing it was starting to rain, and it gradually increased throughout. The wind, though, was nicely calmer at E2 and I actually enjoyed the rain. Light drizzle always reminds me of the Western Isles and being on holiday.

Grey Bridge

Willow Warbler. Honest.

Chiffchaff. One of two or three

Two of over 40 around now

Coming for a look

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

More wind

Wind even worse than yesterday today, with waves in Inverkeithing harbour. Managed 15 minutes at Cullaloe before wind and rain drove me back to the car. A quick survey of Inverkeithing harbour and that was enough for me.

The wind didn't cool the ardour of the Cullaloe toads though

Made a Chiffchaff stop at Dalbeath Marsh LNR on the way home last night and predictably there were also two in song there, so Hill of Beath remains two in front of Cullaloe.

Monday, 15 April 2013

A rather blustery day

Strong westerlies replace strong easterlies and the temperature is up. Unfortunately rain stopped play at Inverkeithing this morning, but not before I finally managed to get Chiffchaff on the list - two singing. Apparently the weekend temperature boost trumped the strong winds. I should have gone to the other side of the harbour to see if any Sand Martin were in, but it didn't occur to me. They'll be in shortly of they're not now anyway.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Mipit Madness

Another grey day today but on Hill of Beath Mipits were everywhere. In half an hour from 6:55 20 came over the top and a short walk around enountered many more making their way north, as well as birds singing and displaying all over and even one with nesting material. Half a dozen Curlew also made their way north and a single Siskin.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Round the houses

A Grand Tour this morning, with half an hour each, more or less, at Cullaloe, Inverkeithing and Merlin Drive, Dunfermline. A very grey start meant ISO1600 on the camera, which is always a pain, but it did improve slightly as the morning wore on.

Cullaloe performed well, with a Chiffchaff (finally!) and a Grey Heron (again, finally!) added to the list, which now stands at 62, only one behind Hill of Beath. I am hoping the fightback will begin, probably with Chiffchaff.

Not much by way of vismig - hence the frequent shifts.Inverkeithing was likewise quiet and added nothing new, including the wind, which was once more easterly and around force 3-4. Booooring, but maybe not in the East Neuk where I am not. There were a couple of incidences of interesting Chaffinch behaviour, where two birds rose up high flapping around each other before descending again. Because they were silhouetted and my camera refused to focus on them I'm still unsure whether this was a pair in courtship or two males in dispute.

On to Merlin Drive and some Mipit and Pied Wag movement was clearer, with 12 Mipit, 5 Pied Wag and a Chaffinch in 20 mins. Mipits were mostly singles almost due east, although there was one group of 6.

This morning also my Birdtrack records go over 4000 for 2013.

Where have you been?

Stock around the clock

Still hanging about about

and its buddy

Display flights from various woodies

Ehhh, Robin

Two from a posse of five

Territorial dispute ...

... didn't go against the odds

Ringed Herring Gull

Update on ringed Herring Gull from yesterday

Looks like my Herring Gull could be from Yorkshire. Waiting further details. Most interesting Herring Gull I've ever seen? Maybe

Thursday, 11 April 2013

First Gannet

Took a detour to Inverkeithing on the way home last night after the rain had gone and picked up the first Gannet of the year. Slightly earlier than last year I think. There was also a Dunlin hanging out with a few Redshanks. Mute Swan nesting is well underway, both here and at Cullaloe, which reminds me I should see if the pair at Hill of Beath is settled in somewhere.

This morning there was not much of interest at all. A Seal had discovered, or caught, something tasty and a Kittiwake brave enough to try and pinch some was then merrily chased up and down by a small flock of gulls. A darvic'd Herring Gull was present (left leg orange 1214), and there seemed to be more Eider around.

The winter visitors are clearing out slowly, while the summer visitors are few and far between.

Does lack of breeding plumage age this Dunlin?

Home maker

First Gannet

One of 15 or so

Ring-legged Gull

Orange 1214

Kittiwake vs Seal vs Gull-pack


Tuesday, 9 April 2013


... with the Easterlies. OK, so thanks for the Grey Phalarope and all but Holy-mother-of-god please stop!

Half hour at Cullaloe this morning saw Feral Pigeon bring up the 60 at last. Still no Chiffs or Sand Martin for me, but a handful of northbound travellers - Mipit (7), Oyc, Curlew, and some probably local breeding Greylags again. Some LBB and Herring Gulls also may fit into that category, but it's hard to know what the Gulls are doing.

Onto Inverkeithing, then, where the wind is worse because there's no shelter. Out on the coastal path is nigh on unbearable and the harbour had little to offer either. There were a similar handful of Mipits and maybe a finch or two (Gold, Green, Linnet), but again hard to tell.

At least all my patches have clocked up the 60% now. Hopefully by the end of the month I'll be looking at more like 70.

Cullaloe Greylags

Nice weather effect (with bonus unidentified migrants!)

Northbound Curlew

Hound Point - yes, no birds

Monday, 8 April 2013

Divit Drought

Still no sign of Chiffchaff nor Sand Martin in the Divit (nor Osprey), although all have been spotted in the Kingdom. Irritating wind in the morning became howling gale by lunchtime. 9.5 degrees showed on my car thermometer and it was still freezing. Kittiwake in the harbour. Actually IN the harbour. Brutal watching conditions and I could only last out half an hour, like this morning.

AM saw a couple of Chaffinch, a Pied Wag and a Mipit North and 8 Siskins south (can't blame them).

Worse than discovering my camera was on ISO 1600 and I had blown out some kice Kittiwake shots, I discovered that the viewing screen was cracked. Not a good lunchtime.

Bonus shot from yesterday