Friday, 23 August 2013

Cullaloe Green Sand and Spain

Green Sand still at Cullaloe - or another one, which is also possible.

Spain next week. Trying to keep expectations low as I won't be especially birding much, but Bonelli's Eagle, Rufous Bush Chat, White-rumped Swift, Little Swift and Purple Gallinule all contenders and welcome to join me. Also you, Red-necked Nightjar and any African strays also welcome. Come on - you know you want to! Not to mention other great birds which I've seen but would be more than happy to get re-acquainted with. Should be plenty vultures, eagles, kites, hawks - ¡hola!

Divit delight!

Star of this morning's show, without further ado, my first Divit Little Gull! Long awaited and missed last year, presumably annual, and now finally mine. I was just scanning the gantry for Common and Black-headed Gull, Med Gull in the back of my mind, when wait ... what's that? Juvenile Little Gull - maybe my favourite Gull species. No, definitely my favourite gull species. It hung around for a bit with the smaller gulls and a few Common Tern, before heading off east.

I had already seen a Common Sand take off from the rocks near Stone marine and head towards St. David's Bay, and although vismig as pretty slow - not unusual for slight easterlies - it was a good morning, with a raft of 400 Teal also to be seen, some of which dropped into Preston Hill Quarry. None that came close enough could be picked out as something different (Garganey, Shoveler, e.g.), and I'm slightly concerned that being away next week will mean missing the Anas rush, but I'll take this anyway. Little Gull is the 99th species for the year and means I am exactly where i was at this time last year.



A bit closer

Cormorant flypast

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Preston Hill Quarry underwater map

Shamelessly Stolen from Edinburgh Uni subaqua club, and showing the predictable contents of the quarry

Up before the beaks

Lunchtime Cullaloe - 2 Black-tailed Godwit, one Snipe, one juvenile Water Rail. No Kingfisher, but still not a bad visit on a foggy day that made me wonder if I should have tried Inverkeithing instead. Still, after this morning's poor showing there it didn't deserve the attention. One more day of trying to squeeze another tick or two out of my patches before I can move on to mis-identifying more exotic things in the south of Spain. Hurrah!


Water Rail


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Cullaloe wader gaffe horror!

Bumped into Derek Robertson at Cullaloe and with his help managed a re-calibration of my wader ID. 5 Black-tailed Godwits which were there earlier had moved on but one wader remained - the "needed" Green Sandpiper. I could not at all convince myself that it was a Green Sand, such was its light tone, but with the aid of Derek's 'scope I was able to see it stretching and revealing its white rump, and also the "spangling" of light marks on the back which made it lighter. I've seen hundreds of them, so I was quite taken aback. The Collins Guide (and RSPB website) describe it as "almost black", and "like a large House Martin" - this is exactly what I was expecting. Could it be that I've only ever seen adults? Either way a terrible gaffe, so no excuses. I may have finally noticed from the Godwit photos of yesterday that I had mis-identified the Sandpiper, but I doubt it...

Godwit and Green Sandpiper


The tone I expected - "large House Martin"

Actual House Martins, migrants probably downed by rain

Cullaloe wades further ahead

Two Black-tailed Godwits at Cullaloe last night (and 2 Common Sand) moves Cullaloe further ahead of Hill of Beath. Another more-or-less predictable species, but glad to see them come in. Cracking orangey-red specimens too. There were also about 25 House Martin loitering around on the telegraph wires, maybe grounded by the rain - not locals, as there aren't that many through the summer, if any.

This morning only 1 Common Sand was left, but the car park area was swarming with Willow Warblers and a fair selection of other more common species feeding in the trees and umbellifers. Some of them were clearly this year's, if not even this week's.

On a side note, I still have not recorded Kestrel at Cullaloe in 2013.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

500 trek lists at Inverkeithing, 400 2013 lists on Birdtrack

Today's Inverkeithing visi, after a stop-off at Cullaloe, brought up my 500th list submitted to trektellen and my 400th Birdtrack list of the year. Shame there was no major bird to mark the occasion, but it was a pleasant enough morning. Didn't pick up any waders at Cullaloe, where the Teal numbers have now risen to c50 and a GS Woodpecker stopped by to say "Hi". Inverkeithing was pretty quiet too. Wih only a few days until I go to Spain I am concerned that I will miss my annual Long-tailed Skua, but I'm sure there will be other chances.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Mixed bag

45 minutes at Inverkeithing this morning turned up a nice variety after Cullaloe produced 3 Snipe by way of waders. Not stellar, but better than nothing. Hopefully I'll be able to take a decent couple of snaps during this vismig period, but it's very tricky with small and fast birds as evidenced below.

Goldfinch passing

Tree Pipits. Honest

Friday, 16 August 2013

Tree Pipit tremendum

Incredible morning at Inverkeithing, with Tree Pipits piercing the air with their lispy shouts throughout. I recorded 8, but in reality there were times where I was quite sure there was more than one bird.

Birders know that the mind can play tricks, so I did go to Xeno Canto to re-assure myself that I wasn't going nuts and recording Mipits (quite early for them anyway). There are three main differences between the calls for me. Firstly, Tree Pipits always sound like they're angry to me. They really spit out their flight call as opposed to the Mipits more gentle tseep, although that can be quite loud at times too. Secondly, Mipit call is slightly higher. But the most important is, thirdly, the lispy nature of the Tree Pipit call. It's kind of "smudgy". Even in the sonogram the second two differences are clearly seen. The trailing edge of the Tree Pipit call is less distinctly demarcated. There's also the differences in flight jizz. I can see now the comparison between Tree Pipit and Little Pecker, but I'm not convinced that Mipits mever look like that. not yet anyway - the season is young.

Meadow Pipit flight call

Tree Pipit flight call

Since flypast Tree Pipits are hard to photograph here are a Common Tern and Curlew (female based on long bill?) instead. Also one Crossbill at Cullaloe this morning, but no waders.

(footnote: Mysterium Tremendum - Noted atheists Christopher Hitchens, Carl Sagan, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have maintained that the idea is not necessarily a religious one and expressed their views on the importance of separating the numinous from belief in the super-natural. E.g., when one experiences awe and fascination with natural phenomenon such as majestic landscapes, night sky or deep appreciation of fellow human creations such as art and engineering marvels. At times like these a feeling of the numinous would be capable of overwhelming the mind and body, yet it would not necessarily to be interpreted as supernatural or of divine origin. AS - for example a cracking run of Tree Pipits or a Leach's Petrel at Inverkeithing)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Divit Goosanders

Took a trip to Inverkeithing at lunchtime following reports of 5 Poms past Dalgety Bay (not that I wasn't going anyway). No Skuas were seen but a nice group of 13 Goosander were in St. David's Bay and a Common Sandpiper feeding on the edge of the seaweed. Wanted to try to get a shot of the Common Sand but it scarpered while I was busy with the sawbills.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Cullaloe lunch

Early lunch because of a 1pm conference call. No waders at Cullaloe, but 3 Common Buzzard and a couple of Ravens in a thermal at 12:45. Bit far for pics, but here's a sketchy profile shot of one of the Ravens.

Divit Grey Wags

Dropped into Cullaloe this morning (and last night) and no Green Sand for me. No worries - it won't be the last this season unless it's a very odd year. Nothing much else of interest was happening there either.

At Inverkeithing in the almost still air there was a bit of movement, with the expected levels and species involved - a couple of Grey Wags, a Tree Pipit (and maybe a couple more indistinctly heard), and a blogging Common Sand.

I did do a quick check whether there were still the exquisitely named Stinking Iris in the mouth of Prestonhill Quarry, and there they were, about to burst open. Wish I'd remembered when they were flowering, but when the seed pods burst they look spectacular. Any day now, I reckon.

Still waters, revealing lack of birds

Cormorant perch

Stinking Iris, fit to burst

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Bicycle boohoo

Decided that I can go to work by bike since the weather was nice this morning and I can check Cullaloe tonight. Naturally I get a text saying someone else just got MY Green Sandpiper at Cullaloe. Nothing worse than dedicating yourself to a local patch and other people finding birds there. Especially ones you predicted. Sigh.

One day I will find a patch so bad that no-one else will go there.

(at least I know for the patch challenge that there is no additional point for finding a Green Sand)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Cullaloe refuses to lie down

With the second of the big "gimme" waders of the autumn, Common Sandpiper, Cullaloe returns to parity with HOB on 81. With Green Sandpiper to be expected normally, HOB will still have to find ways to stay in touch.Cullaloe stopover waders have included Redshank, Greenshank, Ruff, Curlew Sand, Temminck's Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit. I would expect in a reasonable season to record 5 or 6 species. With HOB staying level despite two of those already being accounted for there's still a chance though.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Hill of Beath fights back +GS Woodpecker, +Spotted Flycatcher

Went for a walk on the hill this morning which turned into a mammoth 3 hour session.

Things began well when the long-awaited Great Spotted Woodpecker finally showed, bringing the hill back up even with Cullaloe. I thought it would struggle once Cullaloe started to get waders, and it still might, but it certainly bounced back today. A meandering walk around towards, and then along,  Cuddyhouse Road produced not much of interest until I rounded the north side of the hill and found a large thistle bed on the eastern side.

The whole morning had been punctuated by Green-verined White butterflies, which were everywhere, along with one Small Tortoiseshell and one Peacock. This thistle bed had about ten Tortoiseshell and a couple of Peacock and I stood in the sunshine watching them flit about and move from head to head. A Stock Dove called from the trees above. Not far from here is a tree stump where I saw my first Treecreeper, when I only had compact binoculars about 20 years ago. As I thought about that, a Raven called from overhead and circled around for a bit before heading off towards the hilltop. As I stood watching the butterflies a pristine Red Admiral dropped onto a head about 2.5 metres from me, just far enough for me to focus my bins on it. What a cracking butterfly it was, with no signes of wear anywhere.

As I turned towards home I noticed some Shepherd's Purse underfoot and I had a look at it, noticing that the nearby trees had a bit of birdy activity going on. Lots of Goldfinch were twittering, but another sound caught my ear - a juvenile Spotted Flycatcher! This is a first for me on the hill, and there turned out to be 3 juveniles being fed by 2 adults. Of course I didn't have my camera, so I went home and got it, fairly confident that they would remain in the area. They did :)

Friday, 9 August 2013

Cullaloe first to 80%

At dusk last night a Snipe feeding beside the pond took Cullaloe to 80 species, and made it the first of three patches to reach 80% of target. Bit dark and distant for photos though.

Inverkeithing this morning had its first autumn Tree Pipit over, along with a handful of Swallows, a couple of Woodpigeon and a Curlew. A Common Sand also flew past west but probably had arrived locally overnight. A few Cormorants flying into the area this morning too - 10'ish maybe.

Since there was nothing photographic this morning here's something from last night. Cullaloe filter beds with Water Plantain, Water Mint and Water Forget-me-not, Great Willowherb, and my favourite one - Branched Bur-reed with its globular inflorescences. I swear I also saw a Newt slither away through the grasses never to be seen again.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


Two out at Cullaloe this lunchtime. nothing interesting bird-wise again though. Remarkable transformation with closed wings ...

Common exotic

Exotic escape? Or just the most exotic Starling in the British Isles? Mystery bird snapped by my dad in Ireland. Juvenile with adult-feathered flanks wearing pollen makeup!

Mist opportunities

Mist rolling in from the sea this morning, although the wind must have changed direction since it was slightly blowing west when I arrived at Inverkeithing. A quick stop at Cullaloe yielded nothing of note. Not even a photo opportunity of anything ordinary.

The most "exciting" thing at INK was a flypast of Shelduck

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Divit lunch

A young Wren emerging onto the rocks this lunchtime, with at least one other cheeping out of sight. Couple of Common Sandpiper in the harbour too. The place was swarming with white butterflies, with also a couple of Meadow Brown and Small Tortoiseshell. Buddleias were pretty quiet though.

Quiet morning

45 minutes of vismigging at Inverkeithing produced very little apart from a nice flock of 37 waders which went high west too far south of me for positive ID. Looked like Oycs though. No sign of Little Gull or Black Tern (2) which were both seen at Kinghorn yesterday.

Decided I might as well drop into Cullaloe to see if there was any wadery action there. There wasn't.

Haven't seen a new species on any patch yet in August - since 24th July! Must break soon, surely?

Unwelcome guest

Mystery migrants


GVW modelling

Monday, 5 August 2013

Stop Press! Cullaloe Fritillary

Never having knowingly seen any sort of Fritillary at Cullaloe before I was surprised to find this one flapping ahead of me down the path at lunchtime today. Sadly it was off into the cottage garden before I could see it any better.

And some birds were also there ...