Arriving at Easthaven at about 1055, I found the usually relatively busy car park empty. Goldfinch and Meadow Pipit were both seen flying over, their calls alerting me to them. The exposed nature of the beach meant the wind felt even colder than earlier. I was able to add Pied Wagtail and Linnet on the beach as I walked slowly westwards. Offshore I could see a few Eiders and a few Great Black Backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Cormorants on rocks. A small group of Ringed Plover lifted from the sand as I approached, and a Curlew did likewise much further ahead. A few Mallards could be seen in some of the pools among the rocks as the tide receded.
The first Rock Pipit of the day wandered around on the rocks and a pair of Shelduck took flight into the wind. I stopped to scan offshore and managed to spot Common Gull, Kittiwake and Gannet out over the sea. More waders were seen among the rocks - Redshanks, Oystercatchers, a few Grey Plover and a large flock of Turnstones. There were also a small group of Wigeon in the water where the rocks met the waves. Black Headed Gull was also seen. I sat for a few minutes out of the wind by the Craigmill Burn mouth but it was more of the same. A Kingfisher was heard as it flew off up the burn.
I walked up to the level crossing to cross the railway line to walk up Craigmill Den. A Greenfinch flew over. The Rooks were very active building nests in the tall trees at the southern end of the Den. A Wren was seen flying low along the opposite bank before disappearing into the vegetation. A Skylark flew upwards from the fields, singing as it climbed higher. A Grey Wagtail flew off up the burn and a Robin showed on the fence. There were Blue Tits around in the bushes just down from the weir but not much else.
Wandering up the road at the top end I found a few Chaffinches and a Pied Wagtail feeding by a small puddle beside the car parking lay-by. More Skylarks and a Reed Bunting were seen as I walked down across the fields towards Panbride House. I hoped I might hear Chiffchaffs calling from the grounds but I only heard Dunnocks, and didn't even manage to see them. There were more Skylarks active by the railway line as I walked back along the cycle path to Westhaven. With a 15 minute wait I chose not to venture down to the beach again, and decided to wait instead. A large flock of a few hundred Starlings flew up from the direction of the beach as I waited.
An ADBC text alert had come in saying that a possible Siberian Chiffchaff had once again been seen at Keptie Ponds, having been originally found on Sunday. As I had failed to see Chiffchaff so far it made sense to attempt to see it. Keptie Pond also meant I would add a few more species to the list for the day. From the bus I added Stock Dove to the list as they fed in a ploughed field with Woodpigeons and some corvids. Arriving at the pond around 1315, I could see Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Mute Swans, Coots, a Moorhen and a Goosander on the water. Not a bad start.
A pair of Grey Heron squabbled at a possible nest site on the island. Scanning ahead I could see Blairgowrie ADBC member Doug Milne. A lady stopped to chat and told me about the Heron's nesting and how she goes ringing with an Arbroath resident whose surname she couldn't remember. I had a quick chat with Doug Milne who hadn't managed to relocate the Chiffchaff. He continued in an anti-clockwise direction and I headed further towards the bushes at the south end. Graham Smith of Dundee RSPB was scanning the bushes but hadn't had any luck either. He had re-identified the bird on Sunday after it was initially reported as a Garden Warbler by Mickey Mellon.
We walked along the path to check the bushes further on, chatting as we went. Graham spotted the Siberian Chiffchaff in the bushes next to us and we had relatively decent views though there were too many branches in the way to get a clear photo. The bird was a very cold grey compared to the more usual olive colours of a Chiffchaff. It was quite tricky to keep sight of at times as it picked around near the water among the tangle of branches. After a few minutes the bird started calling, a very flat short, almost monotone, whistle. This matched the Siberian Chiffchaff call on the Collins Bird Guide app and clinched the ID for us.
The bird came closer to the path which allowed me to finally get a few photos. I also managed to record the call on my phone surprisingly well. A pair of Dunnocks and a Great Tit were in the same bushes. We were joined by Bob McCurley and Doug Milne and we all had very good views of the bird. Another birder arrived and the bird decided it didn't particularly like crowds and flew up and into the gorse bushes on the small rise behind the pond.
Having by now managed to see one of my target species for the day (albeit in a more exotic subspecies than I expected) I had a choice to make. Hang around Arbroath, head back to Dundee or catch a bus to Forfar and try the Loch for Little Gull (I saw my first ever Little Gulls there in 2005) and maybe even a Sand Martin or a Garganey. As there was more chance of running into something good there I decided it was the best option and set off for the bus station via a far more circuitous route than I actually needed to. Thankfully I made it in time to catch the bus and arrived in Forfar at around 1500. Following a quick walk I arrived at the Loch at around 1510. Scanning from behind the now closed Leisure Centre I racked up a number of new species for the day.
A pair of Feral Greylags ran from a dog and the Mallard flock flew into the water to escape. A Magpie flew into the trees behind me. There were Great Crested Grebes dotted around and Tufted Ducks and Goldeneye out on the water as well as a few Goosander. In below the bushes along the north side were a number of Teal. Overall though it seemed rather quiet. Instead of going along the north side first as I tend to do, I decided to go along the south side first. Goldfinches and Siskins were heard but only the former were seen. Blackbirds and a Song Thrush foraged around among the leaf litter. Oystercatchers and a pair of Magpies fed on the ground at the rugby pitch.
Towards the western end I stopped to watch a Goldcrest feeding in the trees and a few Robins showed near the path. Coal Tit and Long Tailed Tit were seen where the burn flows into the Loch, but despite scanning along the reedy fringes I failed to find any sign of an early Garganey. A Mallard and a Cormorant flew in from the west. A few Mute Swans and a raft of Black Headed Gulls could be seen on the water. A detour into the bushes near the small wooden bridge over the small burn resulted in finding a small flock of Bullfinches and a few Siskins. The Siskins seemed unconcerned by me and I managed a few nice shots of a male.
A Yellowhammer called from the trees by the path as I headed back towards the Leisure Centre end. A Reed Bunting male gave me good views in a tree. A few Goosander and Teal as well as Mallard and Moorhen were seen near the small bay near the sailing club spit. The trees and bushes were relatively quiet with only Blackbirds and a few Blue Tits and Robins seen, though another Magpie was heard chuckling towards the eastern end. A quick stop at the small wooden viewing platform added Little Grebe to the list. A Grey Heron was also seen flying off down the Loch from here. A nice male Bullfinch feeding on buds above the path gave me good views though the branches below the bird made getting a clear shot difficult. I also had good views of Teal displaying in the northeast corner of the Loch before I wandered back into town to wait for the bus back to Dundee.
Jackdaws were much in evidence above the roofs at the High Street and gave me something to watch while I waited for the bus to arrive. Heading back towards Dundee I happened to look out the window in time to see a displaying Lapwing over the fields by the road giving me one final addition to the list for the day which stood at 67 species, including 1 year-tick (in bold). A pretty good day out despite the weather, showing what is possible in Angus on public transport. Had I headed out a few hours earlier I probably could have added another location and a few more species.
|Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Mute Swan, Herring Gull, Goosander|
|Lesser Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Cormorant|
|Coot & Moorhen|
Species seen - Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, (Siberian) Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunnock, Eider, Gadwall, Gannet, Goldcrest, Goldeneye, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Plover, Grey Wagtail, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kittiwake, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Little Grebe, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Ringed Plover, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit, Rook, Shelduck, Siskin, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling, Stock Dove, Teal, Tufted Duck, Turnstone, Wigeon, Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer.
Having read up a little about Siberian Chiffchaff, I'm not completely convinced that the bird is 100% a 'pure' Siberian Chiffchaff. There is a very slight difference to the call, though it seems very subtle - possibly someone could compare sonograms of the call. I think there is a possibility of it being an intergrade/hybrid between 'our' Chiffchaff and 'tristis' subspecies, either way it is still a Chiffchaff and a year-tick for me.