Thursday, 19 October 2017

Crail & Coastal Collection (18/10/17)

With easterlies having been in rather short supply for the past few weeks, even the promise of a few hours worth meant that a trip to Fife Ness might be worthwhile with a possible back-log of birds in Scandinavia waiting for their time to cross the North Sea. I wasn't completely convinced that there would be anything too spectacular, given the brief period of easterlies and their start time in relation to nocturnal crossing of the North Sea start times. However, Jacqui was offering a lift to Fife Ness which would give me more time around the area, and getting there early can be well worth the effort. Jacqui was more confident than me that we would get something good though. Time would tell.

Red Throated Diver

I arranged to meet Jacqui at St Michaels to avoid the roadworks in Guardbridge and Leuchars at around 0810, so I headed out at just before 0740 to walk to the bus station for the 0755 bus. The bus into town actually stopped and waited at the stop, even though there was no-one waiting (thanks, driver!) so I ran to catch it, saving me the walk. A Dunnock pair on the pavement and a Herring Gull were the only birds seen until I reached the Wellgate where Feral Pigeons were added. A Carrion Crow was seen as the bus left the bus station. Starling and Woodpigeon were seen as the bus headed for St Michaels.

I met Jacqui just before 0815 and we set off for Balmullo and Dairsie to avoid the traffic queues. Collared Doves were rather numerous in Balmullo, and we added Lapwings as we headed for St Andrews as well as Magpie. A Mallard overflew as we neared St Andrews and Rooks were seen at the far end of town. A Buzzard glided alongside the car as we passed the Wormiston junction. Our first stop was Denburn Wood and this turned out to be quite productive. A few Goldcrests were in the trees by the wall at the road end and also in the same tree was a single Yellow Browed Warbler, though the views were not brilliant and the small group all moved into the taller trees at the corner where we lost sight of them.

We wandered up through the wood to the top end where we added Redwings in the trees and Skylarks passing overhead. A pair of Grey Wagtails also overflew. A Great Tit was on the wall between the two halves of the graveyard and the local Jackdaws chased around in the trees above us. A Blue Tit showed by the muddy path and the first Robin that I managed to see was added. A second attempt at the Yellow Browed Warbler proved fruitless so we headed along the road to Kilminning and hopefully a few more birds.

A Chaffinch and more Goldcrests greeted us, while overhead there was movement of Skylarks and more Redwings. A Willow Warbler was seen for a few seconds. We bumped into another Fife birder, Andy Falconer who was also hoping to find some decent migrants on the move. A Fieldfare passed over while a Magpie dropped into the trees behind us. There were more Goldcrests in the Rowans at the southeast corner of the 'top end' and we also eventually managed to add a Blackbird to the list. A Stock Dove flew over and a flock of Tree Sparrows did likewise. A Brambling flew over before turning round and flying back the way it had come.

Long Tailed Tits were working their way through the trees behind the ruined building as we headed back to check the stretch of road down towards the field. Jacqui spotted a male Pheasant on the road and we added Song Thrush to the list, though there were also plenty of Blackbirds, Tits and Yellowhammers in the Sycamores around the karting track. A pair of Linnets dropped into the crop on the field and a Wren scolded noisily at the base of a small bush. A Meadow Pipit flew past, along with lots more Skylarks. As we walked back up the road I spotted a group of six Golden Plover high overhead, their plaintive calls drawing my eyes skywards.

A trio of Mistle Thrushes flew past at the top end, and there were more Goldcrests to be found before we wandered over to Balcomie walled garden, though we didn't go in as one of the owners was gardening. A quick check nearby gave us House Sparrow and a Goldfinch, while a distant Great Black Backed Gull was another new bird for the day. A Pied Wagtail flew over as we headed back to the car to move on to the bottom end of Kilminning in the hope of more finds. There were plenty of Greenfinches among the rosehips as well as Blackbirds and Song Thrush. More Skylarks overflew before Jacqui spotted a male Blackcap feeding on Elder berries above a male Blackbird.

From the fence we were able to add a few Eiders and Black Headed Gulls to the list as well as few distant Gannets further out. An Oystercatcher was picking around among the rocks at the end of the caravan park. A Kestrel hovered nearby, while offshore I spotted a Red Breasted Merganser. With nothing else of note found around the bottom end and Jacqui's available time dwindling (she had to be home for around 1300) we headed for the Fife Bird Club hide to see if we could add some seabirds. In the hide was another Fife birder, Grant Robertson who said things were relatively quiet but he'd had one Bonxie already.

Settling down to see what we could find we soon were able to add a few species - with Cormorant and Common Gull flying past and a Curlew among the rocks. A few Shags also flew by, and a couple of Redshanks dropped in beside the Curlew. There were also a few Grey Plovers roosting out on the rocks. A pair of Long Tailed Ducks headed north, and we were joined in the hide by Andy, who we had met earlier at Kilminning. Jacqui found a few Guillemots just offshore which I eventually managed to see among the waves. Our first Red Throated Diver headed north above the horizon. A Rock Pipit flew up and away. There were a few flocks of Skylarks seen out over the water. A inged Plover and a Turnstone were seen out on the rocks.

A couple of Ringed Plovers flew past with a couple of Grey Plovers before we all got onto a Skua heading north which proved to be an Arctic Skua. A couple of distant Kittiwakes were added before Jacqui had to head for home. A few minutes later, Grant picked up a Manx Shearwater going north. Grant and Andy were on a Skua when another diver went north. I took some photos without really looking at it properly. When I got the chance to check it turned out to be a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver. I apologised to Andy and Grant for not realising, which meant they both missed it as they were concentrating on the Skua. A Great Skua (Bonxie) headed north. A second did likewise a short while later.

A few more Red Throated Divers, another Manx Shearwater, a few Guillemots, a few more Lng Tailed Ducks and another pair of Bonxies were all seen as the tide came in. A trio of Shelducks headed south. With the time at 1400 I decided to head back to re-check Kilminning. Andy decided to check the Patch and Grant was headed for Kilminning too. He offered me a lift back up but I declined, deciding instead to head along the coastal path and up from the bottom end to the top. As it turned out I saw very few birds on the walk along the path with only really Common and Black Headed Gulls, a Redshank pair and a Curlew seen.

The bottom of Kilminning was still quite busy with birds but they seemed to be the locals - Yellowhammers and Greenfinches mostly though there were a few Goldcrests seen too. Checking the times of the buses I had a choice to make, either have a quick check of the top end then head back to Crail or spend more time searching and catch the bus in two hours time. As things weren't looking too promising for finding a 'biggie' I settled on the former option. This gave me roughly twenty minutes of birding time and then the walk back to Crail for the bus. I managed to get a signal on my phone and sent a text with the day's sightings for the Fife Bird Club grapevine.

Grant was speaking to Willie Irvine at the top end but neither had seen much beyond Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. A quick once round with Grant failed to turn anything else up, though as I was about to head back along the road I looked up just in time to see a Merlin pass overhead. A nice late bonus bird. Thirty seconds later, a larger flock of Golden Plover milled around above us. Grant offered me a run back along the road but as I still had 35 minutes until the bus was due, I decided just to walk, in case there was anything else to find. As it turned out there wasn't. While waiting for the bus to arrive, I did notice a high flying Sparrowhawk circling. I managed to catch the Dundee bus in St Andrews just as it was about to leave and added a field full of Pink Footed Geese between there and Guardbridge (which Jacqui had tipped me off about), and then a Grey Heron and a Mute Swan on the Motray taking the total number of species to seventy two.

Although we failed to get a 'biggie' among the many migrants which were passing through, we did get a nice selection of species, with some less commonly seen species in the mix (Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Brambling, Great Northern Diver, Yellow Browed Warbler, Merlin etc). Hopefully the 'biggie' is still to arrive this weekend.....

Great Tit

Great Tit

Tree Sparrow

Brambling

Skylark

Yellowhammer

Stock Dove

Kestrel

Rook

Red Throated Diver

Oystercatcher

Grey Plover

Red Throated Diver

Long Tailed Duck

Arctic Skua

Arctic Skua

Gannet

Manx Shearwater

Ringed Plover

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver

Great Skua (Bonxie)

Great Skua (Bonxie)

Eider

Shelduck

Eider

Greenfinch

Merlin

Golden Plover

Species seen - Arctic Skua, Blackbird, Blackcap, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Brambling, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunnock, Eider, Fieldfare, Gannet, Goldcrest, Golden Plover, Goldfinch, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Northern Diver, Great Skua, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Plover, Grey Wagtail, Guillemot, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Kittiwake, Lapwing, Linnet, Long Tailed Duck, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Manx Shearwater, Meadow Pipit, Merlin, Mistle Thrush, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Pink Footed Goose, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Red Throated Diver, Redwing, Ringed Plover, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit, Rook, Shag, Shelduck, Skylark, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Stock Dove, Tree Sparrow, Turnstone, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellow Browed Warbler, Yellowhammer.



Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Saturday Surprise (14/10/17)

Having failed to see the Spotted Redshank on Friday afternoon at Guardbridge I had originally considered getting up early and over to the hide in time to catch the tide on its way in, hopefully bringing the Spotted Redshank with it. However, not for the first time, rolling over and going back to sleep won the day when the alarm went off. When I did eventually get up, a quick look at Rare Bird Alert on my phone showed that the bird had actually been seen again. I knew that it was still around high tide, so I figured if I was quick enough at getting organised I would maybe time it right to catch the tide on its way back out, hopefully with the Spotted Redshank showing nicely for me as it went.

Otter
I headed out at around 1040 to catch the bus towards the town. While waiting I was able to start the lit for the day off quite nicely with House Sparrow, Herring Gull, Magpie, Starling, Blackbird, Carrion Crow and a small flock of seven Siskins overflying. Not a bad bonus bird and not one that is seen, or heard too often so close to home. The bus to Guardbridge also proved to be slightly more productive than it can be. The usual Cormorants were added as we crossed the Tay followed quickly after by Woodpigeon, then Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and a Mistle Thrush on a telegraph pole. Rook and Jackdaw added to the corvids already on the list.

I reached the hide just before 1130 and recognised the car in the car park as Adam and Lainy MacCormacks'. Sure enough, I found them inside, along with Ian Cummings. Lainy moved up a bit to let me in at the window and we chatted a bit as I got organised before starting to scan for birds. The tide was just beginning to recede so the majority of birds were still rather distant, though the Tree Sparrows and Greenfinches at the feeders were the exception. There were a few Wigeon on the water. A flock of Golden Plover landed and the Lapwings circled round above the salt marsh. I heard a Skylark calling and managed to see the little dot high in the sky.

Ian Cummings left and I moved over the the left hand end window. Another photographer, John Brown from Glenrothes, came in soon after. More scanning added the expected Redshanks as well as Black Tailed Godwits and Mallard. Black Headed, Common and Herring Gulls drifted out on the water. A Grey Heron flew out low across the increasing expanse of wet mud. A Curlew was next. Jacqui had been messaging me and decided to join me at the hide for a few hours. I squeezed up to let her in at the same window. Although I had brought my Leica scope with me, I had decided against the tripod which proved to be a wise move. A pair of Common Sandpipers flew past.

Around forty minutes of scanning later I found what I was looking for. Among the Redshanks was a single paler bellied bird which was feeding in a different manner to the birds around it. The angle it was to me, meant it was proving tricky to see the bill and the light wasn't great for detail but it looked promising. I eventually managed to get a photo confirming that it was indeed the Spotted Redshank, and I had my year-tick. Lainy and Adam headed off around 1230, and a young female birder came in for a while. We added a flock of Goldfinches and Great Black Backed Gull to the list, as well as a rather distant Mute Swan, a flypast Grey Wagtail and Blue Tit at the feeders. A Goosander flew upriver and a small flock of Meadow Pipits headed over westwards.

Distant Oystercatcher and Shelduck were next onto the list and a Robin was seen in the Elder bush. I had now moved to the right hand window which had been vacated. A Greenshank was spotted on the shore opposite. Movement in the water in front of the hide caught John's eye and he drew our attention to the fact that there was a rather large dog Otter hunting just in front of us. Needless to say the cameras got a good bit of exercise for the next few minutes as it cruised around, sometimes pausing to look up at the source of the rapid clicking sounds it was obviously hearing. However, it wasn't phased and continued hunting before heading off further downriver. A rather nice surprise and some nice photo opportunities. A very long drawn-out skein of geese could be seen off St Andrews which I suspected might be Barnacle rather than Pink Footed Geese. Checking books later at home confirmed that it was highly likely to have been the case.

A few Teal were seen well downriver, a few minutes before I heard the Kingfisher call just before it flew low upriver past the front of the hide. A single Little Egret flew in and landed opposite us giving me yet another species for the list. I eventually managed to get Coal Tit on the list, as one quickly visited the bird-table. The White Tailed Eagle was spotted out on one of the estuary posts, just before I spotted the Otter on its way back upriver towards us. It took a few minutes more before it reached us and it was equally as chilled as it had been before with the odd glance in our direction when cameras were in use. I willed it to come out of the water onto the small area of muddy shore in front of the hide, never for a moment thinking it might. But it did, and we were able to get a few photos before the line of the wall meant we lost sight of it, though the local gulls gave its position away as they noisily chased it further down towards the bridge.

Doug Milne arrived in the hide but didn't stay long when Jacqui mentioned that the Otter had just gone upriver, though he did return around 15 minutes later before heading off once again to try to get better views of the Spotted Redshank which I'd let hime see through the scope. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew across to the conifers where it perched at the top of one of the taller trees. Both Jacqui and John headed for home, leaving me at the hide, where I was joined once again by Doug not long after. I managed to find a flock of distant Dunlin before a lengthy discussion about Doug's Canadian holiday birds and the art of fieldcraft. He too headed for home around 1615 when I was joined by a couple of older ladies.

A Great Tit finally found its way onto my list for the day, taking my total to 50 species, the target number I had latterly set for myself. As time clicked on closer towards 1700 and closing time I was able to add another couple. There was a bit of excitement out in the estuary with groups of birds flying up as a probable raptor passed through unseen by me. As I watched, a flight of 5 geese low near the western end of Balgove Bay resolved themselves into Brent Geese, which I confirmed from photos when they landed. The source of the disturbance was also finally spotted, a Peregrine. Just before 1700 I headed for the bus and home.

A rather good day out, even with the later than planned start. Fifty two species seen in total including a year-tick (in bold). The Otter encounter in particular made it a rather memorable day.

Black Tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank & Redshank

Redshank & Spotted Redshank

Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Gull, Black Headed Gull & Spotted Redshank

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Wigeon, Redshank & Spotted Redshank

Sparrowhawk

Barnacle Geese

Kingfisher

Sparrowhawk

Little Egret

Common Sandpiper

Little Egret & Black Headed Gull

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Otter

Spotted Redshank

Buzzard

Buzzard

Great Spotted Woodpecker

White Tailed Eagle

Starling

Redshank & Dunlin

Grey Heron

White Tailed Eagle

Magpie

Redshank

Curlew

Brent Geese

Golden Plover

Peregrine

Greenshank

Species seen - Barnacle Goose, Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Black Tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Brent Goose, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Greenshank, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Little Egret, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Redshank, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Shelduck, Siskin, Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Spotted Redshank, Starling, Teal, Tree Sparrow, White Tailed Eagle, Wigeon, Woodpigeon.