Tuesday, 30 October 2012


I spent two hours at Musselburgh Lagoons on the outskirts of Edinburgh this afternoon, where I had the most amazing views of both male and female Velvet Scoters.

Although I've seen them before flying along the coast, this was the first time I've managed to get them in the 'scope and watch them swimming and fishing. At one point the birds were about 20m away from the seawall - amazing!! Here's a photo and my first You Tibe video.

Velvet Scoter (male)
Male and female Velvet Scoter

As well as the scoters I also managed to see another 2 adult male Long-tailed Ducks (that's 4 in one day!!), a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Slavonian Grebes, Eider Duck  and another Red-throated Diver.

On the lagoons themselves there were 200+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 40+ Grey Plover, 30+ Golden Plover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallards and my first Goldeneye of the winter.

Bar-tailed Godwits and Golden Plover

Year List addition:

159 - Velvet Scoter

Aberlady Bay and Gullane Bay

I've made a couple of visits to Aberlady Bay over the last few days to look at the flock of approximately 20,000 roosting Pink-footed Geese that gather here every winter.

Bridge at Aberlady Bay

This morning I arrived at 06.30am and waited for it to become light. I could hear the geese out on the mudflats and, after scanning the area with the scope, I began to pick up the birds. I not great at estimating large flocks of birds, but there were "many thousands" present. Quite a sight!

Distant Pink-footed Geese
As it became light, small skeins started to fly out of the roost and I managed to get a few shots of these birds.
Pink-footed Geese
Other birds seen yesterday evening and today were: Shelduck (200+), Wigeon, Teal, Eider Duck, Mute Swan (2, including a colour ringed individual), Redshank, Curlew, Great-crested Grebe, Goosander, Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls, Linnets, Wren and a Redpoll sp, which could have been a Mealy Redpoll, as it looked larger than a Lesser and was very pale on the breast. Unfortunately I didn't get very good views before it flew off!!
Next stop was Gullane Bay, a few miles nearer North Berwick. I made my way down through the sand dunes out onto the bay.
Gullane Bay/Bents
On arrival I scanned the water's edge and found a few Oystercatchers, Black-headed Gulls and one Great Black-backed Gull. Shags were flying out on the water and, after about half an hour's searching I spotted a lone male Common Scoter. A Red-throated Diver was fishing just behind the scoter and then a male Long-tailed Duck flew past. Another male Long-tailed Duck was soon found feeding nearby and a winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe was also spotted in the same area!! A very productive time!!!
Year List additions:
156- Common Scoter
157 -  Long-tailed Duck
158 - Slavonian Grebe

Monday, 29 October 2012

Barns Ness

This morning's walk saw me heading down the coast to a beach south of Dunbar called Barns Ness. I was hoping to catch up with a Water Pipit that had been reported yesterday, but the tide was out and I couldn't find it anywhere!

Barns Ness lighthouse and beach

First bird of the morning was a Common Buzzard that flew up from a tree as I drove down to the beach. Next up were Meadow Pipits, followed by several Rock Pipits and at least a dozen Pied Wagtails that were feeding on the seaweed on the beach. Redshanks, Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Curlews were all feeding along the edge of the sea. A couple of Stonechats (1 male and 1 female) were seen in the sand dunes and Linnet and Goldfinch flew overhead.

Out on the sea there were several Eider Ducks, 1 Red-throated Diver, Great Black-backed, Herring, Black-headed and Common Gulls along with 2 new species for the trip: Gannets and Red-breasted Merganser (also a Year Tick).

Just behind Barns Ness there is a large, active quarry with a large lake. I had a quick look at it on the way back and added Mallard, Tufted Duck, Coot, Lapwing and Shoveler to the morning's list.

Back in North Berwick a short walk along the beach produced the same birds as yesterday, plus a late Swallow that flew south overhead.

Year List:

155 - Red-breasted Merganser

Sunday, 28 October 2012

North Berwick birding

I'm away in North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland, for a few days and had my first bird watching walk this morning. I was out for a couple of hours from 7.30am and managed a fair few birds including my first "year tick" for quite a while, in the form of 3 winter plumaged Red-throated Divers.

North Berwick beach (with Bass Rock in the background)

My walk this morning started off in the harbour area where the first birds recorded were Starlings, Herring and Black-headed Gulls. A couple of Pied Wagtails were flying around and the first of at least a dozen Shags were fishing in the sea. Two Grey Herons flew up from the rocks below and a party of about 8 Eider Ducks were spotted out on the water. There were a couple of winter plumaged Guillemot out on the sea, along with the Red-throated Divers.

Back on the beach there were several waders: Turnstone (c30), Purple Sandpiper (at least 6), Oystercatcher (c10) and 1 Redshank. Several Rock Pipits were also around on the beach, along with more Starlings and House Sparrows. A great start.

154 - Red-throated Diver

Saturday, 27 October 2012

First Fieldfares arrive

Following a big arrival on the esat coast last week, I managed to catch up with my first Fieldfares of the winter on Friday morning when a couple flew over my school. I know it's nothing out of the ordinary, but it's a good excuse to put a photo on the blog that I took a few years ago. Hopefully you'll like it.

In the afternoon I also popped in to Linacre to top up the feeders. Whilst driving up the main drive I spotted the farmer ploughing the field on the right. Following the plough were approximately 100 Black-headed Gulls and at least 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Both these records are noetworthy, the BH Gulls because of the number, my highest this winter, and the LBB Gulls because this was my first record of this species "on the ground" at Linacre instead of flying over. Lovely!!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Interesting bill

This morning I spent four hours out ringing in Wingerworth, Chesterfield with 3 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. We were at the new site where, a few weeks ago, we'd ringed 91 birds in one session. This morning's session wasn't quite as busy, but we still managed 45 birds of 8 species (Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Robin, Wren, Chaffinch, Nuthatch and Goldcrest).

The most numerous species were the tits, which included this Coal Tit with an overgrown upper mandible. It was already ringed, so it will be interesting to see if it gets recaught again and to see how we'll it's coping.

Coal Tit
Another interesting bird was this Blue Tit which had several brown tail feathers and primaries. I've never seen that before.

The last bird of the morning was a nice surprise; a Goldcrest. This bird was turned up in a new net, which, until then hadn't caught anything all morning. Just goes to show the power of  a tape lure!


My totals for today were (new/retrap): Coal Tit 1/1, Blue Tit 4/0, Great Tit 5/1, Dunnock 1/0 and Nuthatch 0/1.

Other birds seen or heard this morning were: Tawny Owl (1 heard), Jay (1 heard), Raven (1 over), Great-spotted Woodpecker (1 heard), Goldfinch (overhead) and  Bullfinch ( 2 over).

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Winter visitor arrives

I had a lovely walk around Linacre this morning with Jayne, my wife. We went around the middle and top reservoirs in gorgeous, still, sunny weather. Although it was generally quite quiet we did manage 4 Canada Geese, including the hybrid goose (the first sighting since 19th May) and the first "redhead" Goosander of the winter.

Hybrid goose and Canada Goose
Other birds present on the reservoirs today were: Mallard (52), Mandarin Duck (17), Moorhen (6), Coot (7), Tufted Duck (9), Great-crested Grebe (2; 1 adult and 1 juvenile - where's the other juvenile gone?), Little Grebe (1), Grey Wagtail (2), Pied Wagtail (1), Grey Heron (1) and Black-headed Gull (30, numbers are building up again, now all I want is a colour ringed bird!).
All the usual woodland birds were seen and a Sparrowhawk was spotted over the woods doing battle with a couple of Carrion Crows. No sign of any Red Kites, despite one being reported over the nearby village of Cutthorpe on the 16th. Surely its only a matter of time isn't it????

Monday, 15 October 2012

Redwings and a Treecreeper

I spent four hours down at The Avenue on Sunday with members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. We started off with quite a heavy frost on the ground, but ended up in bright sunshine with 35 birds ringed including a ringing tick for me; a Treecreeper.


When we arrived on site there were a lot of Redwings around, unfortunately though, none ended up in the nets! We did, however, manage to catch several Blackbirds and one Song Thrush. Tit numbers were good with Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed all ringed.

Long-tailed Tit

My totals for today were (new/retraps): Blackbird 2, Great Tit 1/2, Goldfinch 1, Long-tailed Tit 1/1 and Dunnock 1.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Linacre WeBS Walk - 13th October 2012

This month there were 6 members of the Chesterfield RSPB group  for the WeBS walk at Linacre. 3 of us did the rounds whilst the other 3 took some time to empty the nest boxes and do some running repairs.Thanks to everyone who gave their time this morning.

Linacre nestboxes

The counts were about average this month with the following water birds recorded: Mallard (55), Tufted Duck (11), Moorhen (2), Coot (9), Black-headed Gull (25), Great-crested Grebe (3; 1 adult and 2 juveniles), Little Grebe (1), Cormorant (2), Grey Wagtail (2), Pied Wagtail (1) and Mandarin Duck (70; the highest count this autumn). The first Redwing of the autumn was also seen this morning and there were many vocal Jays around the site. A Kestrel was seen hunting around the main entrance and a Buzzard was heard overhead, as was a skein of Pink-footed Geese.

Ever year at this time we like to clean out the nest boxes to ensure they are in good shape for next year's breeding season. This morning we managed to get around about 50 and also added an extra bit of protection in the form of these hinges.

Hopefully they will mean that we don't lose any lids next year.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

October Chiffchaff

Yesterday I blogged about a Blackcap that was ringed by the group. Well this morning's walk around Linacre produced not one, but two and maybe three Chiffchaffs. Although we usually record singing Chiffchaffs into October this mornings sighting was extraordinary because of the number included. The first bird was seen by the middle reservoir, feeding and quietly "wheeting" it's way through the trees. This bird, or more likely another, was then seen with a second bird, feeding in an elderberry bush around the top reservoir. Hopefully they will hang around and there will be some more sightings later this year.

When I arrived at Linacre at 7am today it was just 3 degrees and the whole valley was covered in mist.

By the time I left at 9.30am the sun had come out and it was a glorious morning.

Waterbirds seen today were: Mallard (53), Tufted Duck (20), Mandarin Duck (33), Coot (8), Moorhen (6), Grey Heron (2),  Grey Wagtail (3), and my first Pied Wagtail and Black-headed Gull of the winter. The 3 Great-crested Grebes ( 2 juveniles and 1 adult), were still present on the middle reservoir.

The woods were quite quiet this morning, but a few Jays were heard along with the usual suspects and Skylark was heard calling as it flew overhead. This latter species was again my first record of the winter. Blackbirds, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush were all seen, but no "winter thrushes" were recorded. Next week perhaps?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

October Blackcap

This weekend's ringing took place in the private site in Sheffield where 18 birds of 11 species were caught. Birds caught today were: House and Tree Sparrow, Blackcap, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Robin.

Amongst the birds was the juvenile Blackcap with a weight of just over 20g. He was also covered in what looked like Elderberry juice, so had presumably been feeding up to begin/continue with his migration down to Southern Europe or North Africa. Blackcaps from Central Europe do overwinter in Britain though so, who knows, perhaps he'll stay here and we'll see him again over the coming months.

I extracted another new species today, Robin, which is one of the longest legged small birds I've ever seen. I had 2 birds today, 1 new and 1 retrap. Other birds processed by me were (new/retrap): Dunnock 0/1, Tree Sparrow 1/0, Goldfinch 1/0 and Chaffinch 1/0.

Other birds/wildlife seen this morning were a Kestrel, a couple of Mistle Thrushes, a few over-flying Skylarks, Blackbirds, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow and a single Comma and Red Admiral butterfly.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Nice recovery

Over the weekend we were ringing at Linacre when we caught 4 Coal Tits, including one that had already been ringed. When the records were checked it turned out that this was the third time it had been caught by the group, twice on Ramsley Moor where it was caught and ringed as a juvenile bird on 13th September this year and then retrapped on 15th September. When we caught it on Saturday 29th at Linacre it had moved approximately 5km as the Coal Tit flies.

According to the BTO's Migration Atlas Coal Tits tend not to move too far from their place of birth, so this bird could well have come from a nest in the local area and then dispersed away to spend the winter in a new area. Perhaps we will retrap it again over the winter or even as a breeding bird next year.