Saturday, November 18, 2006

Egrets, I've had a few...

It's all over! Fourteen years as Warden of Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve have come to an end and I am off to a new job.

I have loved this place. From the age of 9 or 10, visiting wonderful reserves in the NE of Scotland, this was the kind of job I always wanted, and to end up at such a great spot has been a birder's papradise!

Ok, there's been a few negatives. Folk who insist on letting their dogs charge about all over the place; strange men who insist on waving their bits around as soon as the sun comes out; the constant buzz of microlites and poor little rich kids in their little planes on a quiet spring day; people wandering through nesting waders or terns; a***holes who break into people's cars just so they can get their next fix....

But enough ranting! My colleagues have been really good friends, I've met some great folk out on site, and as for the birds....

White-billed Diver, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Snow Goose, American Wigeon, King Eider, Surf Scoter, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, Crane, Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Buff-breated Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Sabine's Gull, Forster's Tern, Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Marsh Warbler, Barred Warbler, Firecrest, Great Grey Shrike and Arctic Redpoll among others. 221 species in all.

Watching 20,000 Pink-footed Geese coming in to roost in October; hoping those Ringed Plover chicks will fledge; the chaos that ensues when the Osprey drifts north overhead in May; the Snipe dropping out of the clouds during an August rainstorm; trying to see that first Lesser Whitethroat of the year....

I hope my successor is the right person for the job, and enjoys similar wonderful experiences as I have had. As for Aberlady Bay, thank you. I will miss this place.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Back again

Sorry! It's been a while...

October didn't really deliver for me this year. Missed a few birds down the East Lothian coast, although I enjoyed Suffolk. On the Reserve, plenty birds, including 18,000 Pink-feet last week, as well as 2,700 Golden Plover, loads of duck and plenty other waders.

Suddenly though, it's got really cold. Maximum of 7C today, down ten degrees on two days ago. Guess I must be getting old?

However, I've not been out much recently. The end of an era approaches, as I'm about to leave the Reserve after 14 years working here, and start a new job! The paperwork I've got to cram in over the next couple of weeks is horrific, but I want to make sure that whoever inherits this place doesn't have an administrative nightmare to sort out!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Away days

Just back from a week in Suffolk, a long slog (450 miles) from East Lothian.

Not long into the drive south, stopped off in Northumbria to see a Roller, only the second I've seen in Britain, which was a good start. Then a week based at Dunwich on the east coast of Suffolk - not as flat as I expected and with a really good network of footpaths, large areas of forest, heathland and lots of coastal lagoons and marshes, including Minsmere RSPB reserve.

In the first couple of days re-aquainted myself with a few southern species (such as Dartford Warbler) that we don't get too many of in Scotland. I also saw loads of Jays and Green Woodpeckers, both of which are pretty scarce up here.

On 17th, decided to go and twitch a Red-flanked Bluetail about 10 miles down the coast. I got there at dawn, and there was only a couple of other folk there, but within half an hour there were 50+ birders there, shouting and yelling, charging through the bushes and basically only allowing very brief views of the bird before it was flushed deeper into cover. What a bunch of idiots. No concept of a patient sit and wait....

18th at Minsmere was more enjoyable, even though the Reserve was pretty quiet. Excellent views of Marsh Harriers, a very brief Bittern and a late Swallow were the highlights (although Reserve staff were more interested in 2 fly-by Velvet Scoters I had offshore!).

"No I can't see it! Just off to crash through the undergrowth to get a better look..."

On 19th, about 30 Avocets on the Alde estuary were a pleasant surprise - there were none elsewhere.

Back home, and out at the Reserve on 22nd and I found two drake Surf Scoters offshore. Ordinarily bird of the day, but that accolade went to a pair of Gadwall that were the first for the year here - I had a Surfie in January! Yesterday, 17,000 Pink-footed Geese came in to roost at dusk. Magic!

Just goes to show that you don't have to go too far to have good birding!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Out for a duck

Nipped down the coast for a couple of hours this morning - south-easterly winds, mist and rain, so it looked promising. Loads of Redwings and Song Thrushes piling in off the sea, plus a distant owl sp. that was either Long- or Short-eared. A few Bramblings as well, and luckily I was at Torness just after a Yellow-browed Warbler was found. Good views as well!

Back at ther reserve this afternoon - hoaching in wildfowl! 350 Wigeon, 180+ Teal, 90 Mallard, 3 Pintail, 3 Shoveler, 24 Barnacle Geese and a good few Pink-feet around. Gosford Bay had a few Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes as well as 30 Long-tailed Ducks.

Not bad for a manky day!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Highs and lows

Wednesday morning was very pleasant - mild and calm with a cracking adult Mediterranean Gull on the beach, only the third time I've seen these here and a goood bird to bring up 160 for the site this year.

Then back to the car park to discover some dirty f****r had decided to break into my car and rip out the stereo. Love to get a hold of them....

Tonight, one fixed window (but no music yet!) later and the dusk goose count gave 10,170 Pink-feet - a bit more like it. Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quiet autumn

Despite this allegedly being the peak autumn migration period, it's pretty dead. Barnacle Goose numbers have dropped, Pink-feet numbers are rubbish and there's no thrushes here yet. Did add Yellowhammer to the year's list though - now 159. Crap! A few lingering summer migrants remain, including Swallow & Sandwich tern today. Also, 4 Little Gulls offshore...

So, in order to spice things up, thought I'd try to break my UK month record of 163, set in September 2002. I've a week away planned, plus a day up north so we'll see. So far, the total is on 81.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Goose count

First goose count of the autumn gave a paltry total of 2300 Pink-footed Geese, about a fifth of the numbers here this time last year. Must be global warming meaning they can winter in Iceland? Still lots of Barnacles though, and the first Long-tailed Duck of the autumn.

Not the most exciting September ever...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Buzzed off

Yesterday morning, a Bee-eater flew over the Reserve, calling twice in the process, but remaining resolutely invisible. This is the second time I've heard this species here and failed to see it - the last time, about 5 years ago, someone else did see 3 after I'd heard them. I also missed seeing one that had been present for 4 hours down the coast 12 years ago - I arrived 10 minutes after it waved goodbye to the assembled crowd... GRRRR!

The one time I did get one in Britain, it was a very sad, unspectacular, wet bird at the top of a very tall tree near Aberdeen. Fortunately, they were more obliging in Majorca this spring!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Barnacle blast

1500+ Barnacle Geese today, en route from Spitsbergen/Svalbard to SW Scotland, dropped off to rest after their North Sea crossing. This is the second highest count for the site. On the down side, only 130 Pink-footed Geese. Come on guys, you're late!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dipping out.

Switched on my mobile yesterday to find two messages about a Blyth's Reed Warbler (a lifer) just down the coast at Dunbar on Sunday. Two hours later, having set a new land speed record on the way, I was there. Tragically, the bird was not, and it hadn't been seen all morning. A nearby Red-backed Shrike had, but it too had disappeared by the time I arrived. Feck! (Memo to self - keep mobile on at all times)

A Spotted Redshank at the Reserve would have made small consolation but it completed a rather sad hatrick by also being absent. Not a good day.

Today, blowing a gale (westerly- not much use to anyone), and didn't see anything of any great excitement.
The FatBirder's Nest
FatBirder Web Ring
Prev Site Random Site Next Site
Linking Birders Worldwide Join