Wednesday, May 31, 2006

That'll be May then

Well that wasn't very good was it? Poor weather and the birding was a hard slog with little reward. Ok, so there was a good week, with Spoonbill etc, but that was when I was away! Maybe June will be better...

Monday, May 29, 2006

A couple more for the list..

Finally managed to see some Arctic Terns here - 3 fishing offshore this morning, and about time too! Less expected was a Cuckoo that gave a fine fly-by performance, attended by a few mobbing Meadow Pipits. Wind has swung round to the north-east - is there still time for a May biggy?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Early start

Out at 5am today, but still not much worth shouting about! A couple of Lesser Whitethroats still singing as well as half a dozen of their common cousins, 4 Manx Shearwaters heading west into a cold, strong wind up the Forth and a Whimbrel early afternoon. All very quiet.

On a much happier note, I read of the recent demise of one of the UK's most notorious egg-collectors who fell to his death from 40ft up a Larch Tree. Ha ha!! Pity he didn't land on a sharp, rusting metal spike and linger a while, contemplating his part in the decline of some of Britain's rarest species. Never mind. That's one of the b******ds out of the way. Here's hoping the rest go similarly quickly and painfully.

Friday, May 26, 2006

This is crap!

This has been the most disappointing spring I've had here in 14 years. Ok, so there's been a few decent birds, all of which I've missed, but otherwise, very low counts of passage waders, few migrant passerines and a total lack of raptors.

May is the month you look ahead to during the long winter months, but frankly, the weather was better then that it's been the last couple of weeks. And, with Arctic Redpoll and a drake Surf Scoter here then, so was the birding!!

Oh well, there's always June....

Sedge Warbler - not much to sing about

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Wishful thinking

I suppose Broad-billed Sandpiper was a bit optimistic, but in another day with strong westerly winds, I did at least add one more species to this year's bird list - House Sparrow! Brings the total up to 143. 178 is going to be tough, even with 6+ months to go. We'll see...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Knot a lot...

Strong westerly winds, a meeting all morning and an early finish this afternoon, so not a lot to report. Still a few waders around and will hope for calmer conditions tomorrow to get a good look through them - Broad-billed Sandpiper would be nice!

Monday, May 22, 2006


Not exactly a mild spring day - strong NE winds, cold and continuous light rain.

Went out to look through all the waders to discover they were roosting somewhere else this morning. Otherwise, not much else - 3 Manx offshore, and a Kestrel trying to plunder Lapwing chicks.

Still a bit knackered after the bird race too, which didn't help.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bird Race 2006

Yesterday saw this year's bird race - a keenly contested team competition to see how many species can be seen/heard in 24hrs in the Lothians (ie Midlothian, West Lothian, East Lothian & City of Edinburgh council areas).

The weather forecast was pretty dodgy, but midnight saw us meet up in calm, clear conditions and the beginning of our quest. Bizarrely, it was very quiet and we didn't get our first bird (Sedge Warbler) till 1am! This however was quickly followed by several others including Grasshopper Warbler and Whimbrel, both tricky species some years. No Barn Owls seen, which is pretty unusual, but we heard one near a known nest site.

3.30 saw us parked beside one of East Lothian's best woodlands to await the dawn chorus and a rush of new species. That's when the other team arrived! So we headed up the valley ahead of them, hoping to get a few they'd miss. An hour or so's walk and we'd added a good number of birds including Redstart & Garden Warbler, although we didn't get Jay which we'd hoped to add.

Unfortunately, by this stage, the wind had got up and the rain had started.

A fruitless half hour search for Yellow Wagtail preceded us hitting the coast for high tide and a big increase in our list including Brent & Pink-footed Goose, lots of seabirds including Manx Shearwater & Arctic Skua, lots of waders including Sanderling, Grey Plover & Bar-tailed Godwit, Shoveler & Wigeon. A brief inland foray brought Peregrine & Raven, and Tree Sparrows at our usual site were very obliging, but back at the coast the Surf Scoter that had been around for a week or two was not co-operating. It was about 1pm and we'd about 105 species.

Where were you yesterday when we needed you?

Into Edinburgh, and the first of two Green Woodpeckers, then the Pentland Hills where an hour's walk gave us Dipper, Cuckoo, Whinchat and excellent views of Ring Ouzel. That was the planned itinerary about finished, so it was time to decide what to do next. Our list was at 119, there were 3 hours daylight left and the weather was still a bit damp and horrible.

We decided to head for the Lammermuir Hills to go for Red Grouse, Golden Plover and hopefully, Short-eared Owl. Got all three very quickly. Two hours light and back to look for the Yellow Wagtails that we'd missed 12 hours previously. 45 mins later and it became pretty obvious that we just weren't going to see them, so it was back to the coast to try to get a last few new ones, including Red-throated Diver that we'd missed previously.

No joy. Two of us saw Arctic Tern but that didn't count (three of each team need to see/hear each species). No divers. One more site and we managed to add Long-tailed Duck, but the rain was now getting heavy. We called the other team and suggested an early finish, as it was pretty obvious we weren't going to add anything else and we were tired, wet, cold and bloody starving!

10.30 and we met the opposition in continued pouring rain to find out the winner. We had managed 123 species in fairly poor conditions - not bad when the record is 129. They had managed 124. Shit!!!

So the trophy goes to them. They had seen a fair few that we'd missed, including Red-throated Diver, Arctic Tern and Yellow Wagtail, but we had a few they didn't. We reckoned that the combined total seen was at least 140 species, which given the weather was an amazing total. But we lost by one...

May 19th next year, we'll get the trophy back.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A visit from Mr Falcon

Not much doing today; very windy - a male Peregrine scattered all the small waders just while I was about to go through them, so if there was an Oriental Plover there, it'll have to wait for another day.

Saturday brings Bird Race day - a keenly contested local competition, usually between 3 teams, although only 2 this year. A total of 130 species in the Lothians should win - that would be a new record. The team I've been part of has won 5 of the last 6, so we're keen to extend our run. The forecast is well dodgy though, so who knows what a good total will be. Midnight Saturday/Sunday will reveal all. I'll post the details when I wake up sometime Sunday afternoon...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Slowly does it...

Migration back to a trickle again. Two Wheatears and a Whinchat about covers it! But I did get the bonus of a Bonxie drifting past offshore and a Great Northern Diver at last. So two year ticks, but it's starting to get difficult...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Should have known better!

Anticipation is a very insidious thing, and I've been birding long enough to have suppressed it. Apart from a 1st-summer Little Gull (140 for the Reserve) all I got today was soaked! In saying that, there does seem to have been a marked arrival of small waders, all of which today were Dunlin & Ringed Plovers. Off tomorrow, so something's bound to turn up...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Back to normality

No sign of the Buff-breast today; in fact pretty quiet all round, although an Arctic Skua and Manx Shearwater offshore were both additions to the list, bringing it up to 139. Two Brent Geese were a bit unexpected.

Anticipation is quite high for tomorrow though. SE winds and overnight rain. Surely something else decent will turn up, this time while I'm here to see it?!....

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Got one back!

Back to the Reserve today. After all the exotica of last week, a bit of a come-down, particularly in temperature. However, found a Buff-breasted Sandpiper! Probably the same bird as was found a week or so back, but who cares!

The real thing this time...

Holidays in the sun...

A week away in Alcudia, NE Majorca. Warm, sunny and a great change of scene, not to mention appearing on stage with a "Kool and the Gang" tribute band. But enough of that nonsense. What about the birding?

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Spoonbill, Montagu's Harrier, Golden Oriole, Iberian Chiffchaff - all species that turned up and left East Lothian while I was away. Best spring week for years. Bloody typical!

However, two days at S'Albufera marshes got me Eleanora's Falcons, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilts, Audouin's Gulls, Purple Heron, Moustached & Great Reed Warblers, Cattle & Little Egrets, Squacco Heron, Zitting Cisticola, Kentish Plover, Bee-eaters etc. On balance, I think that selection more than wins! Add in a day up the Bocquer Valley, with a Black Vulture mobbed by 14 Eleanora's Falcons, several Marmora's Warblers and passage Red Kite, Honey Buzzard and 100+ Bee-eaters and as well as good food and vast quantities of San Miguel beer it was an excellent trip!

A few piccies...

Great Reed Warbler

Woodchat Shrike

Audouin's Gull

Little Egret


Cattle Egret

Black-winged Stilt


Thursday, May 04, 2006


A Buff-breasted Sandpiper was found down the coast today - same person that found the Ring-necked Duck last week. Two yanks in East Lothian in 8 days is good going!

Sadly, I'd too much to do on the Reserve to see either. Another good count of Wheatears today (30+) but, as yesterday, not much else except the first Whimbrel (a bit late though).

And with that I thought "hooray, it's holiday time". Because this time tomorrow I'll be in Majorca!

But, there's always a sting in the tail. Text message tonight - Buff-breasted Sand now at the Reserve. Bugger!

Will it still be around on 13th when I return. Unlikely. Never mind - I've seen them here before, but would have been a good year-tick. Hopefully that's the best bird I'll miss, and will be made up for by Eleanora's Falcon, Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow etc etc. Speak to you agin on 12th. Byeee!

Ok not today's, but here's one I prepared earlier..

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mild and sunny, but blowing a gale!

Lots of Wheatears today - 32 - much the highest count of the year so far. This was a good sign for other migrants, but other than hearing another invisible Cuckoo, there wasn't much to be seen.

There was also an incident where a family of foreign tourists (Dutch?) decided to wander through the middle of the marsh, disturbing breeding birds left, right and centre. Had a wee chat with them and put them right...

They'll never find the bodies.

Only joking.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Brief note!

A cold wind today, but at last a few Swifts arrived, with 20+ flying west. Not much else doing though!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Not bad, but could have been better...

Bird of the spring so far - a Little Ringed Plover I stumbled across with a few of it's more common cousins. I heard it calling, perhaps alarmed by a Merlin (a good bird for May) sitting on a post 100m away. The Merlin departed off south, with the LRP heading off high NE an hour later.

Not much else, despite promising conditons. Finally saw a Sedge Warbler, but not the Cuckoo I heard. Sometimes the anticipation outweighs the reality.

Incidentally, the photo was taken at S'Albufera marshes in Majorca, where I'll be next week! Bring it on...
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