Sunday, 6 February 2011

Bean and seen it

Meat Loaf didn't sing 'One out of three ain't bad', because, let's face it, he would have been lying. But in terms of Lothian life ticks it would pretty much sum up my weekend if he had. 

Saturday morning and I was passing Linlithgow so I popped in to look for the Smew on the loch. I only had about 20 minutes as I had to get to a meeting elsewhere but I thought it would be long enough to see this regular wintering bird. Nothing doing, and serves me right for not having done my preparation - I'm sure that if I had bothered to find out a little bit about the bird's regular areas on the loch I could have focussed my attention a bit more effectively. Never mind, now that I have dipped on this one, I'll be back... but maybe I won't wait 5 years this time.

Having learned my lesson I made sure the both the OS map and six-figure grid reference were with me for the Taiga Bean Goose near to Whitekirk, East Lothian. A new Lothian species for me, and easily my best views of what often seems to be a particularly shy species. It was keeping company with a single Greylag Goose (rear view below) and a small group of Whooper Swan (right) and Mute Swan (back) and all seemed reasonably relaxed about the nearby cars of birders. Unfortunately the weather conditions were not ideal with grey skies and rain falling.
As the Taiga Bean Goose fed it became clear that it was limping. It is possible that the bird is injured in some way, and it is also possible that an injury might be the reason that it has stuck in this non-traditional wintering site. Either that or some kind soul tried to physically nail the bird down for the week so that weekenders would have a chance to see it!...

What was also slightly strange was the presence of a single Pink-footed Goose (right) in a neighbouring field. By turning through 180° it was pretty much possible possible to compare the finer details of the two closely related species - an added bonus for sure. This must be what the virtual-reality-field-guides of the future will be like! Just to prove that this was some sort of demo of some cyber-ID experience, the Bean Goose then got on with a series of stretching and preening manoeuvres.  Each of these showed a different feature of the bird to best advantage, whether the orange legs and feet, or the extent of the orange band and blaze on the bill, or the dark tail narrowly bordered with white, or the white uppertail coverts combined with a black rump and back. Being far more familiar with Pink-footed Geese, this latter feature looked stunning when the Taiga Bean Goose wing flapped (unfortunately I didn't get a shot of this as I was un-fogging lenses at the time... ).

As for the third potential Lothian tick, I failed to connect with the mobile Great Grey Shrike that has been frequenting the same general area as the goose. Now, that is definitely another reason to return.

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