Saturday, 4 June 2011

Temminck's Stint and calling Quail

After many years of enjoying seeing birds wherever and whenever, I have become afflicted by a growing concern about lists. Previously it did not bother me at all that I had seen neither Temminck's Stint nor Quail in Scotland, never mind Lothian, since I had seen (or, in the case of Quail, heard) them on the continent and elsewhere in the UK. For me, the excitement in birding was always in the seeking, rather than in rows of ticks or within an inventory of long-gone birds listed within geographical or political boundaries. But something has changed, and I find myself increasingly irritated by the fact that after over 15 years in Scotland there are some pretty common species that I have yet to connect with within its boundaries. Whatever, something made me check my email just after lighting yesterday's barbecue, and sure enough Dave A had found yet another good bird - this time a Temminck's Stint at Musselburgh lagoons.

I have never been very good at twitching, and this was no exception. Rather than drop everything it was several hours later that I left for Musselburgh. On arrival, of course, the bird had just disappeared. I started searching diligently but soon found myself distracted by a compact gull feeding frenzy in the Firth of Forth - I could just make out some sort of cetacean in the water when I heard a dry Lapland Bunting-like trrrrrt call. Hmmm, I thought.... Slowly it dawned on me that that had been the Temminck's Stint. Even more slowly I remembered that my Remembird has a library playback function and soon enough had confirmed that the call was that of the stint. Now, that was a quandry, could I tick on call alone|? Well, I have in the past for Corncrake, for example, and the frustratingly elusive Reunion Cuckoo-shrike... But this was a stint - no-one adds stints to their national list on call alone, do they? Luckily the quandry was solved sometime later, when altered by the call one more time, the Temminck's dropped in flashing its white outer tail feathers at the back of one of the scrapes and proceeded to feed in its slow deliberate fashion on the abundant hatch of flies and the muddy edge. Long bodied and pale legged, the bird showed better than the photo above would indicate (hope you can spot it skulking behind the Lapwings).

By this time, the evening was well advanced, and since the weather was so still and warm it seemed an ideal opportunity to take up my self-set challenge of finding a Quail
As it turned out it didn't take long, a couple of stops along lanes threading their way between agricultural fields in the Fenton Barns area of East Lothian produced three singing Quail. Once more the Remembird was out, this time recording. Here is last night's closest bird with the soundfile popped into Ravenlite to produce a sonogram - not particularly clear, but 4x 'wet-my-lips' clearly visible in this clip - a directional microphone, parabolic reflector and wind shield would all help methinks! Now, that was the second Scottish tick of the evening, and the second of which to be identified on call - any quandry here? Not in the least - everyone adds Quail to their lists on call alone, don't they?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

What May have been...

May, like any month, had its misses. I was hoping to see the escaped White Stork flying over the back garden (probably visible twice during the month) but it managed to evade me. (The bird above is a wild bird photographed in 2009 in Andalucia.) More galling perhaps were the Red Kite and Little Egret seen by others in the vicinity - both almost certainly garden ticks there for the taking. Of course, with the cold and windy weather that predominated for the latter half of the month there was little opportunity for garden birding.

In terms of Lothian listing, at least 187 species have now been recorded in 2011 (186 on Bubo plus Spoonbill). Mike H is still heading up the Lothian listing leaderboard this year with 177 species, a great tally given his comment that he is not listing this year. I have only managed 141 of these, but that represents a leap of 22 species during the month of May. Still plenty of obvious targets to keep my interest up as we approach June. Jay, for example, is still conspicuously absent - I just have not spent any real time in the correct habitat (i.e. woodland!). My chief target for June will be hearing Quail, a species I haven't yet recorded in Scotland. Again, it is a question of spending time in the appropriate habitat in the appropriate part of the region. Of course, I'm not thinking that I'm actually going to see one, but hearing the 'wet my lips' song should not be impossible...

Best birds of the month for me ... well, I cannot complain about a garden tick (Lesser Whitethroat) and a patch tick (Tree Pipit), but easily my best bird was the male Grey-headed Wagtail at Whitesands Bay last weekend. Just kicking myself that I didn't really manage to get shots that a more than a few blurry pixels - an utterly stunning bird - just needed that camera out of the bag before I got out of the car... ah well, next time...