Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 Highlights

As the year draws to an end I am surprised by just how many amazing wildlife encounters I have managed to fit in. Here's to 2014 being just as exciting for us all.

Finally, to gulls
My favourite gull shot of the year - a juvenile Glaucous Gull photographed at Seafield with a Greenland-esque landscape of Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat in the background

An isabel dilutant mutant Herring Gull at Seafield with a more normal individual
A scarce gull and my best gull find of the year - a Ring-billed Gull in Lisbon
Hybrid HerringxLBB Gull photographed in between one of each

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Grey Phalarope at Skateraw

I was heading out to Belhaven again to try for the Caspian Gull seen on Friday when news broke of this lovely little wader just a little further along the coast at Skateraw. I was delighted to see it was present and performing as I haven't had much luck with twitching this year... still irked by the unreasonable behaviour of the two Northumbrian Ivory Gulls... After watching the Grey Phalarope for half an hour or so I tried again for the gull at Skateraw tip and Belhaven. After a good few hours at the latter site, where the highlight was a Greenshank, I headed back and had a bonus Merlin from the A1 as I passed the Blindwells area. Not only was the Phalarope a Scottish/Lothian tick for me but the falcon was the first in 2013. Nice though to see so many of the Lothian bird-finders out and about today - keep it up guys, maybe I'll pay you back... I'm hoping for a much better run in 2014...

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Patching: Kingfisher and Wigeon

I decided to stay close to home today. Now that the leaves have fallen I have been able to peer towards Little France when passing Craigmillar Castle and have been surprised that the building works area has actually been turned into a flood prevention scheme - bingo! a whole array of previously un-noticed birding habitat!

A quick look around this morning produced a nice selection including 25 Lapwing, 23 Stock Dove, Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Linnets and Meadow Pipits along with a handful of loafing gulls. Most surprising was a total of 98 Mallard, 4 Teal and patch ticks in the form of a Kingfisher and 2 Wigeon.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sub-adult hybrid Herring x LBB Gull, Skateraw, 15 December 2013



I had only commented on Twitter yesterday that I had been unable to find a hybrid gull in Edinburgh for a few months (despite looking hard) when I picked one out at Skateraw Landfill site East Lothian today. Viewing is distant and the images poor. Aging these subadults is hard as I am pretty sure they follow their own rules in terms of plumage. This individual has white underparts and tail and a clear trailing edge on the open wing but signs of immaturity in the coverts and tertials.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Identification of 1st winter large white-headache gull


Oh no! Its a snouty, pale under-winged, venetian-blind upper-winged first-winter large white-headed gull... Maybe some Caspian Gull genes in there but if so it does not quite look like what it should look like. Best then to ignore the cachinnans-like coverts and tertials and put it down as a weird argentatus Herring Gull. After all - every gull at Seafield is a Herring!

Never did see the tail...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Harried Harris Hawk

Carrion Crows and CarrionxHooded hybrids hassling the Harris Hawk

A couple of brief trips to Seafield so far this weekend have produced a couple of interesting sightings. Yesterday an adult Mediterranean Gull was offshore with the Common Gulls at the outfall. Only a brief and distant sighting sadly. Today's unexpected bird was another view of the falconer's Harris Hawk on top of one of the buildings. The gulls seemed to be slightly worried. The corvids on the other hand were flocking in droves to get a good look at this tropical species.

CarrionxHooded Crow hybrid showing off its giveaway darker scapular and vent feathering. Taken on the 4 Nov - which clearly was a sunny day!
There were a couple of regular hybrid crows joining in this attempt at mass bullying. Earlier I had seen what could have been a pure hoodie over Duddingston but of course it is far more likely to have been a hybrid. Here is a nearly-pure Hooded Crow hybrid on Seafield shore earlier in the month.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

River Otter off Musselburgh

I arrived at Musselburgh sea wall today just at the right time today. Another observer had just found an Otter offshore. We scoped it as it headed in the general direction towards Fisherrow Harbour. Distant views for me - but enough to get good looks at its head tail and body out of the water each time it surfaced and dived. We rushed around towards the harbour by car but sadly could not relocate it.

My best River Otter sighting of the year is shown above - an amazing, prolonged close view of an individual feeding at very close range in a river in Andalucia in July. A few minutes later I also saw my first ever Black Stork!

Steel grey Scandinavian Herring Gull

I can't be sure without a colour ring, but I think that this Herring Gull has crossed the North Sea for its winter break in Musselburgh. The steel-like grey upperpart tone combined with reduced black in their outer primaries are pointers to the identification of Scandinavian Herring Gulls. Another bird at Seafield this morning was darker grey and had thayeri-like wingtip pattern - that's a classic combination for a northern argentatus. This one is slightly trickier on both counts, so maybe its origins are slightly less far north?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Scandinavian HerringGull (subspecies argentatus) at Seafield

It has been an extremely quiet autumn for me bird-wise - lots of looking but not much finding. I have not once managed to time a trip to the East coast that coincides with decent conditions for grounded migrants. Other than a few brief views of YBWs, a very brief Sardinian Warbler and another self found Ring-billed Gull (in Dublin, of course), decent birds have been conspicuous by their absence.

Today I managed to squeeze in an hour or so at Seafield and the best I could manage was my first Scandinavian Herring Gull of this coming winter season. This bird had very little black in its wing-tip compared to our breeding birds and an upperpart shade that is darker. In the shot of it on the shore it can be seen that it is obviously darker than the accompanying Black-headed Gulls. Note that P10 is still growing on this bird and that P9 shows no back extending to the web - ie a thayeri pattern. More often, in my experience, these northern gulls keep their distance and seeing these details can be tricky. This one today treated me to a nice flypast.

Scandinavian Herring Gull standing in water to right of roosting BhGs