Monday, 25 February 2013

A Lidl bit of twitching

I haven't seen Black Guillemot in Lothian for a few years so it would have been churlish not to stop off at the Prestonpans Lidl carpark when passing on Sunday. It took 10 minutes or so to find it as it was pretty far offshore, but the sea was flat and the light good. Not sure that it is quite identifiable in the photo, but that is what it is.

Meanwhile, hats off the Stephen W for finding a new species for Lothian round about the same time - managing to pick up an Egyptian Goose in a field near Haddington. With only a very small number of recent records in Scotland of individuals (presumably) dispersing from the feral population in East Anglia, I was keen to add this species to my county list. With work and home commitments I arrived at the site today at about 6:00pm when I suppose it would be officially dark. Luckily the bird was showing at the same spot and could easily be identified even in the gloomy views through the scope. Neither my phone or camera could manage any decent images, so these shots are all from Malawi in October.

Egyptian Geese with Spur-winged Plover, Spur-winged Geese, African Openbill Stork, Nile Crocodile and Hippoptamus at Liwonde National Park in Malawi.

So, did anyone have a bet on Egyptian Goose being the next addition to the Lothian list? In a word, No!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

First migrants return

I managed a brief trip out yesterday to check a couple of local spots - Duddingston, Figgate Park and Seafield. At each site a small number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were in evidence - almost all new arrivals I am sure, back from their wintering grounds further south and west. Most that were close enough for scrutiny looked to be large enough and heavy billed enough to be males, though that is a difficult call with isolated individuals. Two LBBGs from both my office window in Merchiston and over the back garden earlier in the week also indicate that the arrival of these smart gulls has begun. Other changes include Collared Doves back in Liberton and Figgate Park, a Pochard and pair of Gadwall on Duddingston. Bring on the spring!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Hybrid/yellow-legged gull primary pattern

Here are some slightly better (!) pics of the primary pattern of Saturday's hybrid/YLG candidate. Note the extent of the band on P5 ... What is not obvious from the pics is that the mantle shade intermediate between HG and LBBG and that the legs are bright yellow.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

(Un)Common Crane, East Lothian

Twitched the Common Crane at Knowes Farm in East Lothian today that has been present for the last few days. Great to get such useful help from the farmer and landowner who gave advice on best route and filled us in on the latest sightings. He was spot on about the bird's location. We kept to the John Muir Way as advised and were treated to good but distant views of the bird feeding. A little later the bird flew towards us and over the river to feed in another recently ploughed field. Superb flight views, and a species that I haven't seen since visiting southern Spain in winter 1989... So, in short, a Scottish and Lothian tick!

Great to see a bird that can be easily placed in a specific category - the last couple of trips have been dominated by hybrid gulls...

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Yellow-legged Gull at Seafield?

This is the best candidate I have had yet. Looks good to me, though a slightly broader band on P5 and a heavier head would be nice... Call seemed spot on for YLG as it came over my head. Refound it on filter beds, luckily - very yellow legs. What do you think?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Stringy Rook and another hybrid Herring x LBB Gull?

I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours of gulling today. As the tide was in I checked the loafing area beside the pipe-pile at Seafield but found it almost deserted. After twenty minutes the best I could do was a handful of BhGs, Herring Gulls and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. Scanning the corvids revealed two hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crows on a roof and a distant static Rook on a pole atop a portacabin. Switching to my scope the 'Rook' morphed into a falconer's Harris's Hawk (!) tethered to the spot. Ha! I wonder whether that is the first time that particular misidentification has been made? The bare skin around the bill and dark plumage had been massaged by my brain into the most-likely candidate... So, my second exotic raptor of the year, and the reason why the gulls were largely absent. Deterred, I headed around to the sewage works where it turned out there was lots of gull activity.

I was hoping for a white-winger of some sort but the best I could do was this possible hybrid Herring x LBB Gull. Possible argentatus Herring Gull given the wingtip pattern and pinkish leg colour (with only a hint of yellow). Characteristics favouring hybrid are the slight build - much more like a LBBG than a Herring Gull and the mantle shade that seems to me to be too dark to be an argentatus Herring Gull. Any ideas?...

The same bird was easily picked up when it moved to the sea. Unfortunately the light was poor...

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Soggy Sparrow

This male sparrow stopped me in my tracks today until I raised my bins - a soggy House Sparrow rather than the Spanish Sparrow that it was impersonating... Ah well, next time maybe...