Monday, July 31, 2006


Another hour's seawatch this evening, but to be honest, a bit dull. Oh to be in Ireland!

With my keen birdspotting eye, I spied 5 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas, 4 Common Terns, 17 Arctic Terns, 14 Sandwich Terns 4 Common Scoters, and the usual Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, in small numbers. A few Puffins around still.

And 3 Common Gulls, which is more like the normal sorts of level I wouldn't mention. Dunno what was happening yesterday.

This is gross. Lizzie had some Large White (butterfly) caterpillars in her bedroom, trying to make them into butterflies (just add cabbages and bake at room temperature for 2 weeks). Instead, they exploded Alien0style and spewed out larvae of a parasitic wasp - all of them now. I tried to explain to Lizzie that the caterpillars don't mind, and it's kind of like being tickled, but not sure she believes me.

It was bug of the month in September 05 - see Bug_&_Pest_Info/Bug_Of_Month/BOM_Sept05_BraconidWasps.pdf

Must be true... you couldn't make this up.

Anyway, we're off to Aviemore until Friday. Will let you know if we see any birds (apparently there are some).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Seventh Son of a Currant Bun

Newtonhill has been fog-bound for the last week, pretty much. Got up early this morning and saw it wasn't too bad out there, so headed for a walk round the patch and a bit of a seawatch. Patch was quiet. As I went down to the cliffs.... hmmm, the harr was a bit thicker down here... a bit of a seawatch, and I could see a bit of the sea, the bit that was very close to the land. Visibility was down to 100 m, which is bad even for my attempts at recording seabird passages. Still saw a few 'pairs' of Sandwich tern ad + juv, a Common Tern, and a couple of juvvy Razorbills, and a few Common Gulls. Resolved to come back later when the harr had burnt off.

btw thanks to Menzie for pointing out this thread on BirdForum
Oi! No!

Got back later, and there's a fresh southerly wind, and I can see for miles (hurrah!) but (boo!) there's a bit of heat haze. It starts off slow (a Manx Shearwater south, and a few Gannets). In fact I start to think maybe I'm facing the wrong way. Then it occurs to me there's a bit of a passage of Common Gulls going on - normally I'd see a couple and won't bother mentioning it. But between 17.45 and 1900, there's 52 gone south, and probably more cos they were very close in and over my head with a stream of Kittiwakes, so when it was eyes down for distant goodies, I would have missed a lot of them. Nealry all adults and only a couple of juvs. Other things, another Manx Shearwater (that makes 2... glad I didn't leave my tally counter at home :-$), 2 Great Skuas north and one south. Actually, it was one adult south, one north, then one south in wide looping arcs.... let's face it, it was probably the same bird, but I'll record it as 3 not 1, otherwise I have to start playing guessing games with everything else too, and life's too short. 37 Gannets south, 2 north, 4 Common Terns south, 7 Arctic Terns and 19 'commics'. Many apologies for my appalling id rate on the terns, but the heat haze was very bad.... errrr... and actually I'm blind so I had to identify them in braille.

There were loads of waders heading south too - don't you just hate waders on seawatches? Apart from phalaropes. I thought I had a phalarope this evening, but it was a jizz id in the haze, so will never mention it again; got away. And it would have been a patch tick too. 6 Sanderlings . 3 Whimbrel*, 15 Curlews, 9 Redshanks, 80 Oystercatchers and 4 'small unidentified waders'. I looked up
'small unidentified waders' in Shorebirds, but can't find them. eh?

3 White-beaked Dolphins - my first of the autumn. Huzzah! and twenty pounds for the King! Lovely. Not birds though. August is our peak month for them, so looking forward to dolphin-fest.

*Little known fact... Whimbrels (in their colloquial guise of 'seven-whistlers') are one of the few species of bird to appear in Iron Maiden's back catalogue of noisy head-banging songs. From the album 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son', can't remember the name of the song but it goes something like

Suffering and pain, impending disaster
Souls cry, the devil's laughter
Heard the cry of the seven-whistlers
Lucifer smiles, and hell awaits

tbh, I can't remember if Lucifer smiles or Lucifer cries. Either way, it's probably not good news. That I remember this much at all is probably not a good thing. I was a teenage dirtbag baby...

Friday, July 28, 2006


So, as usual this evening I was sat in front of a roaring log fridge, with Mrs Doc, perusing my copy of Cage and Aviary Birds. I don't keep birds, but it's nice to stay in touch with what's being bought and sold these days (Arctic Redpolls this week ffs!!!!!!!!). Sure you can imagine that it's rare for me to find a genuinely funny letter in there, but today there was. Here goes:

Aussie Bird Scarer
For bird keepers having problems with sparrowhawks, I discovered that Peter Andre, the suntanned Aussie warbler, was an effective deterrant. Unfortunately, Mr Andre declined an invitation to patrol my aviary, to bird-scare by flexing his pectorals. So instead I have fixed his CDs vertically on each corner of the aviary roof, supergluing two CD discs together. As the object is to scare, not to terrify, the label with Mr Andre's profile is obscured. The rapid flashing light reflection stops every trespass from cats, sparrowhawks and other wild birds, and also efficiently dazzles the bifocal lady at number 34 who peers over the fence.
I don't want to single out Peter Andre for the credit; the same effect can be obtained from those freebie CDs that prevent you rolling up newspapers any more, such as Mega Hits from the Eighties Nobody Can Remember, Love Ballads You Thought You Had Seen the Back Of and free movies which usually star a cast of deceased actors and Michael Caine before he started shaving. All those digital recordings that would have gathered dust in a studio, and now gather dust on your book case, can at last be put to good use!

Bill Naylorof Lincolnshire - I salute you as a wit of our time. I'm inspired to get a collection of pet birds. Think I'll start off with a Pine Grosbeak, a Mugimaki Flycatcher and errrr.... a Booted Eagle.

Cage and Aviary Birds costs £1.30 weekly and is available from all good newsagents and the crappy WH Smiths in Union Street, Aberdeen, that didn't even stock Birdwatch this month.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lest we forget, part whatever

Here's a treat. 16th May 1993. For reasons that I won't divulge just yet, 3 of us are at St Abb's Head (Scotland). Casually lift my bins to check out a couple of terns flying over Mire Loch. King Ell! Put this in your pipe and smoke it!

That was the first of two times when I've got my name in the BB rarities report without submitting a description. Actually, I'm a bit uneasy about it now.... 1993 was a more innocent age - Elsie (the long-staying Lesser Crested Tern on the Farne Islands) was still living a few miles to the south, and it was fair to assume that any yellow-billed sarnie was her. These days, orange*-billed tern identification has gone totally nuts.

*by 'orange', I include yellow, yellow-orange, orange-yellow, orange, orange-red, orange-and-yellow, and dirty yellow.

With Elegant, Cayenne, aberrant Sandwich, and all the hybrids thrown into the mix, I guess it's inevitable that one day they'll all be reviewed, and I suspect our 'fly-by' will be lucky to survive the cut. It was Elsie though, I recognised her moult cycle, or something.

And more shame, more confession.... why were we in the area??? remember how I said twitching a Common Rosefinch was shameful? Well cop a load of this.

Good eh? At the time it didn't even feel like an insurance tick, but what's this?
Ryabitsev & Wilson, 1999. Range extension of Long-tailed Rosefinch into the Western Palearctic. Brit. Birds 92: 498-503.
Ker-ching! They breed in the WP and are on a flight line for spring-overshooting to NW Europe. Someone should tell BOURC. Hey, wait a minute! I'm 'aving that.
Just goes to show, if you really want to know what's going on, read British Birds.

The Power of Procrastination

That's the problem with blogs, I'm learning - they're a great way to waste time. Right now, I'm *meant* to be writing an inciteful and thought provoking piece about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (it's going to kick butt, if ever I get round to it), or an inciteful and thought provoking piece about identification of Iberian Chiffie (that's been on my desk for 2 years), or failing that... gulls (sob! don't even go there, it's not like I do). Instead, I'm messing about in blogs. It's worse than that, though, because if you enter a time warp of writing blogs, you go into Dr Who country of parallel universes once you start reading other peoples'. You'll notice I've added some links recently. Fraser's birding blog has too many creepy crawlies in it, but his experiences in Ayrshire remind me of my old days in West Lothian when you'd turn up to your favourite wildlife site one morning in June and find it demolished to make way for another warehouse. Happy days! From Fraser's blog you can jump into his other half's contribution, Girlbirder which is mercifully creepy-crawly free.

One I haven't linked to... although I think everyone else has, is Birdchick.

I like that blog.. it starts well...

"To show the world that you can be a birder without being a geek..."

That's a very bold assertion , Sharon, I hope you can back it up...

"...I have the coolest job on the planet with Eagle Optics, I practically get paid to go bird watching..."

Count me in....

" and love to share my birding adventures and life with my disapproving rabbits."

Doh!! You couldn't back it up, could you? Let it go Birdchick.... there's nothing wrong with being a geek. Come, join us....

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dead (Common) Shrews. How? I found 5 today on my wander round the patch. All on the paths. That's a good score even for me. I'm not killing them, honest. It was good though, because normally I can't decide whether to eat them there and then, or to take them home as 'pets' for Lizzie's dolls, and fry them in a couple of days. Today I had enough to do both. Mmmm tasty.

Birding exploits won't detain you long today. Won't even bore you. Offshore the creche of Common Eiders was 2 females with 5 young - now over half-sized and probably too big for the gulls to eat. Actually in 4 years at Newtonhill, I've never seen any Eider ducklings last this long.

Wasn't expecting anything offshore, but as I eventually sat down for a look round (10.40! lazy) there was a layer of mist retreating and some showers, and for a few minutes it was all happening. In 3/4 hour I saw 16 Manx Shearwaters south, 2 north, 110 Northern Gannets south, 41 north, 1 Great Skua north and 1 south (actually suspect it will have been the same bird, but I'll count it as two cos it looks better), 1 pale Arctic Skua (that was definitely different, eh?), 2 Common Terns, 2 Arctic Terns and 2 Sandwich Terns. 100s Kittiwakes going south (all these things will be just feeding movements), plenty Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills back and forth, and a few Fulmars. The Arctic Skua was aggressively sinking Puffins, which is a bit harsh. Pick on someone your own size.

That enormous dolphinarium that is the North Sea produced 2 Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Been a slow cetacean year at Newtonhill so far, but I'll see if a tin of sardines or two can change that in August.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hippy Burpday

It was our Peter's second birthday today, so we let him out of the cellar for the afternoon and took him to Stonehaven for half an ice cream. This is the beach at Stonehaven - how many species can you spot?

Evening - Peter safely back in the cellar, I went for a seawatch... Look - here it is

But then it disappeared

Saw 42 Manx Shearwaters going north in the mist between 17.50 and 19.00, and ONE Arctic Skua attaching Kittiwakes. (100s Kittiwakes going south, including about 1% first summers). Eventually got some photos of very distant Guillemot with attendent juvenile, when it cleared up.
Try not to be too impressed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oi! No!

Gather round... on Sunday I distinctly remember warning of the perils of misidentifying baby Guillemots as Little Auks. In fact I'm pretty sure I advised against it, and against putting the news out on BirdGuides. Well my Spider-senses are suggesting to me that someone out there might not have been listening, cos THIS appeared on Birdguides today.

I was out again this afternoon, and saw three 'Little Auks'. You can tell they're not really Little Auks by the way they are being fed by adult Guillemots. Nuff said for now, but I'll continue to scan Birdguides, like Santa looking for naughty boys.

Not surprisingly for a baking July afternoon, I struggled a bit with birds today. To celebrate the deletion of Moustached Warbler from the British List, I saw an adult Sedge Warbler with a 'moustache', and eventually managed to chivvy a few Common Whitethroats, Goldfinches, Blackbirds etc. out of hiding along the Elsick Burn, but it was hard work. There was a fresh juvvy Goldfinch, and a Blackbird with a faecal sac, so secret breeding continues apace.

In the days of my youth, when life was a constant series of attempts to postpone boredom (i.e. pre-kids, when I had free time) I was an all-round naturalist who knew all about flowers, butterflies, liverworts, and all that crap. The Lizzie and Peter popped out, and I had zero time to do anything, so had to focus on what the Chairman of Zeneca would call my 'core-competences', i.e. what I'm best at... which in my case is pontificating about birds. So I've pretty much spent the last 5 years only doing birds, and all that wildlife that gets in the way of decent views of nice birds has had to go tickle (and that's swearing). And let's face it.... I'm very good at pontificating. ButI still know a butterfly when I see one, so I was surprised today to see 2-3 Dark-green Fritillaries flying up and down the Elsick Burn. Been here 4 years and they were a patch tick - pretty certain I would have seen them if they'd been around in previous years. Kind-of at the edge of their range, but nice to see.

Tried looking affshore for 45 minutes from 3.15, but not surprisingly v quiet. The sea was flat calm and I thought maybe I could jusat scan around and wait for the Minke Whales and White-beaked Dolphins to swim past. Turned out I was wrong. Are 2 Sandwich Terns and 1 Common Tern worth mentioning? The Kittiwakes have had a bumper breeding season so far, with about 50 nests hoaching with well grown young, but as I said before, doesn't seem to be that many young Guillemots (saw 4 on cliffs). And of course those 3 BABY GUILLEMOTS on the sea, with the adults.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Birding under the influence

Flushed with enthusiasm for freezing my swonnicles atop the cliffs, I spent another couple of hours staring blankly offshore this evening. Well worth it for flights of hundreds of auks (3 spp) alone, and also lots of Puffins sat close inshore. Wasn't the shearwater-fest of yesterday, but 42 Manxies tonight going north is still half-decent (sad but true). :-( They were belting past too, with a SSW airstream behind them. I got really bored at times... there was a single Arctic Skua north and a single Great Skua south, but they didn't have the decency to spread themselves out. I was watching the Arctic Skua heading north after a Kittiwake, when the Great Skua went south through my field of view, so I tracked that and lost the Arctic. In less than a minute it was over, whereas if the Great Skua had held off a while I'd have had two minutes of relative pleasure instead of one. Don't knock it... with 2 li'l kids I have to snatch at any moment of pleasure that life affords. :-) Also 76 Northern Gannets errrr... north, 3 Arctic terns, south + 8 Common Scoters south. 2 female or imm Red-breasted Mergansers going south at the head of a line of Guillemots was another brief pleasure (surprisingly infrequent here, I only see them occasionally on seawatches), as were 6 Bar-tailed Godwits heading south with Curlews. Just as I was giving up to head back for hame, another pale skua came through heading directly towards me, and it looked Pom-my, and then it turned after a Kittiwake and it WAS a Pom! Fantastic! Nice adult. Smashed into the Kittiwake, just once, then carried on its way. I love it when a plan comes together.

I think the heavy storms we had a week or so ago took a heavy toll on Guillemot chicks. I mean it killed them, just to avoid any confusion. But today I saw my first of this year on the water, looking like a Little Auk next to its dad. Martin's top-tip for Sunday.... please do not report baby Guillemots to BirdGuides as Little Auks. They're not...they're baby Guillemots. I'd love to be the County Recorder reading those descriptions... ' The bird was estimated to be about half the size of the Guillemot with which it was associating...'. That's because it was a baby Guillemot. Oi! Dudes! Nooo!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Jumping Fish!

Well, it's been a tough few weeks but now I've got a week off. Hurrah! With the wind blowing from the sea I could smell rotting fish and hear burping Puffins from my back garden, so sneaked away for an hour's seawatching at tea time. Lovely blue sea, light perfect, sun behind, nice and warm etc etc. Sit down and within a couple of minutes there's 27 Manx Shearwaters gone past. Don't laugh, west-coast birders, but that is actually quite good for here. So it's eyes down for scarce shearwaters, still need Cory's for my patch list and this is the time for them. Then as so often happens, things quieten down, then they liven up. Whichever, by 7 pm I've had 188 Manxies go past north - not stratospheric, but for Newtonhill, not bad. Also 2 Common Scoters going north. Males, as you asked. 1 Common Tern south, and 11 Common Teals, came north, turned round, went south a bit and landed on the sea. Not sure what all that was about. Then 2 dark phase Arctic Skuas harrassing a Kittiwake until it coughed up its guts - fantastic display close inshore. That was all, to be honest, but let's be clear - summer doldrums are over, seawatching is back and we are game on for the autumn. C'mon!
[This is the bit where I do my scientist victory dance that involves pretending to stir a big cauldron slowly with two hands while gyrating my bum in an uncoordinated manner and nodding my head in time to imaginary banging dance music. I'm doing it right now, in my pants].

Oh yeh, and there were a few fish that kept jumping out of the water. Fools.

I remember (vaguely related to above) when I got my first scope (1987 - still at school). It was a Bushnell Spacemaster and I felt like the bees knees. Went for a seawatch off the Great Orme, Llandudno, where I lived, and saw a Great Skua attacking a Kittiwake just offshore, The skua was a tick as well. Walked home feeling 7 feet tall.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

So raise the Scarlet Grosbeak high....

Ohmygod I can't believe I did this... maybe I should show a bit of self-respect, but (come closer, I don't want to shout...that's it, closer, closer, NOT THAT CLOSE!!!) today I twitched a Common Rosefinch. Having previously sneered with disdain at such low-listing-type behaviour as twitching non BB rares, but there you go. I'm a hypocrite, sue me. But I had an excuse... this is a red one! And sooo close to home as well - Newmachar, just north of Aberdeen, it would be churlish not to. So there I was, and I get out of the car and I'm wolf-whistled. Don't like to boast, but my new glasses do give my a certain panache, but wait! I'm being wolf-whistled by a Common Rosefinch. Is that allowed? So out in the open, in some bushes behind the Newmachar Hotel, it's 'pee-pee WHIEEEE YEUUU!! Astonishingly loud and piercing, and a Common Rosefinch singing. A grotfinch that's fallen in a paint tin (Poppy Red, btw). Very erythrinus, even. I had pre-prepared all sorts of pseudo-cool statements like 'pah, bit showy, give me an autumn juvvy any day' etc., but they were kind-of forgotten. Have to admit, give me my grotfinches in 'red-with-volume' ANY day of the week. Crown, face, chin, throat, upper breast red red red, very bright. Bit of a browner bandit mask around the eyes. Upperparts medium buff suffused with more red, and a reddy pink rump. Median covert bar was thin and white, stood out. Very mobile - kept flying off to the medium distance, but could easily be tracked by its song. At one point it fed at the side of the road with some Greenfinches - argh! Colour clash! Looked awful. Now it would have looked really good next to a Great Tit, or even a Siberian Blue Robin. Actually, I think I'd look good stood next to a Siberian Blue Robin - must try it one day. Anyway, you get the drift.

Before I leave the subject, I have to mention this.

Ian Wallace is has sometimes been criticised, perhaps unfairly, for his exuberance in the matter of writing descriptions of rare birds; but history will list him as one of ther Heroes of the Revolution, and you cannot criticise his ability to see and think on a big scale, and to communicate his ideas. One of the best things he ever wrote was this paper in British Birds (1999; BB 92, 445-471) charting the history of rosefinches in Britain and Ireland. It's a lesson in descriptive writing, and very interesting too.
'Taken into account all records, it appears that a peculiarly dynamic species of finch is throwing itself at Britain and Ireland at an uneven but growing rate.'
'The usually amorphous finch with beady eye and plaintive song will continue to present one of the most startling and enigmatic performances of all Palearctic passerines' etc.
Urge you to beg, steal or borrow a copy of this paper. If you ask nicely I'll even take a copy round to your house*
(*offer applies to immediate Newtonhill area only).

Back to matters current, and even as I was being sexually harrassed by the Red Grotfinch I was aware that there was a freshish south-easterly wind with drizzle and bits of mist, and that it would also be a good idea to be back in Newtonhill looking out to sea. Can't be in two places at once, but I CAN drive from the one to the other, so I did. By 9.15 I was back on the cliffs at Newtonhill. Errr. OK. There were lots of auks (3 spp) flying south with fish and a few hundred Gannets with fish and plastic bags, fishing nets, etc. But 45 minutes and 10 Manx Shearwaters later, I was starting to wonder if there was honey still for tea. I was really starting to wonder if we had any bacon left in the fridge (God's way of telling you to go home). The light was against me too. I tried to amuse myself looking at a family of recently fledged Carrion/Hoodie Crow dysgenic hybrids, but in the end decided to head for home and go out again later. Eugh, you've made me think of honey now. Hate honey. And the word 'mellifluous' - is there a nastier word in English? I doubt it. Rubbish seawatch - wish I was on Cape Clear for August. Except I'd miss my wife and kids obviously. (Sorry dear didn't see you standing behind me there). The when evening came, it was raining, so I didn't want to go out again! How rubbish is that? Twitches rosefinches, but only goes out if it's dry.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Slik D2 lightning conductor pt 2

Back out this evening for another look at the sea. I stopped counting Gannets and Fulmars etc., because there weren't enough of them... but 6 Black-tailed Godwits flying south were almost a patch tick (seen one previously, also on a seawatch).

Heinrich Gaetke 1814-1897

Heroes of the Revolution, Part 2

Try and imagine wavy lines on your monitor and kind of 'woo woo' music as I take you back in time to the days when the Britain thought it owned half the World, and it was kind-of OK to help yourself to any bit of rock with some military significance you took a fancy to. Yes, back in the days when Heligoland really was called Heligoland, 'borrowed' by and subsequently ceded to Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, a 23 year old budding artist called Heinrich Gätke came ashore in 1837, and shortly afterwards starting shooting birds and recording what was on the island. He pretty much stuck to the task until his death in 1897 , and his researches were the first systematic site-based study of migration and vagrancy. He wrote a book, in German first, then translated in 1895 as 'Heligoland: an ornithological observatory'. Surprisingly it is still not that difficult to find, if you are prepared to pay £40-80 via abebooks or something. Well worth getting, mostly for the systematic list that includes more rarities than you can shake a stick at and some fantastic stories to boot. So, Grey Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Moussier's Redstart, Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler, Eastern Crowned Leaf-Warbler and many more are recorded here - too much to list. Gaetke appears to have started, or encouraged, an industrial scale bird slaughter by small boys armed with sticks, stones and blow-pipes, and there was bird trade and almost certainly fraud. Lots of these records don't sound gen to me, although I understand that the Helgoland Records Committee is reviewing many, if not all of the old records, and I'll be interested to see what survives the cull. What do you make of this...

American Pipit (i.e. American Buff-breasted Pipit)
The first of these birds was shot on 6th November 1851 by a native gunner, whose attention was attracted by the, to him, unknown call note of the bird. It was an individual in fresh autumn plumage. The second was killed on the 17th May 1858 by the merest accident. A boy begged a shooter to let him fire a shot from his gun; he pointed the latter at one of the many Pipits that were running about, killing one which proved to be a female of this species in beautiful spring plumage.

To me, the first is just about plausible, although an extrmely sharp spot to pick out the call. The second has to be lies lies lies. Not Gaetke's lies, but I think he's been had.

Perhaps the most interesting parts of Gaetke's work are the recording of what to us are enormous numbers of common and even scarce migrants - flocks of 50+ Richard's Pipits regularly in the mid-1800s for example, that there seems to be no reason to doubt. For a man who spent so much time looking at birds, he didn't seem to get much right in his theories of migration strategy, and moult, but he was one of the giants upon which subsequent migration studies and sites were built. 'From Heligoland to the Humber' was his battlecry (of sorts) - he could see birds were crossing the North Sea and corresponded with Eagle-Clarke and others in Britain. Would Fair Isle have happened without Heligoland?

As you'll see from the photo (in the post above, for some reason I can't paste it in here) - he was no oil painting. Whereas a teenage birdwatcher of appropriate gender and inclination might feel a bit of a frisson, a stirring, a je ne sais quoi , locked up in a hostel on Fair Isle for a week with the Duchess of Bedford (below), I doubt whether you would get the same pleasure birding with Gaetke. In fact I'm pretty certain there must be worms in that coat. Nevertheless, his observations informed and motivated an entire generation of birders across Europe, established the credibility of 'isolated rock' as the bauplan, the archetype, for a successful bird observatory, and initiated the modern bird-finding mindset. for this, Heinrich G
ätke I name you a Hero of the Birding Revolution, 1st Class

Slik D2 lightning conductor

Not a lot of birds to report this week. grrrrr.... I was out nice n' early this morning though. I guess we're in the summer doldrums, but I could smell the ozone and hear the call of the sea - not long til the seawatching starts again. Anyway, there I was outdoors on a warm morning. that much is good. I was watching a Sedge Warbler hopping along the stones at the side of the Elsick burn, picking out low-flying flies, and made the mistake of trying to record the moment through the medium of biro artwork. BIG mistake. Possible the worst drawing of a Sedge Warbler ever undertaken. When time heals the shame, I'll scan it and put it on. Plagues of House Sparrow families, + Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats, Dunnock etc. If I was of that aesthete temperament, I'd suggest that life was bursting up through the mud. Good job I'm not. So basically quiet, and down in Newtonhill Bay there was a family of Mallards (mum + 3 6/8 size duckling trying to get away from me on wee stmupy wings), and a half-baked creche of Eiders (6 kids and three ad females). A few Kittiwakes resting on rocks, and a lone clap of thunder in the distance. I guess a lone clap is better than a single herpe. So I get to my usual seawatching spot, and there isn't really a lot happening - Kittiwakes, a few Gannets going south, Fulamrs, 3 spp auks etc. 1 (yes, i counted) Sandwich Tern. The suddenly there is an enormous thunderclap, and another, and there's lightning all over the shop, and I'm on an exposed rocky outcrop with 2 m of metal tripod sticking in the air. That was too much excitement for me and I headed home. It was BUCKETING down, and me in my usual Y-fronts etc, not prepared. Didn't see much else.