Sunday, March 18, 2007


Who was it said 'From the troubles of the World, I turn to birds'? So, back on the Newtonhill patch and an almost entirely woodpecker-free posting, except
1) I just realised that of the 118 press reports (!), many had me as being Scottish , which is an insult to the good people of Scotland. I am, as Diane would say, and does, a sassenach git. BUT I realised I missed a fantastic chance to do that interview with CBS in a comedy Scotch accent in the style of Private Frazer from Dad's Army. I do that really well: 'We're doomed! We're doomed... and so are the IBWOs!' Sorry Nearctic readers, you have to have seen the programme on TV.
2) Lordy, the BBC. Now you know where the licence fee is going. And Scientific American. And Fox News! That is just insane. It must be 'The British are Nuts!' week on Fox. Have been on their website for 15 minutes and I seem to have developed this overwhelming desire to invade Iran. Anyway, enough.... back to birds.

It was such a good storm last night. Looked out the back window first thing this morning and all our garden furniture had transmigrated majestically across the lawn and was trying to get into the neighbour's garden. Some of it actually had hopped the fence. Good effort. Wind was from the NW and Cripes! it was suddenly snowing. Piled on a few extra jumpers... down at Elsick Mill, I surprised a pair of White-throated Dippers, who were cavorting together next to the culvert where the nest has been in previous years (though not last year). Neither of these was the ringed bird from times past, so I guess that one has moved on or found a special peace of its own somewhere. The Dippers have really got a move on this year. Argh! I hate it when (apart from today) we have really nice early springs and the birds kick off early. You aren't allowed to enjoy it, cos it's probably global warming and spells DEATH for us all, or something. It certainly spells wet carpets for the houses by the beach. Private Frazer welled up within me... 'we're DOOMED!'.
A Northern Lapwing flying determinedly over Cow Field was a patch year tick. They all count.

Down on the beach, it was lovely, out of the wind. Just me, a Rock Pipit, 3 Common Eiders (noooo!!! I can feel a sermon about racial identification coming on!) and a flock of nasty annoying little flies from somewhere (note to self... probably something dead - don't go look). The female Eider was drinking seawater. I guess she has no choice, but eugh! Doesn't she know this is Newtonhill, where we still pump untreated sewage onto the mussel beds? That last sentence is dangerously close to the '40% of lies' category, but we do pump sewage. Oh, I can't help it. I had really good views of 12 male Common Eiders, including the bird I shall now name 'roundy-lobes' (it's less offensive that 'wtf') from last week. In fact there was lots of variation in both the shape of the bill and the colour between the birds. 12/12 had some yellow in the bill, at least on the basal 1/3. Only 2 of those I would describe as largely greenish grey bill, 10/12 were 'mostly yellow', and 5 of those were entirely bright yellow apart from a ghouly pale yellow-green nail area. IN shape, apart from roundy-lobes, there was another 'half-roundy', and lots of subtly different varieties of pointy lobes. Even restricting myself to the birds I saw really well, and only today, there appears to be a lot of variation that rivals the intra-taxon variation. See the illustration (pasted here) of different subspp. from the idiosyncratic, often overlooked but very beautiful Ducks of Britain and the Northern Hemisphere by John Gooders and Trevor Boyer. Most birds on my patch are like the middle one, perhaps a little less extreme, less than 20% are like the top one. One of them is like the v-nigra, but withot the nigra-v. This bad obsession is messing my mind, but I don't think any of them are anything other than locals. Don't give me that look - I report, you decide.


Harry said...

Hi Martin,
I wonder if the situation with Eider isn't analagous to that shown in Guillemot, where 'bridled' birds are found throughout the range, but predominate in the north? Perhaps certain 'morphs' of Eider predominate in certain areas, and, up to now, these were presumed to be 'good' subspecies?
Perhaps I'm just spouting bollocks, though...that would be equally likely! After all, I don't even get to see Eider down (unintentional pun!) here too often, seen 2 males in Cork EVER....

JH said...

I knew I should have told Norman about your blog when I saw him on Saturday (at the Dutch Birding Day, don't worry).