21st - 28th July 2007
Deep in the Great Wood of Caledon, at site A – remarkably close to
My mission, should I have chosen to accept it, which I did, was to get some crossbill recordings using my Remembird thingy and make some sonograms and get Scottish Crossbill back onto my list. So I marched into the forest, fearsome puddles notwithstanding. European Robins, Goldcrests, plenty of Coal Tits and a Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) going overhead. After about 30 min a flock of 8 Coal Tits came through with 2 Crested Tits in tow, and I saw them for a few minutes as they fed at mid-tree level. Pretty good, but potentially more exciting was as I was watching them a crossbill sp. flew over and I managed to get some (very) faint calls captured. Was very much hoping they were good enough to get a sonogram from, and that it would be a Scotbill. When I got round to processing it in the evening, point 1 was marginal – I could just about get a sonogram of sorts. Point 2 was equivocal, but more of that later.
Now listen here guys an’ gals... as it ’appens as it ’appens, Diane is running the Loch Ness marathon in October and wanted to us drive the route, while we’re up here. I was obviously not averse to that. Obviously I have a keen interest in the site in my professional role as one of the World’s renowned leading cryptozoologists, but also had a little something else planned. So as we were tanking along the B862 towards the south side of Loch Ness, risking life and limb in the face of the radiator grilles of the Hydroelectric lorries, I pulled a sharp right and to the exasperation of the family swerved to the roadside at Loch Bran for a bit of dragonfly action. Me n’ Lizzie squelched through the bog to the water’s edge, to be joined shortly by Diane and Peter, and
immediately jammed into a couple of Brilliant Emerald (Somatachlora metallica) males going back and forth along the water’s edge. I was even able to point them out to Lizzie, who was uncharacteristically impressed.
Notice the scientific name of Brilliant Emerald- you may not believe me but everyone’s favourite up-their-own-arse hard rocking ex thrash-now-just-trash rock band Metallica were named as a tribute to this dragonfly. Little known fact (FACT 1, or more likely, LIE) is that original line-up member Dave Mustaine was a big Odonata-fan. Shame he left the band before they released ‘One’ – a song about the thoughts of a Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo in its last few hours after being hit by a truck on the A5 running through Betws-y-coed. However, he did go on to release ‘Countdown to Extinction’ with Megadeth, a song about the need to preserve dragonfly populations through the judicious use of wildlife corridors to prevent range fragmentation.
Anyway, also at Loch Bran were ‘courting’ couples of Highland Darter Sympetrum nigrescens, an earlyish Black Darter Sympetrum danae, with Common Blue Enallagma cyathigerum, Blue-tailed Ischnura elegans and Large Red Pyrrhosoma nymphula Damselflies.
Large Red... so nearly in focus
Speckled Wood, Loch Bran
Little known FACT 2 (and this really is a fact, a opposed to fact 1, which was a lie) is that my only publication about dragonflies is a very short note in Atropos from days-of-YOREEEEEEEE!!!
Collinson, M. (1999). Highland darters Sympetrum nigrescens in south-east
Good result then, and after leaving the lochside strewn with drinks cans and sweetie wrappers ;-) we travelled on to Loch Ness. After all the monster talk, Peter was actually scared! But, to my disappointment, there were no monsters here. I immediately stormed into the Tourist Office in Inverness to complain, but was told that the Loch is very big, almost impossible to search, and there aren’t very many Nessies, and that they’re very shy anyway so as soon as they see you coming they fly away. I showed them my otter photos (see 12th July) and was later jumped in a back alley and soundly beaten by a whisky-soaked heavy with a superficial appearance to Groundskeeper Wullie. Ach! So many lies, so little time.
Wednesday 25th July 2007.
Took another walk deep into the forest for a bit of birding before the Kraken-kids fully woke up. More of the same, with extras this time. Once again, I had only one contact with crossbills - a couple of birds over the treetops, and got a slightly better recording. This time I think there’s a chance they were Scottish Crossbills.
And what do you make of this?
A party of three (presumably) tree-nesting Common Swifts were screaming round, just like the old days, and at the edge of the woods I had (fnarr fnarr) a single Spotted Flycatcher. It’s becoming quite a treat to see them.
My strategy of covering as much ground as possible and hoping to flush a Western Capercaillie came to nought. We went to the
C'mon Highland Wildife Park... you just had an Eagle Owl lying around and have to pretend it's native to put it on show, didn't you? I remember reading recently a list of zoos that were the worst for doing b*gger all for conservation... and I'm sure this was one of them.
Friday 27th July 2007
Findhorn Bay - Peter embarrassed us at the Findhorn Community place by asking if he could buy a hippie. Careful what jokes you make in front of the kids. Fantastic place though. Then on the beach, 2 Sandwich Terns and 15 Arctic Terns fishing, mobbed by a pale phase adult Arctic Skua.
Saturday 28th July 2007
More of the same at Nethy Bridge with some fantastic views of Crested Tits this morning, an Osprey circling over the woodland, and a juvenile Common Redstart with a spring-loaded tail in the tit flock. Disappointingly no more crossbill contacts. Cracking views of a Tree Pipit as it flushed from a damp farm field into the birches and showed off its Id features.
So, my crossbills... I guess I should have run this past Lindsay first, but why not broadcast my misidentifications to the World uncensored?.
I was working from the Dutch Birding paper
Robb, M. (2000). Introduction to vocalisations of crossbills in north-western Europe. Dutch Birding 22:61-107.
It provides 2 figs for flight calls of Parrot and Scottish Crossbills (and everything else, of course). which are...
andMy 24th July recordings are very very faint, but I might put them up later. This is in comparison to these ones from 25th July, of three birds flying away over the treetops. Listen here.
Remember these are an improvement, so you can tell what the other ones were like. I made a sonagram using Syrinx and got this.
I can't really find a Common Crossbill that does this flight call. The sonagram is crap, but the maximum amplitude is at 3.7 kHz which is too high for Parrot Crossbill according to the DB paper, and the general shape of the call elements is prettyy close to Scottish 'g' in the fig above, recorded at Loch Baa, Highland. Also the call is very short, which is OK for Scottish. So right now I think they were more likely to be Scottish Crossbills. However in the Sound Approach the story has changed a bit with only Scottish variation 'd' with the extra flourish being given for Scottish and these perhaps being more characteristic of Parrot Crossbill (but still too high pitched and actually sound v like the Scottish Crosscills on the Sound Approach CD, and not like the Parrots). So I'm a bit confused, but hoping SOMEONE can pass an opinion.