Sunday, September 30, 2007

We got incoming

I was a bit concerned about Saturday's Birdmap on BirdGuides that seemed to suggest that either 1) there are no good birds in NE Scotland or 2) there are no birders in NE Scotland or 3) all the birders in NE Scotland, including me, are hopelessly incompetent. 1) seemed unlikely, given the almighty haul they were getting north and south of us, 2) I *know* is no true, although we are a bit thin on the ground, which left 3). Ho hum. So I thought maybe a damn good trot round thepatch would throw some light on the situation, and initially I have to admit that I didn't rule out 3). I could bore you with where all the Chaffinches and Blue Tits were, but I won't. 4 hours, down the Elsick Burn, up to the clifftops, 10 minutes looking offshore, then allotments, over the coastal fields to Water Valley and Muchalls, back up the Muchalls track with eyes peeled produced virtually nothing migranty. A very small number of Goldcrests held a vague non-specific hint of eastern promise, and there seemed to be 1 or 2 Coal Tits in unusual places hinting that things were on the move. About 10 Eurasian Siskins came over in 1s and 2s, and there was a trickle of Skylarks. 11 Ruddy Turnstones on the beach - a quick look offshore reassured me that nothing interesting was happening, tho 4 Velvet Scoter went south. A really warm day with lots of butterflies: Small White, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell.

Is it just me, or are the bodies of my victims getting more gory?

Warning: this report contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing. Unsuitable for children and the squeamish. A House Mouse, post car tyre trauma. I made it smaller so you don't have to look.

As I was walking back up the Muchalls track, I got a phone call from home to tell me that, in light of the number of jobs needing done around the place, my family would view the prospect of my imminent return home with unalloyed pleasure. Those were almost exactly the words used. I trotted back through Newtonhill and met a man mowing his lawn - he knows me as being interested in birds. I know him as a local dogwalker who I see when out birding, and as an occasional lawn mower. 'I had a Merlin in my back garden this morning' he tells me. As you know, I'm very sceptical about birds I didn't see myself, and thought it was probably a Sparrowhawk, but to my surprise he went on to describe a Merlin very well, and indeed it sounds like it was one. mmm... potential patch year tick, must keep my eye out.

Got within sight of the house, Diane is waiting for me - she's jammed Peter into the car boot AND he's enjoying it. Suddenly I heard what sounded very like a Yellow-browed Warbler from the garden across the road, and as I turned to look a Phyllosc (the only Phyllosc I've seen today, btw) flew over our heads into our back garden. Errrr.... I think... and then it called again and errr...there's a Yellow-browed Warbler in my back garden! Regular readers of this blog, you saddos, will know that's not even a back garden tick, but it is a valuable patch year tick. (15th October 06 - see here and here).

Then it went all elusive on me, and Diane was getting even more pleasure out of the prospect of me spending the afternoon chasing a fly-by Yellow-browed. Fortunately I have Y-b W song and call loaded onto my phonem so turned the volume up to max and tried to lure it out. The call did no good whatsoever, but when I played the song it flew from wherever and perched in our birch (that rhymes!) within 4 m of me for a good grilling. I repeated that trick a couple of times and got the description. A stunningly bright bird with strapping wingbars. Here are my notes, uncensored. Sorry about the wren-bill thing going on, but remember these are genuine at-the-time unexpurgated notes, with drawing disasters and all.

I was by this time very keen on those back garden jobs. I hung out the washing, to the tune of a yellow-browed. Then I started digging up an overgrown b*****d Buddleia, to the tune of a yellow-browed. I was almost half-hoping that some passing birder at a loose end would come and see the YbW after I put it on BirdGuides. They could come into my back garden if they spent 10 minutes hacking away at the huge monster roots on this thing. Kept seeeing the YbW on and off up to abot 4 pm (occasionally I encouraged it with another blast of song). That belt of trees behind my house is crying out for mist nets.

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