Sunday, November 25, 2007

What better way to celebrate the Siberian weather...

...than with some Siberian birds?

Within five minutes of the kids getting up this morning, one of them was back in her room until she was ready to say sorry, and the other one was on his last warning. I did what any responsible father would - left them for their Mum to sort out, wrapped up warm and went for the usual circuit of Newtonhill, thinking there would be no birds but at least I could go down the cliffs to hoover up any lingering Little Auks.

Predictably, things were very very quiet, with the only excitement being flushing a hidden Grey Heron from the banks of the Elsick Burn. In the Mill Garden there was only a Great Tit at first, but as I tracked the bushes down to the beach, I heard something calling repeatedly - a monosyllabic 'eeeeih' or something, over and over again. It reminded me a little of the Donmouth Hume's Leaf Warbler from last year (here and here), although possibly a purer note. So I was hoping it was one of them. I didn't have Hume's call on my phone (bit of an oversight that) but remembering how that Hume's had responded (weakly ;-) ) to Yellow-browed call, I gave the unseen birdy a blast of that. What appeared in the willows 3 m from my head was a chiffchaff... so suddenly it fell into place and I realised that for the first time I was hearing the 'sad' call of a candidate tristis, i.e. Siberian Chiffchaff. Ka-chow! And while it was sat there stunned by Y-bW decibel-overload I got a really good look at it, confirming there was no yellow in the face - a fully buff supercilium, white eye ring, darker lores. Generally the bird was a study in brown and buff. The upperparts were brown - not dark brown, but a mid dirty brown (not really grey or green tinges at all), and the underparts from throat to vent were dirty off-white tinged with buff especially along the flanks. There was quite a discrete greater covert bar, with the tips of the outer 4-5 coverts at least being fringed paler buffy/grey (a long way from white). A flash of yellow feather was visible at the bend of the wing, which was the only yellow visible on the bird, and I could just see dark green/olive fringes to the primary feathers. The legs were black, as was the bill. Cos it was still calling, I thought this was a good time to turn on the RememBird thingy for the first time in a few weeks. Pressed the 'on' button, but it was dead. batteries gone. No no no noo NOOOO!!! This is NOT happening. But it was... remember kids... always check the batteries before you start the game.
The chiffy flew up into the tops of the willows where it moved around actively, loosely with a Blue Tit and a Great Tit, obviously much more difficlut to see against the light, but it was tail-dipping and I got to see the chiffie structure, with medium-short primary projection. I followed it round for a while, but didn't get better views than my initial minute or so while it was working out where the 'Yellow-browed Warbler' was. However, it was calling ALL the time 'iiiih' - so much so that I wondered if there were two birds, but I only saw one, and the calls only came from one place at a time. Took as many notes as I could, before continuing on my way. Ka-chow! again! Best bird I'll find this year. Also, it was in the same bushes as the previous two Pallas's Warblers. There should be a preservation order on those bushes.

An hour at the sea then, 10:45-11:45 with a bit of a swell and a NW breeze, and hurrah!! Little Auks coming past in fits and starts. Say what you like about this autumn - even though the passerine migration has been crap (Newtonhill - 1 Yellow-browed, 1 Common Chiffchaff, and 1 Siberian Chiffchaff now), the sea has ROCKED! Not exactly overwhelmed, but 146 Little Auks north in an hour (and 7 south) would have been pretty impressive any other year. Accompanied by not much, but there were 21 'other auks' which included 1 Atlantic Puffin north, 2 Red-throated Divers north (and a juvvy fishing close inshore), 8 Common Scoters south and 3 Long-tailed Ducks north. 2 Northern Gannets north, and 35 Pink-footed Geese south.


Lindsay Cargill said...

Pah ! Batteries running out indeed - you amateur you ! ;-)

Good find.

Mark said...

Nice one.....Newtonhill has kicked the arse right out of girdleness for passerines this autumn. There was that grotfinch back in october, but thats all. But you're right, the sea has been ample compenation!