Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh Lordy! it's the return of borealis!

Today was the first day that I really felt all the summer migrants had got into Newtonhill. Like last Sunday I was picking up a single Sedge Warbler and a single Common Whitethroat - well today they were everywhere e.g. 4 Sedge Warblers along the burn, and popping out all over the place in bits of rough grass and unlikely-looking patches of gorse. It was the Common Whitethroats that were most flighty and in some very unsuitable locations (like the treetops in St Michael's Rd!) so I assume they may have been fresh in this morning. Also fresh in this week were 3 Common Swifts over the Courts.

Down at the bay... an unusually large (for this winter) flock of 25 Common Eiders, males and females and lawks-a-mercy (crikey, even!) one of the males on the rocks is a yellow-billed borealis-alike (search this blog to track my unhealthy obsession with this northern subspecies of Common Eider). It had a largely yellow bill, only the nail being a conventional greeny-grey. And lawks again (blimey o'reilly!), it's COLOUR-RINGED (COLOR-BANDED for people of a transatlantic disposition). Metal ring on right leg, white ring over orange ring on the left. All of Satan's little pixies are smiling benevolently on me again. I love Satan and all his little pixies.

Visibility was pretty average offshore - with small parties of Atlantic Puffins among the auk and kittiwake flocks on the water, and a trickle of Northern Gannets went past but nothing too interesting.

Community Park and allotments had more Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats singing, but have yet to deliver my BB-rare. I took a look at some of the dangling CDs that were meant to keep the birds off the flowers - they included (gosh I bet someone chuckled about this) an ironic RSPB Wildlife Explorers Bird Guide CD; also the Soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera, the Sunday Express Christmas Carols CD, the Daily Mirror Summer Lovin' (sic) (and sick) CD, and a CD of Balamory including the hapless Wildlife Investigations Officer PC Plum. I would very much like to see PC Plum transferred to a nightshift beat on a sink estate in Manchester or Leeds - wonder how he would get on? Actually maybe the police force just sends all the useless ones to a quiet village on the isles where they're relieved of the burden of ever being required to solve a crime? I must ask that next time I'm on Islay or Mull. I can see a Hot Fuzz situation happening in Balamory, btw.

Water Valley had a grey-and-white acredula-type Willow Warbler in song.

When I got back I checked the colour-ringing cr-birding website and got a contact email, then took the family, my imaginary friends and the voices (the VOICES!!!) down to Stonehaven. We enjoyed the delights of gambling on the Sabbath at the penny-falls, followed by the delights of gluttony at Auntie Betty's Ice Cream Emporium and 24 hour mobile disco. I then enjoyed the delights of trying to wipe 2 square metres of sticky ice cream off a 3 year-old boy with a tissue that would not have been overly generous for wiping a gnats a***. In the end the most effective strategy was to strip Peter naked and lay him out on the beach for the gulls to pick at his skin until he was clean again. While this was happening, I scanned across the sweep of Stonehaven bay and in the distance could see the 1s Iceland Gull at the mouth of the Carron among the Herring Gulls.

When we got home, I had a very informative mail from Ian Patterson at Aberdeen Uni, confirming (as I suspected) that the cr- Common Eider was banded on the Ythan Estuary, (that's a few miles north of here). Further confirmation, if any were needed, that these yellow-billed Eiders are not vagrant S. m. borealis. For further interest, it was ringed in 1986, which makes it a whopping 21 years old, approaching 22 (I worked that one out for you), and is presumalby in transit between wintering on the Tay and breeding around the Ythan, where Ian says numbers are still low this year.

Something a little more visual...

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