Sunday, May 31, 2009

Criminal negligence.

Before senility and death take me... I shall try and remember what's been going on recently. Took the family to Loch of the Lowes to see the Ospreys that they've been watching hatch and grow up here. When we got there it was a bit wet and mum was keeping her head down on the nest, so not a lot to see. Peter and Lizzie kept themselves amused by looking at baby ducks. The dad Osprey came in, circled round and caught a fish in front of the hide. The kiddies nearly wet themselves and peter declared it was his 'best day ever'. Bless. I spoilt the beauty of the moment by doing an impression of Spongebob singing the 'Best Day Ever' song. Quietly of course. But Lo! Why be quiet? Diane texted Wendy to say she was in the hide at LotL watching the Ospreys, and Wendy phoned her back! The atmosphere of hushed awe was shattered by a ringtone version 'Sweet Child of Mine' at no little volume and Diane going 'Ah, I don't know how to turn this off.' It was a brilliant moment. I celebrated by taking my entry for this year's Bird Photograph of the Year competition.

What else... I snapped a couple of juvenile White-throated Dippers along the Elsick Burn. They were almost under the bridge, and I was almost over the bridge, hence the funny angle, but at about 3 m away I could really have done with them stepping back a bit.

And a singing Garden Warbler in the bushes down the track to the sea - been there for two weeks now. Exactly where one turned up a couple of years ago. Never quite sure if it's likely to be the same bird, or whether the habitat is just good enough to haul 'em in.

Rather nice Common Whitethroat singing on a twig overhanging the cliff overhanging the sea. Extreme territory. Full of blurry flies too, if you believe the photos.

I've had my fair share of these 10s of millions of Painted Ladies that have been making their way into the county, viz. I had 1 on the last day of may, and then 2 on 7th June. Read it and weep. Maybe that was my share, but I've just been very bad. A Small Copper on 7th June too.

I've been running around the place. It's not natural and it's against the laws of nature, but I entered the Stonehaven Half Marathon, and was alarmed to find out the first six miles is uphill. So I've beentrotting up the local hills. The only interestng bird I bumped into was a dead mole. AND a Grasshopper Warbler, singing in the marsh near the logpile farm, whatever it is called (readers who don't actually live in Newtonhill might not be able to place it).

Thanks to Katie for pointing this out. Blows my small mammal finding activity out of the water.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Retreat! Retreat!

Monday 18th May 09.

Common Chiffchaff singing at the top of Newtonhill Road this morning. Bet it's gone by tomorrow.

Tuesday 19th May 09
.. it's gone.

I was on a retreat... don't ask. In Old Aberdeen, next to this.

Little known fact... the great ornithologist William Macgillivray (see here), contemporary and friend of Audubon, author of a great 5 volume History of British Birds (Vol I, 1837), lover of long walks through the countryside accompanied by young boys, lived in the University of Aberdeen Conference and Events Office.

MacGillivray has got a poor deal from history - the first person to be really describing birds in detail as they were, on this side of the World. But he was eventually scooped, at least in popular imagination, by the better connected, toned and tanned, William Yarrell, who also published the first volume of his History of British Birds in 1837. Yarrell's book was an easier read, but not as good on the descriptions, of birds.

William Macgillivray - sorrowful loser in the Battle of the Bills, we salute you.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More tales from the Crypt - now with added weather.

Saturday 16th May 09

Very strong easterlies and torrential duck rain overnight. The morning dawned bright with very strong easterlies and more torrential duck rain, brightening to very strong easterlies and torrential duck rain asthe day wore on. I had to run around the patch quickly before the criminal elements in the house woke up. Bit wet, tbf. Not a total washout - a
Lesser Whitethroat at the Mill is a one-per-spring bird for me. But that was pretty much it. A White-throated Dipper was carrying food.

Let the cruel North Sea yield Her bounty of migrant birds...

Sunday 17th May 09

Nicer than Saturday...

Still wet early on but it did genuinely stop raining. A
Grey Wagtail was feeding two fresh juvvies in a puddle near the railway viaduct. AND there were 2 (count 'em, two) migrant birds in the sycamores at the Mill. A Spotted Flycatcher and a Garden Warbler. Early promise not fulfilled though.... there was nothing in Honeypoy Lane, or down the burn, unless you want me to note that we are crawling with Common Whitethroats so far this year. 6 Sedge Warblers singing down the burn and in fact 30+ today, all over the shop, even in people's gardens in St Michae;l's Road, so there probably were quite a few migrants around.

Dipper carrying food again on the burn, and a couple of Red-throated Divers offshore.

A total 4 hours birding failed to produce a single observation I could be bothered writing down. Except I did see two Dunnocks enjoying congress in the Allotments. 3 minutes of cloacal felching and girlie soliciting, followed by a 2 femtasecond shag. And quite possibly back in the pub by opening time.

Tales from the Crypt.

Wednesday 6th May 09

Nocturnal mischief produces good birds... a Grasshopper Warlber singing from rape fields just west of the A90 this evening, and a Tawny Owl calling at Porthlethen.

Saturday 9th May 09

Sedge Warblers must have turned up during the week - by this morning they were in the rough vegetation around Cookney and Portlethen.

Sunday 10th May 09

... and this morning the Sedge Warblers were singing along the Elsick Burn at Newtonhill. Also a small passage of Sand Martins (Bank Swallows) with 2 going up the burn and singles dribbling north along the coast during the morning. I noticed this late passage in previous years too.

Not a whole lot of other movement going on. A Blackcap
sang briefly along Honeypot Lane, but I bet he's not planning on hanging around long. A Common Chaffinch was carrying a fecal sac out of the Leylandii here, and my Sherlock Holmes-esque nest finding abilities produced a pair of Coal Tits in a wall at East Cammachmore. Some Eurasian Siskins at the Retreat are likely breeding around here too.

10 male Common Eiders in the bay, one of which had a dark olive bill with no trace of yellow - very much in the minority here, and probably on his way somewhere less radical than emo/alt Newtonhill.

Girl Eider sees something interesting.

Brown-headed Cow. So near, yet so far.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Common Yellowthroats >>>> Common Whitethroats.

...sorry Whitethroats, but it's true. I wonder if I can set up a poll or something. Rate these 4 birds in order....


Anyway, catch up time. On my last day in Nawlins... the only new birds were Monk Parakeet (they really do get everywhere) and 2 Cliff Swallows hanging about over the I10.

Sunday 3rd May.

Back on the patch in Newtonhill, ready to hoover up all the incoming migrants. But although the place was crawling with Willow Warblers, there were no Sedge Warblers to be found anywhere down the Elsick Burn, or on the allotments or down to Muchalls etc. They're late! Lazy lazy sods.

A Common Chiffchaff singing briefly at the top ofthe St Annes track, House Martins and Barn Swallows overhead, also a Redpoll (sp, but Lesser!) calling over. Down to the burn, and a Song Thrush gathering food, & a Common Whitethroat down by the dead willow. It was then that I had the heretical thought about throat ratings.

3 Eurasian Siskins in the garden at the Retreat, but nothing except a Grey Wagtail at the Mill Garden, and down the track just another couple of Song Thrushes.

35 Common Eiders in the bay, and while looking at them, 3 Bottle-nosed Dolphins popped up and swam south. Better.

off the breeding cliffs, the water was full of auks and I got some photos of distant Atlantic Puffins, and a few of the Guillemots (Common Murres) on ledges. I know Newtonhill isn't the greatest migrant trap in the world, but I'm kinda happy that I managed to organise a job somewhere where I could have Puffins as a patch breeder.

3 Whimbrels flew over as I was lounging around the clifftops in the sunshine.

Allotments and Muchalls track were uneventful, if you ignore the piles of Greenfinches. A Common Reed Bunting was singing at the top of Water Valley, and a few Yellowhammers around in the gorse. Coastal fields were disappointingly devoid of Crested Larks. Same way they were disappointingly devoid of Black Larks... was it last year, or two years ago? All the years are merging into one big long downhill slide to the grave. Spooky.