Year List Pt. 6

Time to update this again,

In my last post you will have seen I added five new year ticks, and the post before added just one. So from Saturday:

52. Skylark

And from Sunday:

53. Merlin
54. Raven
55. Peregrine
56. Red Grouse
57. Red-legged Partridge

And I’ve just gotten home, had a wee look out the window and seen these Mistle Thrushes everywhere in the field, plus a couple of Magpies. And then a very elusive thrush at the side of the field, obscured by the grass which is actually quite low. Mistle Thrushes are quite obvious, even with their head down so it was definitely a smaller thrush. No grey head (not Fieldfare), not dark, certainly a spotted thrush (not Balckbird) and no obvious pale eye stripe (not Redwing) so it was my first Song Thrush of the year, about time! So without further a-do:

58. Song Thrush

Which isn’t bad at all. 58 birds in 26 days. That’s… 2.2 birds a day. Hopefully I’ll exceed my total birds seen in the British Isles ever (currently at 128) by the end of this year. Fingers crossed!

Edit: a bird I thought I’d seen already, but obviously hadn’t is a lovely:

59. Collared Dove

… which was wheezily cooing as I took dad’s Christmas tree down the village to throw in the compost. This makes it 2.3 birds per day. Even better 🙂

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Year List Pt. 6

A very wet Moorfoot Valley

Today I had limited time as I slept in a fair bit (I’m a teenager, don’t judge me) and then had to revise until lunch to make up for the lost time. Biology prelim tomorrow which I want to at least pass. This left me with about an hour from 2:30 till 3:30, and I spent it well.

Dad said he could take me to the Moorfoot Hills (just south of Gladhouse) and he’d read in the car because he needed to do some reading (i.e. he couldn’t face the rain). So I headed off from Moorfoot Village towards the hills themselves where I was mainly hoping for Red Grouse and Stonechat. The River South Esk starts in the Moorfoots and runs into Gladhouse Reservoir, so the first bird I saw was a Dipper fluttering upstream. Further on I saw what must have been the shepherd going to check his sheep on his quadbike. Man how much easier life would be if I had a quadbike.

At what I’d say is the entrance to the valley I was delighted to see a Merlin fly past me and towards a rocky bit in the hills where I’ve seen one before. That’s already one year tick! And to add to the Raptorage, three Buzzards were soaring high above the hills. Awesome.

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Further into the valley I was feeling optimistic that perhaps I’d see grouse or chat without having to go very far in. This didn’t happen.
I walked all the way to a little hut in the middle of the valley where I sat scanning the hills with my scope which I really needn’t have bothered bringing but it did let me take some quite misty pictures. On the walk in though, I saw two Ravens fly across and heard another later on. Another raptor to add to the list was a Peregrine which flew past twice, which helped me confirm what I’d though it was the first time it flew past. Three ticks in 45 minutes. Whilst that was a good thing it was also bad as it meant I had fifteen minutes to get back to the car, and it wasn’t “just down the road.” So after seeing nothing actually in the valley I hastily retreated back out, both so I wasn’t late and also due to the weather which was getting increasingly wet and windy. I did hear one bird in the valley, the ever reliable Wren which I had semi-expected to have fled the area after the heavy snow. But no, it stuck around.
Still no Stonechat or Red Grouse yet and I was heading back home. So I played a song on my phone to try and make the weather seem not so bad. Blackbird by Martyn Bennet. This was actually bad as it meant I kept thinking I was hearing birds but it kept turning out to be the song, so I stopped it and just as I did that I heard the undeniable, guttural call of a Red Grouse. After a bit of scanning with the bins, I found them, a pair. One male, one female I think.

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I apologise but this is the best shot I got.

That was me up to 4 ticks for the day and I was happy with that. So I started to run as my watch was telling me I needed to do so.
About 10 minutes later I was nearing Moorfoot village with a Kestrel being flushed on my right from a straggly Gorse bush as I ran past, and the Greylag flock from yesterday grazing in fields to my left. Just before I got to the car I noticed some dumpy little things moving about by a hedgerow in a field. Three Red-legged Partridge gave me my fifth year tick of the day!
Into the car, a quick look at some manky Mallards and farmyard Geese, and I was off home. Where I could dry my soaking trousers on the radiator in my room, and sit in front of the fire with some biology notes. I do love being exposed to the elements, but afterwards it’s nice to be able to relax 🙂

Other birds I’ve seen today are the large flock of Fieldfare behind my dad’s house, with some Mistle Thrushes, Redwing and local Starlings mixed in. Whilst I was watching them they all flew up and I instinctively looked for the raptor. A Kestrel, which was quickly seen off by the Jackdaws, and then later the first Sparrowhawk I’ve seen in Temple (the village my dad lives in) made the thrushes rise into the air again. For the next ten minutes I kept seeing the Sprawk dashing amongst the houses and across the fields. Looked like it was really enjoying itself, whilst scaring the garden birds half to death!

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2015/01/img_4705.jpg One of the Fieldfare

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2015/01/img_4724.jpg I’m sure we’re experiencing a fall of Mistle Thrushes, I can’t seem to escape them!

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2015/01/img_4723.jpg And finally, the resident Robin

A very wet Moorfoot Valley

One of those days…

We’ve all had them. One of the days where you just aren’t quite satisfied with what’s been seen. Or perhaps what you haven’t seen.

I had one of those days yesterday. Again at Gladhouse Reservoir. I’ve never felt this bad about a session at Gladhouse. Everything was just… Underwhelming.

Dad was giving me a lift in the car and since I had this facility, I asked if we could go and look for Black Grouse as I knew (or thought I knew) roughly where to look for them. I have never had such a birdless experience whilst out birding. Out on some Moorland south of Gladhouse, I thought I heard Meadow Pipit but didn’t see it, other than that… Nothing. Obviously not high enough for Red Grouse and it wasn’t quite right for Stonechat, but I was expecting something, anything! I gave up. We headed back to the car and met a guy who was taking pictures of the landscape I think is what he said. To rub it in even more he said he’d seen Snow Bunting quite recently. Poo.

So dad drove me back to Gladhouse and dropped me off by a field where there was a large finch flock, maybe 50 birds. Mainly Linnet, certain a couple of Tree Sparrows mixed in. But what I was really looking for was Twite, a bird I have never knowingly seen. I, however, hadn’t had a good look at my ID Insights book before leaving the house so wasn’t sure what I was looking for that would tell Twite from female Linnet. I now know that Twite has a pinkish rump, a buff wing-bar, a deeply forked tail, and is overall more buff coloured than the warm reddish brown of female Linnet. Oh well, another bird for me to look for. This field did provide me with my only tick of the day, which came in the form of a Skylark. A year tick, I mean. There’s plenty of them about in spring and summer, you almost can’t escape their song. After that I had a male Reed Bunting by a inlet into Gladhouse Reservoir (man made, not a stream) and a Kestrel above it on over head wires. And then further along those wires, a pair of Mistle Thrushes.

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From the road heading towards Moorfoot Village I heard what I’m pretty sure were Jays screeching in the woods behind me, I decided to come back to them later as I’d just seen a lot of geese coming off Gladhouse and on to the surrounding fields. Before reaching the geese, I saw a lovely Buzzard enjoying the sun in it’s face.

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Once I got to the geese however, I was disappointed to find they were Greylags and not the Pink Feet I’d been hoping for. Nevertheless, I set my scope up and digiscoped a couple of videos and then had a good scan of them in the field. No White-fronted, Pinkfooted, or Bean geese amongst them. I let out a long sigh which the walkers behind me probably heard.
I traipsed back to the woods where I’d heard the Jays, and I’ve actually seen one there before too. Once I got there it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be needing my scope in the woods so I hid it amongst some trees where I’d pick it up later.
Unfortunately I didn’t find anything in the woods except a few Roe Deer and a portable radio hanging from a spruce, a bit creepy.
After finding my way out of the woods I realised I’d left my scope, and as I was coming back out the woods a car went past which turned out to be a guy I’ve been trying to meet to do some birding with. I must’ve looked pretty sketchy coming out of those woods…

I was picked up by dad at 4:30 by which time you could barely see any birds that were about. Not a very successful day, but probably needed as every birding day before it had been great! Means I’ll hopefully appreciate next time I have a good day.

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One of those days…

Venturing outdoors…

Before I get to the main bit of this post, here is a random selection of photos I’ve taken from my window 🙂

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So, today I had my maths prelim. First paper was fine, not too many problems there; the second paper is probably not worth mentioning…
To reward myself for enduring such a horrible ordeal I went outside (I know, it’s been so long) with my scope and adapter and camera ,of course, to see what I could see. I decided not to go very far and just to see what I could find across the field (about 400-500m away). And boy did I get results! I left the house through the gate into the field behind the house and said goodbye to the Robins who are still bickering. I made it about halfway across the field before I realised there was a large flock of finches in one of the tall trees not far away. Unfortunately I hadn’t got my scope all set up and by the time my camera was on, they all flew off. Typical. I think they were either Goldfinches or the Linnets that frequent the field. Further along I had a nice Sparrowhawk fly over me. Once I got out of the field and on to the road that leads to my local patch (Hermitage of Braid) I thought I’d look for Dippers and try to digiscope one in the Braid Burn. No luck. But I did catch something large landing nearby out the corner if my eye, and upon further inspection, it had just been a Herring Gull flying over. How disappointing. Oh well, I did manage to find a Greenfinch which has become scarce around me in the last few months. I wandered further down the road towards the Hermitage hoping that another raptor would fly by. Suddenly a Grey Heron flew up from the burn beside me, that must’ve been what I’d seen earlier.
I continued on my walk and sure enough a Buzzard flew over me with it’s dedicated followers; assorted Corvids. I tried to keep an eye on where it went but it disappeared, only to be re-found in a tree where I usually see it. Whilst making my way there I noticed there were a lot of Thrushes going over my head, mainly Mistle, a couple of Redwings too. Finches also started to appear from the clouds. I think they were mostly Goldfinches but I couldn’t be sure. Not close enough to follow with binoculars.

My plan regarding the Buzzard was to take a few photos then try to move closer and take a few more, and repeat this until it flew away. Here are the results, not great but satisfactory by my standards.

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As I said, not great. They won’t win anything but I’m happy with them. It’s my first time using the adapter outdoors too so, yeah. Excuses, excuses!
Whilst creeping up on the Buzzard I noticed the Jackdaws and Crows had all come down from their usual roost above the Council Depot and were milling about on the roof of one of the buildings. Possibly somebody throws spare food out for them. I don’t know. But here are the pictures…

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I also kept an eye out for the Thrushes I’d been seeing and got a few shots of them. The first three were Mistle Thrushes. Big ones with the rattling call. Or like when you pull one of those wind up toy cars back too far… But the most numerous thrush that I saw was in fact Fieldfare, which I was not expecting as I haven’t seen any around the Hermitage before. A few Redwings, loads of Blackbirds, some song Thrushes, lots of Mistle Thrushes, but never Fieldfare. Anyway, a nice patch tick for me, but I’ve already seen them this year in the field behind my dad’s house. Here’s some snaps I took…

2015/01/img_4660.jpg First Fieldfare on my patch!

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Mistle Thrush
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Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush
2015/01/img_4663.jpg Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush. This Fieldfare looked particularly speckless on it’s chest which threw me off, but the blue-grey head kept me on track.

The area I was in today is basically a tree line with a path up the middle. The trees are old and deciduous with a golf course on one side and a horse field on the other. The Buzzard was in a tree on the horse field side, as were all the thrushes. After the Buzzard flew off and I’d finished gawking at the sky, I made my way up the path between the trees. Plenty Blackbirds and inescapable Woodpigeons, a couple of squirrels too. Actually, funniest thing I saw today was a Grey Squirrel genuinely fall from a branch. It didn’t fall far, only a couple of feet, but it was enough to make a thud as it hit the deck and I think it winded itself. I decided to end it’s humiliation by walking away. I know I shouldn’t find it funny but I’ve just been told Greys are smarter than Reds by Winterwatch and I’m starting to question them. We’ll have to wait and see if any Red Squirrels fall out of trees when I’m next up north!

So continuing my walk up the tree line, I was treated to a male Sparrowhawk darting, very close to the ground, only about 3 yards to my left, up between the trees I was going between. He went round a corner and vanished. Poof. Gone. No idea where he went…

Until a bit later when I’d emerged from the trees and I was walking by the tree line on the golf course side. All of a sudden there’s a terrible racket, lots of squeaky chirping, flapping, small twigs snapping. And I see a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying down the tree line, away from me. Damn. Would’ve loved to digiscope a Woodpecker. Somebody must have heard me, because a second one appeared in the branches of the tree ( I should know what sort of tree it is, but I don’t) in front of me. This is great, it means there are Great Spotted Woodpeckers possibly going to nest just a short walk away from my house! I’ll update you in summer 🙂

Anyway, this Woodpecker was being very noisy. I’m pretty sure it was the Sparrowhawk that had made the other one fly away. But this one, a male, was making the usual GSW chirp every time he moved his head, almost every second for about 5 minutes. Gave me plenty of photo opportunities and I took them. Here’s the results, quite happy with these. Possibly need a bit of editing done but they’ll do for now.

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After that find, I was happy if I didn’t see anything else, so I took a picture of a pair of Magpies who appeared to be waiting in line.

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I’d seen three types of thrush (including a patch tick), plenty finches, a squirrel make a fool of itself, and two of the three raptors it was likely to find. That two was about to become three.
I was continuing to walk up the path (you must think I was climbing Everest by now) to reach the road at the top, Braid Hills Road. From there you get great views over a lot of Edinburgh. Some of it blocked by Blackford Hill which isn’t so bad, but some of it blocked by the horrible cinder blocks that are the Kings Buildings, part of Edinburgh university. Who thought it was a good looking building or thought that it’s look nice where it is, I have no idea. But I digress.
From Braid Hills Road you can also see the whole of the Hermitage golf course; one of the favoured places of the local Kestrels. Sure enough, Mr. Kestrel was on top of a Hawthorn bush. I didn’t get very good photos of him but here’s the best one.

2015/01/img_4669.jpg I did more filming of him which is in the video I’ll upload to YouTube tomorrow.

The place I was viewing him from wasn’t great so I thought I’d get a bit closer. I look away for a minute, and he’s gone. What is it with these disappearing raptors?

By this time it was getting dark and the Crows were settling down to roost so I took that as a cue to head back home. I walked along Braid Hills Road a bit and then entered the field which I walked all the way down, finding some more Fieldfare behind the stables/farm. I also stumbled upon a white Rabbit at the top of the field which is funny as last time I saw it it was at the very bottom. Anyway, the Fieldfare I filmed because the pictures were too dark. And after seeing the Kestrel out for a final hunt on the other side of the field, I finally got home and started cropping and uploading pictures AFTER doing some biology revision 🙂

Hopefully this weekend I’ll be allowed out the house as opposed to studying all the time. Allowed out by both parents and the weather. Although the weather isn’t such a big problem for me. I’ll happily sit out in a snow storm. But I’m expecting no snow and maybe a trip to Gladhouse Reservoir to digiscope some ducks, perhaps get into the Moorfoots to add some upland species to my year list. Stonechat and whatnot.

Thanks for reading, I have just realised how long that post was!

P.S. I’m currently listening to Tawny Owls which is very frustrating as I haven’t seen any this year!

Venturing outdoors…

Proper Digiscoping

What I mean by “proper” digiscoping is not having to hold my phone up to my scope and taking loads of shakey, blurry shots. This means I’ve got an adapter! Yay!

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A Baader Microstage II adapter which fits on to my Celestron Ultima 80 and my Panasonic DMC-TZ6 camera and has given me some very nice results already, despite not leaving the house today! (Edit: I have left the house, I’m very forgetful) Unfortunately this has meant I didn’t have very many different birds to photograph. Plenty corvids, a couple of Woodpigeons and a Blue Tit and Great Tit showed up for not very long. There were also 3 gulls up at the very top of the field behind my house but I couldn’t really see them very well.

As well as these birds, I’ve also got pictures of the huge number of Magpies that appeared in the field that I mentioned in my previous post. Anyway, hopefully I’ll get out this weekend and find some birds I’ve not seen this year or ever! How nice that would be.

(P.S. The reason I’ve been at home mid-day is that I’m on study leave as I’ve got prelims. Yes that means I should be revising but I need to get a break at some point! 🙂 )

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Proper Digiscoping

Year List Pt. 5

Well, another day in the Hermitage. Slightly chillier today but no wind. As well as adding another year tick I got a nice view of a Redwing or two with about 6 Mistle Thrushes which was a nice surprise. Later on I heard that lovely noise of someone drumming on an Oak. And so I added:

52. Great Spotted Woodpecker

A few hundred yards on we (me and mum, I’m on study leave) had a nice Kestrel flyover, a female as opposed to the male I saw yesterday.

Something I’ve also seen today is a huge posse of Magpies land in the field out the back of my house. 25 of them. We usually have 8 resident at my end of the field so I was quite bemused. I’ll ask about on forums if it’s normal and do a post later with any knowledge I’ve gained 🙂

I’ll also definitely have another post late about something I’ve purchased (spoilers on my Flickr page)!

Year List Pt. 5

Year List Pt. 4

Well, I’ve just had a look back at my last post and seen that it hasn’t been updated very much at all. So, going back to the tenth of January, I made a wee trip to Gladhouse Reservoir from my dads, but before that, in the morning I added the following by looking out the back window into the field:

31. Starling
32. Fieldfare
33. Redwing
34. Reed Bunting

On the journey to Gladhouse I added:

35. Buzzard

And at Gladhouse the usual birds were about but not many that I hadn’t already seen:

36. Goldeneye
37. Little Grebe
38. Wigeon

A walk to find the Jays that I knew were about resulted in me finding some feeders I’d been told usually attracted Redpoll and had a good chat with the guy who refills them. He got me very excited about summer with talk of Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Green Woodpecker, Barn Owl and Osprey. Anyway, his feeders gave me:

39. Tree Sparrow
40. Coal Tit

… And that was all that weekend had to offer. Having been on the Lothian forum on BirdForum I’ve seen that somebody has seen Brambling, Redpoll, Crossbill, Long-eared Owl and Twite all near Gladhouse which is quite annoying as I’m there a lot and am still yet to definitely see any of them (except the Crossbill which I’ve seen at Loch Leven).
Anyway, into the next week I had a very odd sighting that I wasn’t expecting on the way to school. In an area if Edinburgh called “The Meadows” which is just a lot of open grass with some tree-lined paths…

41. Grey Heron

I’m glad I saw it when I did as it meant I’d definitely record it somewhere and it’ll be funny to remember.
On Friday in the school playground I saw:

42. Pied Wagtail

Two of them with the unusually tame Dunnocks which have become used to small children screaming and running about.

And today, on my wee family walk I added:

43. Linnet
44. Long-tailed Tit
45. Greenfinch
46. Nuthatch
47. Treecreeper
48. Dipper
49. Fan-tailed Pigeon
50. Moorhen

The Moorhen was one of the ones which successfully bred in the small pools on the golf course over the Braid Burn.

Upon an inspection of my list I have realised that I have not added Cormorant which I definitely saw at Gladhouse.

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So…

51. Cormorant

My total number if birds I’ve seen ever is 128 so I will hopefully see more than ever this year. In fact I will almost definitely see more as I’m going to Mallorca in the summer where I will be using any excuse to go out birding. None of the birds on my life list so far are birds I’ve seen outside the UK so Mallorca will be exciting! Bee-eaters, Thekla Larks, Purple Heron, Stone Curlew… It’s going to be awesome.

Year List Pt. 4