Sketching

I think I got it from my mum, or at least that’s most likely. I’ve always liked drawing things, whether that was wee stick men fighting a war or some cool pattern. Last year, before Christmas, I decided to draw birds and use the drawings as Christmas cards.

My first sort of sketch wasn’t great but it was inspired by my first Kingfisher, and it went to my gran. 

Next was a Robin for my bro.

Then a couple of birds that didn’t go to anyone; a Black-headed Gull and a Herring Gull.



Next is one of my favourite ones; a Jay.

And the Blue Tit was for my mum.

Green Woodpecker, a bird I’m yet to see.

And this Shorelark was for my sister. 

After this I took quite a long break, possibly because digiscoping took over. In fact that probably is why, but a couple of weeks ago, or a few, I forget, I started sketching things whilst I was out doing my John Muir Award at Holyrood. These were done in my sketchbook that I found lying in the paper recycling bin at school. A good find IMO. 



I have a feeling the Blue Tit’s Latin name is actually Parus Caeruleus but oh well. And the Stonechat is just a bird I felt like sketching. It used to be found in the park but not any more. This next rough sketch is one I did while sitting on a bench just down the road from Dunsapie Loch looking up towards Arthur’s Seat.

This one is the last one, which I just did tonight as it’s my mum’s birthday on Monday.

Hopefully you can tell what it is!

Sketching

Short and Late

Well, it’s been a while, to say the least. 

I haven’t even been particularly busy this week, maybe I’ve just been getting back into the swing of things after half-term. Anyway, last weekend I realised I hadn’t taken any photos of waders for my photography project so I persuaded dad to take me out to Musselburgh after rugby. This is going to be a very short account of my day as I can barely remember it (I have a terrible memory).

Once there we headed straight for the scrapes and the concrete hides that are there. My photography project is also an excuse for going out and adding a few to my list! Whilst heading to the scrapes a few small birds landed in the long grass to our left and made it very difficult for me to see them. One bird decided to be nice and landed in a willow tree. It showed to be a Sparrow, I’d guess it’d be more likely to have been a House Sparrow but can’t rule out Tree Sparrow, couldn’t check it’s cheek before it flew off. I also suspect the other birds weren’t sparrows but gave up pretty quickly, possibly a bad move as I think that Twite are seen in that area…

Once at the scrapes the usual waders and ducks were about. 

 The first bird I really focused my photographing efforts on was a Redshank that wasn’t far from the hide. Got some lovely reflective shots. 

    Another reflective bird was this Carrion Crow who seemed more concerned with scaring off the Redshanks which was quite annoying.

One of the few slightly unusual sightings was a single Dunlin.

Of course there was all the usual birds as well. Oystercatchers, plenty of them.



Quite a few Teal, some dabbling very close to the hide giving me some nice sunlit shots. 

One of the Grey Partridges popped his head up on the other side of the lagoons.

  Another of the waders in large numbers, Curlew. 

 The other duck that was dabbling round the edges, Wigeon. 

 Plenty Gulls: Black-headed, Common, and Herring all present. Behind one group of gulls were a few other waders, some Knot and a single Grey Plover.

After the scrapes, I headed out to look out to sea so I could tick off Eider and anything else that showed up. The tide was in which wasn’t ideal as the ducks all drift out into the middle of the Forth but the first ducks I saw, surprisingly, were a couple of Long-tailed Ducks, quite close in to the sea wall. 

And they soon disappeared! 

Ali surprisingly, the first Eiders I saw were not Eiders at all, but one lonely male Eider floating about.

The other duck I added was a group of Velvet Scoters bobbing about behind the waves with their bright yellow beaks showing nicely.

Once round next to the river I saw some displaying Goldeneye, Mallards, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, my first Goosander of the year, no Kingfisher, a Moorhen, a Collared Dove, BHGs, Herring Gulls, and probably more but I can’t remember!

 Oh and these Redshank that were having a snooze on the bank. 

 11 year ticks in one day! Pretty good if you ask me: Redshank, Stonechat, Velvet Scoter, Dunlin, Knot, Grey Plover, Grey Partridge, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Goosander.

And to add to this when on the way home I saw two Shelducks in a field, possibly the same pair I saw quite often last year around where my dad lives.

A great weekend for photography, and year ticks.

Short and Late

Mortonhall/Braids

Over the last couple of days I’ve been exploring the Braids and Mortonhall, areas I’ve never really been for birding, played golf there once but that’s about it.

Sunday started out with a lovely Kestrel just by the house sitting on the roof of a disused sort of farm building. Flew away and landed in a bush, which in turn revealed about 4 Greenfinches, quite a nice find given the recent worry over their declining numbers. Further up into the Braids I had lots of crows about, didn’t check for hybrids though. By Liberton Tower I was looking for a particular type of sparrow but found the House variety, about 10 of them being very noisy. Passing a golf course I saw somebody lying on their side with their dogs sitting next to them. Looked like something had gone wrong but it turned out it was just a guy enjoying the sun!

Not many very interesting sightings throughout the rest of my walk but did see a flock of c70 Linnet in a stubble field up near Alnwickhill. Also at Alnwickhill I checked out an area that I read used to be a great site for all sorts of birds. It used to be a Waterworks but now… Drained. Not just drained of water but drained of all bird life as well 😦 oh well…

Today, before going out, I saw what I’m pretty confident was a Mediterranean Gull flying across the field with 4 Common Gulls. The reason I say it was a Med Gull was that I couldn’t see any black on it’s wing tips and it was quite a faded grey on it’s wings. Although I am sure of this, I’m not sure I feel experienced enough to tick it off my list… Hm…
Anyway, I decided to go deeper into Mortonhall as I think (might be wrong) that Grey Partridge can be found in the fields up there. No luck, and dipped on Tree Sparrow again too. Again nothing much of note, other than some quite playful Rooks and a hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow playing with the lid of a Starbucks coffee cup. Quite entertaining to watch, and my first hybrid crow of the year. On the way home I saw a couple of pigeons fly over the field and had a look at them through my bins, because I couldn’t see the white marks on the wings that would indicate Woodpigeon. I noted down that they had a blue sheen on their necks and black tips and trailing edge to the wings, otherwise mainly blue-grey. After looking at one of the pictures I took it also had a small black mark where it’s wing joins on to the body. Then I saw another two pigeons land in the field ahead of me, also not showing the white wing marks, or white collar I should add. From where I was standing I took one look and thought “flipping feral pigeons having me on.” But once I got a bit closer and they lifted their heads for a while, I was certain I had FINALLY seen Stock Doves and the other two I’d seen previously were also Stock Doves. I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to see this relatively common bird. Turns out they feed in the top corner of the field so if I need to see them again I’ll head up there!

Before I’d left to go up to Mortonhall I’d been giving somebody pointers as to where I’d seen the Red-legged Partridge (which made a short appearance on Sunday but were there for most of Wednesday (I think it was Wednesday, can’t remember)), and he, James, then replied saying there was a Kingfisher by the Braid Burn on a bit of Craigmiller Golf Course. But, obviously, I didn’t bother checking for a reply until I got back from my walk at Mortonhall. At that point I headed straight back out to have a look. Unfortunately it had left but James came out and met me and showed me the pictures he’d taken. It was definitely a Kingfisher and it had definitely been there. Oh well, another day.
James then joined me for a quick look about in the Hermitage for Nuthatches, and I still haven’t seen the Grey Wagtails! Saw a couple of Kestrels, Buzzards, a Treecreeper at a spot I hadn’t seen one before, couple Pied Wagtails flew over and quite a lot of Dipper action on the Braid Burn. Otherwise just a lot of Great Tits and the usual suspects. Nice to meet someone with the same passion though and get to go out on your patch with them too.

Hopefully I’ll manage to get to Musselburgh this weekend as I really need to for my photography project. This will also give me a nice refreshing blog post that isn’t about my local patch!

Mortonhall/Braids

Short but sweet

This post is going to be short as it’s accounting for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday which were all patch birding days. I did see a fair bit on Monday though.

Every day pretty much started off with the golf course Moorhens who will probably breed again this year. This and the Dipper normally whizzing past.

IMG_5134 And of course the usual Pheasants were about. None near the house this year unfortunately. Last year they came into the garden to eat under the feeder.

IMG_5135 Amongst many other sightings I had plenty raptors, starting off with this Sparrowhawk which flew over as I ascended Blackford Hill.

IMG_5136 I also had another Sparrowhawk flying through the woods later on so hopefully going to breed again this year! Another bird showing the same sort of potential breeding behaviour was the Treecreepers. One of them fiercely defending it’s little patch which consisted of about 5 trees as far as I could see. This particular Treecreeper was so preoccupied that I managed my best shot of one of these camouflage birds.

IMG_5137 Not going to win any awards but oh well. I was also pleased to hear a male Nuthatch singing as I walked on. Hopefully I’ll manage to work out if they breed this year as they only really moved into this patch 6-7 years ago. I saw plenty of Mistle Thrushes again, but not many Redwing or Fieldfare which is a change from the norm.

IMG_5138 Another one of the usual raptors showed up too, only to start soaring out of my view, leaving me with this photo.

IMG_5139 A Buzzard of course. At my usual, reliable Greenfinch path in the Hermitage the Greenfinch did make a show, only one though. This along with a load of Great Tits, Blue Tits, a few Chaffinches, more Treecreepers, one Goldcrest, one Redwing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker made this spot the most bird filled bit of my walk. Pretty sure it’s because there are feeders in the garden just over the fence.

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IMG_5140 Throughout the last week I’ve been able to keep a close eye on the Dippers too. It’s gone from one singing male and what must’ve been a female slightly further downstream to two Dippers flying up and down the burn together and I’m pretty sure their territories have merged too. Very nice to see 🙂

IMG_5142 I’ve also decided to get to know the bird life in a little area on Craigmiller Golf Course. It consists of a few pine trees; some birch; three dead trees which are really just pieces of wood sticking out the ground; a couple of small, reedy ponds; a section of the Braid Burn; a fair bit of open grass which is to be expected on a golf course; and lots of thick shrubs. Interesting to see what appears here throughout the year. So far it’s provided me with a patch tick in the form of a Teal in the Braid Burn, plus a Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Roe Deer, Moorhens, and the closest Great Spotted Woodpecker to my house. Hopefully get some more unexpected birds on other days. It’s been pretty reliable for Redwing heading over to roost though and I’ve found where a Grey Heron roosts more often than not.

Not much to blog about the rest of the week in the Hermitage. I continued to see the Sparrowhawks and Kestrel. Buzzard turned up once more, strange as I used to see two or even three very time I went out. Dippers still zipping up and down the burn. Haven’t been to see the Nuthatches or Treecreepers so not sure how they’re doing. I kept up my checks on the little bit of golf course, usually the same sorts of birds seen each time. One late visit to Blackford Pond didn’t give me much, but did notice that all bar one of last years brood of Mute Swans has gone, so it’s just one young and the two parents. 12 Greylags there too, but nothing unusual, like a Pochard. A Pochard would be nice…

Short but sweet

Year List Pt. 8

This update includes my second, third and fourth waders for this year, and one lifer which I’m very happy about. What I’m not so happy about is the fact I’ve forgotten to add birds that I’ve seen. I have this blog list and my written list, both of which are quite muddled now as I’ve forgotten to write down certain birds when I’ve seen them. Anyway, the weekend that’s now passed gave me:

62. Lesser Black-backed Gull
63. Woodcock
64. Lapwing
65. Black Grouse

And a couple of birds that I’d forgotten to add are:

66. Curlew

… which flew over me whilst I was playing rugby as did a couple of Oystercatchers and a Sparrowhawk if I remember correctly. And the other year tick was a…

67. Teal

… (a female) which I flushed out the Braid Burn last Thursday giving me another patch tick for Blackford Glen.
I really need to update this more. Or at least write down new birds when I see them! I’m on my mid-term break so am hoping to get out slightly further afield, perhaps Musselburgh to add more waders as that is were I am really lacking at the moment, as well as general seaside species. Maybe get some Great-black Backed Gulls and Grebes out at sea. As well as the ever-present Eiders!

Year List Pt. 8

Men in Black

Sunday; I had been wanting to go somewhere in particular for a while to see a particular bird. Dad was free in the morning so this meant I had to get up earlier than I usually would on a Sunday, 8:30. Into the car at 9:00 and off to our destination. I have to be vague about location so all I’ll say is I saw a flock of Lapwing heading towards Gladhouse sort of area, which is really nice to see as it means spring should be on it’s way, I hope. Also passed a flock of finches in a field which I think was mainly Linnet but I probably should have checked as they could’ve been Twite, a bird I am yet to see, or Brambling, a much needed year tick. Oh well.
I can tell you that we were heading to the Moorfoot Hills but not where in the hills. All will become clear soon…
In the hills the first bird was a Red Grouse on a fence post. I continued to see a lot of Red Grouse through out the day. I got out the car at this point to have a quick scan of the moors to look for the “particular bird”. No luck but a couple of Kestrels flew over, one landing in the grassland near the road.

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Moved on a bit down the road and saw yet more Red Grouse but no “particular bird”. On even further and I saw something on the grassland on the side of the hill. Dad stopped the car and I put my bins up to my face, hopeful that I’d seen what I thought I’d seen. And sure enough… The men in black had appeared. Or at least one, with his lady.

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IMG_5074 Black Grouse is the “particular bird” that I’d been hoping for. Not great views but I was happy and the grouse disappeared over the horizon.
Dad and I then went on a walk across the moorland and grassland and got to see a couple of Meadow Pipits, quite a lot if Skylarks, and even more Red Grouse. Here are the better photos I got:

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IMG_5081 Female Red Grouse

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IMG_5086 Male Red Grouse

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IMG_5088 Skylark? I’m not sure about this one as it looks like it has pretty rufous coloured wings…

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IMG_5090 Definitely a Skylark

IMG_5024 And finally a landscape shot. It was a bit snowy but not bad as the sun was up high in a blue sky.
I asked dad if we could go a bit further into the hills to see if any more Black Grouse could be found. No luck. Did see a couple of Fieldfare and three Buzzards though, this one hunting over the hill tops.

IMG_5091 And another landscape shot from the car.

IMG_5092 Driving back home we had great views of more Red Grouse from the car.

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IMG_5094 Near where we first saw the Black Grouse, dad saw a grouse on a mound and we stopped just by the mound to suddenly have 4 BLACK GROUSE fly directly over the car and into the valley below. Then one flew over me after I’d gotten out the car and dotted down not far from the road, giving me amazing views of a bird that I’ve wanted to see ever since I knew they were near-ish to my dad’s house.

IMG_5095 2 of the 4 that flew over the car, in the valley below.

IMG_5096 12x zoom on my camera gave me this picture, but combining with my scope I got these…

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IMG_5104 Simply awesome. I think this is going to be the next bird I sketch. It is beautiful. I think the one I digiscoped near the car is an immature male as it didn’t have the red bit above the eye, called a comb. Still a brilliant bird. And my first lifer of the year, a great bird to start of this year. I’m running out of adjectives here so I’ll stop this post here 🙂

Men in Black