Skywatching in the sun

The weather took a turn for the better today, with a high of 24 degrees C this morning! So I sat out for a bit whilst eating lunch,  just before popping out to the dentist.

I actually only started my skywatching because I heard 2 Siskin fly over and then noticed 2 Sand Martins over the house, both uncommon species from my garden. So here’s the total for the 15 or so minutes that I was out:

Siskin: 2

Sand Martin: 2

Swift: 27

Goldfinch: 5

Chaffinch: 3

Greenfinch: 1

House Martin: 3

Woodpigeon: 1

Jackdaw: 1

(I don’t count Feral Pigeons or Gulls because so many go over and my notebook isn’t very big)


Quite good numbers of finches, especially with those Siskins as I’ve only recorded them going over once before. But a high number of Swifts about too. I noticed on Twitter that up to 2500 Swifts had been seen over Spurn Head. I don’t know if these are late arrivals or young from this year, or perhaps young from abroad flying over here to feed? I’m sure someone will know.

Anyway, seeing all these Swifts reminded me of one day last year when I was walking around the field. I’d been drawn out by what looked like a large number of hirundines, but it turned out to be pretty much all Swifts. There was hundreds of them, quite low too, gliding about over the field. I can’t really work out what drew them all to the field at once because I don’t remember noticed that many flies about and the field hadn’t been recently harvested so… I can only speculate! Only I don’t know what to speculate. I’m sure someone will know!

I’m hoping it happens again this year so that I can get pictures. When I was out at Kinneil yesterday there was quite a lot of Swifts over the fields there, so perhaps it’s random.

That’s my third blog post of the day so I better go, getting carried away with this new laptop.

Skywatching in the sun


So, as mentioned in my previous post I was, very kindly, gifted 25 cones to add to my cone collection. I had no idea what they were but by looking at my book (Collins Tree Guide) and looking at the internet (particularly the Arboretum de Villardebelle site) plus a bit of guess work, I managed to ID them all. So here they are, 1 to 25, lots of different species from lots of  different places!

1. Bhutan Pine – Pinus wallichiana – Native to the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains.


2. Mexican White Pine – Pinus ayacahuite – Native to mountains of southern Mexico and western Central America


3. Stone Pine – Pinus pinea – Native to the Mediterranean (large, edible pine nuts also in picture)


4. Jeffrey Pine – Pinus jeffreyii – Native to western North America


5. Southwestern White Pine – Pinus reflexa – Native to south western USA and Mexico


6. Calabrian Pine – Pinus brutia – Native to the eastern Mediterranean


7. Japanese Umbrella Pine – Sciadopitys verticillata – Native to Japan (in fossil record for 230 million years!)


8. Bigcone Douglas-fir – Pseudotsuga macrocarpa – Native to southern California (2nd pic shows comparison with Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii)


9. Mountain Hemlock – Tsuga mertensiana – Native to western North America


10. Potosi Pinyon – Pinus culminicola – Native to Cerro Potosi and surrounding peaks (ENDANGERED)

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11. Texas Pinyon – Pinus remota – Native to Texas and Mexico

12. Chinese Fir – Cunninghamia lanceolata – Native to China, Vietnam and Laos


13. Dawn Redwood – Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Native to Lichuan county in China (ENDANGERED) (2nd pic shows comparison with Giant Sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum)

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14. King William Pine – Athrotaxis selaginoides – Native to Tasmania, AustraliaP1110696

15. Moroccan Cypress – Cupressus atlantica – Native to Oued n’Fiss River in Atlas Mountains, Morocco (ENDANGERED)

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16. Syrian Juniper – Juniperus drupacea – Native to Eastern Mediterranean


17. Prickly Juniper – Juniperus oxycedrus – Native to Mediterranean


18. California Incense-cedar – Calocedrus decurrens – Native to western North America


19. Arar – Tetraclinis articulata – Native to Mediterannean

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20. Oriental Thuja – Platycladus orientalis – Native to northwestern China, Korea, and the Russian Far East

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21. Hiba – Thujopsis dolobrata – Native to Japan


22. Hinoki Cypress – Chamaecyparis obtusa – Native to central Japan

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23. Nootka Cypress – Xanthocyparis nootkatensis – Native to western North America

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24. Smooth Arizona Cypress – Cupressus glabra – Native to southwestern North America

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25. Brewer Spruce – Picea breweriana – Native to western North America


And that’s the lot! Loads of good cones in there, and hopefully I’ll be able to add to them with a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh at some point, although probably not in the near future as I have my driving test tomorrow, birthday next day and terrible weather 7 tidying my room over the weekend, then friends from the States are over for a week! Hmm… I’ll fit it in somewhere 🙂


Catch Up…

Well… It’s been a while, but hopefully the gift of a new laptop will get me back blogging more frequently as it’s much easier than doing it on my phone, and the browser on our desktop is so old…

You’ve missed a lot over the past however-many months, so I’ll try to briefly summarise it all!

Going back… at least a month, I’d just added Tawny Owl to my year list with that nestling that I found on the ground (check previous post). The next year tick I got was also a lifer and a patch tick! I knew that Lesser Whitethroats were known to be on my patch but I’d never heard or seen one myself. Then, one day when I took a strange route home I heard one. But didn’t see it… Until the next day when it flitted up from the gorse for me. A good tick! But no pic…

Next up was Razorbill and Kittiwake, both seen off the seawall at Musselburgh. The two Razorbills were quite close in actually, and I caught up with the two Kittiwakes at the River Esk Mouth later on 🙂


Those were both lifers too, whereas Shag wasn’t, but it was an easy year tick which had been a bit of a glaring omission until then.

More seaside birds now, waders this time. And also my first successful twitch (that damned Wryneck at Barns Ness lived up to it’s reputation). I first knew of the two birds when James tweeted me and Geoff Morgan (morgithology) to say they were there. Luckily Geoff offered to give me a lift and we got there in time to see two Red-necked Phalaropes at Musselburgh. They stuck around for a bit and then flew off east. Really nice birds, and quite special to have two show up at once.

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More seabirds!!! Finally managed to see Puffins with James, thanks to somebody I met at Musselburgh on the day I added Kittiwake and Razorbill, who said to go to Yellowcraig CP and have a look out to Fidra. Not cracking views but certainly Puffins18380252789_c1b1ae6512_o

An unexpected lifer also from that day at Yellowcraig. And quite a funny story to go with it!

We (James and I) were wandering back up the beach after successfully adding Puffin to both our lists (yes, both of us) and discussing what our next bogey bird should be. I mentioned Grasshopper Warbler, and James pointed out that they will be pretty tricky to find now as they wont be singing much. I agreed and had another think about what we could go looking for. My thoughts were interrupted by a sound, a sort of high-pitched humming, a reeling sound maybe… “Is it just me or can I hear one now?” I asked James, who sort of hesitantly nodded. I wasn’t sure if it was a pram ahead that I was hearing, but nope. It was a Grasshopper Warbler reeling just next to the path on to the beach giving brilliant views. Probably one of my best birding stories. No pics though as it made a hasty retreat into the Marram Grass.

Next lifer came a week later out in some woodland near Gladhouse Reservoir. This woodland had already produced breeding Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Great Spotted Woodpecker, and it was the right time of year for… CUCKOOS! Got three of them at the end of the woodland, and then had a further 2 flyovers on that day. 5 Cuckoos in a day and I’d never seen one before?!


So, that was a nice lifer/year tick for that day… but that wasn’t it… As I walked back down the road towards Gladhouse Reservoir to check up on a local pair of raptors, a Goldfinch landed on the telephone wire by the road. I got my bins on it and as soon a I did that I realised it wasn’t a Goldfinch, it was in fact my first Whinchat. How easy was that? Another two showed well further down the road. 18219335084_7864993c72_o

And now on to this past weekend… Another lifer! This time in some coniferous woodland near Gladhouse, which I now call Redpoll Woods, as that is what I ticked in there (Lesser Redpoll) with James whilst looking for Crossbills, which also showed up as well! So that was 2 year ticks, and a Jay flew past the woodland and disappeared into the thick Douglas-firs, Larches, Norway Spruces and Sitka Spruces. So that was 3 year ticks in one woodland! Think I’ll be revisiting Redpoll Woods…

And now finally we’re on to yesterday. Guess what? Another 2 lifers! Waders this time. James took me out to Kinneil in Upper Forth, just by Grangemouth. We were sort of hoping for Reed Warbler but that didn’t show. However, the Black-tailed Godwits did and that was an easy tick. Lots of them snoozing on one of the shallow lagoons, but my camera didn’t like them so all my photos of them are terrible.

But before seeing the BTGs, just about the third bird I looked at I said, “Is that a Whimbrel?” And sure enough it was. Obvious lateral crown stripes and median crown stripe and bill was the correct length. Nice. 19275689565_9073988131_o

And that’s it so far this year. I’m on 128 for my year list and 143 for my life list, according to my written list, which should be correct!

Plenty more done and seen over the past month or so but I really couldn’t post it all on here. I’ll do a post on some special cones I got sent to add to my cone collection, which I am very grateful for! Just need to go and take pictures of all of them first… I’ll post that in a bit!

Oh and just before I go… I also life ticked Long-eared Owl in Lothian at an undisclosed location, for obvious reasons!

Catch Up…