Hoping for Migrants

Well, back from Mallorca and straight back out on patch. Here’s what I noted on the 13th…

Started out nicely with a Sparrowhawk over the Montessori Art’s School. I don’t see them very often except around this time of year when the youngsters are about, learning how to hunt more successfully.

First passage of any kind that I noticed was a large group of Feral Pigeons flying north past the King’s Buildings and then going NW over Edinburgh. Not really passage but then came some nice big numbers.

I was slowly making my way along Hopeful Hawthorn (a patch of shrubs on my patch that just looks like the right place for migrants) when I realised that there a lot of gulls heading over, predominantly Black-headed Gulls. Having been in Mallorca for the past week and a bit I haven’t been here to notice the gradual increase in gulls inland, so it was quite a shock seeing 100+ gulls flying N over Liberton. Amongst the BHGs were a few Lesser Black-backeds, 3 Herring Gulls, and 1 Common Gull. Also making their way through the gulls was a flock of ~20 Starlings. I’ve been scanning Starlings carefully in case any Crossbills have joined them, as I’ve read a couple reports of them doing that.

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Anyway, back to the Hopeful Hawthorn, a Chiffchaff and 3 Willow Warblers were passing through, plus 3 juv Greenfinches sat in the open. Not great migrants but positive.

Passing Liberton Tower I noticed that all the corvids weren’t present and assumed they’d moved on to somewhere else. A few Goldfinches were perched precariously on thistles. I’m looking forward to mixed finch flocks becoming the norm as I did quite enjoy scanning through those last winter. Although I’ll be putting in more effort around Gladhouse this winter as I missed out on Twite, Brambling and Lesser Redpoll, the latter of which I added a month or so ago to my life list. But the other 2 are yet to be seen!

My first Dragonfly on patch was seen as I made my way to my Skywatching bench, which I’m now referring to as my vismig point on patch, although I suspect the top of Blackford Hill may be a better point. I’m not very experienced with vismig so might have to ask someone to take me on a wee vismig session.

A skywatch from 16:29 to 16:39 gave:

Jackdaw: 20+

Swift: 45+

Swallow: 7

LBBG: 4

Woodpigeon: 5

House Martin: 2

Kestrel: 1 fm

BHG: 1

Feral Pigeon: 5

Sparrowhawk: 1 imm fm

Goldfinch: 1

Not terribly productive but the Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were nice, especially since both were spotted a long way off. The Sprawk came from the direction of Craigmillar Castle and the Kestrel from Duddingston/Holyrood. I’m assuming that, at this time of year, birds of prey expand their range and sort of drift from one hunting ground to another. Especially in a city where perhaps one area isn’t enough to support 2 adults and however many juveniles they’ve produced? Just a theory.

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So, no passage migrants from my supposed vismig point so I moved on. Once I got to the top of Howe Dean Path  saw a large number of birds swirling around above a plantation on Blackford Hill (which I call Red Oak Plantation, there’s a single Red Oak in there). It consisted of BHGs, LBBGs, Herring Gulls, and also some corvids, namely Carrion Crow and Jackdaw. I couldn’t really tell what they were doing as none of them were landing and feeding on anything, there were no birds of prey that they were mobbing; perhaps feeding on flies in the air? It was quite warm that day (16°C) so the queen ants were appearing from pavements everywhere. Perhaps that’s what they were feeding on? When I looked at some of the BHGs through my bins they did appear to crane their necks every now and then. But despite scanning a lot of them, no Med Gull patch tick.

From the path by the Council Depot. I spotted a scraggly Sprawk flying amongst some Swifts at the top of the Howe Dean Path. Definitely a different individual to the one I’d seen earlier, as this one was male.

Walking further along the path I was suddenly very excited to see a bird flycatching above the path, and then immediately disappointed when it turned out to be a Willow Warbler. I do like Willow Warblers though, almost any bird that presents some semi-challenging ID interests me. Speaking of which I’ve been trying to get into gull aging… I’ll let you know how that goes…

One bird I’m certain will turn up over my patch at some point is Raven, but on that day I had to make to with a moulting Jackdaw which looked like a mini Raven as it’s outer tail feathers were shorter than the middle ones. There were few funny shapes made by the Jackdaws, including ones with barely any feathers on their head and one with a squint tail, possibly not due to moulting.

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Passing the stables on Blackford Glenn Road I was greeted by the erumpent tinkling of ~40 Goldfinches bursting from the Creeping Thistles by the road. A few Greenfinches interspersed amongst them, those finch flocks looking like they’re on their way.

Also a lot of Phylloscs in the trees and shrubs by the burn was nice to see. One of the Chiffchaffs was in Hawthorn that I distinctly remember seeing my first Redwing of last year in. They’ll be on their way soon, already seen 6 reported somewhere down south.

Another flycatching bird didn’t get my hopes up so much as his bright red chest gave him away as soon as I spotted him, and that concluded that day. I was out again yesterday (I’m typing this at 00:46 on the 15th by the way) as it had been raining since the night before and I was hoping that something may have dropped in to shelter.

To cut it short, nothing had dropped in, but a handful of nice sightings.

From the vismig point I did get 1 bird before deciding it was too wet to sit around. A single thrush flying high and N, likely a Mistle Thrush I’ve been told as they tend to head N this time of year. After walking all the way to the pond, in hopes of Garganey or Shoveler, and all the way back, I was treated to a short song from a Dipper. I haven’t had Dipper on patch since I saw a juvenile on the 3rd of June! I’ve got no idea where they went, or whether I just haven’t bumped into any of them, but I had seen at least one every day before seeing that juv. But nice to hear that familiar chinking song echoing off the running water and the rocks. Deep water that is, as the burn was very full, it must’ve been raining for about 15 hours. The stream down Howe Dean Path was running more than I’ve ever seen it run. Often it’s just a dry, small gully but it was definitely vying for stream status.

ducks flew over me at the bottom of Howe Dean Path. No idea on species but I’d guess most likely Mallards, I haven’t bothered studying my pic yet. Ducks give a few potential ticks on patch, with Mallard, Tuftie, Teal, Goosander and Pochard being the only ones that I’ve had. Apparently there’s a record from quite a while ago of 16 Garganey on Blackford Pond? Not sure that’ll happen again any time soon. Just 1 Garganey would be nice though. Or a Shoveler, I don’t mind which.

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The Gold/Greenfinch flock was again at the stable, and I suspect something else was in there too but never found anything other than a Robin wishing they would all get out his bush. A large number of Swallows were out above the field too, probably ~30. Definitely not just the ones from the stables and Liberton Tower, others had joined them. And my last note was that the corvids were still about, lots of Jackdaws and Carrion Crows were bathing in puddles on Blackford Glen Road and all scorned me as I interrupted them.

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No good migrants yet, although I think it’s foggy tonight. Can’t really tell as it’s dark so I’ve got my window open a fraction in case any Dunlin or Redshank decided to call as they pass overhead.

In other news, I’m planning on buying a new camera as my current one is only good because it’s pocket sized and fits on to my scope. It’ll almost certainly be a bridge camera, just once a sell my bike which I’ve been meaning to do for about a year now.

Hmm…. Anything else I want to spraff about… Well, there’s the media at the moment. I haven’t yet voiced my outrage at the cr@p that they published about gulls, but I best not as I tend to end up putting myself in a bad mood. The attack on these “killer snakes that are set to invade Britain” (adders, native to Britain and have always been here) is utter rubbish as well but unfortunately some people don’t have a clue about such matters and believe everything they hear. Anyway, hopefully it’ll all pass just like most things do…

I’ve just successfully garden ticked Ford Focus as one is alarm calling outside somewhere right now, probably up the road. On a more serious note I did have a possible Lesser Whitethroat in the garden last night, tetting from the bushes below our Dawson Plum tree, but it remained elusive as I searched with my head torch. May have just been a shy Blackcap. I did garden tick Chiffchaff today though, a boring bird but nice to get it ticked off!

OH! Forgot to mention, I saw one of the 7 wonders of my patch. The hundreds of Swifts that gather above the field and Craigmillar Park Golf Course every year, thanks to a tip off from @morgithology. Brilliant seeing them all streaking through the air. Once I got halfway up Blackford Hill I estimated 200+ flying about, Awesome stuff. Here’s a blurry picture with that camera that I use.

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Out again today probably, unless it’s as wet as it was yesterday.My trousers still aren’t dry. And that Ford Focus hasn’t stopped alarm calling…

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Hoping for Migrants

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