Update on Stuff

Never thought I’d be blogging so little! Anyway, I’ve got a few things to update you on, and as I did last time, let’s start with the campus list…

Of the birds I said were omissions in my last post, I’ve now added Common Gull, Starling, and Redpoll, plus Crossbill and Grey Heron! Up to 51 species for the campus, 30 less than the Hermitage, although I’ve had some species here (such as Snipe and Barnacle Goose) which I haven’t got back down on my Edinburgh patch. The only really big thing I’m missing here is a large body of water. There used to be 2 small ponds on campus but the construction work for the peripheral bypass has pretty much destroyed those so it’s unlikely I’ll get any Mute Swans, Coots or Tufted Ducks there. I guess I’ll have to keep my eyes in the sky…

I contacted Raymond Duncan about getting started with my ringing certificate, which would be a really good thing to have in the line of work that I’d like to go into. He put me through to Ally who is one of the guys who does ringing on my campus! How good is that?

So I had a wee session of just getting used to having the bird in the hand, reading rings, measuring wing length, ageing/sexing different species, and tried to get a Coal Tit out the net, which proved too much of a challenge at my level of ability! Nevertheless, awesome experience and I’m even more driven to get my ringing licence, no matter how long it takes!

I did also handle a Blue Tit but it was latched on to my finger so much that I was distracted from taking a picture! On that day they actually trapped the same Jay twice, but both times I was in a lecture on Environmental Awareness. Actually I should probably do the wee assignment that they set… hm…

On Wednesday I was out at Muir of Dinnet NNR with the Rural Skills Club, which was a nice wee experience. We were mainly there just to see the reserve, what they have to do to manage it, and also to do a bit of photography with the ranger there, Paul, who posts some nice pics on the Muir of Dinnet blog (go check it out!) https://muirofdinnetnnr.wordpress.com/ )

I also ended up getting into ferns, as Muir of Dinnet has 11 species of fern to be found around the reserve. Here’s a few that I’ve snapped on campus…

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Bracken – Pteridium aquilinum
Broad buckler-fern - Dryopteris dilatata
Broad buckler-fern – Dryopteris dilatata
Hard fern - Blechnum spicant
Hard fern – Blechnum spicant

It helps that Paul showed me how to work the macro setting on my wee camera!

And for all you birders who found that very boring, I had a wee cycle out to Loch of Skene, where I was hoping to see anything nice really. I took my OS Map which dad sent me, and it has come in handy already!

The first bird I really noticed was one which was perched on top of a pylon, not quite big enough for a Buzzard, but too heavy-built for a Kestrel. Peregrine, very nice! An adult too, judging by the pictures. Not sure on gender though, probably male.

PRGRN

After spotting the raptor, 5 Snipe flew up from the field on my left, possibly what the Peregrine was eyeing up! But it flew off in the opposite direction and disappeared over the fields.

After passing a crashed car, and cycling about 10 miles, I was at the Loch. A very nice place, and quite accessible given I don’t have a car yet. I think it’s the same distance as Girdle Ness so it’s nice to have the option of inland or coastal birding! Anyway, I cycled a bit around the loch and had nice close views of titscrestsChaffinches, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and some more distant view of a pair of Jays making their way through the canopy.

I then headed back to the main carpark to have my lunch and admire the view. There were a few wildfowl on the loch either for the winter or as a wee rest before heading further south. Wigeons were the constant soundtrack, and the occasional Mallard would pipe up. I had only taken my bins so was restricted but I’m pretty confident there were no Whooper Swans amongst the many Mute Swans.

A small group of Greylag Geese, some Coots, a few Tufties about, Buzzards being noisy over the farmland and 7 male Pheasants nearby. A nice day. And to top it all off, I got an extremely distant Red Kite before I started to head home!

As I left the carpark, c100 Pink-footed Geese passed over heading south, just to top off a nice day of birding at a new site. Decent.

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I have plans to find some remote woods somewhere which I’ll scout out and see what’s about, and once I find a good spot, I’ll maybe make a wee log hide and see what turns up! But first, I should really do that work…

Update on Stuff

It’s been a while…

It certainly has been a wee while since I last posted. I’m up in Aberdeen now, studying at Craibstone.

I’ve done a fair buit since moving up here so let’s start with the Campus Bird List. So far it’s on 43, with highlights being an unexpected Snipe which flew up from next to the soon-to-be new peripheral bypass which goes right past the back of the campus. A skein of Barnacle Geese, Collared DovesJays from my window, and Tree Sparrows have all made the list somewhat exciting. Omissions from the list include Kestrel (seen nearby), Common Gull (same), Redpoll, Starling, Stock Dove and Pheasant. I’m sure I’ll get them sooner or later, but who knows what else will crop up…

I’ve made 2 trips to Girdle Ness so far, one last Sunday and one today. I’ll summarise last week’s trip briefly as it wasn’t that great. Plenty continental Robins were about, getting my hopes up every time one flitted through the branches, a single Redwing, many Mipits and some Rock Pipits, and a Guillemot were the highlights, as well as my second Aberdonian lifer (first was Harlequin) in the form of c10 Purple Sandpipers which flew off from the rocks by the headland.

Thankfully today’s trip was far more successful.

Started out nicely with some Goosander at the Dee mouth, and then coming across some lovely Rock Pipits which came nice and close for pics. Unfortunately, after multiple attempts, it appears the internet in my halls isn’t capable of uploading a picture to my blog despite the fact that everyone (except me and 4 others) goes home for the weekend so no one else is using the internet. I’ll have to get a WiFi hub of my own soon… Anyway…

Walking towards the lighthouse I came across another birder, Andrew Whitehouse, who I’d briefly spoken to on BirdForum before. He told me what might be seen and what has been seen around Girdle Ness and got my hopes up for finally seeing a Yellow-browed Warbler.

A quick look out at the jetties revealed a nice number of Purple Sandpipers snoozing with a few Turnstones and loads of gulls surrounding them, mainly Kittiwakes.

Around to the headland I sat on the bench to eat my lunch and see if I could coax a skua out of the mist on the horizon. No luck on the skua front but I did get a Little Gull heading north towards the river mouth. Nothing else though other than gulls and a single Guillemot.

Around towards the Sewage Plant where I was hoping the Yellow-browed Warbler would hopefully still be. I passed a few continental Robins and Oycs on the beach. A few more Purple Sandpipers as well. Oh and another flipping juvenile Dunlin which had me thinking Curlew Sandpiper as it probed the muddy puddles of a car park.

I was coming up behind another birder having a look out to see whilst I was noting a Wheatear on the beach. We ended up having a really nice chat about birds in Aberdeen, including a few decent locations for sought-after birds, and I can also point you towards John’s website showcasing some brilliant photography from Scotland and all around the world: http:johnchapmanphotographer.co.uk . I’d recommend the Birds of Prey section personally!

After our chat we both went our own ways, and as I walked along the line of Willow beside the Sewage Plant, a small bird flew up from one of the trees, across the path and dived into the Willows. I ended up following it through a few groups of shrubs, all while looking up the call of a YbW in Collins. I do remember thinking, “It’s probably just a Coal Tit,” after hearing the call, but was pleasantly surprised when I read that YbW’s calls can sound like Coal Tit! A bit of perseverance and I’d added Yellow-browed Warbler to my life list. Not amazing views but certainly confirmable! Didn’t notice a leg ring which Andrew had said the bird he’d seen had had, so perhaps there’s more than one there. Anyway, 2 lifers in 2 trips, Girdle Ness must be good!

Other birds present in the area included 2 Skylarks, loads of Redpolls overhead but none dotting down to be examined, c12 thrush sp. flew over and were revealed to be Soong Thrushes as they fed on the Rowan berries, and finally a single Chiffchaff hweeted from the Willows.

After that I was satisfied that I’d had a good day and headed back around along the road, stopping at the seawatching point again, and had nice views of a small pod of Harbour Porpoise going past north, along with a single Common Scoter. Awesome.

A good day, although would’ve been nice if I could include pictures!

Other stuff I’ve been doing: tracking. Did a bit of tracking yesterday and managed to find Red Fox and Roe Deer tracks at the edge of the campus, and the leftovers of a Red Squirrel’s dinner in the form of some gnawed Norway Spruce cones all below one tree. We actually have both species of squirrel on campus, and my class got a nice view of a Red Squirrel ambling down one of the roads on the SRUC campus with a cone in its mouth, about 2 metres away from us all as well!

Anyway, I best get some sleep now as I don’t tend to get much sleep when everyone’s in halls as I’m tempted out and end up getting home at 3am. That being said, it did pay off when I walked home one night and saw both Red Fox and Hedgehog on the outskirts of Aberdeen.

Tomorrow I might get out on my bike and perhaps try to venture to Loch of Skene to see what’s going on out there!

It’s been a while…