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2012/13


An unexpected Sight

19 Feb 2013
(posted 19.02.2013)

Spent the morning observing the impressive, but sad, sight of the recently washed up Fin Whale at Carsluith which was first found on Sunday evening struggling to get out into deeper water. I saw it late on Sunday as it got dark, but hadn't realised at the time it was a Fin Whale rather than the commoner Minke.

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In the afternoon a friend and I went for a walk from Auchenleck (north of Minnigaff) up a forest track towards Larg and Lamachan Hills. It was a little late so we didn't have time to go up any hills, but it was fantastic weather and a new location to explore.

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A Great Two Days

31st Jan - 1st Feb 2013
(posted 03.02.2013)

A brief bit of birding in the Southerness area on 31st Jan produced the long staying Todd's Canada Goose, 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Tree Sparrow and most unexpectantly a LITTLE AUK flying out of the Nith Estuary very close in while having lunch.

Found a drake SURF SCOTER among flock of 500 Scaup in Wig Bay, Loch Ryan a week ago but it didn't wake up. Fortunately it was still there on Friday and showed well and became quite active at one point (photo below). I also had 3 VELVET SCOTERS from Soleburn and another 12 off Sandhead in Luce Bay among 2000+ Common Scoters.

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A look at Soulseat Loch was also fruitful with a redhead SMEW and a drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL, which is probably the same bird from last winter but Id not heard of its presence this winter.

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Sandhead Sea Life

21st Dec 2012
(posted 22.12.2012)

Headed to Sandhead to have a look through a large flock of Scoters that had been offshore in Luce Bay for a while. With the calm conditions it gave me a good chance to scrutinise the flock and try find something different. I eventually found 5 VELVET SCOTERS which showed well and included 2 stunning adult males. Also present were 6 Long-tailed Ducks, 7 Scaup and a single Tufted Duck. On the beach there were 103 Sanderling and 400+ Dunlin along with 100's of Knot.

While walking along the beach I noticed a lot of washed up shells and also Starfish and other marine creatures. Luce Bay is a great place to find Canoe Shells and today their were 100's including many still with the creature still inside. This was the same for other shells so I imagine the recent strong southerlies and spring tides may have washed them up on the last high tide.

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There were also creatures I'd never seen before which are shown below. The first is perhaps a Sea Cucumber type and the Worm I have no idea (nothing to do with razor shell).

NOTE: This first creature has now been identified as a Sea Mouse!

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I did manage to find myself a new shell species for my collection, a NUT SHELL. There were also many Alder Necklace Shells, Philine aperta's, Razor Shells, Striped Venus's and many more. Also a few Crabs including the Masked Crab (photo below), surprisingly a Frog and 2 Thornback Ray egg cases.

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Summer flashback

30th Aug 2012
(posted 22.12.2012)

Field Grasshopper behaviour at Corsewall Point




Minnigaff Waxwings

26th - 30th Nov 2012
(posted 01.12.2012)

This week the Waxwings arrived in the garden, initially with one or two about. But by the end of the week at least 73 were present though appear to now have gone because they have cleared a neighbours Rowan which they have been gorging on all week. The Waxwings had to put up with an aggressive Mistle Thrush trying to keep them away from the berries.

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There was also a colour ringed Waxwing among them (photo below) which Ive found out to have been ringed in Aberdeen on 14th Nov 2012, two weeks before I found it.

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East Coast

24th-28th Oct 2012
(posted 13.11.2012)

SPURN:

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FLAMBOROUGH HEAD:

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Catch up... Again

(posted 18.10.2012)

During September and the start of October I have been seawatching (at Corsewall Point) and doing visible migration (vis-mig) watches mainly at the Mull of Galloway. I had a reasonable seawatching season with several LEACH's PETRELS, 1 SABINE's GULL, 1 LONG-TAILED SKUA, 1 Storm Petrel and a reasonable number of Arctic & Great Skuas. Mine and other peoples counts can be viewed here and picking a date.

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Visible Migration watches have been variable but also enjoyable. Watching flocks of birds streaming south is quite a sight and you never know what might fly over. The highlight was during my most recent trip when I found a LAPLAND BUNTING feeding with Meadow Pipits and Skylark. Sadly it only showed briefly but well enough to get an image (below).

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Other interesting sightings from the Mull of Galloway has included a single Great Spotted Woodpecker, 5 Jays, 2 Brambling (image below) and more Blue, Great and Coal Tits than I had expected to see migrating. Sightings for this site can be seen here.

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Away from seawatching & vis-migging, I have been quite successfull with new American waders. The best came on the 8th Sept when I found myself a SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER at The Wig, Loch Ryan though it took a while to confidently ID it. Ive submitted it to the BBRC and images and discussion can be found here. If accepted this would be the 2nd record for D&G and its a first for me, whatever it is! The next american wader was an AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER within a large flock of Eurasian Golden Plover at The Wig, Loch Ryan on 8th Oct. It had been found a couple of days before so thought I'd better go have a look. Once I'd positioned myself with the sun behind me it showed really well and even gave me a glimpse of its underwing (a diagnostic feature).

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In the last week it feels as if winter has arrived due to the temperature along with the arrival of 1000's of Pink-footed Geese, Brent Geese, White-fronted Geese, Whooper Swans, and Redwing. Heading off to the Spurn/Flamborough Head area next week, so fingers crossed for a decent east coast specialty!




There are a few birds about

(posted 14.08.2012)

Ive been concentrating on moths a bit too much in the last month so have suffered with the lack of birds, though it's usually quite quiet in July. The main interest has been the return of the YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (image below) at Loch Ryan. It's right leg/foot is slightly deformed which has helped confirm it as the same individual and it's timing has been very similar.

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Another returning gull is a MEDITERRANEAN GULL from Belgium with a white coloured ring and code E107. This bird has probably been wintering at Loch Ryan since it's first winter of 2009/10 (ring not read) and has been seen back at its birthplace in Belgium in the summer of 2011. More info can be found here where you will find my other images from previous years. Below is an image of E107 at Bishop Burn, Loch Ryan on 6th Aug when there was also 2 unringed adults and a 2 unringed juvenile birds.

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The most recent highlight and biggest surprise ever was when a HOBBY flew over the house while I was sitting outside the front door looking for white martins (more on that later). I'd never seen a HOBBY before so this was an amazing encounter that I was not expecting. Below is one of only a few shots I got as it flashed over my head at tree top height, it would appear to be a roving 1st-summer bird perhaps on its migration south.

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So the white martins, a few had been reported both in Minnigaff (bottom of my road) and Newton Stewart so when I saw a large flock of Swallows and House Martins out of the lounge window I thought I should have a look through them. I got a brief view of one but in bad light so the next day after seeing the HOBBY I managed to find 2 and they showed very well over the house in the sunshine. Albino or leucistic?.... take your pick!

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Autumn migration has certainly started so Im sure theres some goodies out there if I can get away from the moths!




Start again...

(posted 14.08.2012)

It's been a while since I last posted. Not much has happened in the birding world with me but my Moth World has come alive with the arrival of a new 125w Robinson Trap in the first week of July. I hadn't had a 'proper' trap up until then so I was only getting a small percentage of what I could get in the garden. Now with over a month of trapping gone I have had a minimum of 148 species which doesn't included many micros (though they have been identified). I didn't know what to expect when it came to number of moths and species per night but in the first few weeks I was very happy to be getting a few new species each night.

Probably the most interesting species Ive caught was a CLOAKED PUG on 13th July. Pugs are notoriously difficult to identify given they are all fairly similar and small, however this one was big (comparitively) and had a large black discal spot on each forewing. Despite it's worn, ragged state I thought this one should be easier to identify, so I checked the 'Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland' (Waring & Townsend) and found Cloaked Pug to be the best match. I then checked the status of the pug in D&G/Scotland and found that there had't been a confirmed report in the region so decided I needed a second opinion. Thanks to Roy Leverton (on the Scottish Moths Yahoo Group) I was able to confirm that it was indeed a Cloaked Pug!!

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Surprisingly Ive had other rare pugs for D&G; Valerian Pug and Freyer's Pug. However pugs are generally drap and colourless, though can be nicely patterned, there are many, many other moths that Ive been just as pleased to catch. Below is a small selection of what Ive had, hover mouse of each image to get species name.

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The last image is of a micro, with this species being about 9mm in length, this is a whole new world compared to the macros (big ones) which Im trying to delve in to. One good thing about moths it that they are around all year round and different species come out at different times so there is always more to come!!




Assynt Trip

09th - 16th June 2012
(posted 01/07/2012)

Day 1 - A Good Start

My brother & I had stayed overnight in Perth on the 8th and then headed further north the next morning. Our plan was to stop off at Loch Garten to look for Crested Tits and Osprey. The OSPREY came sooner than expected when we saw one circling over the A9 on the approach to our turn off. A circular walk in the Abernethy Forest to Loch Mallachie produced plenty of birds including: Common Sandpiper, family of Goldeneye (4 ducklings), Redstart, Crossbill and Spotted Flycatchers. A Bordered White moth and Wood Ant mound were also nice to see.

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It took a while until we found the CRESTED TITS but they showed well along the path, including feeding on path in front of us. There were at least 3 in the area with one collecting nesting material.

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The next stop was on the shore of the Cromarty Firth near Evanton for lunch. Here we watched a Wood Mouse feeding near the car, popping in and out of a nearby wall. A mixed group of crows on the shore showed we were heading into Hoodie territory.

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We arrived at our accommodation at Unapool late afternoon, overlooking Loch Glencoul, and spent the evening looking at the local wildlife. Arctic and Common Terns were present (as they were all week) with a few nesting on islands along with Common & Herring Gulls. The islands also had Common Seals hauled out and the unseasonal sight of a Pink-footed Goose. Greylag Goose families were also on the loch and a pair of RED-THROATED DIVERS were a typical sight throughout the week. Land birds included: Redpoll, Siskin, a couple of juvenile Stonechats and a family of Pied Wagtails.


Day 2 - Kirkaig Falls

With the weather forecast looking decent we headed for a walk from Inverkirkaig to Kirkaig Falls and beyond towards Suilven. The bird life was fairly typical for the area with Redpoll, Siskin, Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipits, and the common tit species. On the river there were a few Common Sandpipers, family of Pied Wagtails, and the only Dipper and Grey Wagtail of the week.

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The weather was just sunny and warm enough to bring out butterflies, day-flying moths and dragonflies. The highlight for me was finding the ARGENT & SABLE moth which I've failed to find close to home, Northern Eggar Moths were also buzzing around the moorland. Butterflies included Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, along with Small and Large Heath. Unsurprisingly Red Deer were also seen including a mum and its fawn on the valley side.

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After our walk we headed to Stoer Lighthouse for a bit of seawatching. On the way we stopped at Clashnessie Bay where there was a colour-ringed TWITE on the beach, a pair of RED-THROATED DIVERS in the bay and a few Great Skuas passing over. The Twite was rung in the Spring of 2010 at Clachtoll, just around the coast, as a breeding bird. I have seen these ringed birds in the wintering flock at The Wig, Loch Ryan so it was nice to see it on its breeding ground. At Stoer Lighthouse we had dozens of Great Skuas passing close in and a single Arctic Skua, also several PUFFINS moving past within flocks of Guillemots and Razorbills.

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Day 3 - Kylestrome & Drumbeg

I started by checking my Heath Moth trap, which I put out most nights, but only had a couple of Brown Rustics. However I did get a chance to photograph some birds just outside the cabin in the morning sunshine. The couple of juvenile Stonechats showed well outside my window and a Wren put on a display as another (probable female) collecting nesting material.

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Later in the morning we went for a short walk from Kylestrome along the shore of Loch Gleann Dubh. Common Terns showed well fishing close offshore and a GREENSHANK was feeding around the islands. Probably the most unusual sighting was of a pair of Chiffchaff around the houses which must have been nesting nearby, I believe they are uncommon in the North-west. We also came across a very tame Red Deer that continued feeding as we walked past within a few metres. A nice surprise was finding a family of Common Sandpipers with a couple of chicks along the track.

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In the afternoon we went for another walk, along the Drumbeg Peat Bog Road, on another day of sunny spells though quite breezy. Not many birds about though there was a Reed Bunting around one of the lochs and a couple of Buzzards flying over the area. Moths were again the highlight with a couple of Wood Tigers showing off their amazing colours, a few Northern Eggar caterpillars were also present. We also saw a few classic Highland Coos.

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Day 4 - Up Hill at Inchnadamph

I found 3 Map-winged Swifts in the moth trap, not colourful but a great pattern when fresh.

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Today we headed to Inchnadamph, where we first walked down to the shore of Loch Assynt. Here we saw a GREENSHANK, Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers, Red-breasted Merganser and a family of Raven and Wheatears in fields along with a herd of Red Deer.

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We then headed up the valley and soon got a brief view of a GOLDEN EAGLE as it drifted across in front of us and then landed on a cliff face. Our route took us up the valley between Beinn Uidhe and Beinn an Fhurain, the latter being our aim to climb. There was a surprise with a pair of Teal on a small loch between the two tops. Moving onto a large plateau I found my moth of the week, a BLACK MOUNTAIN MOTH, which is only found above 600m in the Highlands. There were also two pairs of Golden Plover on the plateau. Not much at the summit but we did find a Red Grouse family on the way down.

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Day 5 - The Old Man of Stoer

The moth trap had my first two Clouded Bordered Brindles of the week along with a couple more Map-winged Swifts, 1 Brown Rustic and a Small Square-spot. With the weather being nice and sunny we headed to Stoer Lighthouse with the hope of seeing some cetaceans. Sadly none were seen but good numbers of Great Skuas passing close in along the cliffs as we walked towards the Old Man of Stoer. Stopping for a break a look out to sea a couple of Raven came by and a Fulmar showed really well along the cliff edge.

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On the way back to the cabin for lunch we stopped at Clachtoll to look in the bays which looked stunning in the sunshine. A look in Bay of Clachtoll produced a pair of Red-throated Divers and our first BLACK-THROATED DIVER of the week which was continually fishing during our stay. Hooded Crows were seen in various locations during the week with the one photographed below posing just long enough.

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After lunch we headed north to Scourie. Not much activity about here other than a few Twite and Linnets feeding in the fields, with the Twite showing off their red rumps.

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Back at the cabin I went for a wander along the shore of Glencoul Loch. A Greenshank was a nice surprise along with a flock, of mainly immature male, Goosanders which were fishing close in shore. Both the Arctic and Common Terns showed well as they fished and moved up and down the loch. The Pink-footed Goose was still present and a Cuckoo was calling further down the loch, there was one around for most of the week.

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Day 6 - Quinag

Had my best haul of moths with: 3 Silver-ground Carpets & 1 each of Bright-line Brown-eye, Brown Rustic, Clouded-bordered Brindle, Green Carpet and Map-winged Swift. There was also a couple of Foxglove Pugs on the kitchen window. With the wind always being calmer early morning we decided to head up Quinag first thing. We first went up Spidean Coinich with the hope of getting Ptarmigan. The first birds we heard and saw was a couple of Golden Plover on the lower slope. There were plenty of signs of Ptarmigan with droppings and feathers seen at various heights, but sadly no bird.

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On the decent we came across a Mountain Hare, though it didn't hang around for long. Once down in the valley we decided to continue and climb up to the highest peak, Sail Gharbh (808m), half hoping there may still be a Ptarmigan to be found. At the very top there was a Wheatear but no sign of any Ptarmigans.

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We were back down in time for lunch and then went out for a walk at the "All Abilities Path" and Little Assynt Estate paths. On the way to the car park I spotted a diver on Loch Assynt close in shore, so we pulled over and got fantastic views of a BLACK-THROATED DIVER as it snorkelled along the shoreline.

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Day 7 - Gruinard Bay

The final full day was forecast to be showery and windy so we headed to the Ullapool area and Gruinard Bay in search of Eagles as we wouldn't have to leave the car much. We saw the colony of Jackdaws, not common in the north-west, at Elphin and then not much else until Gruinard Bay. There were a few Red-throated Divers and a similar number of GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS in both winter and summer plumage. A Great Skua also made an appearance. However the highlight of the week then turned up, an adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLE drifting in land. Sadly only a brief view but it was a new bird for the both of us.

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A very enjoyable week with possibly the best weather from around the country, but we arrived home to find the rivers extremely high and flooding in some parts. We had a quick stop at Grey Mare's Tail on the way home to look at the waterfall, rather full!!

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Recent Scarcities

(posted 03.06.2012)

In the last few weeks I've been enjoying the hot sunny weather, though birds were a bit hard to come by. One hope I have had for a while was to look for REED WARBLER at Wigtown Harbour as they have been seen there in previous years, though it is quite a scarce bird in Scotland and rare in the South-west. I felt my best chance was an early morning visit. So at 6am on 25th May I was driving slowly passed the reed bed with windows open and heard what might have been a Reed Warbler. A quick look with binoculars revealed it was a REED WARBLER (photos below) singing its heart out deep in the reeds.

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This was the first time I'd seen a Reed Warbler in Wigtownshire and a nice bird to have locally and hopefully breeding. Another hope I've had is to go and photograph the Black Guillemots at Portpatrick. They breed in the harbour walls and therefore can show very well on the water and on the rocks. With the sun out I headed over there relatively early on 28th May, before the tourists arrived, and found some very cooperative birds sitting for the camera (photos below).

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Fantastic looks birds with there contrasting plumage and bright red feet and legs, though not easy to get the right exposure for the black and white plumage. The same day I went looking for shells at Wig Bay, Loch Ryan. When I got to The Scar I noticed a few waders and thought I better scrutinise them, though I didn't have my scope with me. I found what appeared to be a very bright red/orange bird with a clean white belly (therefore not a Dunlin) which looked a little different. I'd seen a few Sanderling in the area which were brightly coloured in summer plumage and that's what I thought this might have been until a Sanderling walked passed it and the size suddenly became clear, it was a LITTLE STINT (photos below).

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This was my first Little Stint for many years (only second ever) and my first for D&G. Another highlight of the day was finding 3 Wood Mice under a board on a shingle beach. Surprisingly they stayed around for me to take photos (below).

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08.05.2012


Scottish LRP!!

Had a nice surprise when I went to Wigtown Harbour to look for a reported Garganey. Didn't find the Garganey but did find a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (LRP), which is my first for many, many years and certainly my first in Scotland. I'd always hoped one would turn up locally but I hadn't expected it to be today.

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Later at Garlieston I found about 40 WHIMBREL along the shoreline and a COMMON SANDPIPER. Once home I went to check up on a local pair of Raven and stubbled across my first WOOD WARBLER of the year singing in Bower Wood which is the closest Ive seen to home.

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06.05.2012


Unseasonal

Headed to the Loch Ryan area on a cool, sunny afternoon to look for some summer migrants. However the first bird seen was a lone WHOOPER SWAN (image below) at Bishop Burn which showed a heavily stained head and neck. A COMMON TERN did make a brief appearance to show summer migrants were about and arriving. On the way through Stranraer I noticed a small number of gulls in Agnew Park and realised the long staying GLAUCOUS GULL (image below) was with them. It was showing signs of moulting into a '1st summer' plumage.

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Spent a bit of time at Corsewall Point where 4 GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS were offshore along with Guillemots, Gannets, Kittiwakes and several MANX SHEARWATERS passing the point. A probable 'Greenland' Wheatear was roaming around the rocks and about 36 Swallows headed north during 1.5 hours watching. At Soulseat Loch there was a surprise with 7 POCHARD among Tufted Ducks, around the waters edge there were 4 COMMON SANDPIPERS and a single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. While going through West Freugh there was a flock of 15 WHIMBREL (image below) close to the road along with a single Curlew (foreground of image) which gave a nice comparison.

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05.05.2012


Worth it in the end.

Early May is a good time for passing groups of Dotterel on their way north, however you usually have to climb up a large hill to find them. So my brother, friend Joseph and I headed off to Carsphairn to climb Cairnsmore of Carsphairn with an altitude of 797m (2614 ft) on a frosty sunny morning. Along track before the ascent we saw a pair of Oystercatchers, Greylag Geese, Wheatears, a couple of Redstart, Stonechats and a pair of Nuthatch. Wheatears, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were seen at all levels on the climb up.

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Once nearing the top we noticed a small group of wader looking birds fly over the summit, could these have been Dotterel or just Golden Plover? We split up to search the area and it wasn't long until we were watching 4 DOTTEREL scurrying around the hillside though sadly they were heading in wrong direction for getting photos. They did however lead us to 3 Golden Plover, so the answer to my earlier question was... either. A wander around the top revealed a further 6 DOTTEREL (photos below), so in total we saw 8 adult summer females, 1 poss 2nd year bird and a probable adult summer male.

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April

(posted: 02.05.2012)

Below are more images from my travels during April. Highlight was checking out a probable BLACK GROUSE lek and finding 9 males and a female on a cold frosty morning, along with drumming Snipe and several Red Grouse. Migrants slowly moved into the area with many of them arriving weeks later than recent years (e.g. Pied Flycatcher 10 days later in Knockman Wood). Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit at Wigtown and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth in garden were nice sightings and winter birds still hung about with Fieldfares and Pink-footed Geese flying over the house and an Iceland Gull still at Loch Ryan.

Away from wildlife, there has been a large amount of military activity in the area during April with jets and helicopters moving around. Also while photographing a helicopter go over the house I noticed a Halo around the sun, which I believe is formed due to ice crystals in the atmosphere. Hover mouse over images for more details.

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March - A Major Update!

(posted: 01.05.2012)

Thought it was about time I did an update. In March many of the winter birds remained in the area, though some of the early migrants started to arrive with my first Chiffchaff being heard on the 19th. Highlights were finally getting good views of a BLACK-THROATED DIVER and also finding/photographing a BLACK REDSTART at the Mull of Galloway. Other interesting sightings were some fairly local SHORT-EARED OWLS, the long staying DOWITCHER and a pair of Raven nesting near home.

Instead of writing an essay Ive picked a selection of photos to show my month of March, hover over images to see details (if it works!):

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01.03.2012


Not such a Ruff day

Having spent the last two days working (really hard!) in the Cree Valley and decided to take it a bit easier and head to Wigtown and Garlieston where I wouldn't have to walk about to much. I headed to Wigtown via Carty Port and along this back road I stopped to look at a flock of Lapwing in a wet muddy field and found myself a RUFF (photo below) feeding with the Lapwings. This combination of having a Ruff in a Lapwing flock is quite common and it is always worth looking through any Lapwing flock you come across.

Ruff

Once at Wigtown it was evident that the shooting in the coastal area had finished as there were thousands of geese spread across the merse (top photo below), with Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese being the two main species. There have been White-fronted and Bean Geese seen in the area recently but I couldn't find anything other than what I believe to be a hybrid goose (Barnacle X Ross's). This bird was originally seen in the West Freugh area but it has now moved to Wigtown Bay. Images of this bird can be seen here and below.

Wigtown Geese

Hybrid Goose

After scanning through the geese on numerous occasions only seeing the hybrid and reading one colour ringed Barnacle Goose (light blue ...) it was time to head to Garlieston. There was a decent sized flock of gulls in Garlieston Bay so I scanned through them to find 26 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which are certainly arriving back in the country, and also 29 Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the beach. I then headed around to Rigg Bay where I found 11 GREY PLOVERS and 6 Knot on the beach, with at least 7 GREENSHANK also in the general area. A flock of gulls (photo below) feeding in a nearby field soon got my attention and after some time I found myself a 1st-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL being quite aggressive towards the Black-headed and Common Gulls.

Gull flock

I then stopped off at Wigtown Harbour again in the hope the geese may have moved about a bit, but sadly I still couldn't pick anything different out. However the tide was heading in and there was a flock of gulls gathering on mud in the bay and with a bit of patience I picked out a 1st-winter ICELAND GULL. The RUFF was also present in the same field on the way back home.



28th & 29th Feb 2012


Overtime and a bit of a Yaffle

This week I was out working with the CVCWT on both Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday I was out with just a couple of volunteers to help with marking out an area to be planted with broadleaved trees by a contractor. The site was a clearfell site that made the walking about quite difficult and surprisingly tiring on the legs. Canes were used with red and white tape tied around the top to show the boundaries of the areas to be planted or to be left clear. Each cane location was also plotted using some GPS equipment so that a map of the area could be created.

Canes

There was quite a bit of wildlife, with Toads (first photo below) being most obvious as they were sitting in the grass we were walking through. Birds included flocks of Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch and also c10 Goldeneye on a nearby loch (second photo below). There was also a lot of lichens and mosses about with my favourite being the 'Matchstick' Lichen, as known as British Soldiers (third photo below), which gave a bit of colour to the ground.

Toad

Loch

Matchstick Lichen

On Wednesday the group were working in Holm Wood on a habitat management project for Water Voles. We have been doing this for a few weeks and involves clearing trees/branches to clear waterways and allow some more light into areas. However this is being done in or around water (photo below) and therefore there is a good chance of getting wet, which a few of us have found out!! A few ditches are also going to be created with one being completed this week. The highlight of the day was hearing a bird that I have been waiting years for and that was the yaffle of a GREEN WOODPECKER. Probably considered a rare bird in D&G (especially in the west) I now need to try a see one and perhaps even photograph one!

Pete in Waders



25.02.2012


An Unexpected Reunion

Headed over to Loch Ryan today as I'd not been there for a whole week! Started at West Freugh to look for any geese that might be about. I eventually found a large mixed flock near Culmore Farm which consisted of mainly Pink-footed and Greylag Geese with at least 180 Greenland and 2 Eurasian White-fronted Geese. After scrutinising the flock I headed to Soulseat Loch where there was plenty of waterfowl to look at. Nothing unexpected but a single Scaup and male Goosander were the duck highlights and 26 Oystercatcher and 5 Buzzards were a count highlight.

It was then time to head to Loch Ryan and more importantly Bishop Burn. A stiff breeze made viewing a bit difficult and uncomfortable but I instantly spotted a 2nd-Winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL (top photo) on the shoreline infront of me and was then surprised to see it had a white ring. The code on it was 32A4, which seemed familiar to me but it wasn't until I got home that I realised! It was a bird I had seen in Musselburgh in August last year (bottom photo). It just goes to show how much gulls can move around in a relatively short time.

Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull

However this gull has only been reported during the autumn and winter and not during the breeding season (though it may be too young to breed). But another ringed Med Gull, with White ring E107, has been seen every winter since it was born in 2009 in Belgium and also last summer. I've seen it during the last three winters at Loch Ryan though not consistantly throughout, so Im not sure if it wanders/flies elsewhere. But it was around today and looking very smart with it's partially complete black hood (photo below). The interesting thing about this bird is that it was seen back in Belgium in May and June of last year, again perhaps to young to breed but obviously likes it's home comforts!

Mediterranean Gull

Along with these two ringed birds there were another 2 adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS and two ICELAND GULLS, a 2nd-winter (photo below) and an adult bird which is likely to be the bird I photographed on the 22nd Jan. Away from gulls, I was lucky to see 4 VELVET SCOTERS (photo below) from Soleburn Bridge which were flushed by a speed boat in the middle of the loch and showed off their diagnostic white wings (secondaries).

Iceland Gull

Velvet Scoter



11.02.2012


Holly Galls

Yesterday Mark Pollitt from the DGERC posted a message on the DGERC Yahoo Group asking people to look at Holly Bushes for signs of Gall Flies and a fungi that forms on Holly (Holly Speckle). So when I had a chance I went out into the garden to look at some Holly leaves and instantly noticed what looked like the Holly Leaf Gall fly markings on several leaves. Took a few pictures (below) and got Mark to confirm the ID, which he kindly did.

Holly Leaf Gall Fly

Apparently there was only one record of this gall in D&G, hence the request for more sighitngs. So if anyone sees a similar looking pattern/marking on any Holly leaves I'm sure Mark would be pleased to get your D&G sightings. Check out the DGERC website for ways to send in records /sightings. For images and more information about Holly Leaf Gall Flies and Holly Speckle, a quick Google search will do the trick!

GOOSE UPDATE: The Greylag Goose with neck collar 'CJD' that I found at Loch Connell was rung at Loch Eye, Ross-shire on 05/11/2005 (my 17th Birthday!) and was ID'd as a bird from the Icelandic population rather than a British resident bird.



22nd, 27th & 28th Jan 2012


Iceland's Everywhere!!

On Sunday (22nd) I went in search of gulls at Loch Ryan and got lucky. Found at least 3, possibly 4, ICELAND GULLS at the south end of Loch Ryan. There was definitely two 4th-winters/adults (first two photos) and a 2nd-winter, but there was also a 4th-winter/adult (3rd photo) at a different location to the other two that may or may not be the same bird. The reason I'm naming them as 4th-winter/adult is because at the time they looked very adult-like, but having looked at the photos the bill pattern (dark marks) suggests a bit of immaturity.

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

Then yesterday (27th) I searched the Machars. While heading through Braehead towards Garlieston I spotted a large flock of gulls (photo below) in a field just outside Kirkinner. Fortunately I was able to park on a quiet side road and search through the flock with the scope in good light. Overall I found 3 1st-winter ICELAND GULLS which made the trip worth it along with an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull (scarce in winter).

Gulls

Today (28th) I was back at Loch Ryan and instead of finding lots of Iceland Gulls, I found 3 adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (photo below) and a single 3rd-winter ICELAND GULL. A trip to Loch Connell also produced 2 EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE within a flock of at least 3091 Pink-footed Geese, these were counted using a combination of photos. There was also an orange neck-collared Greylag Goose with code 'CJD' which will be interesting to find out where it's come from.

Mediterranean Gull



19.01.12


Out and about

Headed down the Machars today and found the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER still on the wetland at Wigtown and the GLAUCOUS GULL (2nd-winter) still at The Crook of Baldoon. There was also a good number of ducks on the wetland at Wigtown including:

54 Pintail
54 Wigeon
62 Teal
2 Goldeneye
3 Tufted Duck
15 Shoveler

Sadly no geese showing from the hide, but I did eventually find some just north of Garlieston. There was a mixture of Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese but they were quite distant and a lot were probably hidden. In Garlieston Bay there was at least 250 Dunlin and also 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese. At The Crook of Baldoon there was a large number of Golden Plover and Lapwing around the fields along with about 35 TWITE (photos below) that showed really well around the farm buildings.

Twite

Twite

Twite

I went home along the back road from Wigtown and stopped off by a wet, muddy field opposite Grange of Cree farm and counted at least 80 Pied Wagtails along with a few dozen Meadow Pipits and several Reed Buntings. Then a Sparrowhawk scattered them and then decided to land on the hedge right next to the car, but sadly behind me so I had to photograph it through the rear window (photo below).

Sparrowhawk



18.01.12


Owl and Conifers!!

Today was the second Cree Valley voluntary day of the new year. Both days we have been working in Low Camer Wood to try and thin out the Birch and also remove as many conifers as physically possible. The thinning of Birch was concentrated around Oak trees to prevent any competition for nutrients and allow more light into the area.

Conifers were planted in the wood a number of years ago around the Oak trees and though most have been removed there are still newly sprouted ones scattered throughout the wood. So we hunted them out and cut them down. Once cut down we removed the branches to create a brash pile and use the trunks to create log piles. These piles then become create habitats for all sorts of creatures which then provide a food source for others like birds and small mammals. While searching for more we found one large conifer that was too large to be cut down with a hacksaw, but we decided to have a closer look and I was surprised to find a TAWNY OWL roosting halfway up. I don't often see Tawny Owl's, though I hear plenty throughout the year, so it was a great to see.

Yesterday I failed to find any Iceland Gulls at Loch Ryan but I did find another colour ringed Black Headed Gull from Killington Reservoir, Cumbria. The bird had a blue ring with code '2A64' and was ringed in June last year and was first spotted at Loch Ryan in September by Chris Baines.



15.01.12


Didn't Take Long!!

So, I wanted to see a Glaucous Gull... well on a trip to The Crook of Baldoon to help with a WeBS count I spotted a large white gull sitting in a field. Got the scope up and there it was, a gruesome looking GLAUCOUS GULL (photos below). It had obviously been getting dirty in the mud and also on a nearby carcass. After a while it went for a wash in Wigtown Bay and looked a lot better, just wish the light had been better.

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

Earlier in the day at Garlieston I saw 11 Greenshank, 4 Little Grebes, 32 Gadwall, 51 Teal, 26 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 9 Goldeneye. There was also a rather sick looking Fulmar in the bay sheltering from the brisk wind behind a rock groyne. Hopefully it was just having a rest.



10th & 13th Jan 2012


White Wingers

The country has seen a large influx of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls (commonly known as White-wingers) this winter. So it seemed to only be a matter of time until the first one appeared in the county and on Tuesday an ICELAND GULL appeared at Loch Ryan. I first found it at Leffnoll Point, on the east side, and then refound it at Bishop Burn feeding on the cheese outfall. Initially I wasn't sure if they were the same bird but it would seem likely and at present it is believed to be a 2nd-winter, though it could easily be a first-winter. There was also an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL (photo below) at Bishop Burn, which is also a white winged gull that is now considered a UK resident though still a scarce Scottish bird.

Mediterranean Gull

I also noted a few leg ringed gulls on the beach which I was able to read. They included the blue-ringed Black-headed Gull with code 2A07 (from Killington, Cumbria) and also the regular Finnish and Lithuanian Black-headed Gulls. There was also a second Finnish Black-headed Gull with a metal ring (code: ST209.822) which I am awaiting details of. A British metal ringed 1st-winter Herring Gull was also present with code GR24516 and is my first metal ring for this species.

I was back at Loch Ryan on Friday to help with a WeBS Count (Wetland Birds Survey). For once it was a calm sunny day which allowed for good viewing of the loch. There was nothing unexpected, but there was noticeably a larger number of Red-throated Divers across the whole loch. They were also seen in small groups of about 10-15 birds which was a great sight to see. Some of the main counts are as follows:

99 Red-throated Divers
5 Great Northern Divers
34 Slavonian Grebes
110 Great Crested Grebes
716 Scaup
336 Common Scoters
52 Bar-tailed Godwits

The ICELAND GULL and MEDITERRANEAN GULL were still at Bishop Burn along with another ICELAND GULL (photo belows) which initially looked like an adult, but it eventually showed nicely and showed it was more like a 3rd/4th-winter.

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

Just need a Glaucous Gull now!!



07.01.12


DOWITCHER'S still here?!?

Did a bit of local birding and started at Wigtown. There wasn't a huge amount of activity on the wetland or on the merse, but there was a small group of waders which I thought were worth a closer look. I was amazed to find a/the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER actively feeding around sleeping Redshank and Lapwing. The chances are it is the same bird that I found there in November last year, though I don't think it was reported throughout December. Not much about elsewhere other than 4 Magpies at the Crook of Baldoon which are very localised in D&G.



05.01.12


I've Bean Here Before!

With a strong North-westerly wind forecast, I decided to give a seawatch at Corsewall Point a go despite it being the wrong time of year for migrating seabirds. The wind was certainly strong and therefore most birds seen were passing close to the coast line. Kittiwakes were the most numerous species with at least 98 heading south-west with good number of immature birds. The other usual species like Fulmar and Guillemot were present, but the most interesting bird was a 'BLUE' FULMAR (photo below) which is a sub-species of Fulmar from further north.

Fulmar

Having had enough of the wind I headed to Wig Bay. The choppy conditions made it hard to see things but I got the following counts: 4 GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS, 5 Long-tailed Ducks, 12 Slavonian Grebes, 14 Black Guillemots (photo below), 10 Common Scoters, and 129 Scaup, plus other regular species. Then to Soulseat Loch where the birds were well spread over the whole loch, but fortunately the SMEW showed itself and the GREEN-WINGED TEAL was unsurprisingly still present though hard to pick out. A few counts included 200 Wigeon, 193 Teal, 40 Goldeneye, 1 Scaup and 104 Mallard.

Black Guillemot

It was then time to have another look around West Freugh for any geese. For once it was not hard to find large flocks of mainly Pink-footed Geese, with a scattering of other species. There was around 150 Greenland White-fronted Geese, 2 EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and 1 Pale-bellied Brent Goose (not usual at West Freugh). However I was very happy to find at least 4 BEAN GEESE with some Pink-feet near High Mye. The light was quite bad at this point but I managed to get a quick video (video-grab below) before they, along with 8 other geese, flew off.

Bean Geese

A good start to the year, just wish this wind would calm down a bit!



02.01.12


Happy New Year!

So my birding year started with a trip to Loch Ryan and the surrounding area with the hope of seeing as many species as possible, especially any uncommon ones. The scarcer species included 5 EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE at West Freugh and fortunately the GREEN-WINGED TEAL was still present on Soulseat Loch, though the Smew wasn't visible.

Loch Ryan held the usual species with a single VELVET SCOTER and GREAT NORTHERN DIVER being the most interesting birds. There were 3 Long-tailed Ducks in Wig Bay and a flock of c90 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were in the fields with a new colour ringed bird, HAWR (photo below).

Pale-bellied Brent Goose

In total I saw 68 species, which is about a third of my total for 2011.



27th - 31st Dec 2011


A Great End to the Year!

My year ended with a trip down to North Wales to spend New Year with family. So my brother and I set off early on Tuesday (27th) to get a bit of birding done. First stop was Castle and Kirk Loch at Lochmaben to look for Willow Tits and the wintering AMERICAN WIGEON. A very noisy Willow Tit was found around the bird hide at the south end of Castle Loch along with a Kingfisher and the AMERICAN WIGEON showed nicely on Kirk Loch within a flock of Eurasian Wigeon.

We then headed off for our next and final destination of Leighton Moss. There had been a few interesting birds reported there recently so I had my fingers crossed. The first bird was a GLOSSY IBIS (photo below) which we eventually saw thanks to other birders pointing us in the right direction. Didn't show very well in gloomy, windy conditions but a first for me. After watching the ibis for a while we headed for the Eric Morecombe hides where we saw a single SPOTTED REDSHANK (photo below), a Peregrine and several Little Egrets.

Glossy Ibis

Spotted Redshank

With the light fading fast we headed for the main reserve and went and sat in the Greisdale Hide in the hope of a few more goodies. The first goodie was the arrival of a redhead (female/immature) SMEW and then a juvenile MARSH HARRIER showed itself quartering over the reeds. The best bird however was the arrival of a GREAT WHITE EGRET (photo below) which showed well in the presence of Little Egrets and a Grey Heron for comparison, this was another first for me. We ended the day watching the spectacular sight of murmuring Starlings over the reedbeds.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

The 28th saw us heading for the North Wales coast in very windy conditionss. First we failed to find any Firecrests at Conway RSPB reserve, but we did manage to see a WATER RAIL under the bushes we were searching in. We then headed east to Kinmel Bay to look for SNOW BUNTINGS. Thankfully we found them despite the strong winds, sand storms and high tide with crashing waves. Initially only saw the flock of 11 birds flying but they eventually settled and allowed me to get a few photographs (below).

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

For New Year's Eve we went back to the Point of Ayr (having stopped off there on 28th) for high tide. There was a decent number of gulls on the shoreline which gave us something to look through along with large numbers of Dunlin, Knot and ducks. While scanning through the gulls I spotted a SPOONBILL (photo below) sleeping, this bird had been reported recently. This was my final new species of the year and therefore I finished with a year list of 201, with 8 of the birds coming in the last week (all noted in this post).

Spoonbill



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