Sunday, January 31, 2010

pleasant valley sunday

Cracking day to be out and about! With divers flavour of the month, I had a good look off Long Strand this morning, but couldn't do better than 50 red-throated divers and 19 great northern divers - both nationally important counts! Things were steady on the lake, with 50 teal, 2 wigeon, 1 tufted duck, 44 little grebes, 1 coot and the great crested grebe, while the female/immature black redstart was still messing about on the beach at the surfers end of long strand. The year ticks have dried up though!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

mid morning break

A morning sojourn around shite lane produced a grey wagtail for my troubles (83), but little else.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

garden dove

A collared dove sitting on the phone wires at the bottom of the garden  this morning was an unseasonal visitor to the patch (82).  One little egret was also around, proving that they didn't all succumb during the big freeze, though numbers generally seem pretty low just now.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

two more for the year

Minimal effort spent on the patch today, but still gleaned fulmar and kestrel for the year (81).  A (the same??) red kite was seen briefly over Rathbarry late morning, and a 2nd winter med gull flew over Long Strand early afternoon, while the great crested grebe was still on the lake, with 14 tufted ducks. The juvenile spoonbill was still loitering at Ross this afternoon too.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

oh no, not another red kite!

A wander down Dirk this afternoon didn't produce very much, but on the slog back up the hill, what should come winging over the bay but Galley's 4th red kite in 2 weeks! This one was tagged, a red tag on its right wing, which, I've been informed by a reliable source, means its come from England. I already suspected that this was were the 3 others came from, but its good to have it confirmed, in this case at least. Hopefully, it'll be possible to work out where the one with the purple tag on the left wing came from too. Anyway, the kite started soaring a bit, and then dropped down to land on the cliff edge between Dirk and Red Strand, but we couldn't pick it up from further up the road, unfortunately.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

greasy grebe

A winter plumage great crested grebe was gracing the lake with its presence this morning (78) - only my second ever on patch! The Aythya flock had at least 19 tufted duck present (although they kept diving so it was tricky to count them!), with a female pochard in with them.

A black redstart at Long Strand late afternoon was another welcome one for the year (79).


No birding on patch today cos it was too wet and miserable. However, did stumble into a juvenile spoonbill at Ross at lunchtime, which was nice. Well, actually it was a bit sad, cos you could almost see the poor thing shivering, it was so wet and windy. Went back later this afternoon to try and get even better pics but there was no sign. Hopefully, its relocated to the lake, and I'll re-find it again tomorrow!

spoonbill - honest
Erm, its the smaller one on the right!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


A HUGE flock of ducks on the lake first thing this morning - could see 28 blobs out there, all apparently diving. When it eventually got light, I could make out 21 tufted ducks, 4 pochards, the female scaup and 2 coots all hanging out together - impressive counts for the lake in recent times (although you should have seen it back in the 70's, when it was really good - mcA pers comm). Easily the biggest Aythya flock I've had here - is there more to come? Still at least 5 woodcock knocking about Galley too.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

more movement

After yesterday's excitement, I wasn't sure there'd be many birds left on the move, but, although visibly less than yesterday, there were still a few thousand thrushes over in the first 2 hours of the day.  The rate was averaging about 50 thrushes per minute for the first couple of hours, which multiplies up to roughly 6,000 birds in the first 2 hours. Again, I'd say the majority were redwing, with fieldfare and song thrush in there too. Lapwing numbers were up on yesterday, with a minimum count of 835 west between 8.45 and 11.05. Didn't see many snipe moving today, but there were easily 200 scattered throughout the fields of Galley. Plenty woodcock too, with c.12 knocking about, including 2 from the house. 

There were a good few wigeon moving too, which is unusal for Galley, with 4 landing on the lake, early in the day, and then another 23 flying over Long Strand later. Once I finally ventured out, 6 shelduck over the lake were unexpected, but they moved on quickly (77).  Duck numbers on the lake increased to 17 tufted duck, 1 pochard and 1 scaup by evening.

now that's what i call vis mig...and a patch tick

Looking out the window at 8.40am, I gradually became aware that there were serious numbers of thrushes on the move. Scanning with bins, I could see that there were thrushes all across the bay, all moving west towards ross and toe head. For the next 3 hours there was a continuous movement of birds over the bay - I did a few counts, and birds were moving through at approx 250 birds per minute. If you multipy this up, the numbers start to get pretty amayzing! Being a bit conservative, we'll call it 1,000 birds in 5 minutes, or 12,000 thrushes in an hour - the rate appeared pretty constant for the next 2 hours, so that's 24,000 thrushes. Even if we take half that number for the third hour (wasn't watching so intently, but the rate hadn't dropped much), that's another 6,000 birds, making 30,000 birds in the first 3 hours of day (not including the first 30 mins of daylight, when I wasn't watching). Wow!

So what were they all? I'd say that the vast majority, (80%?) were redwing, with 10% song thrush and 10% fieldfare - so thats approximately 24,000 redwing, 3,000 song thrush and 3,000 fieldfare. Wow!

In amongst the thrushes, there was other stuff too - a minimum of 300 snipe over, (largest flock was 23), 275 lapwing (largest flock 24), 150 starlings, 7 golden plover, 15 black-tailed godwits and another untagged red kite, in off the sea heading towards castlefreke. Wow!

News from Galley of a woodcock had me itching to get out for a bit, so drove up to the top fields, flushing another woodcock on the way - it sat on the wall 2 feet away, eye-balling me - full-fat patch tick! Goldcrest there too was new for the year. A quick boot of the top stubble fields revealed a flock of 20 skylarks, plus c.30 chaffinches, including a brambling, (one I missed last year), plus a raven. Wow! It was feckin freezing out though, so we didn't linger. Thrushes were still coming over in dribs and drabs, with the odd lapwing now and again. The 3 buzzards were still booting around too.

Back home, and a squizz at the lake revealed another year tick - 3 coot! My biggest ever count - in fact you could even call it a flock! Wow! Aythya numbers had also swollen to 7 tufted ducks, the male pochard and the female scaup. Crazy scenes! Quite a morning, all in all (75)!!



Friday, January 8, 2010

And the winners are....

Congrats to North Don in Aberdeen for winning the 2009 patch list challenge. It was a close-run thing between himself and last years winner, fat paul scholes, but he ran out victorious in the end with a whopping 107.94% - amayzing!  Here are photos of the much-coveted beautiful golden mallard trophy in its new place of worship (you can see why these things go for £50 on ebay - yes really!)

The winner of the much-coveted porcelain snowy owl was Galley Head for the black-headed bunting found in September at Shite Lane, with a whopping 92% of the votes! Thanks to all who voted.  Here's some photos of this wondrous trophy, sans one wing, cos I still haven't got any superglue yet. Not sure how much one of these would fetch on ebay, but i'd say it would be a lot!


You can see why the patch challenge is such a draw, when you realise just how high the stakes are! Bet Gavin is kicking himself for signing up to it now!  On the birding front, a quick glance at the lake late afternoon revealed that the male pochard, female scaup and 3 tufted ducks were still present.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

halfway there already

Broke the 50% barrier today with a whopping flock of 5 Aythya ducks on the lake at lunchtime, including a male pochard, the female scaup and 3 tufted ducks (1m, 2 f). Numbers of teal have also reached a dizzying 30 birds - this cold spell is really beginning to pay off! The calm conditions enticed me to have another squizz at the divers in the bay, but could only manage to find several red-throated divers and great northern divers. A winter plumage tystie was a good bonus though, as they can be tricky (69). Still heaps of winter thrushes around too, belting all over the place.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another red kite!

Over the last couple of days I've gleaned lesser black-backed gull and stonechat for the year, but this morning there was more excitement, when my second red kite of the week flew past the house! Unlike the first  bird, which was untagged, this one had an obvious purple wing tag on its left wing. It flew steadily into the wind, disappearing towards Red Strand (66). Happy days!

Monday, January 4, 2010

slowing down already

Bitterly cold today, but still managed a good hoof around the patch. Not much doing, with just 6 additions to the list, although an adult winter med gull past the house this morning was nice (63).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Vote now for the best patch find in 2009

Yes, avid readers will be delighted to once again have a chance to decide the fate of the coveted (and only slightly broken) porcelain snowy owl - our annual award for the best patch find. Just have a look at the poll on the right hand side of the screen, and try to imagine which find would you most like to bump into on your patch (if you have one). And then make sure you vote for black-headed bunting (its comin home, its comin home etc etc). Results will be announced soon (once I've glued the wing back on, and made it presentable for a photo).

that's more of it, ted

The year-listing continued today (57), with another look for the black-throats. No luck, but still good numbers of divers off Long Strand, with c 45 red-throated divers and c. 25 great northern divers around, plus 1 female common scoter. A good day for raptors too, with buzzard, peregrine and hen harrier all nailed for the year. Duck numbers increased, with 12 teal and 5 tufted duck on the lake, plus kingfisher there too - another good year tick.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!!

I love the 1st of January! Its really sad, but I get a huge kick out of trundling round the patch seeing everything for the first time each year! As it transpired, I only managed the last hour of the day on-patch, and dipped yesterday's 2 black-thoated divers at Long Strand, but the light was pretty bad by the time I started looking. Still plenty great northern divers and red throated divers out there, so will have another crack tomorrow morning. Racked up 32 species by dusk, nothing unusual, but still heaps of redwing around, a few fieldfares and a couple of calling water rail at the lake (32).