Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Birding the Lothian coast

Wood Sandpiper at Musselburgh Lagoons this afternoon.
After Birdfair and a pit-stop in Yorkshire on the way north, I met up with Haze, Ed and Ava for a week with the Edinburgh branch of the family. We get up to my Dad's several times a year but this is our first visit in a long time during the festival. Today I took time out from stand-up comedy and other cultural diversions to bird along the Lothian coast, starting at one of my favourite migrant traps, Torness Power Station.

After noting one of the local Peregrine Falcons and then clocking a Merlin which shot through, chasing anything as it went, I focused on looking for migrant passerines. Torness has recently produced Barred Warbler and Wryneck among other notable migrants (see the excellent Birding Lothian website for the latest local news). I started more gently with a couple of Northern Wheatears, but on entering the shelter belt along the entrance road quickly flushed what looked like an Icterine Warbler. Before I could relocate it there was a minor interlude involving armed police, who wanted to know what I was doing lurking in bushes with a telephoto lens near a power station! They were fine once they realised I was birding, and within 10 minutes or so I got a proper look at the 'Icky' before it disappeared again. A Willow Warbler appeared to be the only other migrant in this strip of cover; I worked the other patches of scrub east of the power station but couldn't find the previous day's Barred Warbler, nor in fact any other migrants.

Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls on Musselburgh Lagoons, against the backdrop of the Firth of Forth.
Juvenile Ruff (front) and adult Common Redshank for comparison.
Time was somewhat tight as I wanted to be at Musselburgh for high tide soon after noon. A quick scan of Belhaven Bay en route produced Eurasian Whimbrel and Greenshank, an appetiser for the main course further west. The lagoons at Levenhall Links were superb for shorebirds, the grassy banks being crammed with massed ranks of Oystercatchers and Eurasian Curlews, and the pools packed with a good range of waders - of some 15 species in the area in total, Wood Sandpiper was the most notable (found moments before I arrived by Dave Allan), but also there were also two Little Stints, numerous Ruff, 120+ Sandwich Terns and a Little Gull.

Drake Velvet Scoter off Morrison's Haven - one of many.
Nearby, I checked the sea at Morrison's Haven, where good numbers of Velvet Scoter (seemingly all drakes) were offshore, along with a single summer-plumaged Red-necked Grebe and a good range of commoner seabirds. Further east at Seton Burn I spent a good hour going through huge numbers of gulls but could find nothing unusual bar a somewhat pale juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull (more on that in a separate post), while at nearby Longniddry Bents, another four Red-necked Grebes helped to round off an excellent day in the field.

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