Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring passage ratchets up ! 16.4.2014

A Phylloscopus that flipped through the garden early on and a Northern Wheatear nearby suggested that there had been passage overnight.  A couple of hours seawatching was somewhat routine, although a succession of large groups of Auks zipped northwards that, in the end, totalled a few hundred. A quite stiff SW wind, accompanied by distant haze, persisted throughout with the sun making little impression.  It's these conditions at this time of year that give rise to worries in my mind when consideration is given to offshore wind turbines!!  This morning showed Red-throated Divers to be on the move northwards.  Whilst some move low over the sea surface , others move in loose parties, but with birds "staggered" at various heights, an appreciable proportion of which are at turbine height. Whilst conditions of good visibility would suggest the birds would miss the structures, I just wonder what the outcome might be when conditions are similar to today?

Beyond low numbers of Gannets moving north and south and the seemingly ever "sailing" Fulmars from nearby colonies, little else was in evidence so I moved northwards up the Rhinns to try and get a general feel of what was around, which is otherwise so difficult to determine from the more random observations usually recounted by visitors. Clearly Willow Warblers were now widespread, although not in the final numbers they'll hopefully achieve. Similarly Northern Wheatears were more obvious than previously, with two large, bright looking male birds at Foreland possibly being the vanguard of what will be the passage of " Greenland" birds. Finally numbers of both Pied and White Wagtails have improved set against what has been a low picture so far. Sand Martins were present in various places with the largest presence being at Gruinart where a few Swallows were in evidence too. Winter thrushes appear to have moved out but there are still some geese around with Barnacle Goose numbers in evidence around Loch Gruinart and at least 430 in the Coull Farm area.  A distant sighting of 400+ Golden Plover in flight in that latter area sadly afforded no further views.

The Loch Gruinart area was alive with birds with waterfowl and waders predominating, but with a pretty absorbing "supporting cast" too. Excellent views were had of Shelduck, Mallard, Wigeon, Pintail, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, all of which were in splendid plumage. Three or four Moorhen were picking about, as were odd Mute Swan  with more Barnacle Geese and Grey lag Geese nearby, all the while being accompanied by an incessant aerial of hirundines. Amidst the constant calling of Redshank, Lapwing and Curlew, a group of almost fifty Black-tailed Godwits sought to find a resting place on one of the islands. The plumage of these ranged from post-winter to almost full breeding dress and provided a great sight! Common Snipe could be found quietly feeding together with a Dunlin in full breeding plumage. At intervals the whole scene was turned into nigh chaos by the appearance of a Hen Harrier quartering along the seawall within which adjacent area two Roe Deer fed in apparent oblivion of all the nearby activity.

Calling in to various other areas produced a couple of Great Northern Diver, Eiders and Red-breasted Merganser besides a reasonable Linnet flock approaching a hundred birds. At various points passing Goldfinch were heard calling, a passage certainly symptomatic of the season. All in all , a pretty good day with much promise for the future!!

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