Monday, 22 October 2012

Saturday 20th October 2012 - Four go back and forth in Fife

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. There is a simple reason. Since my last post on the 7th October, I had a week off work. I had no plans and so I just waited for the Autumn rarities to appear, like they always do when I'm working. This year, however, the week I chose to have off was quiet to say the least. By the time Friday came, I'd only visited Westport and nowhere else. It was hard to even conjure up a day trip anywhere, with the only decent birds being in Cornwall, but that would have been a 5hr trip for several quality year ticks. 

On Friday 12th October, we headed off for North Wales and Anglesey. As we crossed the Menai Straits, we received news that there were three SURF SCOTERS off Llandulas. We screeched to a halt on the bridge, did a quick mushroom spin and headed back along the A55. We then spent nearly two hours watching a distant flock of c1000 Scoter bobbing about on a heaving sea. This just about summed the week up, but we did have good views of Raven and Chough at South Stack, plus a late Osprey at the Inland Sea.   

So it was rather amusing when I returned to work on Monday 15th, and rather predictably, there was a tick for me up in Scotland. We'd dipped the 2010 Flamborough EASTERN OLIVACEOUS when it did a Friday night bunk, and so for another one to be available so soon after was rather nice. However, we had to wait all week before we could go, and we were convinced it wouldn't last until the weekend. Friday morning came, and it was still present, and with a cloudy night forecast, it was all systems go.

There was a full Clayhead turnout for this trip, although Dr Slumberland (CJW) didn't actually need it, as he'd seen the 1966 Scilly bird. We set off at 03-00hrs, had a faultless journey north, and with about ten minutes of the journey left, we received the news that the EOW was indeed still present.

The sat nav slightly misbehaved by trying to take us down a dead end, and I drove past the car park entrance, but we were soon parking up at Kilminning - a large, empty, former picnic/toliet site that had maybe seen better days. It was a great birding area though on the Scottish east coast, and we walked to join the c40 birders already on site. The EOW was frequenting bushes near to the sewage treatment building, and despite the constant hum, we could hear the bird tic-ing away. For such a massive warbler, it was easy to follow as it crashed through the bushes, with branches bending all over the place, and still constantly calling. Unfortunately, we felt it was being harried a little by the long lens boys, and whenever it showed, they would move in for the kill. On one occasion it was feeding quite happily in one bush, but when the long-lensers moved in from the right and left, it soon moved on. Some long-lens boys are quite clueless. 
Initial views of the EOW by the green shed
The EOW. Copies available at the usual price
The Clayheads watching the EOW, with the new Clayhead twitching vehicle in the background

Satisfied with some rather good views of the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, we started to walk around the car park. Birds were pouring in from overhead, but most were birds like Greenfinches, Yellowhammers and a small flock of Tree Sparrows - not the birds we expected. A check of the sea saw Eider, Shag and a Red-throated Diver, plus Buzzard and Peregrine. The scenary was stunning with the Isle of May in front of us, and Bass Rock to our right.

Dr Slumberland, PJ and GAS started talking to a local dog walker, but I was more interested in watching a group of birders marching across to another set of bushes. I slowly wandered over and soon realised they were looking at something (all of them looking through their bins at the same time was the give away). I stood next to man who was just lifting his bins up. In a dude-like way, I asked him what he was looking at. It was the Radde's Warbler. I was soon watching it flit around low down in the bushes, and the rest of the crew slowly ambled over to join me. A very pleasant bonus bird, and with that we moved on.

Radde's Warbler - Original artwork by PJ

Next stop was just down the coast at Ruddon's Point, a place we had visited on our last trip to Fife in 2004 for the Masked Shrike at Kilrenny. Then, we found it an excellent sea watching location, and today was no different. We were soon watching a Red-necked Grebe, five Scaup, 10+ Velvet Scoters, Red-throated Divers, a couple of Long-tailed Ducks and plenty of Eider and Common Scoter. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the bird we were hoping for, SURF SCOTER. With news that the RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER was showing back at Kilminning, we decided to return there.

The Clayheads on Ruddon's Point

Fifteen minutes later and we were back at Kilminning. We found a group of five birders standing around, and it didn't look promising at all. We walked over to them, and one gentleman kindly poinrted to a close tree where it had been sitting. We waited a few moments, heard a "tac", and there was a delightful Red-breasted Flycatcher. It really did show extremely well, and the views of it sat on the car park really put the icing on the day's cake.

Red-breasted Fly - nailed by PJ's cam

We started heading for home, but we were desparately short of petrol (the guage showing less than 50 miles left in the tank). We set the sat nav for the nearest petrol station, only to find it was long shut. The second station was the same. We eventually found another one, and we filled up. As we sat there, news came from Ruddon's Point that a SURF SCOTER had been seen. Facing a 5-30hrs journey back, we worked out that as we were only five miles away, we still had a bit of time to return to Ruddon's to look for the Surfie. We parked up again, and walked out to the point. We also met the finder, but his sighting was 45 minutes ago, and the bird was way in the distance. We stood and scanned. As we did, we had the unusual sight of a small flock of Blue Tits flying overhead. Eventually, I spotted a duck with a bit of white on it on the otherside of the bay. We all got onto it, and eventually it swam a little closer, and we had found the Surf Scoter. We finally headed for home after enjoying a magical day.

Surf Scoter - original artwork by PJ