Saturday, 17 October 2015

Birds of summer

Above from top: my first fulmar and kittiwakes; gannets at Bass Rock.

Summer is a poor season for seeing birds, whatever some people might say. Between the spring and autumn migrations, far fewer rarities turn up, and all the breeding migrants and resident species are either busy raising young or moulting. Either way, along with the increased foliage density, they are hard to see.

Above: my best view of a corn bunting; below: a surprisingly mellow ring-billed gull.

With that in mind, I've lumped together the three summer months, especially in light of having seen no new species at all in June. July was little better - two, both heard only. August is the last chance for early-departing birds like cuckoos (mostly their offspring), but also the start of the return migration, so more unusual species can turn up - albeit not in their best breeding plumage. Garganey are another summer stray, fairly regular, but they are often very hard to see. Luckily I just managed to catch both - a juvenile cuckoo took up residence in a very prominent location, and a few garganey popped up here and there, though I almost missed them.

Seabird colonies are an exception to the summer lull - this is the best time to visit them. I took a trip out to Bass Rock, and managed to see four lifers, although just a week too late to catch any puffins on a neighbouring island. It was my first visit to the Scottish Seabird Centre, and my first boat trip, and I strongly recommend both - Bass Rock especially is a breathtaking experience (up to a quarter of a million gannets in one place!), and it's surprisingly inexpensive. Next year I'll do one of the more adventurous trips - to the Isle of May, most likely.

Above: a shag on Craigleith; some gannets on Bass Rock.

I was lucky in that a few species I'd never expected to see or hear turned up locally - quails sang in a field for a few days, and a lesser yellowlegs (the only one in the country, I believe) hung around the saltmarsh at the far northern end of the local bird recording area. Similarly the ring-billed gull, another American stray, has been seen at Preston Dock for a couple of months now.

Above: a glimpse of a garganey taking off.

June-July-August 2015
13 species (7 lifers) - year total 156
Green woodpecker (heard only)
Lesser yellowlegs
Marsh tit
Quail (heard only)
Ring-billed gull
Sandwich tern

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