Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Birds of November and December

I'm cheating a bit as this picture was taken in January, on a return visit, but it's the same owl in the same location!

The unseasonal mildness continued to the end of the year - indeed, it seemed to intensify (the UK is likely to have experienced its warmest December in ~350 years in fact), but storm after storm swept in from the Atlantic, so conditions were not ideal for birdwatching. I did catch up with one species I'd been hoping to see for some time, the glorious short-eared owl. Musselburgh, just east of Edinburgh, had attracted up to a dozen of these migrants, and although there were perhaps only three when I went, that was more than enough to guarantee hundreds of good photos.

The east side of Edinburgh has also hosted a very rare sea duck for months on end - a surf scoter. I must have looked at least half a dozen times, but as it tends to drift up and down the coast, and is usually very far out and hangs around with other, quite similar-looking birds, I'd never managed to glimpse it. Caught in a rainstorm, having stared through my binoculars for an hour, I had already given up on this occasion, but a young man who was also there to find it was more successful, and very kindly pointed it out to me. Terrible shots, hand holding my big lens in the worst conditions I've ever tried to take photographs in, but enough to prove it. As a bonus, my first ever male long-tailed ducks put in an appearance, too.

December was full of other things, Christmas invariably taking a chunk out of my time. I'd given up on it, simply enjoying the vast numbers of birds that visit my parents' garden. But a day off the end of the month, what was foraging for fallen sunflower seeds right under my window, but that which I have longed to see again for nearly two years - a brambling. There may have been two, but they soon flew off. Great close views for a few seconds, though, and an excellent way to end the year.

November-December 2015
4 species (2 lifers) - year total 169
Long-tailed duck
Short-eared owl
Surf scoter

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