A little Scottish sea-watching

Today I continued my journey up to our Scottish house and – for anyone who might be wondering after the last two blog entries – I’m delighted to say that though there is some damage from the burst water pipe it was not as bad or as extensive as I had feared. Huge sigh of relief!

So on my journey I decided to stop at Musselburgh Lagoons on the edge of Edinburgh. It was cold, but dry, and there was a lot on the sea: eider ducks, wigeon, a great crested grebe and some lovely long-tailed ducks. However there were, excitingly, two species new for the year. The first was a winter plumage slavonian grebe. These are a small grebe, and in winter very similar to a great crested grebe – just a lot smaller. I find winter plumage grebes out to see a challenge to identify and so was pleased with a positive identification of this one.

The second new species for the day I am going to say is also a new one for my life list: When I looked at my records I did have velvet scoter down from many years ago, but on reflection I reckon it was at best a dubious sighting and so I’m happy to delete the old record and put today’s clear views of six velvet scoter down as the first I have seen. What was great with the birds today was that the sea was relatively calm, I was viewing from a point several metres above wave height, and the birds were reasonably close in. This allowed me to study the markings of both males and females (there were four of the former and two of the latter) in some detail and thereby put to rest some of my lack of clarity when it comes to scoters!

Brenda writes: “I’ve had a busy week and so my nature watching has had to be ‘on the hoof’, but I’m always reminded that wherever we are nature is always there. Yesterday morning, after being battered by wind and sleet, the boundary between water and land was a bit blurred, and I as I drove out I had to stop twice for mallards to cross the road. Later in the day, conducting a funeral at Wells Cemetery, nature provided a soundtrack of skylarks singing, despite the flurries of snow, and a lapwing swooping around with it’s gorgeous peewit sound as well as oystercatchers peeping as they flew past.

Today I managed an hour’s walk down the track opposite our road, towards Holkham park. A brown patch among the new growth in the field turned out to be a brown hare, one of many as I scanned the field. All of the fields in fact – so many hares! I stopped to watch a pair of long-tailed tits picking up snacks on the branches of an elder and then turned to see a barn owl floating along the hedge-line ahead of me. I’ve seen this barn-owl before and the hedges along the lane and on the field margins on either side are its hunting ground. And further on was the territory of a kestrel who soared across ahead of me and then sat on top of a telegraph pole surveying his kingdom. In one of the fields there were greylag and Egyptian geese alongside shelduck and, as I headed home in the early evening calm, grey partridges among the hares. Perhaps spring is finally on the way…”

Irish hare (photo taken 2013 – sorry I don’t have any brown hare photos!)

New species for March 11th:
Birds: Slavonian grebe, velvet scoter

Birds = 140
Moths = 9
Wildflowers = 23