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Old Friday 9th November 2007, 20:07   #251
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Okay, it's a no, but a qualified no.

As many of you know, I'm a real 'workaholic' and this week has been very frustrating for me, what with all the birding distractions. So this morning I was knuckling down to some serious work and not letting anything get in the way of it. Except for the odd glance out to sea. But just the odd one. And this did provide me with two more for the house list. The first was a long awaited group of 8 Purple Sandpipers that hurtled across the harbour, clearly finding the tumultuous waves a bit of a hazard to their rockcentric lifestyle. Some stuff was clearly going on out to sea. I managed 3 Little Auks whizzing along and 8 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Wigeon and a Goldeneye. 2 Red-throated Divers were on the harbour and I briefly saw a couple of Bottle-nosed Dolphins surfacing amongst the waves. Better still, a flock of 6 passerines winging over the harbour mouth were, rather wonderfully, Snow Buntings. And to think, some people have to drive for hours to Norfolk to see Snow Bunts.

My mobile was providing slightly more disconcerting news, and further distractions from the much desired hard graft. Mark had had a White-billed Diver going north. Later calculations suggested I might well have seen it from the seawatching hide in my bedroom, although perhaps I'd have struggled to clinch the ID. A call from Mark suggested it was probably well away by now and so I decided that I'd not only carry on working but I'd, wait for it, go in to 'work' to do it. But then I changed my mind and went seawatching for the afternoon instead.

I know folks have been missing the action on the much-loved Purple Sandpiper Totaliser, so I went via Greyhope Bay to try and count them. The high tide had brought plenty up onto the rocks in the bay, where they were a bit tricky to count, but there was certainly a minimum of:

161

9 of these bore red colour rings, and at least 3 sported the nifty yellow flags that all the hippest Purple Sands are wearing this season.

Anyway, I got up to the seawatching frontline at the foghorn to be told that things were now quietening down. But, with the neverending 'dead hour' of October still fresh in my mind, things still seemed relatively lively to me. Indeed, I'd still go so far as to say that the seawatch was really rather good. Not sure how long I was therefore but at least a couple of hours. Counts are not particularly accurate but I'll offer you: Little Auk 48, Long-tailed Duck 19, Common Scoter 22, Red-breasted Merganser 1, Teal 9, Great-northern Diver 4, Wigeon 1. One of the Little Auks was seen very well on the sea, showing those rather nice white lines on their scapulars. I love those. There'd been a bit of Glaucous Gull action earlier and eventually a 1st winter moved purposefully north. I wonder how many have been around this week. A bit of a surprise was a Sooty Shearwater going north at fairly close range. I reckon this must be the latest ever I've seen this species. Except that a bit later on I saw another, this time much further out. A 1st winter Black Guillemot was again bobbing about with the Eiders, just to annoy Helen, and a couple of Harbour Porpoises were rolling around in the swell.

Now skuas. I think skuas are hard. Especially juveniles. A single Bonxie going north wasn't too tricky but the other four skuas I saw were much harder. Everyone else seems to see loads of Poms at this time of year. In fact some people seem to see almost nothing but Poms. The first bird I clocked wandered north and seemed relatively slight and a pale. It really looked like an Arctic to me but an experienced seawatcher with me was fairly confident it was a Pom. There was talk of it looking heavy-chested. But then aren't Arctics quite often? Hmm. The next one seemed rather similar and again looked like an Arctic. I wouldn't even have considered any other species a month ago. A different bloke was with me by now, the experienced seawatcher from earlier having now departed. And this guy agreed with Arctic! Then two more went north, this time more distantly. This time I could easily believe they were Poms - they looked bulky and rather dark. Some seawatchers insist, with a strange degree of seriousness, that skuas are easier to ID at a distance, so maybe I should be really confident and claim them as Poms. But I'm not going to. So, other people would have seen 4 Poms this afternoon, but I saw one Arctic and three 'Skua Sp'. I reckon.

I suspect if we did some jiggery pokery with my counts and Mark's then we could come up with some sort of vague day total for seawatching off Girdle Ness, which will no doubt be seized upon by someone from Birdguides who casually scans these local patch threads for tidbits of info during quiet winter evenings. I'll see if I can be bothered later, so you'll have to wait a bit Mr Birdguides person .
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Old Friday 9th November 2007, 20:13   #252
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Could you get any more smug? :)
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Old Friday 9th November 2007, 20:40   #253
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I think you're right about the skuas Andrew....I think Poms are probably one of the most frequently miss IDed species out there. I seldom see things that are probably poms, and I rarely see things that are definitely poms, and have seen enough big bulky looking arctics to be cautious with bulky looking distant skuas. A recent thread on birdforum has shown that these things are not as simple as many people think.

So there!

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Old Friday 9th November 2007, 20:41   #254
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I think you're right about the skuas Andrew....I think Poms are probably one of the most frequently miss IDed species out there. I seldom see things that are probably poms, and I rarely see things that are definitely poms, and have seen enough big bulky looking arctics to be cautious with bulky looking distant skuas. A recent thread on birdforum has shown that these things are not as simple as many people think.

So there!

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Hopefully there'll be some more tomorrow to have a good look at!
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Old Friday 9th November 2007, 23:17   #255
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1. I'm a real 'workaholic'-a remarkable number of daytime postings this week for one so slavishly devoted to his vocation.

2. And to think, some people have to drive for hours to Norfolk to see Snow Bunts.--And to think that some people come many miles on a weekend get together to see this awesome local patch only to find that the proprietor has flushed the aforementioned birds out of sight for the rest of the day.

3. I know folks have been missing the action on the much-loved Purple Sandpiper Totaliser-I know folks have had nose bleeds even trying to understand your concept of a totaliser

4. Counts are not particularly accurate-I'm glad you will not be submitting any of these for learned scrutiny then

5. A 1st winter Black Guillemot was again bobbing about with the Eiders, just to annoy Helen-you just love rubbing it in, don't you

6. So, other people would have seen 4 Poms this afternoon, but I saw one Arctic and three 'Skua Sp'. I reckon.-so now trying to sound virtuous for the aforementioned sins

Well Dr W, it's been quite a week!!!!!
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Old Saturday 10th November 2007, 17:47   #256
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I see you've found the bold function Dr G .

Today was a damp one here in Aberdeen, raining pretty heavily till about 2pm with not much wind. The undoubted highlight of the day was a large barrel, slowly but inexorably drifting along the Dee and out to sea. A really excellent record. There didn't seem to be too much else moving and the best bird from the flat during the rain was a Red-breasted Merganser on the harbour.

When it stopped raining the wind picked up a bit and I headed out around the Ness. The Totaliser wasn't troubled by a count of 109 Purple Sandpipers, with some birds already having dispersed from their high tide roost. There was a bit of a flurry of Kittiwakes going north, a few auks and Gannets going through but the best birds on a brief seawatch over the last embers of the day were 5 Little Auks (with one very close), 3 Red-throated Divers and 3 Long-tailed Ducks.
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Old Saturday 10th November 2007, 18:56   #257
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Having had my appetite whetted at the birdforum bash last week, the week's excitement at Girdleness led me to return today, for an hour at least, to indulge my new enthusiasm for sea-watching. The main attraction was the chance to finally catch up with Little Auk. With 'hundreds' having been reported at Girdleness and 18,000 heading north past the Farne Islands yesterday, it seemed likely that there should still be plenty around.

Cleverly combining my visit with a family shopping trip, I was dropped off at the Torry Coo, in steady rain, at 11.15. There were a couple of others there when I arrived and I very soon picked up a group of four auks whirring northwards about quarter of a mile out. My expert companions confirmed that these were Little Auks, although I wouldn't have liked to have relied on my own skills to ID them. Over the next hour, I gradually got my eye in and saw over 20 (although I missed at least as many again that the others were seeing). Some of them were a bit closer in, and I was happier of my own ability to ID them.

Other highlights included two distant Sooty Shearwaters (the second of which I found myself using my new found sea-watching skills ), although I missed at least two others, and a Great Northern Diver also flying north. Just as I was packing up to leave, I spotted a Little Auk on the water below us, only about 10 metres offshore. Excellent views of it being battered by the crashing surf for a couple of minutes before it took off and flew back out to sea.
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Old Saturday 10th November 2007, 19:09   #258
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Having had my appetite whetted at the birdforum bash last week, the week's excitement at Girdleness led me to return today, for an hour at least, to indulge my new enthusiasm for sea-watching. The main attraction was the chance to finally catch up with Little Auk. With 'hundreds' having been reported at Girdleness and 18,000 heading north past the Farne Islands yesterday, it seemed likely that there should still be plenty around.

Cleverly combining my visit with a family shopping trip, I was dropped off at the Torry Coo, in steady rain, at 11.15. There were a couple of others there when I arrived and I very soon picked up a group of four auks whirring northwards about quarter of a mile out. My expert companions confirmed that these were Little Auks, although I wouldn't have liked to have relied on my own skills to ID them. Over the next hour, I gradually got my eye in and saw over 20 (although I missed at least as many again that the others were seeing). Some of them were a bit closer in, and I was happier of my own ability to ID them.

Other highlights included two distant Sooty Shearwaters (the second of which I found myself using my new found sea-watching skills ), although I missed at least two others, and a Great Northern Diver also flying north. Just as I was packing up to leave, I spotted a Little Auk on the water below us, only about 10 metres offshore. Excellent views of it being battered by the crashing surf for a couple of minutes before it took off and flew back out to sea.
Sounds like a lovely morning (despite the rain). I envy your Little Auk on the sea, I've only managed them flying so far.
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Old Saturday 10th November 2007, 19:11   #259
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Well done for braving the weather Paul, and on the Little Auks. It's an amazing thing to see them in whatever numbers.
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Old Saturday 10th November 2007, 21:11   #260
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thanks Ben. I'm afraid I didn't do the decent thing after all. I went to the wedding. Only kidding. The wedding was great, I didn't have a drop, cos I was driving and today I've been processing all the photies. sorry, that should be photos for non Doric readers. Soonest I can get back to the coast is Monday, but maybe all those Little Auks will be trundling their way back north by then.

I'll shut up now.
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Old Sunday 11th November 2007, 21:30   #261
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No sign of Andrew down the ness today? Again, good passage of Little auks, with about 700 north between 9:00 and 12:00, Little gull and a Black throated diver. Other folk had SEO, Glaucous and Iceland gulls.

Purple sandpiper numbers were low......about 90.

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Old Sunday 11th November 2007, 22:23   #262
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Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehouse;
I see you've found the bold function Dr G .

Today was a damp one here in Aberdeen, raining pretty heavily till about 2pm with not much wind. The undoubted highlight of the day was a large barrel, slowly but inexorably drifting along the Dee and out to sea. A really excellent record. There didn't seem to be too much else moving and the best bird from the flat during the rain was a Red-breasted Merganser on the harbour.
I had a barrel off the west coast today - was yours a nasty blue plastic one, or a proper wooden one?
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Old Tuesday 13th November 2007, 20:06   #263
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I had a barrel off the west coast today - was yours a nasty blue plastic one, or a proper wooden one?
Mine looked like a metal one, I think. A bit of a dull grey brown. Possibly slightly rusty.

I spent most of Sunday on the train, so didn't get out for any seawatching. Likewise with today. But now I'm back for more.
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Old Tuesday 13th November 2007, 20:29   #264
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Might have had beer in it then - almost worth swimming after it. I'm pretty sure mine previously harboured toxic waste.
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Old Tuesday 13th November 2007, 20:30   #265
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Might have had beer in it then - almost worth swimming after it. I'm pretty sure mine previously harboured toxic waste.
I think hazardous waste is the more likely with mine. It would certainly have been fairly hazardous after travelling through Aberdeen harbour.
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Old Tuesday 13th November 2007, 21:21   #266
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Mind you so would a barrel of 80 shillings, without the aid of Aberdeen Water
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Old Wednesday 14th November 2007, 12:31   #267
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I think hazardous waste is the more likely with mine. It would certainly have been fairly hazardous after travelling through Aberdeen harbour.
Very True..!
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Old Friday 16th November 2007, 09:41   #268
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On the edge of the Torry 'hood, I noticed a Pink Foot with the farmyard yokes on the Dee by the rowing club at the QE2 bridge. Never seen one on the deck in the City before - is it out of a lock up?.
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Old Saturday 17th November 2007, 19:45   #269
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Just in case folks have been concerned, I have done a bit of birding in Torry this week, although after the previous week's wacky zaniness it's all been rather pedestrian.

On Wednesday, a Peregrine flew over the city centre and a Snow Bunting flew north over the harbour. Another Snow Bunting did exactly the same thing today, and seemed to land somewhere near the North Pier. Purple Sandpipers have been feeding on the North Pier, with 5 yesterday and 28 today. On my morning's amble around the Ness, one Siskin flew inland and a pair of Stonechats were on the north shore. A Red-throated Diver was on the harbour with another going north. There was quite a strong northward passage of Gannets and, in a final fling, a Little Auk went south.

I've got some fancy new recording kit, so tried to do a bit of sound recording but was thwarted by the strong winds and peculiar reticence of almost every bird on the Ness to utter a sound. Even the Oystercatchers were being unusually coy. I haven't listened to see if I've anything worth sharing with you lucky people. I suspect it'll just be the sound of waves and wind, with the odd distant bird. I don't want Dr G thinking I'm no good at sound recording either.
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Old Saturday 17th November 2007, 21:21   #270
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I've got some fancy new recording kit, so tried to do a bit of sound recording but was thwarted by the strong winds and peculiar reticence of almost every bird on the Ness to utter a sound........ I don't want Dr G thinking I'm no good at sound recording either.
So what kit do you have?

Have been tempted myself to sound record as my daughter has dismissively cast aside her Sony MiniDisc player(meant to be good for recording birdsong/calls) in favour of an Ipod-read the Sound Approach to Birding and was simultaneouosly attracted and repelled from trying-did not realise that so much plastic/subsong existed but also realised that sound recording could be a really good way of tuning in to species. Yesterday kind of brought it home-was doing a tetrad for the birdatlas- a fairly quiet area of hill/moorland and then I latched on to a dipper singing for a couple of minutes-a lovely quiet plaintive song-would love to have recorded that. Can't decide if I should ask Santa for a mike or just concentrate at getting better at the basics....But again how many local species would I get get useful recordings from and is the effort worthwhile, especially on the coast with the wind etc?

And as for your pics they can be very good as per the Purp Sands in the gallery-but I guess your recent less good examples can be explained ny the fact that you have just got a bit distracted by the sin of listing(all be it local) and by local rarity hunting and that your usual good standard of photography has slipped a tad in you excitement of the chase.....

But I realise as being the exemplary custodian of all good birding standards all will right itself in time
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Old Saturday 17th November 2007, 21:42   #271
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What I was trying to use today, and I think it's a good set up, is a Fostex FR2 LE recorder with a Sennheiser ME66 mic. I did some better recordings a couple of days ago, when it was a bit less windy and it gives a good clean recording. I've got some other mics, including a Telinga but I need to get an adapter to attach them to the recorder!

I'd recommend getting a Remembird recorder, which records fairly well and is easy to use. It's also got a voice recorder on it as well. You may have noticed the one stuck onto my bins!

The Telinga Pro4 is maybe also worth a look - it's the one I got. It's 389 from Wildsounds and would fit into a minidisc recorder. I'll let you know what it's like once I sort out the adapter!
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Old Sunday 18th November 2007, 13:11   #272
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Have been tempted myself to sound record as my daughter has dismissively cast aside her Sony MiniDisc player(meant to be good for recording birdsong/calls) in favour of an Ipod-read the Sound Approach to Birding and was simultaneouosly attracted and repelled from trying-did not realise that so much plastic/subsong existed but also realised that sound recording could be a really good way of tuning in to species.
I think you've already seen this excellent thread Mark :

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=66742

My interest in recording stemmed specifically from trying to identify crossbills from sonograms on a budget, rather than getting great quality recordings, but I have been pleased with the quality of recordings you can get with the Sony MiniDisc. My kit cost little more than 100 too, unlike Andrew's 700+

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Old Sunday 18th November 2007, 19:31   #273
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I think you've already seen this excellent thread Mark :

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=66742

My interest in recording stemmed specifically from trying to identify crossbills from sonograms on a budget, rather than getting great quality recordings, but I have been pleased with the quality of recordings you can get with the Sony MiniDisc. My kit cost little more than 100 too, unlike Andrew's 700+
Life is hard when you're not on a cushy research grant like Dr W.
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Old Sunday 18th November 2007, 19:55   #274
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Life is hard when you're not on a cushy research grant like Dr W.
But you should see how hard I have to work . And it's all for the benefit of the greater society, obviously.

I had a quick shufty round the Ness this afternoon. The highlight was a drake Red-breasted Merganser on the harbour. Also 3 Red-throated Divers. Lots of gulls came into roost on the breakwaters and around the harbour but they were distinctly lacking in anything enticingly white-winged.

The weather looks like being quite 'useful' over the next few days. In fact it's exactly the sort of weather we were hoping to get all autumn. A bit late maybe, but it'll be interesting to see what we get.
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Old Tuesday 20th November 2007, 08:00   #275
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It was a bit of a rough day here yesterday, and I probably should have gone out and looked for late wind blown migrants. But I stayed indoors instead. I did manage a good house tick though, a Merlin flying over the roof tops in the city centre. Out to sea there was a steady stream of Gannets and also 1 Common Scoter, 2 Velvet Scoters and a Red-throated Diver north.
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