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Joseph's Blog of Birding: The Bash Report, Part II

Posted Tuesday 15th September 2009 at 22:00 by Joseph N
Updated Wednesday 16th September 2009 at 19:19 by Joseph N
Having read of the first day of the Scottish Birdforum Bash, you can now read about the second and final day. Enjoy!

13th September (2nd Day of the Bash):

When I woke up early on Sunday morning, I looked out the window and smiled. The weather wasn't very good, and according to Met Office, the winds were turning into the East, which meant there was quite a good chance of seeing some slightly rarer species on the second day of the Scottish Bash, especially when our first location was Rattray Head, a place which in the past has turned up some fantastic birds, and with the weather could have sent some passerines down into the bushes.

My Dad and I arrived quietly sanguine that if everyone worked together on the Bash today, we might see a scarce or rare bird. It was 9:30 when we arrived there, and already there was one of two new arrivals by the name of Paul (with the username of Capercallie71 on here) checking out the area. He greeted us warmly, and we did likewise. Soon after everyone else arrived, including the second new arrival, Fiona (Tree Sparrow). Once we were all assembled, a few of us set out to check the low lying bushes round the B&B that has so famously turned up rare birds in the past. But to our surprise, just a Robin and a couple of Pied Wagtail present. This wasn't great news, so we thought it was maybe best to watch the sea. This was definitely a good move, as literally as soon as we arrived on the beach, we could see a distinct passage of close in Gannet going north. At this point we set up our telescopes and focused in at the sea, each telescope aimed at different points to maximise our chances of nothing being missed. (Dad and I's shared telescope largely aimed at the Rattray Lightouse).

It didn't take long before a Bonxie was sighted far out, and this gave us hope of a considerable passage. And it so happened that another 6 or so Great Skua passed within the hour and 10 minutes or so that we sea-watched from Rattray. Also, around 20 Manx Shearwater were seen in this period of time, each in little parties of up to 8. Around half way through, we had the chance of seeing slightly more unusual when Andrew said:

" Can anyone see a very dark shearwater a very long way off going North?"

We all shook our heads.

" Well my thoughts is it is either a Sooty, or maybe even a Balearic. My suspicsion of this bird being a Balearic is that it may not be quite dark enough for a Sooty, and is flying slightly more like a Manxie. But to be honest, it is very long way off that I can't ID the bird."

The rest of us continued to look where Andrew was telling us the shearwater was, but it was too far off for the rest of us to see.

With this possible slightly scarcer shearwater spot from Andrew, we hoped for another bird similar to this to pass in the remaining time we were to stay there. But unfortunately, nothing did, and from then on shearwater and skua frequency became less apparent. But the Gannets continued to pass in their hundreds. I'd say we saw up to 500 within that hour and a bit, if not more. With the conditions out at sea, we thought it wise to sea-watch elsewhere later on. But first, we were to check the Loch of Strathbeg and its various hides and viewpoints. We first tried the Loch itself, which most notably held Pintail, Great-Crested Grebe and some Pink-footed Goose. Also a Stock Dove was seen flying with a Wood Pigeon, comparably smaller than the Woodie and with no white on its neck.

We then headed down to Starnafin (the Visitor Centre). We arrived to find it having very few waders on it, despite the pools there not being flooded any longer. Yet again a majority of the waders were over at Tower Pool Hide, which we would later head up to. But we decided we'd stay at Starnafin for a while just in case something arrived of interest. And we were rewarded!

" Just spotted the White-tailed Eagle. Its flying directly above Tower Pool now, and is being mobbed by some Buzzards," said Andrew after some time of staying at Starnafin.

This excited everyone, as the White-tailed Eagle was one of the birds that we aimed to see on our trip to Strathbeg. There it was (Ralf almost certainly), as Andrew had said, being mobbed by some Buzzards, which looked like mere specks in comparison to it! He flew closer to us (still being mobbed by Buzzards) as we all watched in awe at this magnificent beast. Despite Dad and I having seen it before, we were still awe struck, as you always are when you see a bird of that size! Eventually 'Ralf' got so frustrated with the Buzzards that he decided to land on a post and gaze at his surroundings. We continued to watch him as he sat on the post, with his barn door like wings stretched out and as he was mobbed by nearby anxious crows.

- (Courtesy to Paul for the photo!)

We decided, even though views were ok from Starnafin of Ralf, that it may be better to go to Tower Pool and seem him better. After all, the waders were there too, so we'd be able to examine them as well. Just as we left to do this, a Little Egret arrived and showed well.

-(Courtesy to Paul again!)

We all managed to fit in the Tower Pool Hide, and from there we examined the waders and had a better look at Ralf. For the whole time we stayed there, Ralf didn't move from his post, although we didn't really get to see his face, as his back was to us. But at least for me his back was enough to make me happy (lol). Meanwhile, amongst the many hundreds of Lapwing and Curlew at Tower Pool, there were some Golden Plover, a Greenshank and a Ruff, but that was your lot for Tower Pool. It was now time we headed south, so a decision was made to do some more sea-watching, but this time at Battery Park in Peterhead. From Battery Park the sea was equally productive, proving that the sea was definitely the thing to watch that day, although it was a lot of the same birds that went past there that went past at Rattray. However, considerably more Great Skua were passing at Battery Park (up to 15 more, and relatively close in). At one point we saw up to 4 together. Also a few Manxies continued to pass, an Arctic Skua and 4 Red-throated Diver. We weren't sea-watching for so long here either, as people such as Mark had a long way to travel and had to leave. Andrew would leave with Mark. Before these two aimable chaps left though, Dave Gill's (a birder we knew that wasn't on the Bash) birding partner Anne Rigg managed to get a picture of us all, including Dave himself and Tim (TWM on Birdforum). Here is the picture, courtesy of Delia's camera.

From Left to Right - Fiona (Tree Sparrow), Paul (Capercaillie71), Tim (TWM), Andrew, Mark, Dave Gill, Tom (my Dad), Me (Joseph), Delia, Ken.

As the photo was taken, we were nearing the end of the Birdforum Bash. Andrew and Mark left. Now there were just 6 of us, and we thought it was the best idea to have another check of the Ythan, although we only be watching the Estuary itself. The Estuary appeared to be slightly more bird active yesterday; along with the many Golden Plover and other commoner Waders, the Greylag and Canada Geese that were on Meickle Loch the day before were now present. The highlight of our relatively short but pleasant second look here was up to 3 Peregrines, shrieking loudly in unison and moving like lightning bolts to and from the estuary whilst harrassing waders every now and then.

And so the Scottish Birdforum Bash weekend ended, and we dispatched once again from the Ythan, but not to see each other again for quite a long time, and with this my two part report ends. I very much hope you enjoyed reading about it, as despite there being a lack of rare birds about, it was a source of great enjoyment to me. I felt a great sense of community when birding with everyone, and generally the birds we saw were lovely. Plus, we saw a lot of bird species, as up to 104 species were seen, a Bash Record! Thanks so much to anyone reading that was on it. It was a pleasure; and I think we did pretty well.

Once again, countless thanks for reading,

Total Comments 4


delia todd's Avatar
Great reports Joseph, well done.

Can I er... ummm.... very quietly mention that I appear to have been turned into Paul in the picture

Posted Wednesday 16th September 2009 at 08:58 by delia todd delia todd is online now
Joseph N's Avatar
Thanks Delia, and oh yes, I appear to have written Right to Left instead of Left to Right. My apologies, I'll edit it right away.
Posted Wednesday 16th September 2009 at 19:18 by Joseph N Joseph N is offline
very very good report Joseph, glad you had a good time makes extremely good reading mate, keep it up
Posted Friday 18th September 2009 at 15:32 by tjbirdofprey tjbirdofprey is offline
Joseph N's Avatar
Thanks very much Taylor, I had a lovely time on the Bash. I hope to continue to make my blog good reading in the coming entries.
Posted Friday 18th September 2009 at 21:35 by Joseph N Joseph N is offline
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