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Sunny Fife for grebes and divers

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Old Sunday 27th February 2005, 21:46   #1
andy one
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Sunny Fife for grebes and divers

Hi there Forum, Here is another long account of a rather good day in Fife.

There had been a good passage of little auk in the Forth over the previous few days, so I decided to head up to Fife in the hope of boosting the year list with the afore mentioned species and some of the rarer grebes that had also been prevalent according to birdguides.

The expected motorway fodder such as kestrel, buzzard and magpie was added to the list on route to Vane Farm, my usual coffee stop. The first bird I saw when I got out the car at Vane was the little egret that has been present all year. Coffee in hand, I set about boosting the list with ducks such as mallard, goldeneye, teal and gadwall.

I headed up the road to Findatty. There had been a report of a drake red crested pochard present here. I set up the scope and began scanning, adding goosander and red breasted merganser to the list. A lorry hurtled past, the driver deciding that sounding the horn whilst I was looking into the scope was obviously really amusing. After my heart returned to normal and I had gesticulated that I did not appreciate his sense of humour, I returned to scanning the loch.

There were large flocks of common pochard mixed with tufted duck, but still no red crested. There were however some stunning pintail. They had been flushed from some small pools in the woods by a dog walker and were in full view in the brilliant sunshine. I could watch pintail all day. My search for the pochard was fruitless; I did however see another one of my favourite ducks, a male smew. Elegant and beautiful are just two of the terms I could use to describe this amazing little saw bill. I left the pochard hunt a little disappointed although the pintail and smew were welcome consolation.

Heading towards Largo, I was optimistic about my chances of seeing little auk and red necked grebe. For the first time in many months I was also optimistic about Dundee Utd chances of securing victory after they had raced into a 2-0 lead. This could be a great day, a Utd win and some superb birds! I decided to stop at the Robinson Crusoe Hotel, not for a bed, but in the hope of seeing a drake Mandarin that had been reported on occasion. I walked up the burn and was delighted to see this remarkable looking bird. It was looking severely out of place in a small village in Fife with a few mallards for company.

The next port of call was Lower Largo car park. I set up the scope and was immediately greeted by a small group of long tailed ducks. The male birds looking like painted china dolls. I had soon picked up the first of several red throated divers, one of which was in superb summer plumage. Rather fitting for the beautiful sunny day. I couldn’t decide what was more unusual, the plumage of the bird or the weather! The beach was busy, people walking dogs and children throwing rocks into the Forth, oblivious to the fantastic birds that were on show. A slavonian grebe was picked up, then another, then another. I counted 7. Not bad, but someone had reported 10 earlier in the day. I tried to get more, but 7 was my top count. I spent another 30 minutes looking for red necked grebe and kept half an eye out for little auk, but without success. I did however pick up 4 black throated divers, one of which was beginning to moult into that sublime summer coat.

I returned to the car to hear that Dundee Utd were now 3-1 ahead. I was just beginning to think someone might wake me when we scored a fourth! Oh that is it; the day just couldn’t get any better. My next stop was Ruddens Point. I carefully noted the ‘Gate closed 4pm’ sign; I had been locked in here a few weeks ago and did not fancy a repeat performance. I was hoping for a repeat of the surf scoter that I had seen that same day.

The sun was still strong and beat off the water like a religious symbol as I started to walk out towards the point. A stonechat sat proudly at the top of a bush, a year bird and a stonking little male. I reached the point to discover two more than a couple final playing on the beach and more dogs than Crufts. Ah well, not many waders around I thought. I scanned the scoter flock, mainly velvets, a few common and, yes, there it was the drake surfy! The superb light reflected off its bill like a beacon. Now all I need is a red necked grebe and little auk. I got on a few more slavonian grebes and noticed a flock of waders huddled together waiting for the crowd to disperse. Grey plover, knot, dunlin, redshank and turnstone were all added to the day list.

A rock pipit flew low along the shore and a skylark burst into a short, sharp, sweet rendition of its song. I continued to search in vain for the grebe and auk. A razorbill got me excited for a few seconds but alas no joy. Gannet was added for the year list as a glance at the watch told me I should really head for the car. I walked back towards the vehicle, still hoping for one more year bird. I didn’t have to wait long. A large round winged bird flew low between two caravans and landed on a post, short eared owl! I love these birds. The bird was staring at me with those big yellow eyes, as if telling me off for disrupting its hunting. I was just about to try digiscoping for the first time, eventually worked out how to turn on the camera and it took off! It was pursued by 2 magpies and I was left trying to turn the camera back off.

Back at the car I reflected on a great day, smew, little egret, slavonian grebe; black throated diver, mandarin duck, surf scoter, short eared owl and United through to the semis after a 4-1 win! I hope there are many more days like this.
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Old Sunday 27th February 2005, 22:22   #2
Stewart J.
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Nice report Andy and some good birds. Spent an afternoon at Vane Farm last October and was very impressed by the changes and the great coffee shop/observatory comfy warm birdying or what! I had last visited 12 years previously.

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Old Monday 28th February 2005, 07:56   #3
andy one
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I agree Stewart, it is a fantastic place and the changes are superb. I volunteered there in the good old days when there was a few pools surrounded by trees, now there are fantastic pools everywhere and some brilliant birds. Well done RSPB!

I recommend a winter visit to anyone, come to thing of it any time of year can be good!
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Old Monday 28th February 2005, 08:18   #4
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Nice one! I got the SEO on thursday. The weather was a lot rougher then and we managed 25 little auks, the RN grebe and 6+ Great Northen Divers which was unexpectedly high count for Fife. The Male Surfie was difficult to pick up. He was spending a lot of time bombing around and when he did settle he went to sleep!

When you are next around Loch Leven drop into the centre of Kinross to Kirkgate park where the Long-tailed Duck has been hanging out for the last 3 months.
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Old Monday 28th February 2005, 08:44   #5
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Nice day out Andy.
I spent the morning in that area, finishing up at Lower Largo.
I began at Anstruther where I picked up one little auk plus a scattering of red-throated divers, long-tailed ducks, gannets, fulmars etc. As it was absolutely baltic there I moved to Elie Ness, which was much much less exposed to the elements. Rather fewer birds of course but I did have a nice close little auk.
I finished up at Lower Largo where I managed 12 slav grebes and at least 2 black-throated divers before connecting with the mandarin (a Fife tick).

The afternoon was spent at home and that was excellent too (see http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=15443&page=5)

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Old Monday 28th February 2005, 09:02   #6
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Nice report with running footy commentary! You'll have to go out again in the semis to ensure they reach the finals!
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Old Monday 28th February 2005, 13:17   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodchatshrike
Nice one! I got the SEO on thursday. The weather was a lot rougher then and we managed 25 little auks, the RN grebe and 6+ Great Northen Divers which was unexpectedly high count for Fife. The Male Surfie was difficult to pick up. He was spending a lot of time bombing around and when he did settle he went to sleep!

When you are next around Loch Leven drop into the centre of Kinross to Kirkgate park where the Long-tailed Duck has been hanging out for the last 3 months.

The RCP was at Kirkgate Park in Kinross, Loch Leven NNR this morning. As was the Long-Tailed Duck.
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Old Monday 28th February 2005, 13:59   #8
Andrew Whitehouse
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Good report Andy. I've always found Lower Largo to be the best spot on Largo Bay for grebes and divers - they're often much more abundant and closer than at Ruddon's Point.
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