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Lothian Birding

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Old Monday 29th October 2007, 16:25   #1
markgrubb
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Lothian Birding

There are several excellent threads on BF covering local areas such as Durham, Norfolk and Northumberland Birding. I thought it might be a reasonable idea to start a Lothian birding thread-Lothian may not have the variety of some of these places but itís certainly not the worst place in the UK to bird. I know there are some excellent Lothian birders who post on here, some like me who are really still learning about and getting into birding and some that I plain just donít know. Hopefully the thread will also let folk find out about some of the lesser known spots in Lothian that are worth visiting. I started birding in the autumn of 2004, mostly at Musselburgh and have gradually got to know some wonderful places like Woodhall Dean and Presmennan Wood that I did not know existed.

Well it has been a quiet autumn. No real easterlies and few migrants to get excited about. In the last few days I managed to get down to Aberlady to see the American Golden Plover, a bird Iíve not seen before. I always imagined that when I did see one that it would be a case of scanning through a large flock taking an age to find it. But no, there it was 50 yards from the car park, just upstream from the bridge all on its own. It certainly had a prominent supercilium and in the light had a more grey appearance than a typical golden plover. It was only when someone with a big lens approached too close and the bird took off that I saw the coloured underwing.

Today had a couple of hours at Míburgh-and a typical day-kingfisher at Esk mouth, seal eating a large fish, one LTD, one RTD, one male stonechat, one RNG, one adult med gull on the ash lagoon and all the usual suspects on the scrapes.

So letís here from you if you live in the Lothianís about what you see and where youíve been-whether you are an expert, enthusiast or beginner

And finally, I just added my name today to survey some tetrads for the Bird Atlas. It starts in November and there are still plenty of squares left in Lothian-you donít have to be an expert to help out. www.birdatlas.net lets you know what itís about. Iíve chosen areas I have never been to-so quite look forward to exploring some new territories. Help out if you can

Over to you
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Old Monday 29th October 2007, 16:56   #2
Andrew Whitehouse
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An excellent idea Dr G. It reminds me that I saw my first American Golden Plover in Lothian too - as recently as 2002 at Musselburgh. I've seen three more since! I especially look forward to seeing some top quality photographs .
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Old Monday 29th October 2007, 19:38   #3
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An excellent idea Dr G. It reminds me that I saw my first American Golden Plover in Lothian too - as recently as 2002 at Musselburgh. I've seen three more since! I especially look forward to seeing some top quality photographs .
And I thought you'd given up twitching many many years ago. I'm sure the many future contributors to this thread will give your eyes a visual feast of Lothian's finest-unlike the Birds Fae Torry thread
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Old Monday 29th October 2007, 20:14   #4
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Lothian is one of my favourite birding areas, been to Aberlady,Musselburgh and down that part of the coast several times especially in the winter and early spring for the sea ducks,grebes,and divers.The lothian coast must be the best place to see RN Grebe and Slav Grebe in the UK.I have seen several Surf Scoters with the scoter flocks at Musselburgh and Aberlady over the years,and had amazing views of Long tailed Ducks.To me Lothian seems to miss out on quite a lot of the Sibs though such as Radde's and Dusky Warblers when there is a fall on the east coast.Find that is strange because St Abbs just down the coast they have had several Radde's and Dusky Warblers over the years and other rarities and Lothian seems to miss out on them for some reason.

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Old Monday 29th October 2007, 21:26   #5
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Lothian is one of my favourite birding areas, been to Aberlady,Musselburgh and down that part of the coast several times especially in the winter and early spring for the sea ducks,grebes,and divers.The lothian coast must be the best place to see RN Grebe and Slav Grebe in the UK.I have seen several Surf Scoters with the scoter flocks at Musselburgh and Aberlady over the years,and had amazing views of Long tailed Ducks.To me Lothian seems to miss out on quite a lot of the Sibs though such as Radde's and Dusky Warblers when there is a fall on the east coast.Find that is strange because St Abbs just down the coast they have had several Radde's and Dusky Warblers over the years and other rarities and Lothian seems to miss out on them for some reason.
I am certainly no expert but only small parts of the Lothian coast are truly east facing. Torness seems to pull in the migrants(power stationlighting?) and Scoughall near Dunbar faces east and seems good but underwatched. Birdspotter who posts here had a Dusky there 2 years ago. A surf scoter seems to be seen for a while each year on the south of the forth though maybe favours the Fife side more. Musselburgh is great for Slavs-I had 50 last weekend. Gosford bay near Aberlady is great for RNG's though increasing windsurfers are a problem and there are always good numbers of LTD's at M'burgh in winter
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Old Monday 29th October 2007, 22:22   #6
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I am certainly no expert but only small parts of the Lothian coast are truly east facing. Torness seems to pull in the migrants(power stationlighting?) and Scoughall near Dunbar faces east and seems good but underwatched. Birdspotter who posts here had a Dusky there 2 years ago. A surf scoter seems to be seen for a while each year on the south of the forth though maybe favours the Fife side more. Musselburgh is great for Slavs-I had 50 last weekend. Gosford bay near Aberlady is great for RNG's though increasing windsurfers are a problem and there are always good numbers of LTD's at M'burgh in winter
Back in my day (70s) Barns Ness, though mainly a seawatching spot, used to turn up small stuff - RB Fly, Pallas' Warbler etc. I remember Great Grey Shrike there coming off the sea in October. Perhaps things have changed. Skateraw was another place that turned small stuff up. Admittedly St Abb's Head was normally better for numbers, though outside the Lothians.

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Old Friday 2nd November 2007, 21:10   #7
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Back down at Musselburgh at first light for a couple of hours pre-work. Parked at the mouth of the river. Good start-there were 8 pale bellied Brent Geese at the river mouth(2 looked like youngsters) and an adult Med gull. For the second visit in a row a kingfisher was hopping alog the river wall

The real pain in the arse at the moment is that Scottish Power are moving ash from the main active lagoon to the far away one-IIRC this did not happen until into the New Year previously. They have also fenced off half of the sea wall path and a large dumper truck thunders by every 30 seconds. I guess the noise and disturbance means there is less chance of finding good birds feeding in the seeds around the lagoon-shorelark(though one appeared v briely last month), snow and lapland buntings all appear here. The waders seem more edgy. I tried to count the oyks and I will either give a medal or section anyone that can count these birds properly-a blackhoppingbadmorphingbadassedmass-well I counted and like in the WEBS reports confidently came to 1312.

Down to seawatch. The dumper trucks and the 6 foot fence somewhat spoilt the "at oneness with nature" of the sunny morning and the Zen moments of tuning into good birds-however a RTD was diving only 15 metres out- best moment of the day. And after 2 solitary long tailed ducks in the last 2 weeks 7 in a small flock were nice to see. Along with the usual suspects

Arrived at the scrapes just in time to see 500 golden plover arrive and then be put up by a peregrine. They really sparkled in the low am sun. And then time for work

Off in the am to the Aberdeen BF bash-the one decent bird in Lothian at present is an American Golden Plover-guess what Aberdeenshire has to offer-still it will be a delight to be shown round Girdleness et al by Andrew Whitehouse and meet up with other BF members
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Old Sunday 4th November 2007, 19:37   #8
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Today at Musselburgh there were 9 pale-bellied Brent Geese, a Kingfisher at the same place as Mark saw it on Friday, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Snipe on the Scrape, 2 Stonechats near the Scrape and someone else reported an adult Mediterranean Gull. There weren't many ducks on the sea but Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider and Velvet Scoter were there as well as Red-throated Diver and a few auks and late Gannets.
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Old Sunday 4th November 2007, 19:52   #9
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Looks like I chose the wrong weekend to be away-with up to 60(Sat) and 100(Sun) pomarine skuas being reported over the Forth
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Old Sunday 11th November 2007, 13:05   #10
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Dunbar and how to cure a hangover

Well yesterday was spent on the train travelling down to and back from Sunderland. I have a friend who hails from there and he got tickets for the Newcastle Derby. And a fine experience it was too-though I could not keep pace in the pub pre and post game with his assembled Makem friends and found myself with a rather sore napper this am

So I originally intended to local patch it at Musselburgh but with the wind being fairly strong and from the North decided to head for Dunbar. And that turned out to be a good choice. It was bright, very cold and with a brisk wind

I parked at the harbour. At 10.40 my life total of little auks seen was zero. By 11.35 it had reached 475. A birder was just leaving as I arrived-he said numbers were dropping and it was getting quieter-he had counted for 20 minutes and came to an estimate of 2000 per hour. I had always envisaged seeing them at distance through the scope. In fact you didn't even need bins to see many of them. Some were flying just 5 or 10 yards from the sea wall, some were even flying behind us over the harbour. On 2 occasions birds dropped down on to the sea just in front of us giving crippling views. I hadn't even thought of bringing a camera but am kicking myself now that I didn't.The numbers must have been much greater than I saw. I could see bigger more distant groups moving far out to sea but the scope was shaking a lot with the wind

We had a bonus of a short eared owl coming in off the sea. There were lots of kittiwakes in close, a couple of RTD's and 2 groups of 6 and 8 purple sandpipers.

After an hour and despite many layers and full waterproofs I had to retreat to the warmth of the car. And I'm glad to say that the blast of North Sea air cleared the head.

Rather a good morning

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Old Sunday 11th November 2007, 17:13   #11
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Well yesterday was spent on the train travelling down to and back from Sunderland. I have a friend who hails from there and he got tickets for the Newcastle Derby. And a fine experience it was too-though I could not keep pace in the pub pre and post game with his assembled Makem friends and found myself with a rather sore napper this am

So I originally intended to local patch it at Musselburgh but with the wind being fairly strong and from the North decided to head for Dunbar. And that turned out to be a good choice. It was bright, very cold and with a brisk wind

I parked at the harbour. At 10.40 my life total of little auks seen was zero. By 11.35 it had reached 475. A birder was just leaving as I arrived-he said numbers were dropping and it was getting quieter-he had counted for 20 minutes and came to an estimate of 2000 per hour. I had always envisaged seeing them at distance through the scope. In fact you didn't even need bins to see many of them. Some were flying just 5 or 10 yards from the sea wall, some were even flying behind us over the harbout. On 2 occasions birds dropped down on to the sea just in front of us giving crippling views. I hadn't even thought of bringing a camera but am kicking myself now that I didn't.The numbers must have been much greater than I saw. I could see bigger more distant groups moving but the scope was shaking a lot with the wind

We had a bonus of a short eared owl coming in off the sea. There were lots of kittiwakes in close, a couple of RTD's and 2 groups of 6 and 8 purple sandpipers.

After an hour and despite many layers and full waterproofs I had to retreat to the warmth of the car. And I'm glad to say that the blast of North Sea air cleared the head.

Rather a good morning
Wow. That's the way to see a lifer. Beats my pitiful 2 in 2 hours. :)
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Old Monday 12th November 2007, 19:49   #12
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On the Dunbar community website info there is chat of a golden eagle in the Dunbar area. Some posts suggest that what was seen was a sea eagle, osprey or just a buzzard but the original post suggests he has heard of numerous sighting of a goldie!!

Anyone got any info on the progress of the sea eagles, would be great to think they could settle in my home path in the near future.
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Old Monday 12th November 2007, 19:55   #13
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On the Dunbar community website info there is chat of a golden eagle in the Dunbar area. Some posts suggest that what was seen was a sea eagle, osprey or just a buzzard but the original post suggests he has heard of numerous sighting of a goldie!!

Anyone got any info on the progress of the sea eagles, would be great to think they could settle in my home path in the near future.
I'm sure I read that one of the east coast sea eagles had made it as far as Berwick, but maybe I'm imagining that.
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Old Monday 12th November 2007, 20:42   #14
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I'm sure I read that one of the east coast sea eagles had made it as far as Berwick, but maybe I'm imagining that.
I wasn't imagining it:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/details.asp?id=tcm:9-174102
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Old Friday 23rd November 2007, 18:38   #15
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Day off today so decided to head up to Bavelaw resevoir where there were reports of hawfinches, a bird not seen in Lothian for some time. It was a gloriously bright clear morning though barely above freezing The walk up to the resevoir produces 4 bullfinches and the trimphone calls of 3 redpolls. A kestrel was atop a tree, his colours lit up by the low sun. At Bavelaw I was greeted by the noise of 50+ whoopers trumpeting away. On to the hide and there was a reasonably thick layer of ice for a few yards in front of the hide. A waterrail shot out and inelegantly skidded in to cover. Another squealed out to the side of the hide. 90 mins in the hide produced the 4 common tits, a GSW, plenty of finches but no haws.
Eventually fear of frostbite set in and I set off for nearby farmland where a farmer seems to let some crops go to seed and has attracted large numbers of birds in the last 2 years with large nos of bramblings. Half an hour of patient scrutiny produced the fine total of 2 though there were up to 200 linnets in the area.

So some good birds on a fine day finished off at home with a quiet pint at the Sheep Heid with my good lady
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Old Tuesday 27th November 2007, 12:23   #16
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Roslin Glen 24-25 November

I had an interesting couple of walks checking out my local patch in Roslin Glen prior to doing my tetrad for the winter bird survey. For those of you who don't know the area, Roslin Glen is part of the North Esk Valley river system, which drains from the Pentland Hills through Midlothian, merging with the South Esk at Dalkeith, and into the sea at Musselburgh. Roslin Glen itself comprises mainly deciduous woodland with a smattering of Scots Pine and other conifers, and is bounded by arable farmland and some sheep grazing land.

Saturday was an illustration of how survey work could be skewed by an unusual sample on the survey day. Having not seen a single siskin in Roslin Glen for over a year, the first thing I saw walking along the track from my house was a big flock of siskins feeding on cones in my neighbour's conifer tree. I estimated 40 siskins altogether. There were good numbers of finches nearby, approximately 20 bullfinches, and I also saw a new species for the patch in the form of brambling (two). There was no sign of the nuthatches near Roslin Chapel, usually a reliable pair and very vocal. Further downstream towards Hawthornden, I saw three jays flitting between trees; Bruce Kerr from Polton has taken an interest in jays and has seen up to seven just downriver at the Hewan Wood recently, so it seems that this species is consolidating nicely in the river valley. A female sparrowhawk was hunting along the river margins, and is a regular sight there. Two buzzards were soaring overhead.

Neil
The previous weekend I had seen a large flock of around 100 redwing near Roslin Chapel along with a dozen mistle thrushes and a few fieldfare, but no sign of these this week.
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Old Tuesday 27th November 2007, 22:43   #17
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Bavelaw/Musselburgh

Hi,

Partly since I do a lot of walking, hill or otherwise, I've got back into birding recently after many years not birding. My main haunt has been the Pentland Hills and the hide at Bavelaw marsh. It was at the start of November I saw 3 Hawfinches there (Didn't know when I saw them that they were a bit of a rarity in these parts - haven't seen them since tho usually go every week. My sister saw a couple of haws the week before at Black Springs at the end of Threipmuir) Its mainly the tits, spotted woodpecker, chaffinch, greenfinch, treecreeper most weeks, plus the whoopers and various ducks and Geese.

There is a sparrowhawk that has the hide area in its hunting patch, though i haven't spotted it yet. Have heard the water rail for a number of weeks so lucky Mark to spot one the other day. Usually a few kestrels around as well. There is a Kingfisher around as well, but have not spotted it yet either. I probably need to change my visiting times.

Had a couple of short trips to Musselburgh in the last week as it seems to have tons of birds there. I'm not terribly well up on waders but saw plenty of Godwits, Redshanks, Turnstones, Dunlin, Golden Plover (I think, need to check the reference books!) and a couple of fine Curlews. Haven't seen the kingfisher everybody else sees. Now I know where the hides are i can make a day of it sometime.
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Old Thursday 29th November 2007, 12:33   #18
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Hi Sandy, thanks for that report you seem to have had a good few sightings. Welcome to Bird Forum

Keep an eye on the Scottish Bash Discussion Thread we try and arrange a few meetings through the year and you'd be most welcome to join us if you can manage. Hopefully the next one will be in February.

D

BTW has anyone got any piccies of Aberlady or Musselburgh that can be uploaded into the Opus articles? The only ones I've got seem to be full of a rather rough-looking crowd of birders
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Old Thursday 29th November 2007, 17:52   #19
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Nice and very welcome surprise of about 20 Waxwings in Blackhall, Edinburgh today. Love 'em!
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 15:28   #20
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Nuclear adventures

Well, Musselburgh has been a bit dull recently and all the 'hot' Lothian action seems to have been down at Torness-lapland bunting, glaucous gull and black redstarts all in the last view days. I had half a mind not to go out as the weather forecast was atrocious and the skies were leaden but nothing ventured....

Sitting eating my breakfast I noticed 30 or so birds atop the very tall poplars in Duddingston Village. Got the scope out and they were Redwing. Just got out of the front door and heard the repeated rattle of a Mistle thrush He was in a hawthorn tree 50 yards up the road. 3 blackbirds were nicking berries from what was obviously his territory and he was not happy. As he chased one blackbird away another snuck in and took some berries-quite comical watching this show for 5 minutes or so.

So it was off down the A1 and just past Tranent I saw about 10 birds land in trees right next to the road. No mistaking the chubby shape and large crest-Waxwings A good start. Arrived at Torness Power Station I got out of the car just as it started raining moderately heavily. As I walked down to the sea front there were a male and female stonechat and the adjacent field seemed teeming with birds. However as things looked bleak I decided to press on and see if I could find a black redstart, a bird I have not seen in Lothian for 2 years. I reached the concrete walkway at the sea front and was immediately treated to a Red throated diver just yards offshore. There seemed a plague of flies and Rock pipits and Pied wagtails were feasting. As I pressed on the rain got heavier and I reached the end of the walkway at the Skateraw end. I turned to look up towards the power station partly to get out of the direction of the wind/rain when I heard a toot behind me-a police car drew up on the walkway. The window wound down and a "Hello, can I ask what you are doing , sir?". Probably a fair question as anyone at this point would question the sanity of someone out in the conditions. However I felt resentful at this intrusion-so I gave him a mean and hard stare trying to think of a witty reposte until I saw his partner looking much meaner and harder holding a submachine gun. So I went all compliant and had 20 questions and had to give name, address, DOB, etc-then there was me trying to convince them of the logical nature of what I was doing-finally off they went.

At this point the rain eased and at the Lifeboat harbour in amongst the many rock pipits a female/immBlack redstart hopped about the rocks giving great views down to 10 metres. I headed back to the car park and had 7 Whoopers flying east. 4-500 golden plover rose in the distance. As it was now only spitting I decided to head for the field I had passed the hope being for a lapland bunting a bird that has eluded me. No such bird but there was a Shorelark in amongst the large numbers of skylarks, linnet and pipits. This had been found first by the one other birder I encountered on the whole trip

The rain started again and I headed for Longniddry Bents. Had to scan from the car and saw a distant grebe. It looked slightly different from a Slav with a more peaked head but light was poor, the scope was getting rained on and I just could not convince myself that it was a black necked(would have been a lifer too). Too bad

Still not a bad day(and sorry for all this rambling)

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Old Saturday 1st December 2007, 11:10   #21
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Back to Musselburgh this morning-cold,breezy and bright. All the usual supects but the most surprising find was 6 black tailed godwits on the scrapes-quite a good number for so late in the year-3 were colour ringed so I have sent off details and hopefully will get some response
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Old Saturday 1st December 2007, 16:59   #22
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Well after a couple of hours birding this morning I had some chores to do uptown but was delighted to see that a flock of 55 waxwings had been reported in Bruntsfield about a mile from where I was going. I've had major camera problems for the last 3 months but have got my D70 going after a fashion. So chores done I headed up to Bruntsfield Links, camera in hand-and no birds. However after 5 minutes I heard the familiar trilling and the flock landed in a tree high above me. I suspect they were raiding some berry tree in a garden nearby. So I had a very pleasant half an hour watching these fine birds.
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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 19:22   #23
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Well after a couple of hours birding this morning I had some chores to do uptown but was delighted to see that a flock of 55 waxwings had been reported in Bruntsfield about a mile from where I was going. I've had major camera problems for the last 3 months but have got my D70 going after a fashion. So chores done I headed up to Bruntsfield Links, camera in hand-and no birds. However after 5 minutes I heard the familiar trilling and the flock landed in a tree high above me. I suspect they were raiding some berry tree in a garden nearby. So I had a very pleasant half an hour watching these fine birds.
Very nice. I'm not jealous at all. Honest.
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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 20:08   #24
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Hi Mark,

Just found this thread,nice one!

Today my mate and I decided to stay away from our usual weekend haunts within the Dunbar area, due to the large numbers of birders there for the assembled birds, prefer it like last weekend, just the two of us with the whole coastline to ourselves. A bit antisocial perhaps but there it is.

Anyway, started off at Gosford where we had a Black Throated Diver and around 10 Slavonian Grebe but not a lot else.
Onwards to Aberlady for a look at the river, 6 Pintail including 2 cracking males in amongst the assembled mass of birds there.

Gullane Point produced 3 Great Northern's and another Black Throat as well as a single Red Necked Grebe.

Finished the day off with my Larid fix at Seton Burn and Musselburgh where we had a single adult Med Gull.

So all in all quite a good day really.

re the coppers, I have been stopped a few times here but generally its just a quick hi and how are you, then what are you doing but never date of birth and so on, so I guess you looked very dodgy.
I know what you mean about the intrusion side of it though, although the blond female copper can shove her machine gun in my face anytime, although she will never beat the M16 toting mini skirted,stileto wearing Israeli girl walking down Eilat high street one year!

cheers
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Last edited by Birdspotter : Sunday 2nd December 2007 at 20:19.
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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 21:59   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Birdspotter View Post
Hi Mark,

Just found this thread,nice one!

Today my mate and I decided to stay away from our usual weekend haunts within the Dunbar area, due to the large numbers of birders there for the assembled birds, prefer it like last weekend, just the two of us with the whole coastline to ourselves. A bit antisocial perhaps but there it is.

Anyway, started off at Gosford where we had a Black Throated Diver and around 10 Slavonian Grebe but not a lot else.
Onwards to Aberlady for a look at the river, 6 Pintail including 2 cracking males in amongst the assembled mass of birds there.

Gullane Point produced 3 Great Northern's and another Black Throat as well as a single Red Necked Grebe.

Finished the day off with my Larid fix at Seton Burn and Musselburgh where we had a single adult Med Gull.

So all in all quite a good day really.

re the coppers, I have been stopped a few times here but generally its just a quick hi and how are you, then what are you doing but never date of birth and so on, so I guess you looked very dodgy.
I know what you mean about the intrusion side of it though, although the blond female copper can shove her machine gun in my face anytime, although she will never beat the M16 toting mini skirted,stileto wearing Israeli girl walking down Eilat high street one year!

cheers
Great to have you on board Calum and hope your obvious knowledge and experience will help this thread prosper. Good sightings today for you, 3 GND's was great, but I'm sure we feel a bit deflated by the result at Pittodrie.

Look forward to you producing some sound recordings this winter for the thread
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