Friday 30 November 2012

November BTO waterbird count, Linlithgow - Philpstoun

This is my second month of blogging the results of the union canal bird count I do for the BTO's WeBS scheme. My route is Linlithgow to Philpstoun. Read about the route and the reasons for doing the count in this previous blog post -

The count - Friday November 23rd, 2012

Started 9:10 am. Turnaround time 11:25 am. Finished 12:40 pm.

Weather was good, bright but quite breezy. A cool autumn day. - autumn or winter..? There are almost no leaves left and we have light frost a lot of mornings. Several times I've had to to break the ice on the bird water. Today the sun was a little too much in my eyes as I started out - it was easy to scan the fields on my left but not so easy looking across the canal on my right. I'm used to this. A peaked hat helps.

This month was my best ever in terms of numbers of birds seen. We've had a lot of rain and the flood field was at its fullest. I've never before counted so many birds there. I spent such a time standing watching that I felt I must eat breakfast as I continued my walk, rather than sitting on my normal patch of wall.

A few interesting sightings:

- Much more goosander activity than normal. I saw five individual birds -male and female- but also a group of six that flew past following the line of the canal then veering right to head towards Linlithgow Loch. Normally I'll see one or two lone goosanders on the water at most, sometimes a pair. A couple of months ago Kittie ( and I on an Aberdour drawing day saw a gathering of around 30 goosanders swimming in one of the bays.

- Three bird of prey species - buzzard, kestrel, sparrowhawk. I always see buzzards but rarely either of the others.
- When this kestrel moved in flight it was buffeted violently by the wind yet seemed to have no problem hovering motionless above fields as it scanned for prey. An old local name for the kestrel is windhover. A perfect title.
- The sparrowhawk was when I was only two minutes from home. Normally you have no more than a glimpse as one flashes past your bird feeders into surrounding hedgerow and gardens, but this one was perched and preening. It was far away but I made a quick sketch. Its warm cream and orange chest shone bright against an earthen scene - the slope of the railway embankment, dead grasses and undergrowth, bare branches.

- Just beyond the flood field I heard the call of skylarks. With my binoculars I could see two dark specks high above. It sounded like there were more. I don't recall ever seeing them on this count.

canal count notes plus sparrowhawk sketch, pen & pencil on cereal box

Waterbird count:

moorhen - 5
mallard - 3
tufted duck - 1 (female)
goosander - 11
black-headed gull -6

On the flood field:
oystercatcher - 59
curlew - 22
lapwing - 65
black-headed gull - 86
herring gull - 6
common gull - 32
mallard - 30
widgeon - 49
snipe - 4

All other bird species seen
and heard:

song thrush
long tailed tit
tree sparrow
reed bunting
house sparrow
blue tit
great tit
feral pigeon
collared dove

Total: 39 species

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