Tuesday 12 November 2013

2013 - November BTO waterbird count, Linlithgow - Philpstoun

My monthly BTO WeBS count along the Union Canal, Linlithgow to Philpstoun.

Tuesday 12th November 2013.

Start time 8.20am
End time 11.10am

Low winter sun. Cold wind – especially on the fingers when using binoculars. Wind perhaps hiding some birds. A speck or two of rain.

Is there a flood-field?:

Yes! Though it's a minor flood compared to previous years. The draining appears to have largely worked. Nevertheless, there were some birds...

Flood field. Greylag geese, oystercatchers, gulls.

count notes 12.11.2013

The count:

- A beautiful winter morning but sun strongly in my eyes at times, difficult to look for birds on the canal.

- A large number of gulls - hundreds; black-headed, common and herring - were following a plough.

- Fieldfares 'chacking' and redwings 'tseeping' all over, seen and heard the whole length of the count. No more than a month since they arrived from northern Europe.

In Philpstoun woods:

A mistle thrush was shouting at redwings, chasing them off its ivy cloaked sycamore. On the ground chaffinches of both sexes plus a lady great tit with her slimmer-than-the-male black breast stripe foraged the beech leaf litter, almost invisible without binoculars. A robin hopped close as I wrote these notes and goldcrests squeaked high up to my right. A blue tit performed acrobatics lower down in the same sycamore, searching leaves and bark for grubs. A wren was singing loudly and a squirrel (grey) was scolding. A second grey approached through the trees, attracted by the noise of the first.

Tree sparrows:

A tree sparrow – a little smarter than his/her cousin house sparrow. Tree sparrows have a fully chestnut head, the house sparrow (male) has a grey-cap on top of his chestnut. Tree are the more delicate of the two and have crisp black patches on white cheeks, house sparrows are overall more grey. Male and female tree sparrows are identical whereas house sparrow male and female are quite different from each other - the female is fairly indistinct, what birders refer to as an lbj ('little brown job'). 

House sparrows are more associated with urban areas, tree sparrows with farmland. I've only a handful of times seen tree sparrows in our garden but half a kilometre east along the towpath, out of Linlithgow, and suddenly they become as common as house sparrows. There are good numbers of tree and house sparrows in the hedgerows around Park Farm, half way along my count, though sadly no longer in the immediate grounds of the large house since feeders were removed and most of the garden shrubs and hedging replaced with lawn.

All water birds eligible for count:

moorhen - 5
goosander - 1
grey wagtail – 1
greylag goose – 33
oystercatcher – 48
curlew - 10

black headed gull – 10
common gull – 5
herring gull – 1
(Plus the hundreds of uncounted gulls following that plough) 

Of the above, the following were on flood field:
black headed gull – 10
common gull – 5
herring gull – 1
oystercatcher - 48
curlew - 10

All birds seen:

Black-headed Gull
Blue Tit
Carrion Crow
Collared Dove
Common Gull
Feral Pigeon
Great Tit
Grey Wagtail
Greylag Goose
Herring Gull
House Sparrow
Long-tailed Tit
Mistle Thrush
Tree Sparrow

34 - species

Starling. Spot the spots.

Spot the redwings. No, those are hawthorn berries. The redwings are much bigger, and fewer in number, and birds.

An interesting tree:

Look closely. This tree has grown a loop.

The large branch grows downwards then left. At the very edge of the photo a small branch, um, branches right and heads back up towards photo top-right. The photo below shows the joining point, close-up.

Not in the woods:

a train, 'Clearing Britain's Railways'

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