Last weekend I had a look on the farm fields on the coast hoping for an early Wheatear, but that wasn't to be. In fact grounded migrants were a bit thin on the ground and all I could muster was a male and two female Stonechats and a single Goldcrest. I suppose I would class the Meadow Pipits that had gathered on the fields as grounded migrants too, as they were certainly migrants and weren't going anywhere at present; in total I had 66!
Vis was virtually non-existent as well with just two Alba Wags north. It was murky out at sea and as a result was very quiet other than the 25 Whooper Swans that I picked up on the sea. They rested there for a while before taking off and heading north.
Whooper Swans (honest) above & below
The only raptors I had was the male Kestrel from the resident pair and an adult male Sparrowhawk that shot through.
Earlier in the week Gail and I headed to the Hodder Valley to make sure that our boxes were 'ship shape' for the coming breeding season. A few numbers needed re-painting and one or two boxes needed replacing, but over all they were in fine fettle! On the way home we noted a few fields that had been recently been spread with slurry with large numbers of newly arrived, pristine, Lesser Black-backed Gulls. At this time of year they look absolutely fantastic!
This past weekend we found ourselves in Dunfermline for the joint British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Scottish Ornithologists Club (SOC) Scottish Birdwatchers' conference, and what a cracking conference it was!
The conference was opened by Norman Elkins of 'Weather and Bird Behavior' fame, who talked about the new Fife atlas and picked out a number of winners and losers since the last atlas to highlight population changes within Fife. This was followed by a presentation by Allan Perkins called 'Developing conservation solutions for Scotland's Corn Buntings', and the conservation solutions proposed could be applied to Corn Bunting populations anywhere in the UK. I was particularly surprised at how much the Corn Buntings in the Outer Hebrides are struggling and it really is the eleventh hour to prevent them from becoming extinct here.
Gavin Siriwardena from the BTO was up next with 'Farmland birds - problem solved after 15 years of agri-environment?'. I was particularly interested in Gavin's presentation as I have a keen interest in farmland birds and professionally have put together a good number of agri-environment scheme agreements. The positive and negative association with scheme options and population declines and increases of farmland birds was both uplifting and vexing at the same time!
I'd heard of Professor Will Cresswell, but had never seen one of his talks before and it was brilliant. He reminded me of a young Professor Ian Newton in as much as he is a boffin, but managed to present scientific information in an easily understandable way. His research into african-palearctic migrants was fascinating.
David Steel, formerly head ranger at the Farne Islands, but now warden on the Isle of May gave a highly entertaining and informative talk on the Tern populations on the May, and what he is doing to increase their breeding population there. Considering he had the 'grave yard' slot straight after lunch he captivated the audience.
Owen Selly from the RSPB talked about White-tailed Eagles in eastern Scotland, and what amazed me was the distances these birds travelled. Several birds from the eastern Scotland population flew over to Mull in the winter and associated with Eagles there before returning in the spring!
John Calladine from BTO Scotland gave a presentation on the results of the 2007-11 Atlas from a Scottish perspective and looked at what could be done with the data to provide sound conservation science. To finish we were treated to some stunning photography from Fife birder John Anderson. His shots of a North American Mink attacking a juvenile Gannet had everybody on the edge of their seats! What a way to end what was a brilliant conference and I'm already looking forward to the next one.
We have recently been notified that the ringing suspension that was affecting us because of a 10 km surveillance zone around an avian influenza outbreak has now been lifted! So I just need some decent weather to get out ringing again!