Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Update from Scotland

It is now day 5 in Scotland and it has been a pretty fantastic few days. Obviously we are without a car, so any traveling we have been doing has been by public transit....makes me really miss my car! Laura and I have seen a lot of pretty spectacular views, some castles, and a few birds here and there. I'm finally starting to get the hang of look right THEN left when crossing the street. I haven't really edited many of my photos but I'll get a few posted now from the first day of the trip. Once I return on March 4th I will start posting some day by day recaps.

So what birds have we been seeing? Nothing too out of the ordinary and I haven't seen or chased any rarities since I'm happy seeing the common stuff. However I am up to 68 species so far here in Scotland, not a bad total considering this isn't a birding trip. Many of these are new birds for me. The weather hasn't been bad as the temperatures remain between 5 and 12 degrees Celsius each day. Flowers are blooming and it definitely feels like spring. However, I am pretty sure that Edinburgh is where they grow the wind because we have seen winds of 35 km/h or greater every day that I have been here! Today it was 55 km/h. There has been a fair amount of  "liquid sunshine" too.

 Some things that are definite highlights so far:
-great views at a number of species of tits - Long-tailed Tits are awesome!

-finding a male Smew waaaay up in the highlands on a loch - a bit out of their wintering range

-identifying some lifers by their calls/songs without previously having looked up what they sound like. For example, on Monday we were alongside a meandering creek when I heard a flock of tits/finches. As we were going through them, I heard what sounded just like a kinglet from back home. Sure enough, there was a Goldcrest in the buch! Today I thought I heard some goldfinches, and they were European Goldfinches. Pretty cool

-getting familiar with the gulls out here, many which are vagrants to Ontario. Black-headed Gulls are everywhere (even downtown Edinburgh), and Euro Herring Gulls and Common Gulls aren't shy either. All this practice may make it easier to pick these things out in Ontario. Same goes with Eurasian Jackdaw, Common Ringed Plover, Tufted Duck, etc. They're all pretty easy to identify once you see several dozen of them.

Tufted Duck - they're as common as Mallards in small ponds

Carrion Crow - filling the ecological niche of American Crows back home

Laura on top of Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, UK

view of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

Eurasian Kestrel

male Common Eider

Big year news from back home:

In my case, no news is good news! Fortunately no new rarities have been found since I've left and hopefully it will stay that way. The other 2012 Ontario big year birders have now seen the White-winged Dove to keep pace. If you look at the ebird standings I am in 4th place but I'm not worried at this point. Other than the Black-throated Gray Warbler which I missed right at the start of the year, I have seen all the other big rarities. This means that the birds that the others have up on me are, for the most part, birds which I will pick up as the year goes on. As well, once I get back I plan to go pretty much all out until mid-June. I will still have school as a priority until mid April, but there are several trips around the province I intend to make before then. And of course, any big rarity is a top priority!


Tomorrow Laura and I leave for Spain for 3 days before returning to Edinburgh. We're looking forward to sunshine and no wind!


  1. Great stuff Josh. Can I put in a special request for a Green Woodpecker? LOL. God made the Scots just a we bit betta'

  2. I'm glad you got to catch up with a male smew,stunning birds, there's been a large influx this year into the UK, by far the best year for them in recent times

  3. Dwayne - we actually heard a green woodpecker several times today! Was unable to track it down unfortunately, but a nice flock of Redwings (finally) was a nice consolation prize.