Sunday 24 March 2013

A few hours in Edinburgh

March 21, 2013: A few hours in Edinburgh
March 22, 2013: Oban, Scotland
March 26, 2013: Rare duck in Scotland!
March 26, 2013: Aberlady Bay, Scotland
March 30, 2013: Unique photo of a lifer (Paris, France)
March 31, 2013: Photos d'oiseaux de France (Paris, France)
April 2, 2013: Seabird die-off on the east coast of Scotland

Several days ago, I had several hours to explore the areas around Arthur's Seat located in the east end of Edinburgh, UK. Arthur's Seat is a rock formation rising about 250 meters in height and several kilometers in circumference. It is a popular location for people to visit and to climb. Here is a photos I took from Arthur's Seat last year. The view is looking northeast, towards the Firth of Forth which drains into the North Sea.

view of part of Edinburgh, U.K. as seen from Arthur's Seat

The areas around the base of Arthur's Seat is mostly parkland (Holyrood Park), complete with a sizable loch that often holds wintering ducks. I decided to check out the south side of Arthur's Seat before walking around the loch in the few hours that I had.

Several birds were flying in the updraft, including lots of Eurasian Jackdaws, several Carrion Crows, a single Common Raven (my first for the UK) and two Common Buzzards.

Common Buzzards - Edinburgh, U.K.

The high winds made any attempt at Passerine searching useless. Linnet, Twite, Lesser Redpoll, and Meadow Pipits are sometimes in the open areas. I instead focused my efforts on photography of some of the gulls and waterbirds. I did come across a rather photogenic Eurasian Wren in a thicket, though. This is a very close relative of the familiar Winter Wren on the west side of the Atlantic (and they were considered the same species until very recently). Unlike the relatively shy North American species, only found in dense brush usually away from suburbia, the Eurasian counterpart is the most abundant bird in Britain. It can be found almost anywhere where there is suitable cover and dense brush.

Eurasian Wren - Edinburgh, U.K.

Eurasian Blackbirds are fun to see at first until one quickly gets sick of them. It will take me quite some time to figure out all their various calls.

Eurasian Blackbird - Edinburgh, U.K.

Unlike my visit last February, the temperature this time around was at the freezing mark. The lochs were mostly frozen as a result, concentrating the ducks and forcing the gulls to stand on the ice. There are 6 species of "common" gull species in this part of the U.K. - European Herring, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed, and Common Gull. The 6th is Black-legged Kittiwake; a common breeder offshore on some of the islands. Here are 3 of the aforementioned species together.

L. Black-backed, Common, and Black-headed Gulls - Edinburgh, U.K.

While these birds are common over here, I had fun studying their various plumages. European Herring Gulls are non-existent in Ontario, Common Gull has only occurred a few times (and I've never seen one), Black-headed is a genuine rarity, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are rarely seen up close. Here is another Common Gull, in flight.

Common Gull - Edinburgh, U.K.

Duddington Loch was mostly open and had several duck species. Apart from the familiar Gadwalls, Mute Swans, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards, and Canada Geese, there were also quite a few Tufted Ducks and Common Teals (neither of which I have seen in Ontario).

Tufted Duck - Edinburgh, U.K.

Tufted Duck - Edinburgh, U.K.

The default crow in most of Scotland is the Carrion Crow, which is very similar in appearance to our American Crow from back home. Several hours west of Edinburgh they are replaced with the Hooded Crow (which I saw a few days later).

Carrion Crow - Edinburgh, U.K.

Little Grebes, Eurasian Moorhens, Eurasian Coots, and Greylag Geese rounded out the waterfowl. I wish I had a scope with me since there were some un-IDed ducks on the far side!

I checked out the brushy areas and re-familiarized myself with the songs of the various tit species. A Song Thrush flushed, Dunnocks sang from most areas, and several flocks of European Goldfinches and Chaffinches were in the area. Unfortunately I couldn't tease out a Green Woodpecker (which are in the area) or a bittern (which sometimes is found around the edges of the loch).

Common Chaffinch - Edinburgh, U.K.

So there you have it - some of the garden-variety species common in Scotland. Nothing rare, but fun to see after an absence of over a year!

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