Sunday, 10 July 2016

Yesterday All My Troubles Seemed so Far Away . . . A Day on Coll, Scotland

Saturday 9th July Light S - AM Dull, misty, drizzle

7:30AM - I am sitting on the ferry that takes one to the wonderful Hebridean island of Coll, which lies north west of Mull. The trip takes just under three hours and hence I have some time on my hands to take stock of the year list situation.
Now for non birders the following may be of less interest than previous blog entries but I am trying to give everyone a perspective of the planning that goes into the route and itinerary. Also one may like to look and assess my chances of beating the present UK Green record, currently at 289 and of beating the magic 300. As for the European record held by Ponc Feliu at 304, well have a look, read the text and consider whether I will beat it.
My Green Year list stands at 262 and that is twenty five ahead of this time last year. Whether this lead will be maintained and lead to a new European Green year list record will depend on how many birds that I saw in the final six months of 2015 I see again this year. Those birds were:-
American golden plover

Arctic warbler
Balearic shearwater
Barnacle goose
Barred warbler
Bean goose
Bluethroat
Blyth's reed warbler
Capercaillie
Chestnut bunting
Citril finch


Citrine wagtail
Common rosefinch
Crested tit
Eastern subalpine warbler
Honey buzzard
Iceland gull
King eider
Lanceolated warbler
Lesser yellowlegs
Laughing gull

Little auk
Little bunting
Night heron
Olive backed pipit
Ortolan bunting
Osprey
Pallas' grasshopper warbler
Pallid harrier
Pomarine skua
Ptarmigan
Radde's warbler
Red-breasted flycatcher
Red-flanked bluetail
Ring-necked duck
Rock dove
Siberian rubythroat
Sooty shearwater
Spotted crake
Storm petrel
Subalpine warbler – Moltoni
Twite

White-rumped sandpiper
Wood warbler
Wryneck
Yellow-browed warbler

The photographs are of the birds I saw last year.

Chances of seeing all of these are very slim. Citril finch, Chestnut bunting and Moltoni's warbler are once in a blue moon birds. Others should be added easily; rock dove today on Coll for instance.
Then there are the ones where I feel I have had their equivalent bird already; Franklin's gull is on the list this year replacing laughing gull. Purple heron for night heron and greater yellowlegs for lesser. Still time for these birds to turn up, hopefully.
With the rest of July being spent going to Speyside and the Abernethy Forest, as well as seawatching for the two rare ducks near to Aberdeen, King eider and the white-winged scoter; I should add osprey, crested tit, ptarmigan and capercaillie. The scoter would be the first lifer for me this year, that is a bird I have never seen before. In fact I am not sure of my British life list, around 460 I think. I must update it someday.
Now as well as the forty six birds mentioned above there are a couple of ones that I missed last year that may surprise some. Waxwing, how could I miss waxwing? That classic, superbly beautiful winter visitor which occasionally reaches the UK in large numbers. Didn't see one. The photographs of Tommy Hyndeman's son, Henry holding either an apple with a waxwing on it, or a stick with number of them on it taunts me to see them this year.
I was surprised I didn't see a pectoral sandpiper. A gimme I thought. Didn't see one.
With the month of August being spent on North Ronaldsay there should be the chance for some of the rarer birds seen last year being seen again this; sooty shearwater, storm petrel and barred warbler.
Here is a list, compiled by The Oracle, Phil Andrews, of the rare birds seen on North Ronaldsay over the last few years that would be additions to my list:-
American golden plover
Balearic shearwater
Barred warbler
Black-headed bunting
Blue-winged teal
Bluethroat
Booted warbler
Buff-breasted sandpiper
Citrine wagtail
Common rosefinch
Cory's shearwater
Great shearwater
Honey buzzard
Icterine warbler
Leaches' petrel
Lttle shearwater
Long-tailed skua
Marsh warbler
Ortolan bunting
Pacific golden plover
Pectoral sandpiper
Sabine's gull
Sooty shearwater
Storm petrel
Two-barred crossbill
White-rumped sandpiper
Wood warbler
Wryneck

How many of these will be added to the list by the end of my visit there? The target is for ten of them and anything over that will be a bonus. Anything under will hopefully be caught up by the Setember and October visit to Fair isle and Shetland.
Now for those months I have made some spreadsheets that give percentage probability for each of the rare birds seen there for each month. I have placed this information on the blog before but repeat it here for you to make your own assessment of my chances of seeing my target of ten birds for each month. You may like to make a list guessing which ones I will see.
So from 2005 to 2015, fifty eight different rare birds that I still need for my year list were seen in September with an average of nineteen new birds per year.
In order of percentage probablility from 100% downwards these birds were:-
100%
Yellow-browed warbler
Common rosefinch

91%
Bluethroat
Barred warbler

82%
Little bunting

73%
Sooty shearwater
Mealy redpoll
Citrine wagtail

64%
Red-breasted flycatcher

55%
Barnacle goose
Olive-backed pipit
Lanceolated warbler
Pectoral sandpiper
Wryneck

All of these then have a better than 50:50 chance of me seeing them. It would be a shock notto see yellow-browed warblers this year. Last year I saw at least 111!
Now here are the birds with a less than 50:50 chance of being seen:-
46%
Icterine warbler
Blyth's reed warbler
Arctic warbler
Buff-breasted sandpiper
Wood warbler
Ortolan bunting

37%
Pallas' grasshopper warbler
Short-toed lark
Storm petrel

27%
Paddyfield warbler
Pallid harrier
Honey buzzard
Red-throated pipit

18%
thrush nightingale
Red-flanked bluetail
Pechora pipit
Arctic redpoll
Melodious warbler
Pomarine skua
American golden plover
Western subalpine warbler

Now for the 'once in eleven year' birds:-

Magnolia warbler
River warbler
Eastern olivaceous warbler
Great snipe
Sabine's gull
Baird's sandpiper
White's thrush
Syke's warbler
Swinhoe's petrel
Booted warbler
Spotted crake
Swainson's thrush
Two-barred crossbill
Brown flycatcher
Siberian thrush
Grey-cheeked thrush
Woodchat shrike
Iceland gull
Yellow-breasted bunting
Leaches' petrel
Aquatic warbler

For October, with the years 2011 and 2012 having the data missing, and an average of almost 18 possible year ticks per year, on Fair Isle the birds go like this:-

100%
Yellow-browed warbler
Little bunting
Bluethroat

89%
Sooty shearwater

78%
Little auk
Mealy redpoll

67%
Common rosefinch
Barnacle goose
Olive-backed pipit
Red-breasted flycatcher
Barred warbler

56%
Lanceolated warbler
Waxwing

44%
Short-toed lark
White's thrush
Arctic redpoll
Iceland gull

33%
Blyth's reed warbler
Red-throated pipit
Buff-breasted sandpiper
Red-flanked bluetail
Siberian rubythroat
Pllas' grasshopper warbler

22%
Sabine's gull
Radde's warbler
Rustic bunting
Ortolan bunting
Grey-cheeked thrush
Black-throated thrush
Siberian stonechat
Bean goose
Blyth's pipit
White-rumped sandpiper
Paddyfield warbler

11%
Arctic warbler
River warbler
Osprey
Red-eyed vireo
Blackpoll warbler
Honey buzzard
King eider
Thrush nightingale
Pallas' warbler
Siberian thrush
Citrine wagtail
Subalpine warbler sp.
Pine bunting
Marsh warbler

November will see me moving south through Scotland. Bean geese at the RSPB reserve at Fannyside, near to Falkirk, should be a gimme. Maybe there will be a snow goose with the Pink-foots somewhere close as well.

December will be a case of wherever the bird is I will try to get to it. Maybe the pallid harrier will return to Snettisham, Norfolk. Maybe there will be ring-necked duck or blue-winged teal somewhere.

So there you have it. If you have read all this then I salute you. A page really for the bird fanatic maybe but I hope that you can see how incredible the next few months could be. The list will grow and I feel it that I will easily beat the current UK Green record of 289.
As for the 300 . . . it is going to be close but what a ride!

By the way, the ferry can't dock at Coll due to very thick fog and is carrying on to the next island Tiree. Standing on the aft deck it is sad to see pieces of plastic floating in what sea I can see. Nicer to see manx shearwaters sitting on the water before skittering off into the fog.





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