Friday, June 30, 2006

Ayrshire Bird & Butterfly Report 2005

The 2005 edition of the Ayrshire Bird Report, incorporating the Ayrshire Butterfly Report, is now available priced at £4. Essential reading for anyone visiting the county in south-west Scotland, it contains the most important bird and butterfly sightings recorded last year as well as informative articles on Ayrshire's avifauna. It is published by the Ayrshire Branch of the SOC (Scottish Ornithologists' Club).

· Introduction by Fraser Simpson
· The Birds of the Hunterston Area by Marco McGinty & James T M Towill
· Birds in Ayr by Dick Vernon
· The Kestrel in Ayrshire 2005 by Gordon Riddle
· Sparrowhawk Breeding Details 2005 by Ian Todd
· Chronological Summary by Angus Hogg
· Systematic List by Angus Hogg
· Recent Rarities in Ayrshire: Black Kite by Angus Hogg
· The S.B.R.C. List
· Ayrshire Butterfly Report 2005 compiled by Nicola Macintyre

It can be purchased from The Bookshelf, Newmarket Str, Ayr and Church St, Troon, Ottakars, High St, Ayr and Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve. Copies can also be obtained from treasurer Dick Vernon (01292 442195).

Please visit the
Ayrshire Birding website for further details or e-mail me.

Fraser Simpson (Editor)
June 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Burnets & Skippers

After a claustrophobic journey home on the tube last night I needed some wide-open green space. I had a look in Sunny Hill Park in North London to see if Purple Hairstreaks were flying yet and found good numbers of Small and Essex Skippers on the wing. Best though, was a Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea), my first of the year and first record in the park. Later, towards sunset, I returned to capture some roosting insects silhouetted against the setting sun.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ayrshire Midsummer Bird Race

Lisa, my dad and I (aka The Drift Migrants) spent 24 hours racing around Ayrshire from 2000h on Friday night in a bid to see as many species as possible. While late June is a fairly quiet period (few waders & not much song) we managed 97 species, 80% of which were found before 0900h on Saturday morning. Naturally, the day was slow after this and our attention turned to butterflies – see photographs below. By late afternoon we were pretty tired by the time we reached Martnaham Loch. We called it a day at 1800h before heading home for a shower, giving us plenty of time to attend Donald Smith’s welcome post-race hospitality.

Highlights included the lingering King Eider, young Long-eared Owls at a Central Ayrshire site, several ‘reeling’ Grasshopper Warblers, Tree Sparrow, Whinchat, Redstart, Crossbill, Manx Shearwater and Little Tern. On Sunday I had a relaxing afternoon checking out some Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Large Heath sites.

Ayrshire's County Recorder, Angus Hogg, has posted a summary of the results of the participating teams on the Ayrshire Birding Website:

Monday, June 19, 2006

Spoonbill at Walthamstow Reservoirs

The Spoonbill in London hung around allowing me the chance to see it yesterday – not that it looked like it had any intention of going anywhere. In a couple of hours observation of the bird on the island of East Warwick reservoir, it did, well, not very much. It was probably a Dutch-ringed individual judging by the leg rings. I’m surprised it could roost for so long as it was surrounded by a noisy colony of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls with begging chicks and an equally raucous group of Common Tern broods on a nearby raft. Also around were Banded Demoiselles and Emperors, and lots of Painted Ladies and Red Admirals. I also spent a fair bit of time crawling along the foot of a grassy dam to get the Rabbit photographs below.

Nightjar in London

Eventually got down to see the Nightjar in London on Saturday night! This star performing bird has been present in Teddington, a suburb of south-west London, since early June at least. Remarkable in many ways, the bird is out of habitat and extremely confiding as it hawks up and down a fairly busy street under lamp posts. It churrs and utters frog-like calls from roads signs, garden trees and roof tops and chases cars and dive-bombs cyclists. It almost perched on my head! It was difficult to leave knowing that this was probably a unique chance to observe this nocturnal bird in such a setting. Just made the last tube home!

Dawn Chorus Chronologies

Earlier this month I managed to experience the phenomenon of the Dawn Chorus in three different area of the British Isles; Kindrogan in Perthshire, Dean Castle Country Park in Ayrshire, and Sunny Hill Park in London. Although this was over a period of one week, you would still expect the dawn chorus to be later in Southern England due to the effects of latitude. The light of the dawn appears first in north-east Scotland, sweeping across the Britain and taking around one hour to reach south-west England at this time of year. It is know that light and testosterone are the two main factors controlling bird song. Song has the dual function of mate attraction and territorial defence. For the past four years at Kindrogan, I’ve been recording the first instances of song burst for each species at dawn and it appears to be remarkably consistent from year to year. You could set your watch by the Wood Pigeons there!

I decided to try it elsewhere. For convenience, this happened to be the nearest suitable areas after returning from Kindrogan on the 9th. The three areas cannot really be directly compared due to several variables:

i. The Kindrogan site comprises forest edge/parkland habitat and light penetrates easily.
ii.. The site in Dean Country Park comprises a lot of Beach tree cover and therefore it is quite dark in the wood.
iii. Light pollution at the London site means it does not get as dark as it should and in fact Robins sing all night under the street lamps!

Kindrogan, Perthshire 56 42N, 3 44W
1. Cuckoo 0303h
2. Robin 0309h
3. Blackbird 0312h
4. Spotted Flycatcher 0327h
5. Garden Warbler 0330h
6. Goldcrest 0337h
7. Wren 0340h
8. Willow Warbler 0342h
9. Treecreeper 0352h
10. Blackcap 0353h
11 Chaffinch 0353h

Dean Castle Country Park, Ayrshire 55 37N, 4 29W
1. Song Thrush 0320h
2. Robin 0334

3. Blackbird 0340h
4. Wren 0340h
5. Goldcrest 0411h
6. Chaffinch 0425h
7. Great Tit 0454h

Sunny Hill Park, London 51 30N, 0 3W
1. Song Thrush 0324h
2. Blackbird 0327h
3. Robin 0335h
4. Wren 0346h
5. Chaffinch 0424h
6. Great Tit 0428h

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Migrant Moths & Butterflies

After a week at Kindrogan I headed back to London via Ayrshire for the weekend to survey the rarer butterflies in the county such as Northern Brown Argus, Large Skipper and Wall. After watching a Painted Lady fly north along Irvine Beach at 2140h on Friday night, it was soon apparent there had been some recent and ongoing arrival of migrant leps. Silver Y (Autographa gamma) moths were everywhere and I was literally kicking them up from every area of grassland in the Girvan to Ballantrae areas on Saturday. Over the weekend I found at least 25 Painted Ladies and around 12 Red Admirals but sadly no Clouded Yellows. My brother, who lives in Spain, e-mailed me about reports in the national newspaper - see El Pais online - concerning the arrivals of masses of moths from Africa and, as I suspected, these were Silver-Ys. There were far less in the north in the Kilmarnock to Irvine area on Sunday. On the dragonfly front, Common Hawker, Four-spotted Chaser, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly were found.

Below is a photograph of the small population of Wild Goats on the remote coastal hills in south-west Ayrshire.

The last image shows just part of a huge shoal of Minnows in the River Irvine near Shewalton - also large numbers of Stone Loach.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Kindrogan Field Centre

Last week I was at the FSC Kindrogan Field Centre in Perthshire with an undergrad field course. Highlights (apart from being in Scotland) included Wood Warbler, Redstart, Tree Pipit, Dipper, Red Grouse and Ring Ouzel. I'll post a full list/trip report on my main website soon.

Kindrogan Field Centre: