Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Free-flying Night Heron colour rings

I was back at Edinburgh Zoo today. Once again I did not have time to do more than fire off some quick shots of the free-flying Night Herons on my way in, and this time, out of the zoo. This time, though, I made sure to get shots of the colour rings, so here they are along with information kindly supplied by Stephen Welch, Lothian Recorder.

First two shots are of the "ancient bird red-green left (the green is actually blue, but appears green; formerly also red right)". This bird has an overgrowing upper mandible. Is there a radio transmitter tucked under its tertial feathers? Can't be sure from these pictures. Nevertheless this is thought to be the 25 year old individual.

Secondly here are two shots of the other bird with the lower mandible overgrowth. This is the "younger yellow-blue vertically split band bird". The blue half of the band is facing away from the camera, but close examination of the full photographs reveals a few telltale blue pixels (see crop right). Notice that it also appears to have damaged toes/lost toe nails. This bird is assumed to be 18 years old.

Also at the zoo an unexpected year tick in the form of a Green Woodpecker in the trees on Corstorphine Hill to the east of the Living Links centre. To round off the day I decided to walk home from work through the Hermitage of Braid. I had seen a suspected Water Rail there on the 25th January and although I had checked the spot a couple of times since then it was not until today that I finally had a conclusive view of this skinny skulker.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Bittern: believe it or not!

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned on the blog that I had visited Duddingston to try to 'fluke a Bittern'. Not having seen one at the site for around 16 years I was a little surprised when one was reported at the site a few days later. Despite a few folk searching it stayed well hidden (probably up at the west end) until yesterday when it was accidentally flushed and moved down to the east end of the loch.

I decided to make a dash there today after work. Apparently it had been seen on and off all day and I was delighted to pick it up skulking in the reeds as soon as I started using my scope. It was hunting just behind the outermost reeds and when stationary was virtually invisible thanks to its awesome camouflage. I watched for about 40 minutes by which time it was beginning to get dark and then unexpectedly was treated to a sudden 'bitterning' neck stretch and brief flight view. Sadly the light was well gone by then, so the flight shot is a little blurry (1/4 of a second at ISO800 - not the best choice of settings!!..). If you can't make it out it is flying to the right with green legs trailing behind it - the wings have ghosted out but the body and neck are, errr..., sort of visible... honest... Ah well, next time for the photography perhaps.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Free flying Night Herons at Edinburgh Zoo

A visit to Edinburgh Zoo with work allowed me to catch up with both free-flying Night Herons today. These birds are thought to be around 18 and 25 years of age (see here) and are presumably regular visitors to the Zoo's sealion enclosure. Well, that's where they were today, both sitting sunning themselves in the Scot's pine overhanging the pool. I did not have time to check them thoroughly for rings, but from their beak deformities they should be individually identifiable with ease.

The first pic shows a bird with a crossed bill tip with a slightly protruding lower mandible. I assume it has two colour rings on its left leg.

This second bird has an overbite and may well be ringed on both legs, but I was unable to spend the time required to check. Here are some pictures I found on a photography forum of what appear to be the same two birds taken in March of last year.

These Night Herons are of the North American subspecies hoactli, so here is a shot of a real wild hoactli taken in Monterey Harbour, California in April 2010. Its beak is certainly a little more appropriately shaped... The differences between this race and the European subspecies are subtle, but the shape of the cap and thickness of the white line above the eye differ, as does the colour of the bare parts in the breeding season apparently.

Finally, a shot of one of the new residents...

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Woodcock in off sea at Torness

This Woodcock was one of two that I watched coming in-off the North Sea at Torness. One bird was seen at distance but this one was much more cooperative. First seen far out and low over the sea, I then watched transfixed as it made a bee-line towards me. It ended up passing within a couple of metres... These birds are likely escaping the freezing conditions setting in on the continent. Another was under the trees nearby at the waterfall though I only saw it in flight.

Only other landbird in-off was a Woodpigeon which strikes me as unusual. Not sure I have seen one coming in from so far out before...