Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Buchan Birds in the Hand

Despite the rain and 30 knot wind I ventured to Ferry Bridge for this mornings ebb, but there was little to report. Of the 53 medium size Gulls 23 were Mediterranean, along with 51 Ringed Plover, 103 Dunlin and 19 Turnstone.

So, on that note back to Buchan Alpha

With such massive migrations on some occasions, it was inevitable that some birds were going to be easily caught due to exhaustion. North Sea Bird Club policy on such matters was in general to leave them to their own devices. However, in making our own judgments at the time many birds were thought to have been saved. With cooperation from our helicopter carriers (Bond, Bristow and British International) we were able to send many individuals ashore for release - see Peregrine Falcon of yesterday. In addition, corpses were of great value and after biometrics had been taken by the NSBC, selected skins were sent to Aberdeen University and skeletons to the Edinburgh Natural History Museum. This latter practice was cut short by the spread of Bird Flu with several valuable specimens lost to science.

Lapland Bunting - early (01-00) one October morning I noted what I thought, through the gloom, to be a bedraggled medium sized Wader roosting among the manila rope anti skid netting on the heli-deck. On close approach there was no movement, so I gently cupped it in both hands and returned to the Marine Control room. There, to my surprise, It was seen to be 2 Skylarks and the individual pictured above. The next day all 3 were fit to fly, so were released to make their own way home.

Garden Warbler - when caught, this little fella was seen to have what looked like a small hair projecting from its gape. With a little teasing a 9" length of thin natural fibre cord was removed from its throat. Another grateful patient for St Francis!

Crossbill (female/juvenile) - by no means annual, but in true Crossbill style once one arrived so did a number of its pals.

Crossbill (adult male) - making one of my early morning weather observation, and chatting to a mate, and said to him "did you hear that Crossbill"? Almost immediately this individual landed on the heli-deck and any birder would understand the feeling when I noted that patch of white! In a cocky manner I said to my company, " hang on a sec, I'll just catch that". As you can see I did, but disappointment followed as the 'white' turned out to be paint.

Blackcap (male) - annual, usually in double figures both ends

Blackcap (male & female) - OK, not 'in the hand' but I always considered this a lovely depiction of a little avian soixante neuf

Rock Pipit - usual for at least one to be seen annually, but maybe strangely never A p littoralis

Arctic Tern - one of the Roughnecks manning the 'mist nets', only joking. However, every member of the rig crew had been trained to report, or catch, any wildlife that happened their way

Short-toed Lark - one of our finest moments, this bird was found by, then, up and coming birder Dave Penney the Buchan Operations Coordinator. By the time darkness fell we had a good idea of what it was, but overnight I managed to catch it. Having taken a sufficient number of photographs I returned it to the place it was found, under a deck light. I kept an eye on it until daybreak, at which point it had disappeared. Unfortunately, there was also a Hooded Crow on the rig, and I could swear I saw it 'lick its lips'. Much to the chagrin of those ashore, the next helicopter was 3 days away so not a period we were prepared to keep it captive. Another 'first' North Sea record
Ditto - the same bird when it was first found

The day ended at JD Weatherspoon's pub The William Henry. Daragh Croxson and I started sharing an occasional steak and a pint together some months ago, now our numbers have swollen to 5. Paul Harris, Peter Coe and John Down joined us last evening, a great laugh and time was enjoyed by all.