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Saturday, 28 December 2013

Lonesome Long-tailed Duck swimming with the Goldeneye at Prestonpans

The bitter Westerly wind was slightly more bearable today so I could stand for a little longer on Prestonpans Beach. The Goldeneye that I had seen a few days before were still there, along with a few Eider. Joining them this time was a lonesome female Long-tailed Duck. She was swimming a little further out and so my iPhone / scope combination was having to reach a bit too far for a clear photo. She was diving continuously so was obviously needing to top-up her energy resources.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Goldeneye: not the Christmas Bond movie.

Standing in the freezing rain and wind on the beach today at Prestonpans, East Lothian, was worth the pain to watch a group of 38 Goldeneye.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Yellowhammer: Identification help from the birding 'twitterati' family.

During a usual dog walk round my local area I came across a bird up in a tree that I couldn't identify but had thought may be a Twite. Seeing that many others had tweeted their photos to the Twitter group 'Wildlife Sightings' through @wildlife_uk, with their many followers providing a wealth of really useful advice, I decided to try this. A fantastic response came flooding in from some of the top twitchers and birders. There were suggestions of Reed Bunting, Twite, and Yellowhammer, until finally the consensus seemed to zero in on the latter - a female Yellowhammer. I looked up this suggestion in my Collins book and the multitude of Google images that are available, and it certainly looked like a great candidate. I hadn't even had this species on my possible list. 
What a fantastic group of dedicated, professional, and above all helpful, birders willing to share their knowledge with us all. Thanks to all of you who tweeted your advice.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Three Wrens in one afternoon - like waiting for a bus.

With an estimated 8.6M breeding Wrens in the UK according to the APEP figures it is always surprising that I don't see more of them. Last weekend I tracked three through the bushes and shrubs close to the River Tyne that runs through my patch here in East Lothian. They must be searching for food and therefore becoming more visible, or I'm getting better at spotting them as they dart through the undergrowth. I seemed to be missing their familiar calls which would help finding them.
Trying to get a photo was more difficult especially when my faithful Labrador kept flushing them onwards. Got one half-decent shot although would like the head in the next one..

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Job in Scotland: Senior/Principal Ornithologist (Specialising in Offshore) Edinburgh, Glasgow


The website details:

The RPS Group is a planning and development, energy resources and environmental consultancy with over 4,700 staff worldwide. 

We are the UK's leading provider of specialist ornithological support to the renewables industry, on and offshore. Combined with our work across a wide range of other sectors, we are a strong, diverse and sustainable ecology business, with room to build a long-term career at the forefront of ecological consulting. At RPS, you will have the opportunity to work in a stimulating environment, to deliver some of the most important renewable energy projects in Europe.

Our workload for developers, conservation bodies and government agencies continues to expand and with strong further growth already secured for 2014 and beyond, we are looking to appoint two new colleagues – at Senior/ Principal level. Both posts have an emphasis on the marine environment.

Our ethos requires candidates to be innovative in their approach, with the practical experience to support all clients, whether developers, or regulatory bodies. In return, we provide a competitive salary and benefits package.

Job title: Senior/Principal Ornithologist (Offshore)

Location: UK office (preferably Glasgow/Edinburgh) 

There may be some flexibility in location (including England) for the right candidate/s 

Typical activities will include: 
• Contributing to the technical delivery of our wide range of renewable and other projects;
• Writing/contributing to Environmental Impact Assessments and Habitats Regulation Appraisals; 
• Undertaking data analysis and statistical assessment of bird data, and producing technical reports based on these analyses; 
• Providing high quality technical support to all our clients.
• Liaising with other technical specialists across various UK offices; 

We are keen to hear from motivated and enthusiastic marine ornithologists with a selection of the following technical capabilities: 

• Knowledge of the application and consent process for offshore wind farms in the UK; 
• Knowledge of legislation and policy in relation to the conservation of birds and designated sites for birds;
• Technical writing skills, with experience of writing EIAs and HRAs, particularly for the offshore renewables industry;
• A thorough understanding of bird ecology;
• Practical understanding of relevant literature and guidance on seabird interactions with offshore renewable developments
• Previous experience of conducting ornithological studies and surveys, particularly in relation to seabird species;
• Statistical analysis skills, with a knowledge and ability to interpret and present data appropriately
• Experience of other sectors, away from marine/offshore, would be advantageous; and
• Project management and tendering.

As well as these technical capabilities and expertise, you will also need:
• To be a good team worker, reliable and able to rapidly establish a high degree of trust and rapport with all clients and stakeholders;
• Have strong communications skills; confident and articulate in all communications i.e. face-to-face, telephone and written communications;
• Be self-motivated, self-disciplined with the ability to work to tight deadlines;
• Have good attention to detail; maintaining and enhancing our high standards of delivery, quality and accuracy;
• Be highly computer literate and experienced with standard MS Office applications (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook);
• A degree in a relevant subject and a post-graduate qualification or equivalent experience.

For enquiries, please contact Martin Scott -


We are an equal opportunities employer.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Puffins on Faraid Head, off the end of Balnakiel Bay, Sutherland.

Just looking back over photos taken at the Puffin colony on Faraid Head, Sutherland, in the Summer of 2013. Worth a great walk along Balnakiel Bay beach.

Pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in East Linton.

A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were busy feeding on any grubs they could find high up in the branches of a tree on the banks of the River Tyne, whilst being harassed by some Rooks. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Dipper on the River Tyne, East Lothian.

The usually elusive Dipper on my local river stayed for long enough for me to take some photos and a short video. 

YouTube link

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

'Common montane birds are declining in northern Europe' from Journal of Avian Biology 02 Dec 2013

Common montane birds are declining in northern Europe.


    Aleksi Lehikoinen, Martin Green, Magne Husby, John Atle Kalas, Ake Lindstrom.
Citation: Lehikoinen, A., Green, M., Husby, M., Kålås, J. A. and Lindström, Å. (2013), Common montane birds are declining in northern Europe. Journal of Avian Biology. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2013.00177.x


Human activities, including climate change, are gradually modifying our environment. Knowledge about such effects on fauna and flora is crucial for the development of conservation strategies to minimize the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Alpine and arctic habitats are expected to be particularly vulnerable to climate change. The Fennoscandian montane bird indicator presented here gives basic information about faunistic changes in one of the most extreme climatic environments of Europe covering two different habitat types: tundra and birch forest. As such, this indicator can fill an important gap among the already existing continental-wide bird indicators for farmland, forest, climate change, and the several regional European bird indicators produced by the European Bird Census Council. As far as we know, this may be the first large-scale indicator for alpine birds. If the new schemes that started in 2005 and 2006 will continue as planned, data will be available for a high number of sampling sites (about 400) in the coming years. This probably means that data for a few typical montane breeding bird species additional to those included here can be added to the indicator. The indicator presented here suggests that Fennoscandian montane birds have declined substantially during the last 11 yr, which is in line with the predictions based on climatic forecasting suggesting that montane species in Fennoscandia will likely show declining population sizes and reduced range sizes in the future. The fact that long-distance migratory species do not stand out as particularly affected suggests that the main reasons for the decline may be found within the Fennoscandian mountain range itself.
Birds Studied
Willow Ptarmigan, Rock Ptarmigan, Golden Plover, Long-tailed Skua, Meadow Pipit, Bluethroat, Common Redstart, Common Wheatear,  Redwing, Willow Warbler, Brambling, Common Redpoll, Lapland Bunting, Snow Bunting.
Study Site Locations: 420 bird monitoring sites in the Fennoscandian mountain range. Black dots are sites with data for at least two years and therefore included in the present study (n = 262). White dots indicate newly established monitoring sites that have not yet been surveyed twice.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Atlantic Puffin Research into Effects of Variation in Herring Population

Annual survival of adult Atlantic Puffins, Fratercula arctica, is positively correlated with Herring, Clupea harengus, availability.

Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
Atlantic Laboratory for Avian Research, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada

IBIS Journal Link


Atlantic Herring is a keystone species in several marine ecosystems, supporting intensive fisheries as well as many predators including seabirds. Biomass of this stock in eastern North America has declined considerably in recent years, potentially putting at risk populations of its predators. Although adult survival in seabirds is considered robust to moderate changes in food availability, it is also the life-history component most critical to sustaining populations of long-lived birds. To investigate the possibility that Atlantic Puffin survival has been affected by reduced abundance of its main prey, we analysed the encounter histories of 2999 Atlantic Puffins ringed on Machias Seal Island to estimate annual adult survival for the years 1999–2011 and assess trends in survival and the effects of several biological and environmental covariates. Features of Puffin biology and resighting procedures likely to introduce heterogeneity into our resighting probabilities were accounted for and models of survival were assessed using standard methods. We used the variance components procedure in Program MARK and survival estimates from a time-varying model to estimate the process variance (biological variation in survival) accounted for by suspected covariates of survival. Two proxies of food availability each explained more than half of the variation in annual survival: fishery landings of Atlantic Herring (52%) and per cent (by mass) of 1-group Herring in the diet of Puffin chicks (51%). In addition to these proxies, May sea-surface temperature accounted for 37% of variance in survival, but winter values of North Atlantic Oscillation showed no effect. Of those parameters of Puffin biology examined, chick growth rate explained 19% of the process variance in annual survival; laying date, fledging condition and fledging date all explained no variance. A decline in fishery landings of Herring since the early 1990s, and a concurrent decline in adult Puffin survival, reinforces concern for the health of the population of Herring, a keystone forage fish in this region, and of the community of marine predators in the Gulf of Maine that rely on Herring for their survival and reproduction.