Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Birding in Scotland

I met up with a birder from Scotland named Torcuil Grant, who graciously drove 2 hours to meet me and show me some birds around the Edinburgh area. We drove to the coast of the Firth of Fourth where I immediately got a lifer after lifer upon exiting the car, Eurasian oystercatcher, sandwich tern, bar-tailed godwit, common redshank, and more. When you go somewhere new, lifers are like shooting fish in a barrel, and Torcuil was almost laughing at how easy it was to find me something new and exciting.
Bass Rock

We wandered up the coast, stopping every once and a while and adding new birds, great cormorant, northern lapwing, common shelduck, common kestrel, on and on. One of the most phenominal sights of the trip was Bass Rock, which is home to a giant colony of nesting northern gannets. The rock appears white at first, and upon closer inspection you realize those are all bodies of seabirds coating the surface of the rock, and wheeling around above it. Incredible.
Black-legged kittiwake
We stopped for lunch in Dunbar, where we found a wall in the harbor with nesting black-legged kittiwakes, which you could litterally walk right up to without seeming to disturb the birds at all. Amazing to get, as he dubbed it, "porno views of kits," hahaha.
Hills covered in heather

Moving inland we got looks at common stonechat, northern wheatear, and cmmon buzzard. Linnets and gorgeously glowing yellowhammer were around, and meadow pipits crossed in front of our car as we drove through fields of heather and sheep (which delighted me to no end - I kept exclaiming "sheep"!). A family of common stonechats just as the rain picked up was positively exciting for me, and non-native red-legged partridge running across the road beside the car was amusing.

By the end of the day, we were both worn out, him from the driving, me from the constant over-stimulation of lifers galore. It was great to get out of Edinburgh and see the Scottish countryside and birds with a personal tourguide, thanks Torcuil!

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