Trip reports

Coach Outing

Coach Outing
Shatabda Saha

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Lashing rain and howling wind- the sound that no Outing's Organiser wants to hear in the wee small hours before the trip! That was Saturday night's soundtrack. Would the Forth Road Bridge be open? The website showed wind gusting to 65mph; 70mph closes it. Was it going to increase or abate?

Relieved to see the readings dropping we set off in still strong gusts and squalls. By our stop at Arbroath, the day had improved and on reaching Mains of Dun Farm the idea of a walk to the Basin was inviting. The light wasn't brilliant, and the birds were still keeping a low profile but we did see jackdaw, blackbird, blue tit, chaffinch and yellowhammer. In a field a common buzzard was busy plucking a carcass, black feathers flying (possibly carrion crow). Further on we noticed a flock of chaffinch on some seeds, with about 5 twite among them. Sadly, the twite scattered and didn't return. A group of mute swan flew close, and we enjoyed the sound of their beating wings. Chatting with a local volunteer we learned about a crop monitoring programme to find which ones swans prefer and thus, in the eyes of the farmer, devastate. Wheat and barley are eaten, but not oil-seed rape. The farmer has tried using wrecked cars as scarers, unsuccessfully, and currently SWT volunteers act as beaters to disturb the feeding swan flocks. Looking over the river at Millburn Reed Bed we spotted little grebe, redshank and curlew. Skylark spotting in the grey sky became a game. Many were heard and several seen. Reed bunting were on the fences and a pair of grey partridge were flushed. Views from Shelduck Hide were quiet, adding only grey heron, mallard, goldeneye and oystercatcher. A walk to the shore gave us views of a large flock of pink-footed geese on the mudflats, greylag goose, and big numbers of shelduck. Heading back to the coach we added magpie, rook, carrion crow woodpigeon, goldfinch and starling.

At the Visitor Centre we were made very welcome, and had the luxury of chairs and tables in the Education Room to eat our lunches in comfort. There were great views of the Basin from the Centre. Mudflats were exposed, with some water, the sun was out and the wind had dropped so our bird list lengthened. A kestrel was seen, and ducks included wigeon, teal and long-tailed; flocks of pintail, scaup and eider, and there were cormorant and red-breasted merganser. The black-headed gulls were developing their chocolate-brown heads, and herring and great black-backed gulls were also seen. Waders included dunlin, greenshank and black-tailed godwit, while in the trees beside the road great spotted woodpecker, song thrush, wren and coal tit were about. The well-stocked feeders in front of the viewing area were busy with dunnock, robin, great tit, house and tree sparrow, and greenfinch, with a pheasant hoovering up dropped seed.

A happy band of birders set off home after what Rosie described as, "a very enjoyable, sociable, birdy day" during which we saw 51 species after that rather wild start.

Val Donaldson