Black Guillemot Oystercatcher at Barassie Sunset over Firth of Clyde Lawping over Bogside Eider

 


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 | Ayrshire Winter Bird Race 2009 |


10 January 2009

This was the ninth Ayrshire Winter Bird Race (our fourth), the point of which is to find as many species as possible between 0830h and 1630h within the county of Ayrshire in south-west Scotland. As usual the 'race', for me at least, began the night before as I boarded the overnight bus from London to Glasgow in an attempt to get to down to Ayrshire and meet the rest of the team for the starting call at 0830h.

As we departed Wardneuk on the stroke of 8:30 am, a Collared Dove was already singing in the garden, and Robin, Jackdaw, and Black-headed Gull were logged before the doors of the car even closed. In a bird race, all birds are equal, so a sparrow is worth just the same as a Ring-necked Duck! We initially wasted some time in Bonnyton of all places, trying to locate the Waxwings which were present just a week ago. Still, our first location proper was a rich farmland habitat where Tree Sparrow is almost guaranteed - a species that is difficult to locate elsewhere in Ayrshire at the best of times. As we walked along the disused railway line from Springside towards Knockentiber we observed several good passerines including Tree Sparrow, Lesser Redpoll, Yellowhammer, and Bullfinch before heading to the nearby wetland at Capringstone [25 species].

Capringstone farm at Bourtreehill on the edge of Irvine has one of the best small wetlands in central Ayrshire and several interesting wildfowl were logged here including the long-staying Green-winged Teal among its Eurasian relatives, four Shoveler, and the usual flock of 300 or so Wigeon  [36 species].

Nearby at Warwickdale, we trudged into the juncus rush marsh in the hope of some Jack Snipe. Though we only managed to ruffle up some Common Snipe, the recently discovered Green Sandpiper did us a favour by remaining for the bird race. I would have missed one of the best birds of the day (my line of sight fixed to the ground for Jack Snipe!) if my dad hadn't been taking in the wider view when a fine male Hen Harrier flew up in front of us before circling around the site [40 species].

Next we headed south to some mature woodland at Auchincruive estate via the more interesting route on the back road from Crossroads to Sandyford. Of course none of last weeks 'checked' species were in place today - not even the pheasants which had probably all been shot out! The riverine woodland strip at Auchincruive was pretty much dead but at least the Dippers performed with a courting pair engaging in some midwinter duetting! Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker were also logged before we got stuck in Ayr for around 30 minutes due to a combination of football and racing (of the horse kind)! Still, a prize awaited at Rozelle in the form of Ayrshire's most recent colonist, the Nuthatch. We had to wait around a while for it, but after six species had visited the 'doggy' bin for seed, a Nuthatch appeared briefly. Angus and Don's team then turned up with an example of the length some bird racers will go for a tick... some peanuts for the Nuthatch! And it reappeared again. While they went off to tick the dodgy Wood Duck, we departed for Sessionfield to tick the dodgy Snow Goose [53 species].

After optimistically mentioning that the weather was not as bad as the forecast had predicted, the wind increased to near gale force and the rain came down. We searched through the geese at Sessionfield, finding Greylag Goose, Pink-footed Goose, and the white one. Shortly after at Martnaham as we tried to hold down the tripod and 'scope long enough to find the loch's specialities we logged Ring-necked Duck, Goosander, Great Crested Grebe, Goldeneye and Raven in the dreich conditions. At this stage we knew it was going to be yet another year with a low total - we hadn't even been to the coast yet and it was getting on for 1330h [66 species].

Giving Doonfoot a miss, we headed straight up the coast to Barassie and Troon harbour where the weather conditions looked set to remain on the rough side for the day. Still, a few waders were accounted for including Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Ringed Plover. In the shelter (?) of the harbour the Eider flock was dodging the Grey Seals and we saw both 1st-winter and 3rd-winter Iceland Gulls though in actual fact there had been three juveniles present! Black Guillemot and Shag were ticked before we risked being blown into the harbour. [79 species]

We had now reached that point in the day, approaching three in the afternoon, when the light starts to fade... and we get desperate! Three pairs of Gadwall were bagged (not literally) on the main pit at Shewalton and we ticked the Drybridge Whooper Swan flock though the rain-streaked windows of the car. By 1530h, some teams were already seen packing up for the day and retreating to the Ship Inn. This may have been the more sensible approach. At this stage, Bogside was barely visible from Irvine harbourside but Red-breasted Merganser was added before some fruitless attempts at Irvine Bay and the Magnum pool. With 40 minutes to go we started driving north. I'm not sure why but maybe I thought we could make it to Auchenharvie and back with Scaup and Pochard on list. About half way there my dad suggested we turn back as it would probably be too dark to see anything... Lisa, you did pack the infra-red 'scope didn't you? We arrived at the finish line of the Ship Inn to one of the best turn-outs for bird racing in Ayrshire with eight teams assembling which just goes to show that Ayrshire birders take this sort of weather in their stride [82 species].

The Drift Migrants finished third equal with Angus and Don's team, just behind the Goatsuckers on 83 and Cumnock Crew, the winners on 84. Yep, we should have carried on to Auchenharvie!!

The chronological list

No

Time

Species

Location

01

0831

Collared Dove

Inchmurrin Drive, Kilmarnock

02

0

Robin

Inchmurrin Drive, Kilmarnock

03

0

Jackdaw

Inchmurrin Drive, Kilmarnock

04

0

Black-headed Gull

Inchmurrin Drive, Kilmarnock

05

0840

Fieldfare

Bonnyton disused railway line

06

0

Blackbird

Bonnyton disused railway line

07

0

Greenfinch

Bonnyton disused railway line

08

0

Chaffinch

Bonnyton disused railway line

09

0

Magpie

Bonnyton disused railway line

10

0

Carrion Crow

Bonnyton disused railway line

11

0901

House Sparrow

Springside disused railway line

12

0

Rook

Springside disused railway line

13

0

Coal Tit

Springside disused railway line

14

0

Dunnock

Springside disused railway line

15

0

Redwing

Springside disused railway line

16

0

Bullfinch

Springside disused railway line

17

0

Great Tit

Springside disused railway line

18

0

Starling

Springside disused railway line

19

0

Herring Gull

Springside disused railway line

20

0

Lesser Redpoll

Springside disused railway line

21

0

Kestrel

Springside disused railway line

22

0

Blue Tit

Springside disused railway line

23

0

Yellowhammer

Springside disused railway line

24

0

Wren

Springside disused railway line

25

0

Tree Sparrow

Springside disused railway line

26

0953

Shoveler

Capringstone

27

0

Teal

Capringstone

28

0

Coot

Capringstone

29

0

Wigeon

Capringstone

30

0

Mallard

Capringstone

31

0

Common Gull

Capringstone

32

0

Tufted Duck

Capringstone

33

0

Green-winged Teal

Capringstone

34

0

Moorhen

Capringstone

35

0

Mute Swan

Capringstone

36

0

Pied Wagtail

Capringstone

37

1016

Snipe

Warwickdale

38

0

Green Sandpiper

Warwickdale

39

0

Hen Harrier

Warwickdale

40

0

Grey Wagtail

Warwickdale

41

1041

Wood Pigeon

Crossroads

42

1055

Siskin

Tarbolton

43

1100

Buzzard

Bourtreebush Farm

44

1105

Linnet

St. Quivox

45

1110

Sparrowhawk

Auchincruive

46

0

Feral Pigeon

Auchincruive

47

0

Grey Heron

Auchincruive

48

0

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Auchincruive

49

0

Dipper

Auchincruive

50

0

Goldcrest

Auchincruive

51

0

Cormorant

Auchincruive

52

0

Treecreeper

Auchincruive

53

1225

Nuthatch

Rozelle

54

1247

Greylag Goose

Sessionfield

55

0

Snow Goose

Sessionfield

56

0

Pink-footed Goose

Sessionfield

57

0

Stock Dove

Sessionfield

58

1305

Raven

Martnaham Loch

59

0

Canada Goose

Martnaham Loch

60

0

Little Grebe

Martnaham Loch

61

0

Goldeneye

Martnaham Loch

62

0

Goosander

Martnaham Loch

63

0

Lapwing

Martnaham Loch

64

0

Great Crested Grebe

Martnaham Loch

65

0

Ring-necked Duck

Martnaham Loch

66

0

Meadow Pipit

Martnaham Loch

67

1415

Oystercatcher

Barassie

68

0

Stonechat

Barassie

69

0

Dunlin

Barassie

70

0

Redshank

Barassie

71

0

Curlew

Barassie

72

0

Bar-tailed Godwit

Barassie

73

0

Turnstone

Barassie

74

0

Great Black-backed Gull

Barassie

75

0

Ringed Plover

Barassie

76

1432

Eider

Troon harbour

77

0

Iceland Gull

Troon harbour

78

0

Black Guillemot

Troon harbour

79

0

Shag

Troon harbour

80

1521

Gadwall

Shewlaton

81

1525

Whooper Swan

Drybridge

82

1544

Red-breasted Merganser

Irvine harbour

 

 

Previous Results:

Ayrshire Winter Bird 2010 Race (87 spp.) 06/03/10 (2nd)

Ayrshire Winter Bird 2009 Race (82 spp.) 10/01/09 (3rd equal)

Ayrshire Winter Bird 2008 Race (83 spp.) 05/01/08 (1st)

Ayrshire Winter Bird 2007 Race (82 spp.) 20/01/07 (3rd)

Ayrshire Summer Bird Race 2006 (97 spp.) 24/06/06 (1st)

Ayrshire Winter Bird Race 2006 (99 spp.) 14/01/06 (3rd)

 

 


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