Birders like to do many geeky things - looking at birds being a good example, as well as keeping lists, and some at the far flung reaches of the scale like to make the odd graph or two. A lot of us like to look at other things as well, when there are no birds to look at. Dragonflies seem inexplicably popular; as are moths (insert winky face). Butterflies get a wee look in and mammals probably would as well, if there were a bit more variety.
One thing that unites most of us is our desire to predict. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s struggled to pronounce ‘accentor’ after half a bottle of Bruichladdich while trying to predict the next British first. Thank god willet rolls off the tongue more easily...
Making a prediction for your next patch tick would probably be a lot more ‘feet on the ground’ than ‘head in the clouds’ unless you were lucky enough to have a patch on Shetland or Scilly. There’s plenty of stuff I need that lives within a few brief fluttering of a treecreepers wings…so with this in mind, and with a wee look at a few non-bird options too, here are some predictions for my next patch ticks.
Wildfowl – apart from seaduck, and the odd skein of migrating geese, wildfowl are pretty difficult to come by at Girdle ness. Seawatching usually gets me a bit of variety but even simple things like shoveler and gadwall have me airgrabbing. A spring garganey flyby is probably not too much to ask, but the best contender for adding to my list is without doubt, pochard.
Seabirds (inc divers and grebes)- red and black-necked grebes are definitely options, but true seabirds might be tricky. Leach’s petrel is as difficult here as it is anywhere on the east coast, and I’d be looking at Cory’s for a new shearwater.
I have the full list of auks (apart from the craziest of the rarities) but Sabs gull is a bit of a hole in the list, as is roseate tern. Taking frequency of occurrence nearby as my main guidance, I can narrow it down to red necked grebe or roseate tern….and I reckon roseate tern is marginally more likely.
Raptors – raptors are pretty poorly represented on my list. If it’s big and it’s not a buzzard or an osprey then I’m quids in. I’m yet to benefit from the white tailed eagle re-introduction, and despite many days looking up on warm spring mornings I haven’t encountered marsh harrier or honey buzzard. Goshawk and hen harrier are long shots (although there was a record of hen harrier last year) so, with a local population doing well on the west side of town, I think red kite is by far my most likely new BOP.
Waders – as with wildfowl, most waders are tricky to come by (unless they like hanging around on rocky shorelines). Wood sandpiper, little ringed plover and spotted redshank would all be new for me, and a spring flood could easily produce a Temmincks stint or pectoral sandpiper. I actually had a flyby wader that fitted the bill for pec sand earlier this year but it was too far away to do anything with, so perhaps that ship has sailed…in which case, I’ll have to go with the most likely nearby…wood sandpiper.
Stuff between auks and larks – there are a few good options here. Turtle dove might be more difficult these days but must still be on the cards, and who would rule out a flyover bee-eater or a hoopoe in spring. There’s one option that is much more likely though, a species I’ve come across many times in Aberdeen before, and that’s tawny owl.
Larks, pipits and wagtails (and swallows, as they are about here in the book) – I missed short-toed lark the other year, but as far as larks go, that must be the best option. There are a few pipits to come too. Olive-backed is probably just as likely as water pipit in North East Scotland, and considering red-throated would be a county tick, I think olive backed would be the best bet there. The most likely therefore must come down to red-rumped swallow. A bit of a long shot, but why not?
Chats, wheatears and thrushes – another group where most of the usual suspects are represented. If my next patch tick is going to come from this group then it’s going to be something pretty handy, a Siberian stonechat perhaps, or a pied wheatear. If my thrashing of the cover around the sewage works is ever going to be rewarded though, I’d love it to be in the form of a red-flanked bluetail…
Warblers – a bit of a theme developing , as there are no really common options to add to my list. I’m looking for greenish (yup, I missed all of the two or three that were around during our big greenish year in 2004), a subalpine would be great, and I’ve missed both Radde’s and Dusky in recent years. The most likely new warbler is another one I’ve missed before though, marsh warbler. And preferably one singing in spring please….
Finches, sparrows and buntings. Corn buntings still hold on in North East Scotland, but nowhere near Aberdeen, and something like little bunting would be the next most numerous species. Despite the habitat we do OK for finches – I missed a rosefinch a few years ago (I’ve missed a lot…the vast majority I was out of the country for) but I think a mainland horny roll is a bit of a long shot. Most likely therefore would be an autumn migrant hawfinch.
Miscellaneous passerines – no need for discussion here. A species I’ve literally seen hundreds of in Aberdeen, and seen within a stone’s throw of the patch too…treecreeper!.
So there are 10 bird predictions, some of which I have a lot more confidence in than others! I’m not going to waste time predicting any moths as I don’t know anything about them, and any dragonfly I managed to put a name to would be the first on the list. I know my butterflies though…there are grayling and dark green fritillary a few miles up the coast, but I think a migrant might be my best shot, in which case I’ll predict clouded yellow. And as for mammals…there are probably more options on land than there are on the water, and if I had a bat detector a bat would be a shoe in at this point…I see most mammals while looking out to sea though, so I’ll look that way for my prediction. Most of the regular stuff is already on the list so it’s going to be something pretty rare from land, say between killer whale, fin whale, sperm whale and white-sided dolphin. With no reason at all, I think I’ll go for fin whale……
So what are your glaring omissions? Or am I the only one with these massive gaps on my list…..?