Welcome to the new Birding Ecosse blog, if it is your first visit then thank you very much for dropping in, if you were a regular to my old blog then thank you for updating your bookmarks!
As with all new ventures constructive criticism is welcome, please use the contact form to inform me of any glaring mistakes!
Wednesday 26 February 2014 – Part 1
Today saw the start of the busy season for Birding Ecosse and was also the first in the new season of mid week and long weekend specials.
My clients for the next two days were to be David and Olga from Northumberland, it proved to be a highly entertaining and informative couple of days, with lively chats on a whole host of subjects and me getting gently bullied at every opportunity.
The day started well with Dipper at the usual spot at Dulnain bridge and the local moors proved a success with Red Grouse up close, and a couple of Ravens chasing some Lapwings.
Heading towards Loch Flemington for the American Coot, it proved to be very very elusive and took nearly 20 seconds to find this time! It flew out across the reeds to the willow scrub to the right of the car park area.
Having collected the Coot we set off to Nairn, to see the Brent Geese and hopefully connect with the recent King Eider.
The Moray Firth looked beautiful, with Long Tailed Duck and Common Scoter showing well, however no sign of the King Eider. In way of consolation the regular Brent Geese put on a great show and a couple of Purple Sandpipers were a nice addition to the day list.
Next port of call was to be Roseisle, call back to see how we got on there!
Monday 24 February 2014
Today was a lovely spring morning again, there really is a change in the ambiance, heading towards proper spring time weather, happy days.
Today’s guided walk was around the beautiful Burghead, and was in company of a Birding Ecosse stalwart Robert from Nethybridge, it always proves to be an entertaining day out with him.
One of the first birds to be seen was the usual Rock pipit, right beside the car park and giving great views as it fed on the wall and beach area. This was later seen in display flight again and hopefully it will nest in the area.
The harbour was quieter for ducks, with just a couple on Eiders feeding, no sign of the recent show off Long Tailed Ducks or Great Northern Diver, but with the sea being flat calm there was no real need for them to be taking shelter.
Cormorants, Herring Gull and Great Black Backed Gulls were all in evidence along the harbour wall, the much overlooked Herring Gulls looking splendid in their full summer plumage (they have brown streaks on the head and darker streaks around the eyes in winter plumage giving them a “dirty appearance” I think)
Out to sea, well out to the Moray Firth, plenty of Long Tailed Ducks and Common Scoter were to be seen just offshore, and a single Great Northern Diver loafed around.
Making our way to the upper viewpoint many Red Throated Diver were off the point, some in full summer plumage, whilst some still retained full winter plumage, a vast difference but really good for comparing. A single female Velvet Scoter kept her distance from the nearby raft of Common Scoter. Shag and Razorbill, both in full plumage showed very well just offshore.
Turnstones, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Curlew all fed on the rock and a flock of 6 skylarks “churrupped” over head, heading out towards the black isle.
The now set ritual of having a Birthday treat (it was my turn to be birthday boy for the second time this year) at the superb “Bothie” cafe rounded off a brilliant mornings walk, great birds and great company.
Wednesday 19 February 2014
Today started bright, sunny and mild the exact opposite to the weather forecast! So at 0745 I picked up today’s willing birders Pam and Helen from the magnificent Grant Arms Hotel, home of the BWWC.
On this half day tour we were concentrating on the coast, in particular Ducks and Waders, first port of call then just had to be Burghead. We were not to be disappointed!
The usual suspects were loafing around, the Long Tailed Ducks looking simply stunning in there fine winter plumage, the male Eiders “making eye’s” at the lovely female Eiders, and luckily the Great Northern Diver was feeding at very close range, giving some fantastic photo opportunities.
Spring was most definitely in the air, with the cooing of the Eiders, House Sparrows nest prospecting, Shags sporting their full summer crests and best of all Rock Pipits in display flight, roll on the summer!
Other birds in the area, Bar Tailed Godwits, Black Headed Gull, Great Black Backed and Herring Gulls, Turnstones, Common Scoter, Redshank and Oystercatcher.
Heading to the High viewpoint we noted that the wind had started to increase substantially but it was still bright sunny and mild. Nice views of Red Throated Divers and Common Scoter were had, but a smaller duck has given me a furrowed brow and has sent me to my reference books to no avail, even Bob Proctor my local BTO rep drew a blank (thanks for your input Bob, it was appreciated) So if anyone has any suggestions please feel free to get in touch!
After Burghead it was off to Hopeman, the weather was still with us, but the wind was even stronger. Burghead held it’s own smaller flock of Long Tailed Duck, these birds seemed to be feeding more than the Burghead birds, Redshank and Turnstones were also feeding on the beach and harbour walls. Over a coffee we watched a Razorbill fairly close in, however we missed out on the Purple Sandpipers, surely they have not headed North already?
Last port of call was Roseisle, by this time the wind was at gale force and the water was now decidedly choppy, Common Scoters were bobbing around like corks and the target bird Velvet Scoter was playing hard to get, until thankfully two males popped up over the Surf (no not Surf Scoter) and gave distant but distinct views.
A very successful morning in lovely company, Helen proving that not all Physics Teachers are dragons!
Tuesday 18 February 2014
Today was to have one recurring theme, lets see if you spot what it was!
The day dawned in a Dark and wet car park in Beauly in the beautiful Scottish highlands, the low cloud and heavy drizzle only adding to the atmosphere. I was here to pick up Karle a returning client who was up on holiday with his family (Hello Sarah and Orson) and was out to get his Highland Bird Fix.
The birding day started at Loch Flemington,( it was dark and wet) with the ever elusive American Coot (probably one of the easiest rarities you will ever hope to see!) it took an agonising 5 seconds to pick the bird out in it’s usual place. Please note I still have not seen this bird in sunshine so the pictures are still of poor quality!
Having his lifer in the bag, we headed off to Nairn, when we arrived it was dark and wet and the Moray Firth was surprising rough, however it soon provided us with some nice birds, Pale Bellied Brent Geese, Long Tailed Duck and Common Scoter, there were some Common Eider further out but unfortunately no sign of the recently reported King Eider. However a winter plumaged Tystie (Black Guillemot) proved a nice added bonus.
Heading to a dark and wet Burghead, the first birds to be seen were a Great Northern Diver sailing around in the inner Harbour surrounded by Long Tailed Ducks and Common Eiders, it provided fantastic views as it swan in front of the car and out into the Moray firth, at it’s closest a mere 20 feet away. I would have loved to have some digiscoped shots however other people where watching and taking pics from their car and I would have undoubtedly spoiled their enjoyment of this stunning bird, so I waited until it was out to sea before setting up my kit.
The Long Tailed Ducks once again stole the show, and is a highlight for anyone visiting the area.
And as an added bonus, today we had a couple of Female Red Breasted Mergansers lounging around.
Red Throated Divers and a nice flypast of five male Velvet Scoter rounded off a successful visit to Burghead
Next stop was a dark and wet Lossiemouth, the tide was ideal and scanning across the far side of estuary produced Bar Tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and a nice sighting of two Snow Buntings. There was not the usual amount of Gulls in the area so we didn’t pick up the target bird of little gull that had been reported on Birdguides recently.
A quick dash to Loch Spynie gave us Water Rail and Long Tailed Tit, it was nice to see the Herons had returned to the Heronry behind the hide, was it me or did the trees look sparser this year? You don’t usually get such a good view of the nests. It was of course dark and wet, but the hide provided a nice respite from the elements.
Heading Back towards Inverness we stopped off at a dark and wet Roseisle, where we connected albeit very briefly with the target bird for this location, Slavonian Grebe. One bird was present and seen just prior to it diving, it was never relocated! More good views of common and Velvet Scoter was nice.
Finaly we headed inland, where we did have a change in weather (hurrah) it was dark, wet and misty! (booooo) On this section of the trip we added Red Legged Partridge and Red Grouse (heard) but by this time light was fading and the rain and mist were both increasing!
Final stop was back at Alturlie, where as the last glimmer of daylight faded into a dark and wet night, we saw hundreds of Pink Footed Geese lift from their feeding fields and stream low over head to their roosts on the Black Isle, a beautiful sight and a great way to end a brilliant days birding in fine company with Karl.
Totals for the day were 67 Species seen and 2 heard. Not bad at all for a dark and wet day of birding!
Thursday 13 February 2014
When is a Hoodie not a Hoodie?
When it is on the Moray Firth Coastline! Many clients of Birding Ecosse get quite excited when they first see a Hooded Crow in the local area, it makes it even harder to explain that these handsome creatures would not make it through the vetting process and allow them to be accepted as true Hooded, they are unfortunately destined to be Hooded x Carrion Hybrids.
Must admit though some look pretty darn convincing and none the less smart looking birds!
Saturday 08 February 2014
Had a quick stop off at Loch Flemington today to have a look see at the long staying American Coot, true to form it was still present and showing well, and for a second time the bird was flushed by impatient photographers, blooming annoying, wish they would just let the bird be!
Thursday 06 February 2014
A very pleasant morning with a lot of birds visiting the feeders in the garden. Put a net up for a couple of hours to try and get some of the Long Tailed Tits that have become regulars visitors to the feeders, no luck unfortunately!
Another nice retrap today, yet again a Blue Tit, ringed as a youngster way back in August 2010.
Next week see’s the start of a very busy period of tour guiding in the Beautiful Scottish Highlands and the equally stunning Moray Firth, so please call back to see what fantastic birds the area has on offer, and what you could be seeing on trips provided by Birding Ecosse.
Monday 27 January 2014
Well today was a very birdy day indeed! When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, flat calm and overcast perfect for putting up a mist net and getting the 2014 ringing campaign under way! A really nice mix of birds were caught in the two hours before rain stopped play.
Ringing totals: 1 x Great Tit, 1 x Robin, 4 x Blue Tit, 1 x Chaffinch, 1 x Dunnock, 1 x Coal Tit, 2 x House Sparrow.
Two great retraps as well, V332834 Blue Tit originally ringed 18/02/2008 and V332890 Dunnock originally ringed 29/10/09
Just as I was packing up the net I noticed a flock of Long Tailed Tits heading towards the feeders in front of the house, and that was a the beginning of a feeding frenzy!
Long Tailed Tit x 3, Collard Dove x 2, Goldfinches x 3, Dunnock x 2, Great Spotted Woodpecker x 2 (male and female) Tree Sparrow x 1, House Sparrow x 2, Greenfinchs x 3, Great Tit x 2, Blackbird x 2.
The day ended with a look around the Roseisle area for two reported Common Cranes, however these proved to be a no-show!
All in all a top day with our feathered friends.
Sunday 26 January 2014
Grey Herons are a common species around the coastline and inland waters, they do however become overlooked because of this, so next time you see “The patient killer” give it some time.
Saturday 25 January 2014
Honking weather and Honking Ducks
Well today the winter weather really bared it’s teeth with absolutely torrential rain and strong Southerly wind. Not very pleasant birding weather, however every rain cloud and all that…… the stormy weather had brought the Eiders and Long Tailed Ducks into the safety of the inner harbour.
Sitting in the comfort of the car with the window down, sheltering from the extreme weather, whilst watching these beautiful ducks right below me really was special, the male Eiders giving their Frankie Howerd ”aaa ooo aaa” calls trying to woo the females and the musical trumpeting call of the Long Tailed Duck (reminding me for some reason of the “Kitti’ waaake” call of the Kittiwake.)
Unfortunately the lighting was so poor that pictures were absolutely impossible, so I have reverted to last years pictures of Long Tailed Duck. Interested in seeing these birds first hand? Then why not get in touch with Birding Ecosse a join us for a guided walk?
Other birds present: Eider Duck, Long Tailed Duck, Guillemot, Red Throated Diver, Shag, Cormorant, Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Shag, Cormorant, Turnstone, Curlew, Black Guillemot.
Friday 24 January 2014
A little bit of Naked Birding
Yes today I undertook some naked birding. No not walking around unclothed, but a way of birding that just proves the point you don’t need a lot of expensive kit to enjoy the hobby of birding.
In essence it is bird watching with the naked eye, no binos, scope or camera. All birds must be identified by sight or sound, (you can, according to the rules use binos to confirm ID once you have done the initial ID, although we didn’t)
So in a brief walk through the woods near to my house this is what we saw: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Coal Tit, Collard Dove, Pheasant, Greenfinch, Jay, Buzzard, Treecreeper, Woodpigeon, Rook, Blackbird, Robin.
A really enjoyable, and to be honest eye opening little walk, and something I am keen to introduce to beginners when they are out on a guided walk. Best get the basics in place then think about your kit. I will however not be dispensing of the Swaros in the near future
Monday 20 January 2014
Today I am taking a different approach, with the use of different framing of the birds in picture, The first shows a close framed Turnstone, the reason I chose this picture is that it shows the beautiful slight “upturn” to the bill, a feature the birds uses to “Turn over stones” whilst feeding hence the name.
The next two picture are more to give the impression of the birds habitat, once again the Turnstone perched typically on the harbour wall and the Eider Male contrasting to the beautiful green backdrop water, sometimes closer isn’t necessarily better.
Saturday 18 January 2014
Spot the difference!
Nice little comparison today between the Eurasian Coot and the American Coot, the American is still being reported at Loch Flemington today (per bird guides)
Friday 17 January 2014
Today I am reminiscing on long hot summer days at a fantastic seabird colony on the East Coast of Scotland, not only a feast to the eyes and ears, but also the sense of smell. I personally love the musty fishy ambiance however it is not to everyone taste.
To sit and be surrounded but thousands upon thousands of birds, all going about their daily business really is a magical moment, keep your eyes on the “planned trips” page nearer the breeding season for trips to our local seabird city at Troop head.
Thursday 16 January 2014 Part 2
Just getting ready to retire for the evening when the bright glow of the moon caught my eye, ideal digiscoping night. Got a couple of shots before the cold air started a coughing fit and I retreated to the warmth of the house.
Quite interesting when you look at the impact marks, and the “fallout” marks from these impacts, they must cover thousands of miles.
Thursday 16 January 2014
We are back in Canada for today’s pictures. The Western Kingbird along with Eastern Kingbird are probably high on my favourite bird lists. This particular bird was standing guard at it’s nest site giving some brilliant prolonged views.
The Blue Winged Teal was pictured at the Kerry Wood Nature Reserve in Red Deer Alberta, it was a fantastic reserve giving stunning views of many species, more pictures to follow.
Wednesday 15 January 2014
Still suffering from a chest infection (how long will this last!) and the torn muscle makes driving fairly uncomfortable, so still on couch trawling through my digiscoping pictures and deleting the many many ones that don’t come up to scratch.
Here is a very quick selection of some that made it through!
Monday 13 January 2014
So it’s a beautiful sunny day, very light winds and the ideal conditions for digiscoping the American Coot, that is still reported at Flemington (via birdguides) and here am I reduced to being curled up on the sofa with a torn rib muscle! Ho Hum!
For those readers who call in here frequently can I just say thank you very much for your interest and also point you toward the Birding Ecosse Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dslaterbirdingecosse?ref=hl or even follow me on twitter @birdingecosse
In the meantime I will cheer myself up by looking at some of the Hummingbird pictures taken this summer in Alberta Canada, a big thank you goes to Chris Brown who let me turn her lounge and deck into a digiscoping platform
Thursday 09 January 2014
Well today’s visit to Mr Coot was a tad different than yesterday! Car park and passing places were full and two photographers were right down at the waters edge keeping the bird at a safe distance across on the reeds, if only they had kept back at their car the bird would have undoubtedly swam closer and gave them better photo ops, at one point the bird flushed right across to the opposite side of the Loch (South side) and into a flock of Whooper Swans, after about 5 minutes of unsettled feeding (no floating reeds at that side) it flew back to North side before swimming in front of the cars back to it’s normal feeding location Ho Hum. My efforts for today are shown below, managed to get a hint of the red at the top of the shield. Don’t know why but I really like this bird!
Wednesday 08 January 2014
Had another drop in at Loch Flemington to see if American Coot was still present, good news it was! What was also nice is that I had the place and the bird to myself, really nice.
I spent some time just watching the bird, it was feeding very well on aquatic plants, sometimes it would pick stuff off the surface, or from the matted reeds at the edge of the Loch, sometimes it dived to collect fresh green plants from underwater. Whichever way it certainly was eating loads, which could be a good sign for the bird staying in the area.
Got some better shots today, however need some sunshine to get the ISO down a bit!
Tuesday 07 January 2014
The Yanks are here!
So I am week willed! An American Coot has turned up at Loch Flemington (and before the great and good of birdwatchers in the area get their frillies in a knot once again the bird was found by a chap called Simon Eaves, a big well done to him, I am only reporting on the trip I had to see the bird he found… okay?)
I really should have gone out in the better weather yesterday but a number of factors where against me going, but today after a night of “will I go/wont I go” I decided to drag my still man flu filled body of to see the bird. And boy I am I glad I did!
Arriving before first light the car park only had one other car, even in the near pitch black, one bird was feeding on the floating reeds, white billed with Moorhen like undertail flashes….. the American Coot was still present!
The light was really poor, hence the record shots only, however hopefully the bird will linger in the area allowing me to head through for some better shots at the weekend when the weather calms down a bit! One thing that was very obvious was just how high the bird leaped out the water when diving. Nice bird and looks like its feeding well and settled!
Saturday 04 January 2014
So what does a birding tour guide do on his day off with family? He takes them birding!! (as many of you will know I am a kind hearted Scotsman and do not charge them (the full price) for a day tour
Today was down to the “failsafe” Crested Tit haunt, and the little beauties didn’t disappoint! The pictures below are courtesy of Lynda. However I must admit I was mildly surprised when she charged me to use them
Wednesday 01 January 2014
Happy New Year!
As is now the tradition for Lynda and Myself we headed out for a quick jaunt to get the 2014 list started. This year we stayed fairly local as both of us are suffering a bit of the cold (of course mine is worse being proper man flu, whilst Lynda is just a sniffle )
It was a beautiful day weather wise and turned out to be a Red Grouse photo day! And Lochindorb was a perfect place to start the New Birding year.
The Grouse were out in force today, must have been the sunny weather and calm winds, the white faced bird was unusual as was seeing the one walking along the small sandy beach right at the waters edge.
Other birds that were good to get on the list were, Fieldfare, Redwing, Long Tailed Tit, Bullfinch and Jay.
So just a couple of hours in the field, but a great way to start the new year.
Tuesday 31 December 2013
A great day out with Denise and Chris and a brilliant way to end the year.
Starting off at the Grant Arms Hotel we headed straight for the coast and in particular Roseisle. The tide was perfect for sea watching, and I was mildly surprised to see just how calm the waters surface was First birds in the Scope were a group of stunning male Velvet Scoters, panning over the Moray Firth soon revealed Long Tailed Duck, Common Scoter and two winter plumaged Slavonian Grebes, a good start to the day.
Next stop Lossiemouth, this time for the flock of Snow Buntings that usually frequent the dune system, today however they were sadly absent, the strong winds that had now whipped up probably keeping them low in the marram grass. We did have nice views of Adult Shag, complete with full breeding Crest and a female Goosander.
Purple Sandpiper was the next species sought after so off to beautiful fishing village on the Moray Coast, which is proving the most reliable location for these birds this season. We were not to be disappointed and Denise got some great views as two birds paddled and fed in a small rock pool near to the beaches edge. Also present were Oystercatchers, Turnstones and a lone Rock Pipit.
The historic village of Burghead was next on the itinerary and the main target bird for Denise, Eider Duck and boy did they perform well. The usual small group of both Male and Female drifted around in the inner harbour giving absolutely stunning views, the males in particular looking fantastic. To top it all Denise had said she would love to hear then calling, and as if on cue the males all started “chatting up the ladies”
Final stop of the day was a local grouse moor and the Red Grouse where showing very well and proving ideal digiscoping opportunities, a great way to round off a great day!
Thursday 26 December 2013
The day dawned early, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, Lynda started off slight more jaded (quote “I have never drunk so much Champagne!) however after another fantastic feed for breakfast we both perked up and were raring for the day in front, guiding John and Nicola.
First stop off was at Milton of Culloden, nice flocks of Wigeon feeding on the waters edge, Curlew, Bar Tailed Godwits, but highlight for this spot was a winter plumaged Great Crested Grebe, a definite scarcity in this area
Although not planned we ended up back at Portmahomak. Once again the Purple Sandpipers were in the area, Red Breasted Mergansers, Common Eider and Slavonian Grebes where all present however Mr Otter was nowhere to be seen today.
Tarbat Ness was quieter wind wise today and a nice selection of birds were to be seen, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Robin and Dunnock at the car park feeders. Plenty of Red Throated Divers buzzed low over the water and a single Black Guillimot cruised past the point. A male and female Stonechat was a nice addition to the day, not a common bird in this region in winter time.
Last call for the day was Chanonry Point in search of the Dolphins, luckily Nicola spotted three just off the point as the surfaced just twice, giving great views (Lynda was convinced one of them smiled and winked at her… still too much Champagne in her system from yesterday?) before diving below the surface never to be seen again !
A fantastic end to a simply brilliant festive season!
Wednesday 25 December 2013
Merry Christmas to all! A relatively long lie this morning prior to the opening of presents with Lynda and Cheryl, before heading out to Revack Estate for a short walk with John and Nicola, Duncan and Pieter, and Liz and Keith. Once again the wind was howling through the trees, but it still did not stop us having brilliant views of 35 Common Crossbills feeding high in some larch trees. Goldcrest, Coal Blue and Great Tit were also in the area and as a recce for Birding Ecosse it shows great potential for some short walks from the Hotel….. to be coninued!
Christmas lunch was an absolute blast of a time! Fantastic company, outstanding food and a great relaxed atmosphere, definitely one of the best Christmas days I have had in a long time. Thank you for the invitation John and Nicola and thank you also to the manager David Duncan and all the staff at the Grant Arms Hotel for making the day so special, it really was appreciated.
Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 December 2013
A cracking couple of days birding in the Scottish Highlands with a long standing Birding Ecosse stalwart Peter Hearn. The weather was atrcocious with strong winds and squally showers, but that did not deter us in our search for birds.
The first morning saw us starting the day with a coffee at Portmahomack harbour. The wind was a southerly so the bay off Portmahomack was relatively sheltered. Long Tailed Duck and Common Eider were loafing just offshore and a nice tight little flock of Purple Sandpipers fed on the rocks just below the Harbour wall. All of a sudden all birds took to flight, something had flushed them, but what……….? All of a sudden an Otters heads popped up out of the water not 30ft away! Sad that the birds were flushed but a great start to the day nonetheless.
Making our way to Tarbat Ness we were subjected to the full fury of the gales. Finding a sheltered spot the birds were soon spilling past and giving some excellent views. Red Throated and Black Throated Divers, Large flock of Razorbills just offshore and good numbers of Kittiwakes. Birds also in the area included Twite and Linnet, Cormorant, Shag and a female Kestrel right beside the lighthouse.
Nigg bay gave some welcome respite to the gales and we had judged the tide perfectly as the rising waters pushed the huge migrant roost closer and closer to us, Bar Tailed Godwits, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank and Lapwing all jostled for dry spots on the rapidly disappearing sand! One Dunlin still retaining a surprising amount of Black on it’s belly.
Final stop was Udale bay, with tide fully in most birds were at roost giving brilliant views of Wigeon, Redshank, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Shelduck and Teal. A fitting end to the day.
Day two started on the beautiful Lossiemouth estuary, all the usual suspects were in the area, Black Headed, Common, Herring and Great Black Backed Gulls. Bar tailed Godwits showing well across on the far bank of the river Lossie, Wigeon whistled through out the visit and handsome male Teals shuttled to and from one side of the river to the other.
Loch Spynie was interesting, firstly for the female Scaup that was present, it is a fairly reliable location for this species and gives a great opportunity to get great views of them.
Next to grip our interest was this very strange hybrid:
This bird showed characteristics of both Male Mallard and Male Pintail, the head plumage was Pintail but in bottle green! The breat and body Mallard and finally to the tail, once again that of Pintail.
A movement outside the hide caught my eye, two Water Rails crept out of the reeds onto the small feeding platform, giving excellent views. (Excuse the poor quality of the picture but it was taken through glass)
Owing to the almost impossible conditions it was decided to call in a day and head back to the Grant Arms hotel in Grantown on Spey. Driving back via Lochindorb the Red Grouse put on a great display for us and so ended day two.
Now the difference with today was that instead of saying farewell to Peter, I was to be staying as a guest in this fantastic, wildlife specific , hotel. Let the festivities begin!
Tuesday 17 December 2013
Netherlands April 2013
A great visit across to Denekamp right on the German border, visiting long long time friends and fellow birders Wildred and Gusta.
We visited some old haunts, and some new ones and got some great birds. The highlight for me (sorry the pictures aren’t better) was the Middle Spotted Woodpecker, a cracking wee bird and a lifer!
Sunday 15 December 2013
Spain September 2013
So as I sit here on a storm lashed Sunday afternoon what better way to cheer myself up than by looking at some pictures from Sunny Spain. For some reason even though I have taken hundreds of pictures, very few come up to the mark. Luckily Im going back to the Rio Guadalhorce in March on a birding and Digiscoping long weekend, cannot wait!
Saturday 14 December 2013
Some highlights of 2013 – Canada June 2013
This year I have been lucky enough to travel to a fair few places in the world, accompanied with my wonderful and ever suffering partner Lynda (thank goodness she is a birder as well!)
Trawling through my pictures I decided to put up some of my most memorable birds, first up Alberta Canada, a fantastic country to visit, brilliant people, fantastic food and absolutely stunning birds.
Thursday 12 December 2013
The return of “what am I?”
Whilst sorting out my digiscoping images, I do come across the occasional shot that does not come up to scratch (now THERE is an understatement!)
So just for fun what are the birds taking flight in the picture? Use the contact us link to let me know your answers.
All will be revealed next week
Thursday 05 December 2013
The North Wind Doth Blow!
With my interest peaked, and a rare day off I headed down to Burghead to see what this winter storm had brought in. What little birds were about were either hiding from the awful weather or were heading past at Mach 3, some of the Herring Gulls almost cartwheeling past! The only exception was one brave male long tailed duck, flying into the wind and was almost hovering it was that strong!
Retreated home for a cup of tea!
Tuesday 26 November 2013
Well it wasn’t exactly the same as yesterday, I opened my house door to be greeted with heavy rain and a fierce NW wind! Not ideal Eagle weather!
Making my way to Forres I picked up Jean, a new client for Birding Ecosse and explained that the forecast was for it to brighten up early morning. So we decided to head on up the valley.
First stop was at Lochindorb, all was quiet to begin with however it was not long before we heard the distinctive “Go Back! Go Back! Go Back!” call of Red Grouse and before long a stunning male and female appeared right beside the car. They gave Jean brilliant views before skulking back into the heather.
On the water 2 Whooper Swans were a nice find and also in the area Tufted Duck and Goldeneyes, males and females of both species.
On the entry to the valley at the garden feeding station, Pheasants, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and two Goldfinches were present and a single Dunnock fed below the feeders.
In the valley proper the weather had abated slightly, Red Legged Partidge and Jackdaws were the first birds to be spotted. The weather then closed in again however every cloud etc etc.
At the top car park three Buzzards put on an impressive display of “wind chuting” where they half close their wings and hang in the up current from the hill. Fantastic spectacle to watch.
Birds as seen on day: Pheasant, Common Buzzard, Red Grouse, Whooper Swan, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Collard Dove, Curlew (calling) Red Legged Partridge, Coal Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch,Goldfinch, Dunnock, Woodpigeon, Mallard, Wren.
Monday 25 November 2013
It was a beautiful morning to be out on today’s guided walk around the historic village of Burghead. A nice little flock of 75 Knot were the first birds of the day, with some Bar Tailed Godwits mixed through for good measure.
The sunlight was perfect for digiscoping and the roosting Cormorants and Shags gave the ideal subjects to photograph.
The Common Eider were close to shore, with a few individuals venturing into the harbour itself. When the winter weather gets colder more and more birds will come into the sheltered water with perhaps of some Long Tailed Ducks. Two North Atlantic Grey Seals kept a very wary eye on us a did a Rock Pipit perched on the one of the fisherman’s sheds.
From the viewpoint rafts of Common Scoter were seen to the east of the point with a single Velvet Scoter. Long Tailed Ducks a few immature Gannets and a Red Throated Diver were all also in the area.
Oystercatcher and Turnstones were feeding on the rocks along with a lone Curlew and two Grey Herons.
The walk ended with a coffee in “The Bothy” coffee shop, an excellent way to round off the morning.
Birds as seen on day: Knot, Bar Tailed Godwit, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Cormorant, Shag, Long Tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Rock Pipit, Red Breasted Gull, Red Throated Diver, Velvet Scoter, Gannet, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Grey Heron.
Monday 18 November 2013
With colder weather forecast for later this week, the first real good flocks of Pink Footed Geese were in the Inverness Airport Area plus a nice flock of Fieldfares were waiting for me in my garden trees when I got home today.
Wednesday 13 November 2013
I spent this afternoon in the very pleasant company of Shelley from California, and showed her around the Moray coastline taking in some cultural venues as well as birding hotspots.
It was breezy and quite chilly but that did not detract from the day and when the sun came out it really did show our visitor from across the pond just how beautiful the area can be.
The thing that is really great about guiding people from different shores (and I feel the same when I am birding abroad) is that nearly every bird for them is a “lifer” so even the more common birds such as Herring and Black Headed Gulls take on a whole new meaning.
Hopeman provided brief views of my target bird – Purple Sandpiper, and a male Long Tailed Duck had drifted close to shore allowing Shelley to see the long tail feathers flexing and bending in the wind, a stunning wee bird.
After a quick, freshly brewed coffee at Hopeman we headed off to Burghead, by this time the wind was almost storm force and the light was beginning to fade, however this just enriched the colours of the male Common Eiders, the green on the side of the head and pink blush on the breast showing off brilliantly.
With the light now gone it was time to drop my guest back her base and bid her bon voyage as she heads for home at the weekend, hope you get home safe and sound Shelley.
Birds as seen on the day: Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Common Curlew, Bar tailed Godwit, Redshank, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Black Headed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, Long Tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Greenfinch, Great Cormorant, Shag, Purple Sandpiper, Carrion Crow, Rook, Hooded Crow (hybrid) Collard Dove, Jackdaw, Common Eider Duck, Northern Gannet, Magpie, Buzzard, Ringed Plover.
Sunday 10 November 2013
Today I was helping out with the Birdwatching and Wildlife Club (BWWC) located in the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey, it really was a beautiful morning here in the Highlands.
Two guests took up the offer (or should that be challenge!) of a free guided walk through Anagach woods behind Grantown with Birding Ecosse.
First stop was the hotel feeding station, plenty of birds coming and going, including Coal and Great Tit, Robins and Blackbirds. Two Crested Tit were calling nearby but proved elusive on the day.
Chaffinches, as is the norm, where calling from nearly every tree and bush with the occasional Dunnock and Wren adding their voices for some good bird call tuition.
Down an the river two redhead Goosanders where in the usual location of the long concrete pontoon in the river, and a Dipper was dipping on a rock over the far side of the river Spey.
Heading towards the Wade bridge a nice little mixed flock flew past including Long Tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Great Tit, and a single Goldcrest.
Completing the loop heading back towards the car some of the more common birds were picked up. House Sparrow, Dunnock single Siskin and Collards Doves.
A cracking walk in stunning weather, thank you Graham and Judy for a very informative and entertaining morning!
Birds as seen on Day: Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Treecreeper, Robin, Goosander, Dipper, Long Tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Rook, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Collard Dove, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Jackdaw.
Wednesday 06 November 2013
This is a rather belated trip report from Monday when I had the true pleasure of guiding one of my regular customers Richard “God bless ya Maray Poppins” Cockerill, it is always a day filled with laughter, stories, politics, advice and most of all fantastic birds.
Picking Richard up from the magnificent Grant Arms Hotels in Grantown on Spey (home of the BWWC) we headed off for a day on the Moray Firth coastline looking for Seaducks and Waders. First port of call was Kingston and Garmouth on the scenic River Spey.
The first thing that was apparent on arrival was the tide, it was mega high! It should have been on the turn and exposing some of the mud, however the mud flats were deep under water and the breakers out on the Moray Firth looked in danger of breaching over the high shingle bank! (in fact we later found out from a local that it had indeed breached the shingle bank the day before!)
A large amount of gulls were feeding along the strand line of the waves and included Common, Black Headed, Great Black Backed and Herring Gulls. Wigeon were whistling behind us and Teal and Mallard showed off well just in the reeds near where we were standing.
Onto Loch Spynie, where it was great to get out of the biting North Westerly wind, a nice group of 14 Whooper Swans welcomed us to this beautiful wee reserve and the supporting cast of Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Mute Swans, Cormorants and Grey Lag Geese all added to the days total, however star performer was a female Marsh Harrier seen hunting over the reeds just across from the hide, briefly hanging in the wind before plunging out of sight never to re-appear!
Lossiemouth estuary was suffering the same problem as Kingston and Garmouth with the very high tide, it was coming through the dunes system at the far side of the river, something that only happens once or twice a year. But looking through the gaps in the dunes we could see Gannets were feeding very close to shore.
Onto Hopeman where thankfully the tide had dropped enough to expose some sand and rocks, Rock Pipit and Redshank were busily feeding whilst a lone roosting Turnstone sat huddled and fed up looking on the harbour wall. A Red Throated Diver was close to shore allowing superb views of its winter plumage, delicate neck and lovely uptilted bill.
Burghead was next on the itinerary and Common Scoter, Long Tailed Duck and Rock Pipit were soon on the list along with one, perhaps two Slavonian Grebes just off the harbour wall, these birds are always a pleasure to see, regardless of being in winter plumage. Strangest sighting of the day was a single Arctic Tern feeding out in Burghead bay heading towards Findhorn!
As light was fading we paid a visit to Findhorn Sand dune system where here we picked up our last target bird for the day two rafts of Velvet Scoter that showed well between the now massive waves crashing into shore.
It was a brilliant days birding and as the winter progresses and the number of birds increase it can only get better! So check out our Planned trips” page and book yourself a day on the Moray Firth with Birding Ecosse.
Birds list as seen on the day: Common Gull, Black Headed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Yellowhammer, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Gannet, Eider, Collard Dove, Starling, Teal, Dabchick, Grey Heron, Shag, Pink Footed Goose,Whooper Swan, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Marsh Harrier (fem), Grey Lag Goose, Blue Tit, Redwing, Fieldfare, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Buzzard, Redshank, Goosander, Red Breasted Merganser, Arctic Tern, Long Tailed Duck, Rock Pipit, Cormorant, Robin, Red Throated Diver, Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Greenfinch, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Kittiwake, Turnstone, House Sparrow, Goldfinch.
Tuesday 05 November 2013
Living up in the Highlands of Scotland and in particular the spectacular Moray Firth lets me indulge in my passion of Seawatching, and having the privileged position of being a birding tour guide it allows me to share my passion with others.
The area is a birding paradise in any season, from spring and summer with its Ospreys and Slavonian Grebes, breeding colonies of Auks, Kittiwakes and Fulmars, Black and Red Throated Divers on remote Scottish Lochans and not to mention all our famous Grouse, but autumn and Winter is, for me, the seasons when the Moray Firth comes into its own.
Many participants on Birding Ecosse workshops and tours are taking their first steps into the world of Birding, and as with any new hobby or venture they can find the array of optics, cameras, tripods, clothes and in particular field guides and reference books daunting. What is the best……? Which…….. Should I buy? What…….. Do you use? are all frequent and pertinent questions.
With the publication of the new Crossley ID Guide to Britain and Ireland I will hopefully be able to at least give some guidance to the reference book question!
Even with best intentions, sometimes birds and weather will conspire against you, and they decide they will not put on the usual “lets swim close to shore” routine and stubbornly remain distant spots on a vast seascape.
This is where the Crossley guide comes into its own
As a training guide the book is absolutely top notch, comparing the real life birds and the excellent plates from the Crossley Guide you can see the direct comparisons. Does the bird have any white on the face or wings? No? Then it cannot be a Velvet. Does it have White on the head or nape? No? Then it cannot be the Surf Scoter. So using process of elimination, which in essence what identification is (albeit done in fractions of seconds) the bird you are now looking at is the Common Scoter.
Likewise with another bird that people will flock (pardon the pun) to see, the beautiful Long Tailed Duck
Long tailed ducks arrive in their thousands to spend the winter in the relatively calm and warm waters of the Moray Firth from October onwards. On first inspection they appear to be all the same, however look more closely ( this is the benefits of booking a tour with Birding Ecosse as you get to use our first class optical equipment to do this!) and you will see some subtle differences, The males in their fine winter plumage, the more subdued females and the immature. All beautifully depicted in the Crossley ID Guide.
The plates are clear, and unlike most guides or reference books they show birds in various postures and also with the background of real locations it (in fact this is a pleasant aside for myself, trying to figure out where the backgrounds are!) The other real benefit or beginners and intermediates (the audiences this book is aimed at) are that you are not overwhelmed by exotic, but similar looking species. I have on occasions had flocks of Sinai Rosefinches and Crab Plover in the Highlands of Scotland, and although I would dearly love to encounter this I had to point out that they were actually looking at Linnets and Oystercatchers.
Finally a little bit of a quiz for yourself to try, study the picture below and then see if you can work out what birds are in view…….
So in summary, if you are just a beginner or wanting to expand your skills then the Crossley ID Guide to birds of Britain and Ireland is a “must buy book” and even if you are experienced birder then it is a highly engrossing book looking at the scenery of the plates and the postures of the birds making a great browse through.
This review is part of the Crossley Blog Tour, to find more reviews and articles please follow the links to other bloggers starting with tomorrows guest blog http://birdingfrontiers.com
For a chance to win a signed copy of this fantastic book please visit http://blog.press.princeton.edu/crossley-id-guide-uk-giveaway/
If you wish to see a list of contributing bloggers please visit http://blog.press.princeton.edu/crossley-uk-blog-tour-schedule/
Finally if you have any questions for either Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens then they are holding a live video call on November 21st on http://shindig.com/event/crossley-id-guide
Many thanks and I hope you have enjoyed this review, if you fancy putting the book to the test then why don’t you book a day trip with Birding Ecosse, we look forward to meeting you.
Tuesday 29 October 2013
Well the weather has definitely taken a turn cooler this last few days, and the Southerly wind that had been blowing started to get a Northerly component, so with that in mind I had a quick stop in at Nairn on the way home from Inverness today.
Birds as seen: Herring Gull, Common Gull, Gannet, Red Breasted Merganser, Guillemot, Long Tailed Duck, Red Throated Diver, Gannet, Turnstone, 2 Arctic Tern, 1 small Unid Tern, Common Scoter, Cormorant, Rock Pipit, Redshank, Carrion Crow, Black Headed Gull, Common Eider, Mute Swan.
I am really looking forward to reviewing this completely new approach to bird books.
Full review will be posted on this very blog on 05 November 2013 so please call back and take part in this “Blog Tour”
Thursday 24 October 2013
“The tale of Swollen Knee”
Yesterday, as reported was an outstanding day of birding and company, what I failed to add is that Derek had soldiered on with a very sore knee after having had’ a fall outside the station at Aviemore.
When I arrived at the hotel this morning, and Derek wasn’t waiting expectantly on the driveway I had a feeling things were not right. At reception I was informed to visit Derek in his room where I found out he had paid a visit to Hospital last night and his leg was, to put it in birding terms “goosed”
Hope you get well soon Derek and I will call next week to see how you are, however every cloud has a silver lining (and I know Derek wont mind this being my silver lining) and as I waited for the chemist to open so I could purchase some pain killers for “Derek Swollen knee” I paid a visit to the BWWC feeders in Anagach woods to try and get some Crested Tit. I wasn’t to be disappointed!
The birds showed brilliantly throughout the hour I spent watching them, it also became apparent the Cresties will come more readily to food on the ground than Coal, Great and Blue Tit.
However I must add that for ignorant dog walkers then I’m afraid that the Anagach wood dog walkers have stolen the long held title from the Lossiemouth Estuary Dog Walkers, all we need now is for windsurfers to start on the River Spey to see if they can compete with those ignorant folk at Findhorn Bay?! (please note: not all dog walkers are ignorant, only the ignorant ones! I walked back to the car in the comopany of a man whose Jack Russel stayed at heel and behaved impeccably, likewise there are some fantastically trained dogs at Lossiemouth as well, unfortunately as in much of life “the few spoil it for the many”)
Wednesday 23 October 2013
Well where to start!? A truly amazing day out birding with Derek staying with the BWWC at the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey.
With an 0800 pick up we were soon heading along the coast to Kingston and Garmouth near Spey Bay. A quick flyby of a Jay closely followed by a huge female Sparrowhawk got the day of to a great start.
Arriving at Kingston we scanned over the exposed mud flats and immediately noted good numbers of Teal and Wigeon, a single Black Tailed Godwit was a great spot by Derek. Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer were in nearby bushes.
The weather was flat calm with a bright but not glaring light, a cracking morning so far.
Over to Loch Oire, to try for the recently reported Shovelers (not an overly common bird in this neck of the woods), luckily we picked them up straight away, in fact two males and two females were present, also here were Dabchick, Moorhen, Wigeon and Teal.
Next stop was Lossiemouth, by this time the weather had taken a turn for the worst, dark clouds were looming and the wind had increased. The estuary was absolutely perfect for birding and excellent views were had of Bar Tailed Godwits, Goosanders and Redshanks. Moving round to The Station car park it was here we had the surprise of the day, something made me look up and I was amazed to see a Swift zip by, as I called it to Derek and raised my binos to the bird a second bird appeared in my view, not only that, they were then joined by two House Martins! All between squally rain showers and blustery gale force winds! One of the birds was seriously pale with a defined white throat pouch, however I couldn’t make out its saddle colour or if it had a dark eye smudge so it will ever remain Common Swift!
Hopeman added Turnstone, Rock pipit and Pied Wagtail to the list but once again the weather closed in and we beat a hasty retreat to the car for shelter and lunch, we also took the chance of the weather to re-position to Burghead.
Burghead was now in the grips of a howling gale, and heavy rain showers, this however only helped to bring the birds in closer! Some crippling views of Immature and Sub adult Gannets as they came with a couple of hundred feet of the shore line, Common Scoter and Long Tailed Ducks were drifting along hugging the shoreline. A Red Throated Diver and Guillemot added another two species to the ever increasing tally for the day.
Roseisle came up trumphs with the target species of Velvet Scoter, Derek had wanted to compare Common and Velvet and now he had the chance, more Long Tailed Ducks were scurrying to and fro along the Moray Firth.
And so to the final leg of today’s Grand Tour of Moray, Dava moor. The rainbow that greeted us did not end in a pot of gold but something just as good, Kestrel, Red Grouse and a good sized mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwings. All in all a fantastic days birding with over 60 species seen.
Bird list as they were seen: Teal, Wigeon, Grey Heron, Dabchick, Sparrowhawk, Mallard, Lapwing, Robin, Reed Bunting, Curlew, Yellowhammer, Great Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Black Tailed Godwit, Chaffinch, Whooper Swan, kittiwake, Herring Gull, Goldeneye,Red Breasted Merganser, Mute Swan, Red Throated Diver, Jay, Carrion Crow, Greenfinch, Collard Dove, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Common Gull, Pink footed goose, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Bar Tailed Godwit, Goosander, Cormorant, Common Swift, House martin, Sanderling, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Eider, Gannet, Shag, Rock Pipit, Starling, Razorbill, Dunnock, Common Scoter, Guillemot, Turnstone, Velvet Scoter, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Rook, Red Grouse, Kestrel, Buzzard, Fieldfare, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon.
Monday 21 October 2013
Yet another glorious day on the Moray Firth for weather, birds and company!
Meeting one of my longest serving clients Jackie (or repeat offender should that be?) at the usual car park near the harbour at Burghead the temperature was already approaching +14 the sun was shining and the birds were out in force: Starling swirled around in there winter flocks, Linnets busily and noisily chirped over head, House Sparrows and Chaffinches hopped from bush to grass and back again. The tseep tseep call alerted us to a Rock Pipit feeding down on the seaweed strewn rocks before flitting up to give brilliant views along the railings and path.
Looking across to a small patch of marram grass on nearby rock some movement caught my eye and using my binos, two imm Goldfinches where seen feeding on the wispy seed heads, then I noticed a reed Bunting crouched low at the base of the grass, quite an unusual sight down here at the harbour. The Bunting then flew up onto the harbour wall giving great views through the scope.
The ever present cormorants were sitting like carved gargoyles at the end of the harbour wall drying their wings in typical fashion.
Common Scoter, Common Eider and Long Tailed Duck scurried along in loose flocks over the calm surface of the Moray Firth whilst on the Beach Bar Tailed Godwit, Redshank and Curlew all made the most of the very low tide and fed hungrily on the newly exposed sand.
Walking towards the harbour entrance Turnstones were seen alongside flocks of House Sparrows and yet another Rock Pipit.
A lone Kittiwake seemed to be ignoring the rafts of its relatives floating just offshore as it sat on the harbour wall soaking up the sunshine, it was a great opportunity to talk Jackie through the relevant ID pointers.
Arriving at the viewpoint the views of the Firth today were just outstanding, however what was even more of a surprise was the three Magpies sitting on the flagpole of the viewpoint, not a common bird around here at all, and although very nice to see I hope we do not see a population explosion of this species in the area.
Birds drifting along out to sea included Long Tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Two Red Throated Divers and the incongruous sight of two Arctic Terns passing by, the plain unmarked upperparts showing no contrast on the primaries gave the bird a very pale apearance, (as an aside the fact you are guiding people makes you pay particular attention to details of plumage, and it helps both your ID skill and the people you are guiding)
The walk back to the car turned up a cracking Purple Sandpiper mixed in with a feeding flock of Turnstones and a Grey Heron posing motionless against the rock awaiting the first movement in the water below that would signal lunch was ready!
A brilliant morning birds with a varied and interesting haul of species, a great way to spend a few hours.
Birds list as they were seen on the day: Kittiwake, Great Black Backed Gull, Bar Tailed Godwit, Black Headed Gull, Oystercatcher,Curlew, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Starling,Robin, Reed Bunting fem/imm. House Sparrow, Cormorant, Common Scoter, Turnstone, Feral Pigeon, Magpie, Dunnock, Linnet, Long Tailed Duck, Common Eider, Purple Sandpiper, Arctic Tern x 2, Common Gull, Guillemot, Razorbill, Red Throated Diver.
Sunday 20 October 2013
Once again an absolutely stunning morning on the Moray Firth, beautiful clear sky and not a breath of wind.
The forecast and weather charts were looking very promising, however it was apparent straight away that no mega fall had taken place, it looks better for later in the week…. and I have two full day tours booked for the coast, Happy Happy days
Robins were the first birds to appear along with a couple of Dunnocks. On the beach it was almost devoid of birds, only a lone Oystercatcher and Common Gull were feeding on some of the pools. Gannets were still feeding off shore but were a bit further out than yesterday.
Walking my usual circuit I came to the conclusion it would be better to walk in an clockwise direction, thus keeping the sun out my eyes!
Two Blackbirds flew out of cover followed by my first Fieldfare of the season, excuse the quality of the pic, it was barely daylight! A tight group of 40 Starlings were perched on the masts of the boats.
Two wrens, more Dunnocks and Robins and a flock of 25 Linnets (feeding on the roof of the Captains Table cafe) were all picked up in quick succession, and a single Goldfinch chirrped overhead.
Up by the cottages with the feeders, usual suspects where hanging around, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Woodpigeon and Collards Dove
Back at the beach Velvets Scoter had moved in closer to shore and one Slavonian Grebe was still in the area. Walking back to the car a nice wee group of three Blue Tit, one Great Tit, two Robins and a single Goldcrest were all in the car par area.
Friday 18 October 2013
Today was a guided trip around the dune systems at Findhorn Bay. The weather was fair with a brisk S/W breeze.
Meeting at the hide (no druggies this time, but the door is now vandalised and open to all ) the first thing apparent was the amount of Pink Footed Geese. A good gaggle were on the mud flats with more skeins wiffling in. Nice to see them back.
Birds in the area, as they were seen: Pink Footed Goose, Mallard, Shelduck, Wigeon, Redshank, Dunlin, Mute Swan, Curlew,Robin.
Heading down to the Dunes the first initial scan with the eye did not look promising, very quiet. However when you put the scope on the area it came alive! Imm Gannets were plunge diving offshore, flocks of Long Tailed Ducks buzzed across the waters surface and good flocks of both Common and Velvet Scoter where close enough to shore to give fantastic views and the opportunity to compare both species side by side. At this time two smaller birds entered stage left and swam through the scoters….. two Slavonian grebes, nice birds in winter plumage and always a top bird to pick up.
Small birds came in the form of Yellowhammer, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. A few Robins were dotted around but not enough to hint at a fall, Robert had a quick glimpse of a Redwing as it disappeared into the gorse never to be seen again!
Birds seen: Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Gannet, Long Tailed Duck, Eider, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Yellowhammer, Robin, Starling, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue tit, Coal Tit, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Redwing, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Teal, Hodded/Carrion Crow Hybrids.
Wednesday 16 October 2013
It was a lovely start to the day, temperature was a nose nipping +1 not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind. The day was set fair for a guided walk with the Grantown on Spey U3A group.
Walking around the harbour area the first birds to be picked up were the gulls, Herring and Black Headed, with a lone Great Black Backed Gull perched high on a street light, soup ducks (hybrid Mallards) and Mute Swans were seen further upstream. A small high tide roost of Redshanks and Turnstones huddled together on an undisturbed bit of the jetty.
At the furthest part of the harbour wall the view over the Moray Firth was just outstanding, it was absolutely flat calm. The birds unfortunately where quite widely dispersed over the surface. Long Tailed Ducks, male an female, Common Eider, Cormorants and Shags where all present A few common Gulls drifted by.
Frank picked up a rock Pipit feeding across the river from our location and gave good views, which in turn gave me the chance to go through the differences between the Rock and Meadow Pipits. A couple of hybrid Hooded/Carrion crowns looked down on us from the marker light at the end of the Harbour wall.
Skylarks where heard “churrup churruping” high over head, continental birds arriving perhaps?
Leaving the harbour and walking along the seafront in a westerly direction, some normal, run of the mill House Sparrows were perched in the marram grass, and what was nice to see was people taking time to look and admire these very common, but always overlooked little birds, they really are a beautifully marked in subtle browns and greys.
Skylarks were still trickling through over head whilst Robins and Dunnocks both called from most bushed, however there was no sign of any Yellow Browed Warblers (I will find one this year!) However one lone Female Common Scoter was seen keeping company with the Long Tailed Ducks. Two good sized skiens of Pink Footed Geese were seen heading North very high?! And a red head Red Breasted Merganser showed will out on the Firth.
It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, some stunning scenery and some entertaining conversations.
List of birds seen (order:- as seen on day)
Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Robin, Greenfinch, Starling, Blue Tit, Turnstone, Redshank, Mute Swan, Long Tailed Duck, Rock Pipit, Skylark, Cormorant, Shag, Pink Footed Geese, Red Breasted Merganser,Whooper Swan x2,
Tuesday 15 October 2013
A beautiful morning up here on the Moray Firth and although no rarities it was just one of those days it was great to be out in the Field birding.
Long Tailed Duck, numbers seem to be down on what I had on Friday, Common and Velvet scoter, Red Throated Divers dotted across the whole of the Firth and one Slavonian Grebe. Not many passerines although one Robin was getting run ragged by four or five “interlopers”
Grey Plover was still at Lossie Estuary yesterday.
Monday 14 October 2013
Today can only be described as driech! Recent rain overnight and a strong N/E had the makings of a good migrant morning, so off to Findhorn Dunes I duly went.
Hundreds of Juvenile Gannets were plunge diving just offshore, and Velvet and Common Scoter zipped low over the waves, only three Long Tailed Duck seemed to be in the area, although there were plenty of wave troughs for them to hide in!
On the passerine front, many Grey Pate Goldfinches sat and fed on nearby seed heads, Robins, Dunnock and Blackbirds were all chipping and chacking in the gorse bushes, but alas nothing rare put in an appearance.
With the drizzle giving way to rain proper I retreated to the car then home for a warming coffee!
Sunday 13 October 2013
Nice late afternoon walk up through the woods near to home, Great Spotted Woodpecker was noisily making its presence felt, Chaffinch, Robin and Wren also in the area, it was however the target bird for the walk that gave most pleasure… 30 Redwings flew over head heading East, part of a major influx of these Scandinavian winter visitors.
Friday 11 October 2013
It was one of those mornings that made you glad to be out and about. Hardly a breath of air, bright but without any glare. Perfect for birding!
Walking along the foreshore of Nairn is a brilliant mix of Grass football pitches, a strip of marram grass and buckthorn, loads of migrant attracting Sycamore trees and loads of elderberry bushes. The whole underwatched area has an air of expectancy about it…. I love it and the fact you very seldom see another pair of binos makes it even more appealing!
Today was a general walk around prepping for a guided walk here later on in the week, so what follows is a list of birds as they were seen on the day:
Oystercatcher, Goldfinch, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Common Gull, Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Eider, Pink Footed Goose (one lone bird heading West) Blue Tit, Long Tailed Duck (first of the season for me) Red Throated Diver, Goldeneye (one flock 8 birds heading west) Grrenfinch, Razorbill, Whooper Swan (once again a single bird heading West) Red Breasted Merganser, Mute Swan x 8, Cormorant, Shag, Treecreeper, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, House Sparrow, Starling.
Down at Nairn Harbour:
Mallard, Robin (there seems to be a few Robins in the area this morning, feeding on the rocks and the seaweed) Dunnock, Turnstone, Redshank, Skylark (constant low flying flocks heading West giving characteristic “churrup chuurrup” calls, Black headed Gulls, Carrion/Hooded Crow Hybrids, Bar Tailed Godwits 33, Knot 15, Sanderling 50+, Pale Bellied Brent Geese 4 at the River mouth, nice little flock of roosting gulls at river mouth. Common, Black Headed and a few Kittiwakes thrown in.
All in all a nice little mixed bag of birds for a mornings walk.
Catch up so far!
Okay so I have admitted defeat, the amount of great birding trips I have undertaken since my return from Canada in June 2013 means I have sadly neglected this blog, however with the end of the year drawing ever closer, and a new regime of managing my time (the off button on the TV is a marvelous invention!) I find I can now afford the time to keep you all informed of my shenanigans!
As a way of a catch up I have selected a small sample of pictures of the last few months with a brief explanation with them, after this I will try (honest m’lud) to update each trip on the actual day!
So sit back and hopefully enjoy.
Tuesday 02 September 2013
Another excellent morning spent in the company of the Oates family, this time searching for birds of valley and stream.
Heading across the Farr road the first birds to make a real impact were a good sized flock of Meadow Pipit with at least seven Stonechats added in for good measure, one of the Stonechats was showing some very immature plumage, with downy tufts still visible on its head and nape.
Red Grouse put on a good show, both male and females showing well, although the light could have been better for Dave to get some pictures. A Red Kite in wing and tail moult circled the area holding prey in its talons.
C0ming down off the high road an adult Dipper, was doing what dippers do best…. dipping in and out of the small stream.
Arriving at Eagle Car park I noticed the wind had increased in strength and the usual passerines at this location were sheltering in the gorse, Blue and Coal tit were calling from the depths and a Dunnock made a quick appearance before taking for cover again!
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Sasha was promptly staked out as Eagle bait, sadly even this didn’t work!
Heading up to the top car park, the strong wind ever present, it was nice to see Ravens up at about, two buzzards provided an initial adrenalin rush but once again all was quite on the raptor front.. Even with the lack of birds it still was a beautiful day to be up the Valley.
Once again, a great day in great company.
Friday 30 August 2013
Spent a fantastic morning in the company of the Oates family from the distant lands of Cambridgeshire.
Today we were heading off to Tarbat Ness and Portmahommack in search of seabirds and migrants, the weather was bright and breezy and although the heat of the summer is on the wane it still made for very pleasant birding conditions.
Portmahommock was first stop, Eiders drifted about in loose flocks, the brown females staying separated from the males, many now in their black and white eclipse plumage. Gannets, mainly adults were feeding out to sea and Sandwich Terns made their presence known by flying overhead giving their raucous “kerrang” call, a real sound of summer. A good flock of House Sparrows were hanging about in the nearby bushes whilst Jackdaws and Collard Doves fed on the sea weed strand line on the beach.
Heading up to Tarbat Ness good numbers of Starlings and Hirundines where perched on farm buildings and Telephone wires, looks like it has been a good breeding season for them. Arriving at the car park the feeders where in high demand by yet another healthy population of House Sparrows, with the occasional Chaffinch and Hedge Sparrow thrown in for good measure.
Heading out through the gorse path to the lighthouse linnets perched on the telegraph wire, and House Martins Chirruped over head, on closer inspection we noticed the nest high up on the light house, just below the glass dome, the birds were continually flying up trying to coax the unfledged youngsters to take to the air!
Out to see a small raft of immature Shags lazed about on the water, Gannets, Fulmars and the ever present Sandwich Terns drifted by continually. There was however no sign of yesterdays pod of Killer Whales.
Last stop was the RSPB hide at Nigg bay, although the tide was fully out we still have the fantastic sight of four Osprey in the area at the same time, along with Curlew, Shelduck, Grey Heron and a nice Autumn flock of 90 Lapwings.
A great morning, with highly entertaining company and a good handful on birds. Look out for my next blog when we head out for Eagles and Ouzels!
Monday 12 August 2013
The group of people pictured below are the Grantown on Spey U3A and under the guidance of one Frank MacKay they booked me as a guide for the morning (for a second time!)
Meeting at the appointed hour we spend a pleasant 15 minutes scoping the Moray Firth just off Lossiemouth, plenty of action was going on just around the mouth of the River Lossie, Sandwich Terns, both adult and juveniles were feeding noisily just offshore, a smaller number of Common and Arctic terns were also in the same area. Gannets passed by further out to sea, the adults snow white plumage contacting starkly with the dark grey, ominous looking clouds that seemed to be gathering just off shore! Then with no warning a female Sparrowhawk zipped onto the scene, landing briefly on the sea wall, the terns were not happy, and started mobbing said Sparrowhawk, that decided to exit stage left!
Moving onto Lossie Estuary the usual suspects were to be found, Herring, Lesser Black Backed, Greater black backed, and Black headed gulls were all loafing around in the water and exposed sand banks. An Osprey was feeding just at the far side of the dunes, but headed off towards Spey Bay. Oystercatchers, Redshank and Dunlin were also in the immediate area.
Crossing over the bridge Frank called out Bar Tailed Godwit, this superbly marked bird was feeding very successfully in the wet mud just to the left of the footbridge. Walking out onto the fantastic East Beach I was slightly dismayed to see a surfing group just off shore but they didn’t disturb the few birds that were in the area.
A small group of Sanderling fed busily along the strand line, all these birds were in their winter dress, but nice to see nonetheless. Also in the vicinity were Sandwich and Arctic Terns, a nice mixture of adult and juveniles.
Heading back to the cars a House Martin and pair of swifts headed over the dunes heading East, and fittingly pone of the last birds of the day was once again a Feeding Osprey.
A great mornings birding with some great people, roll on October for my next outing with the Grantown on Spey U3A!