Blog – 2022

Birding Ecosse Blogspot

Welcome to the Birding Ecosse blog, if it is your first visit then thank you very much for dropping in!

This blog will follow all my trips and tours, so if you have been out with me recently the chances are very high you will make an appearance! Most of the pictures on the blog are my own, however if I do use third party  pictures I will have obtained their permission and will give them full credit.

It is designed to be a light hearted read to show how and where Birding Ecosse operates, so if you are thinking of booking a tour check out this Blog and my Blog Archives and then read through the Testimonials and you should get a flavour of what to expect! Great Birds, Great Scenery with Coffee and biscuits thrown in!  Please note: All  birds will have been viewed in a safe and environmentally accepted way, that is to say by using public access at all times or by the use of hides specifically erected for the observation of this species and by keeping at a  safe distance and viewing through telescopes. Remember you can keep in touch via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dslaterbirdingecosse or twitter @birdingecosse

Did you know Birding Ecosse produces a newsletter?  Get up to date news and offers first if you subscribe, check out “latest news” page for the most current publication then just select subscribe.   The newsletter is a lighthearted look at what has happened the previous months, full of Pictures and information (many that are not published on this blog page) of places we have visited, we also produce our mid month “Planned trips” mailing which gives an update of all remaining spaces available on tours.

So sit back and enjoy the read, any feedback is appreciated.

Keep safe and keep Birding

Dave

Friday 08 to Sunday 10 July 2022

A truly fantastic three days with a great group of folk, exploring the stunning west coast of Scotland, the beautiful Scottish Highlands and the dramatic Moray Coastline.

Shenagh, Mandy and Ben

Shenagh, Mandy and Ben were first up, and as we set off the running plan for the day changed due to very low cloud from the high pass to Applecross to the stunning West Coast. Stopping off at a small Loch en-route is was quite sad to see no Slavonian Grebes in the area, this site used to hold at least four pairs, hopefully they have moved to another lochan, however on a happier note the Osprey nest we watch each year has two fairly chunky, nearly fledged, young!

The West coast was bathed in sun when we arrived, two pure Hooded Crows were perched on the nearby church roof, Gannets gleaming pure white circled and fed out in the bay, but there was a severe lack of birds on the water, moving around the coast we had great views of Juvenile Wheatear, Eider female with a fluffy chick, Curlews.

Lunch with a view

Heading out to Mellon Charles we were treated to superb views of Common Terns as they fed and tended to the young, it was surprising the age spread of chicks with some tiny birds to some fully fledged.

And so to the bird pictured above, a bird that every year leads to many “what on earth is that” comments, with most people coming down on the side of some sort of wader.  It is in fact a juvenile Black Headed Gull!  Quite a smart looking bird I think.

Now the constant factor on the three days was Shenagh, and today she was joined by Umesh, Vibha and Shanti.

Shanti, Vibha and Umesh on Cairngorm

Today was Cairngorm birds, the day was mild, however arriving from sunny and warm California Shanti and Vibha were feeling the cold!  I was nearly in tee shirt and flip flops.

A really pleasant day ensued with great views of Male Reed Bunting, Spotted Flycatcher, Red Grouse, Slavonian Grebe, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper and Meadow Pipits to name just a few.

Spotted Flycatcher

After lunch and as is normal at this time of year raptor valley was fairly quiet however an Osprey was a great bonus as we watched it fish in the river Findhorn, it really is a great spectacle of nature to see these birds stoop and plunge into the water.

The final day was just Shenagh and myself, and it was a day of great chat, good advice (received not given I hasten to ask!) beautiful scenery and great birds, plus a bit of an added bonus.

First stop was Bowfiddle Rock, a bit of an overlooked local beauty spot.

Bowfiddle Rock

It was scorching on the coast today, but so nice to experience some proper summer time.

Bowfiddle Rock is one of my favourite places to be in the summer time, Fulmars glide past almost at touching distance, Kittiwakes “Kitti-waaaake Kitti – Waaaaake” on the vertical cliff faces beside Guillemots and Razorbills, Herring Gulls and Shag litter any other available ledges, shelves and flat areas.  Further along the cliff path we came to the small breeding cliff. this area gives outstanding close up views of the breeding birds, the highlight being seeing the emerald green eye of the Shags, the bonus for today was a Minky Whale very very close to shore! (and yes I know it is not Whale Ecosse!)

Driving along the beautiful Moray Coastline we were treated to Eiders with Chicks, Moulting Goosanders, Rock Pipits, Gannets, Black Guillemots, and superb comparison views of Common and Arctic Terns on Lossiemouth Estuary.

We did see a couple of dead Gannets on our travels a sobering reminder of the Avian Flu that is ravaging seabird colonies throughout the North of Scotland, hopefully our birds will rebound over the coming months and years.

Arctic Tern

Common Tern

Tuesday 05 July 2022

Strangely enough todays pick up for Terry and her son Stephen was once again in Inverness, that is every tour since I left the railway been Inverness collections!

Anyway soon we had driven south and were on the beautiful (although sterile) Scottish grouse moors, the drizzly cool weather (+8) kept the Grouse huddled down although we did manage to see one female and around 4 chicks.

It was also great to see the local Black Throated Divers  cruising around with their now quite sizable two chicks, hopefully securing the breeding link to this stunning location.

Common Sandpiper

A slow drive around the loch gave excellent views of Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, and more surprisingly a Cuckoo and one of my first Spotted Flycatchers of the season, I feel the Flycatchers are arriving later and later each year.

A very distant and heavily cropped Cuckoo

Spotted Flycatcher

The day then took a more sombre turn when we tried to drive to the Strathdearn Valley only to be faced with a huge tailback and a closed A9, Sadly it transpired that three people had perished in a horrible crash that closed the road for many hours.

Stephen and Terry

A change of plan saw us heading to the stunning area of Spey dam, one of our target species for today the dipper was seen just below the River at the beginning of the dam, however it was when we stopped for a Coffee at the beginning of the Dam itself that Stephen looked up as an adult Golden Eagle glided overhead and across the valley, a glorious sight!  Throughout the trip in the valley we also picked up Stonechat (plenty of Juveniles) Meadow Pipits, Osprey, Siskin, Coal Tit, Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

A great day with Terry and Stephen, I look forward to our next meeting, hopefully in less than 4 years time like it was this trip!

Friday 08 to Sunday 10 July 2022

Another fantastic three days birding we a super set of people!

Thursday 30 June and Friday 01 July 2022

Well what can I say, so much has changed since my last blog below, we are selling our house, we have already moved back out into the country where we can sit on our couches and watch Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Tree Sparrows and Red Squirrels on our feeder and where the only sound we hear is the wind blowing in the silver birches… total bliss!  But the biggest change to my life is I have now retired from my job in the Railway and as such I am now a full time Birding Guide! It has taken a while, my initial hope was to be full time in three years, however being the coward I am it has taken fourteen to get to that stage, but the deed is done and the only way now is forward! (although it still does feel I’m holiday and will be going back to the old job any day soon!)

Vivek and Abja en-route to Troup Head

The first people to fall victim to “Full Time” Dave were Abja and Vivek, all the way from the US of A and what a great couple of days, filled with stories, laughs, advice (thank you Vivek) and history, plus some great birding as well!

A trip to Troup Head is always a great day out, this year however it has taken on a different guise with the arrival of Bird Flu and over the last few weeks we have seen quite a large number of Gannets either dead in the water, cliffs and nesting ledges or birds looking very lethargic and waterlogged on the sea surface or land, a very sad sight indeed, at present the Auks and Kittiwakes look unaffected.

RSPB Troup Head

it was no all doom and gloom though and there were still thousands of seabirds to see Guillemots, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Kittiwake, Shag, Cormorant, Herring, Great Black Backed, Lesser Black Backed and Black Headed Gull all put in an appearance.  Highlight of the trip though had to be when Harold and Sophia threw some Mackerel overboard, the resulting feeding frenzy was just jawdropping!

Gannets

The next day was Highland Birds and another great day.  Red Grouse was first on the list and a female and chicks duly obliged.

Red Grouse

It was nice to see the young Grouse, hopefully they will survive no only the summer but also when the shooting season starts again.

We also had a good showing of the breeding waders pictured below:

Oystercatcher

Lapwing

We also picked up great views of a Male Lesser Redpoll and Male Reed Bunting, and this Male Greenfinch decided to stop off and check us out, checking it out!

Male Greenfinch

And so the two days passed far too quickly, soon I was waving Abja and Vivek farewell, strangely enough at Inverness Railway Station 🙂  a great couple of days in good company, thanks to both of you!

Saturday 14 May 2022

So much for a weekly blog! Life once again has gone into birding tour overdrive with all my May and June dates now full, thank you to everyone for booking, it is much appreciated.

We have had some absolutely fantastic birding lately, Little Ringed Plover, Great White Egret, Marsh Harriers, Garganey, Lots and lots of Ospreys, Golden Eagle and lots more beside.

As if that is not busy enough Birding Ecosse is moving HQ back out into the countryside, so watch out for lots of Garden Bird pictures, already had a Crossbill, Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammer visiting, along with next doors Muscovy Duck “Bob” (who is actually a she!)

So just a few shots of some of the birds my victims have encountered over the last few weeks:

 

 

Osprey

A frazzled looking Dipper with food for its brood!

 

 

Whimbrel

“Bridled” Guillemot

Male Yellowhammer

Weekly Blog:  07 – 13 March 2022

A very quiet week tours wise but still a lot to see and do in the area.  The Long Staying King Eider was seen again off the Nairn Leisure centre, but was absolutely miles out, just below the horizon and quite difficult to pick out from the Common Eiders it was hanging around with.

A Surf Scoter was off Roseisle viewpoint at the beginning of the week but has since fallen off the radar.

Winter migrants still grace the area with flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing seen on most birding days and Pink Footed Geese still depart Findhorn Bay early morning.

Dipper collecting nesting material

The local Dippers are back on territory and a memory of 2 year ago was this bird collecting nesting material at a site in Nethybridge, which incidentally is still hosting 4 Waxwings although the Hawfinches seem to have moved on.

And so that’s another week over, this time next week I should be in Norfolk, however even now there is exciting news for the next weekly blog…… stay tuned 😉

Keep safe and Good Birding

Dave

Weekly Blog:  28 Feb – 06 March 2022

Welcome to my (hopefully) weekly blog, a very quick resume of the weeks birding highlights.

It was a busy week with Maureen and Peter out for a day trip and Denise taking part in a weekend tour, a wide variety of species were requested, we were lucky on some and missed out on others.

For some reason the pretty village of Nethybridge was the epicentre of birding activity in the area with Waxwings, Hawfinch and a huge influx of Brambling on offer.

Some of the huge Brambling influx to the area.

The waxwings were picked up on a couple of Mornings but remained high up in trees and in very poor lighting for photography, the Hawfinch was never seen!

Crossbills were high on the wanted lists and luckily we scored on every trip, the birds performed really well for all trips feeding on larch cones and one male in full song,

Crossbill (male top picture – female lower)

The three long staying Snow Geese were outside Lossiemouth in a field with a group of Feral Greylags and the Ring Necked Duck on a wee Lochan outside Elgin is always a nice bird to pick up.

Snow Bunting were also a wanted bird, and they did not disappoint.

Trips to the West Coast of Scotland are always a treat, and always turn up nice birds, this time we had all the regular Divers including this very showy Great Northern Diver.

Surprisingly for BIRDING Ecosse we picked up a fair few “other stuff” including a very showy Dolphiny type thing,

We also saw Red and Roe Deer, Brown Hare, Grey Seal and Red Squirrel.

Plus mother nature gifted us with some stunning weather and jaw dropping scenery.

And so that is you all up to date for this week, keep safe and keep Birding!

Monday 21 February 2022

A highly entertaining day scooting around Moray and the Highlands with multi trip victim Pam, starting off at Burghead harbour we were treated to a group of Eiders inside the harbour walls giving outstanding views, this one bird showed an interesting plumage.

Male Eider

A Carbo Cormorant was trying it’s hardest to be a Sinensis Cormorant! But try as I might the gular patch remained Carbo.

Cormorant (Carbo)

But Highlight had to be the long staying King Eider at Nairn and today was the closest I have seen it by far. (still rubbish pictures though!)

Also added to the days list were Brambling, Velvet Scoters, Purple Sandpipers, 3 White Morph Snow Geese and a beautiful male Red Grouse it was a truly great day out

Monday 14 February 2022

Cracking day today with a full on twitch with Lynda, Hilary and Craig, destination Fraserburgh, and focus of the twitch? A superb adult Ross’s Gull! Expectations were high!

Arriving at Kinnaird Head a fellow Birder informed us straight away the bird was present and showing distantly but well through a scope.

 

Kinnaird Head Lighthouse – Fraserburgh

 

Looking out to the area where the Ross’s Gull was hanging around with local Kittiwakes
Even before I had switched off the engine Lynda was out and scanning the area with her binos! Soon we had all got in position, scopes on tripods (2 x Swaro 95 ATX – 1 x 80 STS HD and a 65 STS HD!) it was like a Swarovski field day!
Scanning through the mixed flock of Herring, Common, Black Headed Gull and Kittiwake when boom a small very pale gull hove into view.  First two things that I noticed 1. The Smokey grey underwings 2. The very bouncy flight pattern.
Ross’s Gull showing Smokey grey underwing
The bird was as described, quite far out, however through the scope you could make out the slight pinking blush, the pale grey upper wings the pure white wingtips and the snow white wedge tailed tail. A really lovely wee Gull
Once the gull was located it was relatively easy to pick it out, even through the Camera lens. Sadly it remained quite distant so record shots only achieved.  It had a very bouncy flight with a very distinctive habit of dropping to the waters surface and “paddling” very petrel like.  Its red legs showing well when it did this.
Distinctive Petrel like pattering on waters surface.

Ross’s Gull below a Kittiwake for size comparison
Fantastic trip out, weather was wild, wet and windy but it really added rather detracted from the experience, a grand day out!
Wednesday 02 February 2022
First full tour of 2022 and what an absolutely stonking day!
Arriving at Nairn we were onto our target bird within 5 minutes of getting out the Flying Pig, a stunning full male King Eider was loafing about with a male and female Common Eider, see truly woeful shot below!
King Eider dot (middle bird 🙂 )
Next on the rare list was three Snow geese that have been in the area for a good few weeks now, we were not disappointed!
Last but not least a Ring Necked Duck ended a fantastic day, really sorry about the pictures, my editing suite does not want to play game (new computer!)

In total 64 species were seen including 20 Brent Geese, over 400 Pintails, 40 plus Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter and Long Tailed Ducks, 1 Slavonian Grebe, Purple Sandpiper and Red Throated Divers.

A perfectly nice birding day was spoiled by Bottle Nosed Dolphins and this Squirrel.

January 2022

Greetings and Salutations from the far North, well 2022 has got off to an amazing start from day 1!

A big Day Buzzard

Saturday 01 January 2022 08:15 saw Lucky Lynda and myself scoping a beautiful mixed flock of ducks on the Findhorn Bay, a great way to start a “Big Day Bird Race” organised by some of my former colleagues, last years total of 55 was the target to beat, and with 15 Birds on the list already just as day broke including some beautiful male Pintails, what could be a better way to start.

Purple Sandpiper
Arriving at Burghead the rain was “stoating doon” as we say here in Scotland so it was a great time to have a cuppy and sea watch from the car, Long Tailed Duck, Common Eiders, Red Breasted Mergansers, Common Scoter and Black Throated Diver were soon all added! Cuppy finished and 28 Species seen we were making good progress – next stop Loch Spynie.
Tree Sparrow
It was more like dusk than lunchtime when we arrived at RSPB Loch Spynie but the feeders in the car park where teeming with birds, Tree Sparrow, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue, Great and Coal Tit, which was just as well as the actual Loch was very quiet adding just Mute Swan, Coot, Mallard and Goosander, however the list now stood at 49!  Target well and truly in sight!
Light was fading fast as we made whirlwind visits to Lossiemouth and Hopeman (no sign of the King Eider sadly) however the Rock Pipit at Burghead (second visit of the day) brought up the species list 55! Bar Tailed Godwit 56, Sanderling 57, Ringed Plover 58, Goldeneye 59, Bullfinch 60, Long Tailed Tit 61, Greylag Goose 62, Mistle Thrush 63, Sparrowhawk 64, Stonechat 65, then to finish the day off and to take joint first place in the Big Day Bird Race 2022 bird number 66 a fantastic view of Woodcock in the dark on the way home! (meaning Lynda and I were on the way home, not the Woodcock I have no idea where it lives) What a truly great way to start 2022!

Sunday 02nd Jan started off where the 01st ended with a text saying a Waxwing was showing well about 20 miles away in a place called Elgin, so once again Lucky Lynda and myself mounted the trusty flying pig and set sail. The journey was very worthwhile!

What was nice is that there were some great birds hanging around with the Waxwing.

Female Bullfinch


Male Bullfinch


Redwing


Mistle Thrush

And as if things could not get better, we had our first tour of 2022! A brilliant half day with Susan and Sean Tu looking for Crested Tits.
After a blank trip to Loch Garten we had brilliant views of one bird at a wee site near to Nethybridge, we also managed to hook up with a flock of beautiful Snow Buntings at Cairngorm and ended the day with crippling views of a Woodcock in a puddle nor far from Susan and Sean Tu’s house, a fantastic first month of the year!Bookings are going well and starting next week we are  back to being out and about at full speed, the Flying Pig will be back spick and span being fixed after an encounter with a Roe Deer!  Covid restrictions are relaxing, with masks still being required in the car, and we will continue to disinfect the vehicle at the end and before each day starts, hand sanitiser is readily available and spare masks are carried.
So that’s it 2022 is out the blocks and building momentum and things are looking good, if you have any intention of heading to the Highlands in 2022 please check out the available dates and get in touch as soon as you can, I can see this being a busy year for us!