Sunday, April 11, 2021

📖 Weekly Review W/E 11/04/21

Another cold week dominated by a northerly airflow continues to be the theme up here in northeast Scotland. Frosty nights and chilly days with a constant barrage of snow showers is definitely keeping migration to a bare minimum but despite the conditions, the birds keep trickling through.

Despite the conditions, Sandwich Terns are getting through (these two at Girdleness on Friday)

Pre-breakfast visits to the local Dalmadilly Ponds, plus visits to Girdleness, Muir of Dinnet and the Ythan Estuary with Dazza over the weekend have been the highlights of my birding week. 

My 1st Osprey of the year over the Ythan Estuary this morning

There have been a few additions to the year list with two Wheatears on the golf course at Girdleness on Friday, plus a couple of Sandwich Terns past the lighthouse. Saturday's visit to Dinnet produced my first Swallows on Loch Kinnord, along with a group of 20+ departing Redwings, which we found chattering away in the treetops. There was a definite fall of Meadow Pipits around Muir of Dinnet with birds popping up everywhere as we enjoyed a few hours walking. An early stop on the Ythan Estuary before visiting friends (socially distanced outside) in Collieston produced my first Osprey of the year, a matter of good timing as we drove past the 'Snub' car park at precisely the right time.

Despite the winter refusing to relinquish its icy grip (it's snowing right now) there's still plenty to do and see and in particular the huge skeins of Pink-footed Geese that pass over the house daily. The days are getting longer too and with temperatures set to rise, although not dramatically, in the coming week I remain positive that Willow Warbler will be on my year list come next Sunday!

Pictorial...


Sand Martins taking a breather at the local Dalmadilly Ponds

This Sand Martin at Dalmadilly Ponds in -3C thinking he's made a grave error of judgement!

You can't visit anywhere on the Aberdeenshire coast without seeing the beautiful Eider Ducks

A constant passage of Kittiwakes past Girdleness on Friday

A Gannet fishes relatively close to the Girdleness headland on the stiff northerly breeze

One of two male Wheaters on the golf course at Girleness

Another shot of this morning's Osprey

Almost summer plumage Golden Plover at Newburgh

Monday, April 05, 2021

📖 Easter Weekend

Lots to celebrate this weekend with the easing of the 'Stay at Home' order, my birthday and of course Easter Weekend, although Monday is not a bank holiday up here in Scotland.

View from higher ground on the Invercauld Estate.

Picnic packed, bins, camera and scope at the ready Dazza and I spent the day in the Cairngorms on Good Friday, Aberdeenshire side of course! We began at the Invercauld Estate car park, where a number of tracks lead to areas of old pine woodland, birch, wet bog and hillside. 

Male Common Crossbill, looking quite bold at the top of this pine tree

This is a good area for Crossbills, with all three species (including the endemic Scottish Crossbill) found within the locality. We saw several today but all were Common Crossbill. I have little experience of the Scottish Crossbill thus far, which is only usually accepted if accompanied by a sound recording, a project for the future maybe. 

A Jay enjoying the spring sunshine

Along the cliff face at Craig Leek, a couple of Peregrines were displaying, joined for a short while by a third, plus a passing Red Kite, two Ravens and a Common Buzzard. It was an enjoyable walk with a good selection of woodland birds, JayMistle ThrushCoal Tit, Siskin, Chaffinch and a few Brambling but the best was a couple of Black Grouse which surprised us when they flew out of a nearby low tree! 

Looking down towards the boggy valley and Felagie

Looking down the valley towards the bog distant views of Curlew and Snipe in flight, plus a good number of Common Gulls, which appear to be quite widespread within the Cairngorms currently. A Green Woodpecker, a species that has remained elusive since moving here in October and not particularly common in Aberdeenshire was calling constantly but sadly we failed to connect. However, there was no such problem if you were looking for Oystercatchers, which seem to be literally everywhere at the moment, including many in the fields around our home. 

A Red Grouse from the comfort of the car

After a long walk and our picnic, we headed on towards Glen Shee making several stops along the A92 (Scotlands highest Road at 2,199Ft) before reaching our turnaround point at the ski centre. We paused at the centre for a while, a good place to scan for Golden Eagle, Ptarmigan and Mountain Hares but dipped on all three, the latter a bit of a surprise! Red Grouse are pretty widespread around these parts and we saw several along the route. Dee spotted a Wheatear from the car window at one point but when I turned about for my year-tick unfortunately we couldn't relocate, so that tick will be a little while longer for me.

One of a possible pair of Dipper seen along Clunie Water.

A shorter walk along Clunie Water on route home produced Dipper, more Crossbill, Red Grouse and displaying Meadow Pipits, always a delight at this time of year with their wonderful parachute display. Common Sandpipers nest along this particular stretch of water and Ring Ouzel can be found around the rocky outcrops but it's still a little early in the calendar for these. Three Sand Martins shot through at one point, a handy year-tick for Dazza. 

A pair of stag Red Deer antlers ~ Exactly as we found them

The best though was a cracking find by Dazza when she came across a pair of shed Red Deer antlers, these will look quite good on the wall having found them naturally!


Saturday we were less energetic and decided on a short drive to 'Bullers of Buchan, a small hamlet with spectacular sea cliffs. This area is also one of the best sites north of Aberdeen to see Puffins but despite a report of a good number in the sea a day earlier, we failed to see any. They certainly weren't in any of their burrows.

Kittiwake

Fulmar 

All the other colony birds were getting down to business though with Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag, Fulmar and Kittiwake all noted.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

📖 Dalmadilly Pond & River Don 🌧 7C ~ Wind ↓N @7mph ~ 31/03/21


We've lost the warm south-westerlies overnight as high-pressure builds to the north-west opening the floodgates to a chilly northerly airflow. When I arrived on the patch this morning it was just 7C and the skies were laden producing a heavy drizzle. A couple of Roe Deer darted across the road just as I arrived around 07:45.

The pond level continues to drop and the first species of note were (5) Whooper Swans on the larger of the two ponds, but they didn't stay long before heading off, circling once before flying north. 
(2) Oystercatchers flew through followed shortly after by (7) Curlew and the usual Greylag and Pink-footed Geese were feeding in the surrounding fields.

Little Grebe

Just before heading over to the small pond a final check across the water yielded a couple of Sand Martin, which fed briefly before moving on. Once again the only other wildfowl on both ponds were (29) Tufted Duck in total and (2) Little Grebes on the small pond.


Two Chiffchaff singing today and a look down towards the river produced a single Dipper. While here (3) more Sand Martin and a group of circa 20 Fieldfare passed overhead. I keep hearing a Greenshank calling but similar to the other day I still frustratingly haven't managed to connect! 

Yellowhammer

Reed Bunting

Other species of note during my 90-minute stay included: Lesser Redpoll, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Greenfinch, ChaffinchGoldcrest, Reed Bunting, Song Thrush Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard drumming only)

Sub note.... Driving past the ponds mid-afternoon 20+ Sand Martins feeding over the water.

Monday, March 29, 2021

📖 Dalmadilly & River Don ☀️ 14C ~ Wind ↑S@ 13mph ~ 29/03/21

BST ☀️ Sunrise 06:46 ~ Sunset 19:43 ~ Day Lenth 12hrs:57mins:53sec

Unlike England, we have to wait until the end of the week before we can venture further afield so an early morning local walk to Dalmadilly Ponds and then on to the River Don, west of the road bridge at Kemnay. An amazingly summer-like morning with a warm southerly airflow and almost clear skies, the temperature on arrival was already 14C, so no coat required today!

A gorgeous Sunrise over Dalmadilly Ponds & a full moon setting behind to the west

Nothing unusual around the ponds today with (25) Tufted Duck and (3) Greylag Geese the only waterfowl to be found, although there was a constant movement of Pink-footed Geese overhead for the duration of my stay. A small group of gulls mid-water contained both Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls.

(3) Singing Chiffchaff the highlight at the ponds today.

Yellowhammer, Linnet & Mistle Thrush were all in song today but the highlight was at least (3) Chiffchaff, likely the same birds I recorded here last week. A quick look down onto the river produced (5) Goosander, including one Drake, Buzzard and (2) Mute Swans, plus a calling Greenshank but I never managed to connect. 

A Skylark in full voice

From the road bridge at Kemnay, a walk along the river away from the Fetternear Estate. Here a real feel of spring with numerous Skylarks displaying, along with smaller numbers of Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit. Then, always a delight and eagerly anticipated, my first Sand Martin of the year appeared and fed for a while over the river before moving on. 

These six Oystercatchers part of a group of over twenty birds on the river bend

On the sandbanks a group of over twenty Oystercatchers and in the surrounding fields Lapwing and a count of (17) Curlew. For the second time today another call of Greenshank but frustratingly I never managed to connect once again. A male Stonechat and (26) Whooper Swans feeding on a distant field was also of note during a superb few hours birding before heading home for breakfast. 


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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

📖 Dalmadilly Ponds ☀️ -2C ~ Wind ↗SW@ 4mph ~ 24/03/21

☀️ Sunrise 06:05 ~ Sunset 18:28 ~ Day Lenth 12hrs:22mins:30sec

The weather over the past few days here in Aberdeenshire has been amazing, with clear blue skies and temperatures reaching the balmy heights of 16C. In fact, over the weekend the garden produced our first butterfly of the year when a Small Tortoiseshell dropped in. Today a very early morning walk around the village ponds.

Aerial view of the Ponds ~ Photo from the Kemnay community page

Just five minutes from the house Dalmadilly Ponds were originally agricultural farmland. In 1993 work began on quarrying the land for sand and gravel aggregates and when extraction was completed the quarried area was allowed to flood naturally in accordance with the existing water table. The surrounding land has been restored to form a wildlife area for birds and a recreational area for walking and bird watching. This has been accomplished by the planting of hundreds of indigenous trees, the formation of footpaths around both ponds and finally, two substantial bird hides have been erected, one at each pond. This is an excellent habitat with lots of potential for the odd rarity but I get the feeling you need to arrive here exceptionally early before the local dog walkers get out and about. 


Today I managed to walk both ponds without seeing a soul. On arrival around 6am, I was greeted by a couple of singing Yellowhammer, the constant passage of Pink-footed Geese overhead, now gathering in huge numbers and my first singing Chiffchaff of the year (in Scotland).


On the water, there were several battling Coots, (4) Goldeneye, (2) Little Grebe, (12) Tufted Duck and a pair of Goosander. The pools it would seem are currently over their normal water level and it will be interesting to see whether after they recede it becomes a suitable habitat for waders. Having said that, a couple of Oystercatchers attempted a landing but continued on to the nearby fields. It was an interesting visit with a good selection of species and I look forward to many more visits to come. 

Stonechat nest building

Before heading back for breakfast I took a stroll along a few of the nearby lanes, in particular, to take a look at a couple of flooded fields, which although promising were sadly devoid of anything of interest. However, I did come across a pair of Stonechats and enjoyed a wonderful half-hour in their company watching them building their home. 

Stonechat

More Images of The visit...


Lesser Redpoll

Treecreeper

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

📖 Service Resumed

Since my previous post, which seems like an age ago, my main focus has been on house and garden upgrades, local daily walks and has even included a short trip back down to England for medical reasons. Although my trip was essential, the biggest problem with travelling back to England is that with all flights currently suspended into Birmingham Airport from Aberdeen I had little choice other than to complete a gruelling 850-mile round trip by car!

Anyway, 'Service Resumed' I'm back now and with the onset of spring it's all systems go in preparation for some intense birding, provided of course that the current lockdown restrictions on local travel are eased sometime soon.

One of the long-staying Great Northern Divers in the gloom at Draycote Water

As I was staying close to my old birding ground back in England it did provide the opportunity for some extra year ticks while enjoying my daily exercise at the nearby Draycote Water. These Included Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe and a few species that are a little harder to find up here in North-East Scotland, for example, Great Crested Grebe, Canada Goose, Gadwall and Lesser Blacked-backed Gull although the latter are now beginning to return after their winter absence. 

It was also nice to see a few Chiffchaff around Draycote Water, including one singing.

My local birding continues to provide plenty of variety and I'm still getting used to the fact that observing species such as Dipper and Tree Sparrow on most of my daily walks is normality. During one walk in particular a Corn Bunting was perched singing from the phone wires, another species apparently not uncommon to the area!

Greenland White-fronted Goose on the nearby fields

The Whooper Swans and Pink-footed Geese continue to feed up for their big exodus and in amongst a local flock of mixed Greylag/Pink-Footed, I was able to connect with both a single Barnacle Goose and Greenland White-Fronted Goose, thanks to another local birder getting the news out swiftly.

Brambling in the treetops of the local 'Green'


The kitchen window continues to deliver as I look across to the treetops of the local 'Green'. One session while enjoying breakfast produced several Brambling and Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Bullfinch are all regular visitors.

Finally, my first couple of 'Nocmig' sessions has produced of interest Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Oystercatcher and Curlew, plus the many skeins of geese that pass regularly overhead.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

📖 Comfort Birding ☁️ 1C ~ Wind ↖SSE@ 23mph ~ 13/02/21

🌊 High Tide ~ N/A ~ ☀️ Sunrise 7:43am Sunset 5:05pm ~ Day Lenth 9:22:47

With the snow still laying and although the local authorities are doing an amazing job of keeping the pavements and roads bearable I decided on a day indoors reading, blogging and occasionally just concentrating on the local bird movements. With excellent views across to the mountains and lots of skies to observe, not to mention the garden and all from the comforts of home what's not to like!

Herring Gull touching down in the garden

It was noticeable that there were smaller movements of both Pink-footed and Greylag Geese today and just a single raptor seen when a Buzzard passed through being mobbed by Corvids. The usual selection of Common Gulls and Herring Gulls spent the day marauding and even on occasions dropping down to investigate.

Goldcrest ~ A regular to the feeders sneaking in under the radar

The feeders were busy with mostly Starlings and House Sparrows, although the odd Chaffinch drops down occasionally I don't seem to attract finches. This despite having nyger seed, mixed seed including sunflower, black sunflower and also peanuts. There's plenty spread over the ground too for the Dunnocks and Robins. Coal Tits are the most frequent tit to visit, along with Blue Tits, however, Great Tits are a rarity to the garden and I've only recorded Long-tailed Tits on one occasion. 

Chaffinch ~ An infrequent visitor to the garden

The high treetops over towards 'The Green' are always worth a look through the scope, a Hawfinch a few weeks ago was an excellent find and today Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin, Bullfinch and Lesser Redpoll were all noted. However, the garden was where the action was today with my strategically placed apples enticing the whole of the most common Thrush species, which made for some interesting battles.

Mistle Thrush ~ Undoubtedly the keeper of the apples


This Song Thrush found it challenging to even get a look in

Fieldfares were in charge until the Mistle Thrush dropped in!

A Redwing patiently awaits his moment

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