Saturday, June 18, 2022

πŸ“– Invercauld Estate ~ June 18th 2022

πŸ’¨πŸŒ€ 18C Saturday 18th June 2022 ~ Despite the strong breeze it was still a lovely day so Dazza and I decided to pack a picnic and head off to the Cairngorms to enjoy one of our favourite walks around the Invercauld Estate near Braemar. 

View looking down towards Deeside

This waymarked circular walk begins at the estate car park and takes you around the prominent Craig Leek. At a distance of 5.25 miles with an ascent of around 1000ft, the walk normally takes around 2.5 hours. As we set off there was a small number of Common Crossbills in the surrounding trees, apparently, all three species can be found around here (Scottish & Parrot) but I've yet to connect with the latter two. 

Common Crossbill

Due to the stiff breeze, I wasn't expecting much in the way of Butterflies, in fact, the only species we managed to identify today were Green-veined White and Small Heath, although a Fritillary did zoom passed at one point, likely a Dark-green! There were plenty of Four-spotted Chaser Dragonflies but the conditions ruled out any chance of finding Northern Damselflies, which can be seen here along the lower track.

Four-spotted Chaser

We made our usual stop for a snack when we reached Felagie Burn and while here had one of those unexpected wildlife experiences! Dazza spotted something swimming in the deeper water and the last thing we expected was to see a Mole hauling itself out. We watched in amazement as he awkwardly scrambled up onto the rocks before disappearing into the nearby undergrowth. Quite a surreal moment!

A Mole ~ Apparently a pretty good swimmer when the need arises!

The birding was excellent today for passerines and I don't think we've ever managed to see so many juveniles. It seems to have been an excellent breeding season up here thus far. Willow Warblers were too numerous to count and the same could be said for Stonechats, which also appeared to be around every bend. We also managed to come across three juvenile Wheatear along with what was likely one of the parents.

This young Wheatear was one of three noted today.

At a woodland stage of our walk, we found a family of five Common Redstarts, busily being fed by both parents. Dazza first noted the youngsters all perched on lower branches but they suddenly disperced into the nearby trees. A few photos before hastily moving on, a wonderful sight nevertheless! We also came across a second breeding pair a short time later.

Two of the five juveniles Redstarts (below) along with the male parent (above)

The final length of our walk takes you back to the car park along the estate road and here we managed two displaying Tree Pipits along with Siskin, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush and Meadow Pipit

More Images of the Day...

Soggy-looking Mole after his brief adventure!



Thursday, June 16, 2022

πŸ“– Ospreys ~ June 16th 2022

I must say I don't envy those south of the border and the chaps back at Brandon Marsh enduring temperatures in the high 20s at present. It was one of the few downfalls of living on a boat made from steel and the best option was always to head out and find a nice tree to shelter under. Ah, precious memories!! 

Thankfully the weather is quite different up here in Aberdeenshire at the moment with the odd shower and a pleasant 20C. So with no sunshine and instead of heading off to Muir of Dinnet today to look for Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies, I took a drive out to the Ythan Estuary. It was a pretty quiet visit and the major highlight was watching a couple of Ospreys. One of which took a successful dive, catching what I think was a Salmon.

Despite the rain, the gloom and the distance it's still a wonderful sight! 

Monday, June 13, 2022

πŸ“– A Day Out ~ June 13th 2022

 πŸŒ¦13C Monday 13th June 2022 A day out beginning at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg and then the journey home stopping off at Peterhead, Meikle Loch and the Waulkmill Hide along the Ythan.

Corn Bunting

A few Corn Bunting on my route not far from the reserve but the main target at Strathbeg was a Glossy Ibis reported yesterday on Starnafin Pools. This is where I began my day overlooking that area first from the picnic bench. A pretty overcast and chilly day with occasional spots of rain at this point. Initially, no sign of the Ibis but I noted Greenshank, Little-ringed Plover, several Oystercatchers, (5) Black-tailed Godwit and (7) Shelduck, one with a family of six youngsters. The latter often scattered a small flock of Teal that ventured too close. A female Marsh Harrier was perched up for most of my stay but eventually headed off across the reedbed.

A thriving Tree Sparrow colony at Strathbeg

I spent a pleasant hour at the bench in the company of the local Tree Sparrows, House Martins and Swallows before a leisurelywalk down to the hides. 

Glossy Ibis at Strathbeg ~ A Scottish first for me! 

Here and directly in front of the 'Tower Hide' feeding in some flooded long grass was my target bird the Glossy Ibis, a Scottish first for me which now brings my total Scottish list since moving here permanently in 2020 to 216. 

From Strathbeg a stop at Macdonald's Peterhead to pick up a coffee, which I enjoyed at Skene Street. The sea was particularly quiet but produced a few passing Gannets, Kittiwakes & Sandwich Terns but the highlight was a summer plumage Black Guillemot just offshore. Meikle Loch was also quiet with only a few Oystercatchers and a single Pink-footed Goose of note. Finally a poorly timed stop at the Waulkmill hide on the Ythan, where the tide was only just on the turn. Double figure Sandwich Terns diving was a lovely sight but on the fields opposite, (15) Canada Geese, (2) Pink-footed Geese and (2) Barnacle Geese was a nice surprise to end the day.

BUBO Listing
NEW Scottish Life-List Since Relocating Permanently to Aberdeenshire in October 2020

Thursday, June 09, 2022

πŸ“– Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ & Home June 2022

I'm back into the swing of things after my 5-week trek of Hungary & Spain and It's only now, having been back in Aberdeenshire for the last 10-days, that I've taken time to review the trip and troll through the 100s of images I've yet to process. I've also spent time updating my bird journal and after recording a creditable 138 species of birds in Hungary over the 10-day visit I finished my Spanish trip with 130, which I've listed at the bottom of the post. 

Female Cleopatra butterfly

As the heat was starting to build my final few days in Spain after the Sierra de Loja visit was spent chilling out on the terrace although I did enjoy a walk at Cantera los Arenales on the 27th (site details HERE). I took my normal accent up to Puerto de la Graja and encountered the usual selection of species seen on my many other visits. Although on this particular visit there appeared to be a few more butterflies on the wing, including the gorgeous Cleopatra's.

Short-toad Treecreeper

I have amassed many images of Firecrests and Crested Tits from the woodlands around here but today I spent a little more time watching and listening to the Short-toed Treecreepers, which at this time of year are very vocal. They never normally stay still for long but on this occasion, one or two paused and enabled me to grab a few images.


Pearl-bordered Fritillary

So having missed out on the whole of May it's time to begin my catch up on this year's UK Birding and Wildlife lists and on the afternoon of June 6th I began at the excellent Muir of Dinnet NNR. Here there were plenty of Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies on the wing, along with Four-spotted Chaser Dragonfly, Large Red and Common Blue Damselfly and year-ticks also included Spotted Flycatcher, Sedge Warbler and Osprey! It's great to be back in the heart of Aberdeenshire. 

Several young Mistle Thrush encountered at Muir of Dinnet

A fresh-looking Four-spotted Chaser

Species Seen ~ Spain May 2022...

BIRDS (130)

Shelduck, Gadwall, Marbled Duck, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck ~ Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe ~ Red-legged Partridge ~ Cormorant ~ Little Bittern, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo ~ Griffon Vulture ~ Golden Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle ~ Black Kite ~ Western Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier ~ Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzard ~ Sparrowhawk ~ Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Peregrine ~ Moorhen, Coot ~ Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Redshank ~ Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Meditteranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Audoin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull ~ Gull-billed Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Tern ~ Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove ~ Barn Owl, Little Owl ~ Red-necked Nightjar ~ Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift ~ Kingfisher ~ Bee-eater ~ Monk Parakeet ~ Skylark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark ~ Crag Martin, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow ~ White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail (flava) ~ Wren ~ Robin ~ Common Nightingale, Black Redstart ~ Stonechat ~ Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, (Rufous-Tailed) Rock Thrush ~ Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear ~ Blackcap, Western Orphean Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Chiffchaff ~ Firecrest ~ Spotted Flycatcher ~ Great TIt, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit ~ Short-toed Treecreeper ~ Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike ~ Jay, Azure-winged Magpie ~ Jackdaw, Red-billed Chough, Raven ~ Spotless Starling, Golden Oriole ~ House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow ~ Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, ~ Common Crossbill ~ Corn Bunting, Rock Bunting.


Brimstone, Black-veined White, Cleopatra, Clouded Yellow, Iberian Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Painted Lady, Small White, Large White, Spanish Gatekeeper, Wall Brown, Western Dappled White, Speckled Wood, Iberian Scarce Swallowtail, Spanish Festoon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

πŸ“– Sierra de Loja ~ Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

 πŸŒ€26C Wednesday 25th May 2022 Another day out with Derek Etherton and this time joined by Andy Paterson another birder with many years of experience birding in Spain.

The Mirador at the top of Sierra Loja ~ 1600 meters!

I was delighted when asked to join Derek and Andy as this is one of my favourite places to bird when in southern Spain. The landscape consists of a few trees, low lying scrub and bushes but is mainly short, dry grass, and rocky terrain, the scenery is simply stunning and the birding can be very rewarding. You access the dirt road that leads up to the top at the Los Abades service area exit off the A92 road to Granada.

Our view while having lunch.

Having accessed the track up Derek had the notion of driving to the top at a more rigorous rate than normal and then making our way back down slowly investigating the many areas we had earmarked for some of our target species. However, that went out of the window almost immediately as we passed the open woodland when we were suddenly into a couple of singing Western Bonelli's Warblers. From here on it was stop/start all the way to the top.

Western Bonelli's Warbler

As we cleared the woodland noting a couple of Azure-winged Magpies a few species on the track ahead and roadside fencing included Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting and Stonechat. The first of many Thekla Larks seen today also made an appearance as the habitat opens out just short of the quarry. 

One of (15) Thekla Larks seen today.

A shout from Andy and a quick exit from the car revealed (5) Honey Buzzards heading east and while here the unusual sight of both Red-legged Partridge and Rock Bunting sharing either end of the same rocky outcrop!

Rock Bunting right

Red-legged Partridge left

Just a short distance on and the first and only Iberian Shrike seen today. A search of a known Little Owl area produced just a single bird, which I was pleased to see in the knowledge that we are not lucky enough to have these lovely little birds in the northeast of Scotland.

Just the one Iberian Shrike today.

It was a great day for Wheatears with (21) Western Black-eared Wheatear, and this only counting those seen on the ascent, (9) Black Wheatear and 2 Northern Wheatear, one of which we believe is likely from the Greenland race.

An amazing day for Western Black-eared Wheatear

(9) Black Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

A short stop to meet up with a local guide Mick Richardson, who I've met on a few occasions. This so Derek, Andy and Mike could swap a selection of books. Mick was with a couple of clients and had told us that he'd seen one of our target birds for the day Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush but very briefly. It wasn't actually until we were on our descent a few hours later that we also managed to briefly connect! While here a couple of Black Redstarts and one of (8) Blue Rock Thrush that was seen today.

This Blue Rock Thrush entertained while the book swap took place!

Moving on after our short break a stop at the 'fossil cave' where a large colony of nesting Rock Sparrows were chattering away and at one point one of the local Red-billed Choughs tried its hand, investigating several nook and crannies but came up empty-handed. Just up the rock face a couple of Crag Martins and two more Black Redstarts.

Red-billed Chough at the 'Fossil Cave'

At one particular-stop Derek spotted a distant Golden Eagle drifting at height from left to right, a wonderful sight nonetheless and at one stage harassed by Common Kestrels & Choughs, two Ravens missing out on the event minutes later!

Golden Eagle ~ Likely a juvenile second-winter bird, with Chough in pursuit.

On to what I refer to as the 'Hawthorn Oasis' an unlikely area of Hawthorn just beyond the Charca Negra, today in full blossom but in the autumn full of berries and Ring Ouzel! On this visit a singing Melodious Warbler and shortly after another target bird for today, Orphean Warbler, in fact, two the latter observed while having lunch. Also while here a couple of Woodchat Shrike, around (30+) Red-billed Chough and a singing Corn Bunting.

Woodchat Shrike

A fantastic ascent where at our highest point the Pasarela Mirador at1600 meters the temperature got down to 13C. Very much the same on the descent with our final stop at the lower quarry, which I didn't actually know existed, there's local knowledge for you! Here we were back to 26C but spent a short time searching the shrubs and scrub for Spectacled Warbler, another target species. Nothing at first but patience paid off when a couple of Dartford Warblers appeared and it wasn't until just prior to leaving when a singing Spectacled Warbler alerted us to a single bird, which offered the briefest of views before we headed off.

One of two Dartford Warblers

A brilliant day and some of the best birding I've enjoyed in Southern Spain, made even more of an event by the company, haven't laughed so much in years!! 

Spanish Marbled White

Black-eared Wheatear

Azure-winged Magpie (now renamed Iberian Magpie)

Monday, May 23, 2022

πŸ“– Fuente & PeΓ±arrubia ~ Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

🌀26C Monday 23rd May 2022 A day out with Derek Etherton an ex-pat local birder who I met some years ago. Our first stop today was due to be El Torcal renowned as one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. This would be my first visit there since 2015. 
Unfortunately the closer we got it became apparent that with the strong winds and low cloud there was no point going on so we diverted to our next destination, Fuente de Piedra. By the time we passed through Antequera, the wind had dissipated and we were back to blue skies.

As with my last visit a week ago, there was still plenty of water in the smaller Lagunas but the main lake had receded even further meaning that most of the birds were becoming a little distant. First, a stop at the entrance to scan the wires and tower produced Barn Owl, three Black Kite, Lesser Kestrel and a Raven. The Cerro del Palo pool held an amazing 42 Glossy Ibis, plus Avocet, Black-winged Stilts and a single Black-tailed Godwit.

A large number of Glossy Ibis today!

The water was still high enough to cover the scrapes at Sedero los Albinas and a walk along the boardwalk failed to produce any waders but Cetti's Warbler and Reed Warbler along the reeds and Black-winged Stilt out in the centre. The walk back to the Mirador produced Zitting Cisticola, Corn Bunting, HoopoeSardinian Warbler, and Yellow Wagtail.

Western Yellow Wagtail ~ Motacilla flava

It was another warm one today and we spent time in the shade up at the mirador scanning the main Laguna. Here Derek located the long-staying Lesser Flamingo (information HERE) and we enjoyed some reasonable scoped Views. It's my first European sighting of the smallest Flamingo in the world, which I last saw in Kenya over 40 years ago! Also of note flying amongst the many Greater Flamingos were a couple of Black Terns.

Greater Flamingo at Fuente de Piedra 

At the Observatorio El Laguneto, a few Gull-billed Terns were fishing and on the water, a Black-necked Grebe was feeding a single youngster. Other wildfowl included Little GrebeRed-crested Pochard, Pochard, Marbled Duck, Gadwall, Shelduck and White-headed Duck.

Red-crested Pochard

Derek drove me to an area I'd not known about before which had been flooded some weeks ago and had produced many waders but sadly the area was now dry! He did however show me a large population of nesting Spanish Sparrows which we watched for a while taking nest materials from nearby tamarisk over to their nesting site in a copse of eucalyptus trees. Also while here Lesser KestrelBee-eater and Stonechat.

Male Spanish Sparrow

A short stop on route home at Observatorio de buitres en PeΓ±arrubia a small mountain range home to several species of interest, mainly rock-dwelling. The numerous existing ledges and cracks serve as innkeepers and roosts for Griffon Vultures, with six seen during the visit. Four Peregrines were also noted, two of which were likely juveniles and both Alpine Swifts and Red-billed Chough were constantly seen along the skyline.

Observatorio de buitres en PeΓ±arrubia

Friday, May 20, 2022

πŸ“– Cantera los Arenales ~ Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

🌀24C Friday 20th May 2022 ~ Today was quite hazy and occasionally overcast so I took an afternoon walk up the old quarry at Mijas, Cantera Los Arenales site details can be found HERE or by clicking on the Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ tab at the top of my blog.

The quarry looks down towards Fuengirola as you commence your assent.

It's a steep climb on the particular route I prefer to take but it's well worth it, when at around 775 meters you get stunning views across the Sierra de Mijas. Crested Tit, Firecrest, Crossbill and Short-toed Treecreeper can all be found quite easily in the woodlands which are dominated by repopulated pines, along with Holm Oaks and indeed all species were seen today.  

Black Wheatear on the fencing that looks down to the quarry

However, it's always worth checking the car park area before heading up. Here, you can find resident Black Wheatear, which seems to sing at any time of year, Rock Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, and occasionally I've managed Dartford Warbler, although not on today's visit.

Rock Buntings can be hard work in the bright sunshine, especially with their amazingly apt camouflaged plumage, although today with a little cloud cover and patience I managed two.

Rock Bunting ~ Blending into the background

There are a few more butterfly species appearing now and a couple of very pristine Spanish Gatekeepers were noted, along with a brief glimpse of a Western Dappled White

Spanish Gatekeeper

Western Dappled White

At my turnaround point, I usually pause for an hour or so to enjoy the scenery. Here you can find Crag Martin and later in early autumn Alpine Swifts. Today I had neither but did enjoy watching a couple of displaying Booted Eagles, which at one stage were rudely interrupted by a passing Peregrine

Booted Eagle

There were a few Painted Ladies on the wing while I sat and a passing dragonfly, which didn't pause for ID but I then noticed two or three yellow coloured insects flying a little like dragonflies. It took a while but one did eventually land. I was quite excited as I knew this was a new species for me and having researched briefly when I arrived back decided on Owly Sulphur, quite rare by all accounts. However, with the help of INaturalist, I've now reidentified as Libelloides cunii a genus of lacewings belonging to the owlfly family subfamily Ascalaphinae. The species of this genus are present in most of Europe. They inhabit dry meadows or dry coniferous forests. So not as rare as hoped but still a new species for me!

Libelloides cunii is a genus of lacewings belonging to the owlfly family

More Images & Videos of the Day...

Top of my chosen route overlooking Sierra de Mijas

Subfamily Pimeliinae

Spiny-footed Lizard

Black Wheatear at the car park.

Young Iberian Ibex