Thursday, January 06, 2022

πŸ“– HAPPY HOGMANAY 2021

TO MY READER

My first post of 2022, in fact, my first post after almost a month of absence due to a short-term bout of illness. I hasten to add, not Covid related.

Little Bunting at Gutcher Shetland

The year ended quietly for me with a UK Year-List of 208 bird species. Not bad considering the majority were in Scotland and most definitely bolstered by my first ever trip to Shetland in October. Shetland was a wonderful experience and something I've already booked for this coming October. I managed a few UK firsts but my personal highlight was a self-found Little Bunting while waiting for the ferry at Gutcher. 

Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs ~ Loch of Strathbeg

Back on the mainland, my highlight for the year came in late September with no less than three Nearctic waders all together at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg with Pectoral Sandpiper and both Lesser Yellowlegs and Greater Yellowlegs all on show. This surely has to be a UK first? 

Monarch Butterfly ~ Shetland

With a good number of Butterfly and Dragonfly species absent this far north, 2021 was certainly a learning curve and I ended the year on what I feel is a creditable 24 Butterfly species. This also included some notable and species firsts including Northern Brown Argus, Scotch Argus, Monarch and Chequered Skipper. As for Odanata another first with Northern Damselfly and such a treat to see Common Hawker, Golden-ringed Dragonfly and Black Darters on a regular basis during the summer months.

A Short-toed 'snake' Eagle flys south across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco & Africa 

Despite Covid restrictions, I did manage to slot in two visits to Spain in September and November which included my regular trip down to Tarifa for the autumn migration, which I sadly missed in 2020 due to the pandemic!

My first ever Egyptian Mongoose

Another heart-stopping moment came in November when I came across my first ever Egyptian Mongoose while birding at one of my favourite locations in Zapata, Spain. I was delighted to snap the above image before it darted off!

Great Northern Diver ~ Peterhead Harbour

To start 2022 a few walks around the locality to get the year-list off the ground produced the usual selection of the more common species, highlights here Dipper and Brambling. Then yesterday a short drive out to the Ythan Estuary and on to Peterhead Harbour to see what I could find. The day included a Red-throated Diver and ten wader species, including (5) wintering Greenshank along the Ythan, plus a Black Guillemot and very showy Great Northern Diver at Peterhead Harbour, so all in all, not a bad start to the year.

Monday, December 13, 2021

πŸ“– Fetternear ☀️ 5C ~ Wind ↑S @ 10mph ~ 13/12/21


With only 6hrs 44 minutes of daylight up here at this time of year when the sun finally shines after a few dreich and dreary days, it's time to make haste.

Fetternear Bishop's Palace is an archaeological site of what was one of the palaces (or residence) of the medieval bishops of Aberdeen

A pleasant stroll from home around the local Fetternear Estate produced a decent variety of species and although most posed briefly enough for the odd record shot the local Red Squirrels were not playing ball. Probably still annoyed by the loss of at least two dreys during Storm Arwen and who could blame them! 

A couple of Brambling along the paths today.

There are some good feeding stations based in the gardens of the few residential properties around the estate and these are always worth spending extra time scrutinising, thankfully I'm fortunate to know the residents! 

Tree Sparrow ~ A species I'm happy to report are plentiful around the area.

A colony of Tree Sparrows are always a pleasure to watch and while overlooking one feeding station a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were busy hammering in the trees above. BramblingSiskin, Lesser RedpollChaffinch, Greenfinch, Yellowhammer, Coal Tit and Treecreeper all noted, along with a flyover Common Buzzard

Bullfinch ~ A species that seems to thrive locally

Several Bullfinch were busy along some of the ditches adjacent to the footpaths and like most of my travels around Aberdeenshire, there are always Roe Deer on the move.

Two of five Roe Deer enjoying the sunshine

An enjoyable walk overall with Jays busy looking for acorns under the small numbers of Oaks we have here, and of course plenty of Pink-footed Geese passing noisily overhead. 

Redwings enjoying the holly ~ Taken from the kitchen window!

Just a few Fieldfare and Redwing were seen today as it's apparent that there all currently in the village enjoying the bounty of berries around the gardens! I was saving these for the Waxwings πŸ˜‰

Friday, December 10, 2021

πŸ“– Loch of Strathbeg ⛅ 3C ~ Wind ↘NW @ 8mph 10/12/21

 


First trip out for a while with a drive up to RSPB Loch of Strathbeg, primarily to see if a reported Red-necked Grebe on the 8th was still about. 

Record shot of Red-necked Grebe from the Bay Hide ~ Lock of Strathbeg

As it turns out my luck was in with some good scoped views early afternoon. Although the bird remained distant from the Bay Hide I did manage a few record shots. This is my first since relocating here permanently last year and also a late-year tick. 

Another shot of Red-necked Grebe

100s of Whopper Swans about today as you'd expect, plus literally 1000s of Wigeon and while at the Bay Hide I also managed a couple of distant Scaup. Driving home through the backroads it's clear to see how much devastation the recent storms have reaped on the area. Literally, hundreds of trees felled and lots of flooding around with many fields playing host to the wintering Pink-footed Geese


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

Thursday, December 02, 2021

πŸ“– Inchgarth Reservoir ❄️ 1C ~ Wind N ↓ @ 5mph 02/12/21


My first visit to Inchgarth Reservoir on the north bank of the River Dee in Aberdeen after a report of a Black-throated Diver.

Black-throated Diver

Thankfully the bird hung around for a few record shots in the gloom. I was grateful to Ian Broadbent, the Aberdeenshire county recorder who found the bird and was still on site when I arrived. This is Ian's patch and he tells me that this is the first Black-throated Diver at Inchgarth since 1996. A very nice find and thanks to Ian for getting the word out quickly.



Black-throated Diver ~ Not a particularly common species to the area.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

πŸ“– Peterhead Harbour ⛅ 3C ~ Wind ↘NNW @ 25/30mph 01/12/21


While visiting B&Q today in Peterhead to seek a few items for Storm Arwen repairs (we were without electricity for over 30hrs too during the storm) I dropped down and spent an hour at the Harbour. It's quite a bonus to be able to drive around this busy bustling harbour and watch the fishing fleet come and go, along with a number of supply vessels for the rigs. A great place for 'white-winged Gulls too if there are any boats unloading but I was far too late for that today.

One of two Great Northern Divers sheltering within the harbour.

I was hopeful of finding perhaps a sheltering Little Auk, or if ultra lucky maybe even a Brunnich's Guillemot but it wasn't to be!

Since relocating to Aberdeenshire I still find it strange to see Puffins in the winter.

A good visit though nevertheless with a couple of Great Northern Divers, Puffin and Black Guillemot, the latter not too common to the northeast. Also while here plenty of Shag and the usual Harbour Seals.

Black Guillemot sporting his almost white winter plumage. The red reflection on the water from a nearby fishing boat. 

Shag ~ A common sight around our rocky shores

Another view of Great Northern Diver

Sunday, November 21, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain ~ Late November 2021

Another autumn trip to Andalusia is complete with just a few loose ends to tie up including an afternoon visit to Fuente de Piedra and a drive up to Sierra Loja over the final week.

Wintering Common Cranes on Laguna Fuente de Piedra.

Fuente is always a treat but more often than not these days water is scarce on this vast saline lake, the largest lagoon in Andalusia. Normally awash with Greater Flamingo today the wintering Cranes outnumbered them, producing the usual amazing sights and sounds. 

Ferruginous Duck on the Laguneto

We arrived around midday and as we made our way from the car park to the Visitor Centre (closed as per usual) to enjoy our packed lunch a Red Kite drifted west. By the time we moved on to the Observatorio El Laguneto, the only other main body of water, we'd recorded four Black Redstart and at least twenty Blackcap feeding around the centre. 

Marbled Duck ~ Part of a re-introduction program here

From the hide, Black Redstart, Spanish Sparrow and Stonechat with the Laguneto holding double-figure Northern Shoveler, Grey Heron and Black-necked Grebe. However, the highlights while here consisted of three Marbled Duck and a single Ferruginous Duck

Black-winged Kite saved the day!

A drive around the roadside perimeter of the main lagoon as we headed home had to be the quietest we'd ever encountered and were it not for the sighting of a stunning Black-Winged Kite we'd have come home a little disappointed. 

The view across Seirra De Loja

Our final outing was a drive over to Sierra De Loja a limestone massif its highest point being Sierra Gords at 5400ft. It is also an open and beautiful but remote and sparse place. In winter it is covered in snow and ice, although no signs yet. 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.

One of four Iberian Grey Shrikes seen today.

No sign of any Azure-winged Magpies a regular in the woodlands here as we made our way up the dirt track (which with care is easily drivable) but a couple of Black Wheatear, three Thekla Larks, Hoopoe, and the first of four Iberian Grey Shrikes seen today before we reached our first stop around 1500ft at the old quarry. 

Blue Rock Thrush from the quarry

A walk around the quarry had a dozen Red-legged Partridges scurrying past but a Blue Rock Thrush took the eye, along with more Stonechats, Thekla Larks and a single Corn Bunting.

Rock Bunting is a regular feature at Sierra De Loja

As we continued our ascent we paused when a group of 30+ Chough suddenly descended just below our position. While out photographing a couple Rock Bunting also appeared along with Iberian Grey Shrike.

Ring Ouzel at Sierra De Loja was taken in 2017 a little earlier in November.

At our turnaround point, some 5000ft up there's a small oasis of Hawthorn and although mostly depleted of berries by now we managed to locate a small group of wintering thrushes, which we regularly encounter up here. These included Redwing, Mistle Thrush and at least six Ring Ouzel. While here a small party of Southeastern Spanish Ibex (now reclassified) and during our descent, a flock of some thirty Rock Sparrows, along with a single Alpine Accentor, spotted by Dazza ended another brilliant visit to Spain and I hope you've enjoyed our posts.

More Images of the last few days...

Cranes over Fuente De Piedra

Black-winged Kite

Rock Bunting

Chough

Southeastern Spanish Ibex
Black-winged Kite


Friday, November 12, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain ~ Zapata 12/11/21

πŸ‚πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Friday, November 12th 🌞 20C ~ With Dazza working today I thought I'd take the opportunity to spend the morning at Zapata and in particular checking out the reedbeds which run adjacent to the airport perimeter road. During our visit on Wednesday, we failed to locate a few of our target species: Bluethroat, Penduline Tit and Stone Curlew

Penduline Tit ~ A brief rest bite before disappearing once more out of sight.

Sometimes it pays off to simply sit and watch for movement in the reeds or if you can find an area of bullrush lookout for the floating seeds as they are plucked out by Penduline Tits. After an hour of doing just that it was actually the fine whistled call that alerted me to a single bird that appeared in the reeds just below my position. 

Bluethroat ~ after several walks up and down the reeds one is finally located.

One of my target species located and next to the Bluethroat which I'd actually heard a few times during the morning, its unmistakable dry throaty clicking deep within the reeds. Finally, having the patience of a saint and at one time even being completely distracted by an Egyptian Mongoose, a European first for me I finally connected with a Bluethroat.  

My 1st ever Mongoose in Iberia.

Such is the case of the Egyptian mongoose, which is native to North Africa but is also found in Spain and Portugal. It has, though, no pre-human fossil record in Iberia, and would be incapable of swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar. So the evidence points to it having been carried there by human agency.

Blue Rock Thrush ~ My 2nd for Zapata

An excellent morning thus far and from here a leisurely walk back to the car checking out the surrounding scrubland for Stone Curlew but without success. On New Years Eve 2019 I recorded a Blue Rock Thrush here, obviously, a wintering bird coming down from the mountains for the duration and today another, almost in the exact same location! Other Species of Note today: Common BuzzardBlack Kite, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Serin, Common Waxbill, Chiffchaff, Greenshank, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Hoopoe and Skylark.

More Images of the Day...

Bluethroat

Bluethroat

Common Waxbill

Penduline Tit

Black Kite