Friday, June 28, 2013

Celebration

Over the past few days Dee and I have been in Aberdeen, Scotland celebrating the life of her lovely Gran, who sadly passed away while we were on holiday in Canada. While there we were lucky enough to be staying in a beautifully located cottage in Catterline, a coastal village situated around 3 miles south of Stonehaven.

View of Tod Head lighthouse from Catterline Harbour
Later in the evening after the funeral we enjoyed a pleasant walk around the cliffs at Tod Head Lighthouse before enjoying a fantastic locally caught seafood meal with the family at the Creel Inn.

Shag at Tod Head Lighthouse
With our flight home not until late evening the following day we had a perfect opportunity to spend the time exploring the coastline locally and further south around Montrose Basin.

Fulmar - Plenty of nesting birds on the surrounding cliffs.
We began the day with a visit St Cyrus National Nature Reserve: Set at the mouth of the River North Esk, the reserve sweeps around the sandy shore of the Aberdeenshire coast, just north of Montrose. The reserve comprises of towering volcanic cliffs, beautiful beach and a landscape of sand dunes and flower-rich grasslands, quite a stunning place to be.

Kittiwake
We took the Tyrie Trail a mile or so walk, diverting down to the shoreline and then back across towards the Nature Centre. St Cyrus boasts over 400 species of butterflies and moths, but sadly for us with overcast skies and a temperature of only 12C, not a one was on the wing! Bird species of note seen during our visit included: Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Fulmar, Gannet, Arctic Tern, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Sedge Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, strangely and despite Stonechat being a regular here, none were seen. Other highlights of our walk were a couple of Roe Deer and a very busy Stoat, who the local birds seemed to be giving a hard time to.

Deer - The family were around too.
Stoat - Flash Gordon!
After heading off to Montrose for lunch the weather had brightened and warmed considerably by the time we reached the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre. This area is an enclosed estuary of the South Esk and covers over 750 hectares. With plenty to explore we decided to drive to various sections, stopping at one point at the Bridge of Dun, which overlooks the River South Esk. Here a couple of Common Sandpiper were feeding below, along with good numbers of House Martin and Swallows.

Spotted Flycatcher - Surprise of the day.
Parking not far from the Caledonian Railway Museum we took the footpath which leads down to the Shelduck Hide, about a 2 mile walk. On route to the hide, Spotted flycatcher, ♀Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and plenty of Yellowhammer, Linnet and Meadow Pipit in what had now become a gorgeous summers day! The local meadows looked wonderful in the sunshine, with the odd Brown Hare appearing within the gaps and despite plenty of wild flowers and a temperature now around 21C, the lack of butterflies was a worry, with only a single Small Tortoiseshell seen!

Razorbill at RSPB Fowlsheugh
Guillemot at RSPB Fowlsheugh
We arrived at a deserted Shelduck Hide which offers good views of the basin and the River South Esk. Here Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher were feeding along the margins and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, several Shelduck and a lone Little Grebe were also close by. A family of young Eider Duck were basking in the sunshine and the usual Black-headed and Herring Gulls were also in good numbers, no Terns were seen during our 30 minute stay!

Fulmar
Finally, running out of time and heading back to the airport Dee and I made a short stop at RSPB Fowlsheugh, a place we know quite well. The place was the usual cacophony of noise with thousands of seabirds in the air, on the cliffs and on the sea: Razorbill, Puffin, Guillemot, Fulmar and Kittiwake, a spectacular seen!

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