Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Thankfully the rain and wind, such a feature during Saturday, gave way to brighter conditions with just a few blustery showers Sunday and Monday. Dee and I spent Sunday primarily at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg on the north-east coast of Aberdeenshire and ended with a rare twitch back in Aberdeen for Pallas's Warbler. Strathbeg is the largest dune loch in Britain and this was our first ever visit here and I have to say we were mightily impressed! With lots of trails to explore, excellent visitor centre and four hides widely spread across this huge reserve there's plenty to see.

Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese over Strathbeg
When you drive the mile or so from the main road down to the reserve you can see why this is one of the best spots to see wintering geese, with the sky black with skeins of Pinkies! More than 20% of the worlds Pink-footed Geese arrive here at this time of year and along with huge numbers of Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swans, its an astonishing spectacle.

Whooper Swans at Strathbeg
The visitor centre provides the latest information, great views across the reserve and immediately gives you the impression of the shear size of the place. From here we took a look around the wild garden and feeders, where a large population of Tree Sparrow reside and today at least three Brambling were also making use. We decided to head off to the Tower Pool Hide and the walk along the trail, which consists of wild bird cover crops held at least four Stonechat, plus a couple of Lapland Bunting were flushed and as we approached the hide. Peregrine, Fieldfare and Redwing overhead. From the hide itself great views of the 1000's of geese including one or two White-fronted and at least fifty Whopper Swan. Huge numbers of Wigeon also reside and mingled in Pintail, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal, Shoveler and Goldeneye. Waders seemed light on the ground but CurlewDunlin, Snipe, Spotted Redshank and Redshank all noted. No sign of a reported Pectoral Sandpiper unfortunately!

Red-breasted Merganser
A short drive is required back along the main road to visit the Fen and Bay Hides. Quite surreal doing this on a Sunday, having to drive through the old Crimond Airfield where a stock car rally was taking place! We began at the Bay Hide and more of the same, with the exception of Red-breasted Merganser and Yellow-browed Warbler, one seen briefly in the treeline below the hide. We met a lovely Scots couple in the Fen Hide, where we were told we'd just missed Bearded Tit and another Yellow-browed Warbler but in among the 1000's of Eurasian Wigeon an American was eventually picked out, but don't ask me how!!

Rock Pipit in a rare sunny spell!
Our flight, not until late Monday night gave us the opportunity to have a full day exploring and Dee took me up to Girdle Ness, the headland that guards the southern side of Aberdeen harbour. The short walk around it takes in the lighthouse, sea views and Torry Battery - built to defend the harbour in 1860.

Shag - Plenty around the inland waters and harbours!
It's great habit to explore, particularly for that illusive autumn migrant and lots of Shag, Turnstone, Cormorant and Oystercatcher can be found lounging on the sea walls. In the harbour several Guillemot and Seals, with Gannet further out and the aptly named Rock Pipit on the rocks below. Blackcap, continental Blackbirds and Robins could also be found feeding on the remaining berries, along with flighty Redwings.

Plenty of curious Seals at Ythan Estuary!
From here a drive north to the Ythan Estuary with a Slavonian Grebe and some large flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing on route. The estuary is tidal for around four miles and we stopped at Newburgh Bridge to explore. Here hundreds of waders, predominately Redshank but Bar-tailed GodwitGrey Plover, Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin and a single Little Egret, not that regular in these parts. Small parties of Eider Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and a regular flow of Seals passing by in the current.

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Wigeon, American Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Eider Duck, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Slavonian Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Water Rail (H), Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Guillemot, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Skylark, Barn Swallow, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Stonechat, Redwing, Fieldfare, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas's Warbler, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Crossbill, Reed Bunting, Lapland Bunting