Sunday, September 27, 2020

New Surroundings!

A chance over the last week to check out my new birding surroundings in Aberdeenshire Scotland. I've been up here with Dazza preparing our new home for our permanent move back on to terra firma in a few weeks time.

At Newburgh, there are plenty of areas to view birds at close range, like this Goosander.
While here we've spent time checking out the amazing coastline which from a birding perspective for me will begin on the coast at Newburgh & Collieston, around a 30-minute drive. Once here there is an extensive estuary with a variety of surrounding habitats including sand dunes, heathland, farmland, reedbeds and mudflats. Collieston has a sheltered harbour and beach and has over the years produced some good local and national rarities. Sands of Forvie close by is a National Nature Reserve and has extensive sand dunes and borders the Ythan Estuary.

From here I would head north taking in Cruden Bay, where there are rocky cliffs and a wooded gully with sycamores and willows for searching out passage migrants.

Great views can be obtained from the car at Gadle Brais 
Further north lies Peterhead and the Ugie Estuary, Peterhead being a working harbour is a good place to search for Gulls in winter, plus there are some excellent seawatch points, particularly around Gadle Braes. In fact, the past few days have been a wonderful experience with strong northerly winds allowing for a major Sooty Shearwater passage along the coast, both exciting and fascinating to watch!

Cairngorms National Park ~ Only a 40-minute drive.
Part of Aberdeenshire councils slogan contains the phrase 'From Mountains to Sea' and of course I haven't even mentioned yet that the Cairngorms National Park is just a 40-minute drive away. So you can understand why when we decided to make the move north, the birding was a big factor for me. It wasn't too difficult a decision for Dazza as she's an Aberdonian anyway, so a return home was simply a no-brainer! 

As a sub-note, after eleven years writing as Boatbirder, this is likely to be my final post under that particular pseudonym, although I suspect the new one won't be too much of a surprise! I've immensely enjoyed living on the water for the past 16yrs but a move to the coast was always my end game! I've enjoyed the company of some excellent and genuine birders over the years, particularly at Brandon Marsh, where I had many wonderful moments and indeed some good finds. Sadly some are no longer with us but the memories will remain. 

When the ultimate move takes place next month I'll be restructuring the blog to take in my new surrounds, nothing too drastic, perhaps a different theme and of course a different header? So watch this space. 

For now, this is Boatbirder signing off with a few images of our first week in our new surroundings........

Despite being a national rarity Curlews are widespread here.

Black-tailed Godwits over the Ythan + Knot

A Ruff stands out among the many Redshank.

Shags at rest at Peterhead ~ One sporting a ring from a local colony.

Still plenty of Sandwich Terns passing through.

Crossbills are a feature of the area. 

Pink-footed Geese in off the sea ~ Spot the Barnacle, these birds likely from the Svalbard population.

Guillemots are plentiful throughout the area.

Moulting Eiders ~ A regular breeder around the Ythan.

Rock Pipits are fairly common along the coastline.

Skylark, another regular of the area.

Grey Wagtail during a visit to Port Soy

Turnstones, a common feature around the harbours.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

πŸ“– Brandon Marsh Update 2

☀️ ☁️ 20C ~ Wind ↘NW@10mph Wednesday 9th September 2020 ~ A less humid day with a sunny start becoming overcast. The south-westerly wind from yesterday had backed to a north-westerly today.

A mixed bag at Brandon Marsh this morning, the highlight of which was a ringed Willow Tit feeding around the Carlton Ditch. Brandon has some great habitat, particularly around the Carlton hide, for these sadly declining species and it's great that were managing to cling on to a small population.

Willow Tit ~ Still holding on at Brandon

East Marsh Pool was a little quieter than yesterday with a Common Sandpiper, (2) Green Sandpiper, (3) Snipe, single Little Egret & (5) WigeonAt least three Kingfishers were chasing around the pool for most of the early morning, fascinating to watch, plus a constant flow of Swallows with at least (6) Sand Martins passing low over the water. A Water Rail made its usual dash across the front of John Walton hide and similarly a Cetti's Warbler shortly followed.

Young Blackcaps among the double-figure birds today.
A walk around the rest of the reserve produced a small flock of (16) Siskin over the 'Tip' area and while at Carlton hide earlier a single Lesser Redpoll overhead, my first for this autumn. Double figure Blackcap, if you can find ripe Elder you'll find a Blackcap! Chiffchaffs are still in small numbers, two actually singing and a juvenile Goldcrest was also noted at one stage. 

Juvenile Green Woodpecker on the prowl.
The trust was grass cutting around farm field during my walk, with (3) Green Woodpeckers taking advantage, the tractor likely dislodging the odd Ants nest. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

πŸ“– Brandon Marsh Update

☁️☀️23C ~ Wind ↗SW@8mph Tuesday 8th September 2020 ~ An early and very muggy start at Brandon Marsh this morning meeting up with several members of the conservation team before they headed off for more strimming. I must say the Islands and East Marsh Pool are looking in great shape after several weeks of hard work to restore them after 'lockdown'.

Common Sandpiper from the John Walton hide
There were a few waders to be found today which included (3) Snipe, juvenile Little-ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper. Also of note were (7) Wigeon, (5) Little Egret, Water Rail and later in the morning, a Hobby hunted over the pool for a short period. I'd left by the time a Greenshank & Ruff arrived shortly after lunch.

Migrant Hawker warming up along the Jury hide path
A walk to the Carlton & Jury hides produced (6) Siskin and (2) Meadow Pipits overhead and when the sun finally broke through a small but constant passage of Swallows, (5) House Martins were also noted. Warblers included at least (5) Chiffchaff, Blackcap & Whitethroat, plus a few Migrant Hawker dragonflies along the track.

Images of the Day...

Green Sandpiper from the John Walton hide 
A Water Rail pauses briefly at John Walton hide before making a dash for it!
Wigeon are now slowly starting to arrive for the winter
One of five Little Egrets today ~ This one on Teal Pool

**I should point out that unfortunately the reserve is still closed to members & the general public on Mondays & Tuesdays!

Sunday, September 06, 2020

πŸ“– North-West Weekend

To celebrate what would have been my mums 100th birthday (sadly she passed away just a few years ago) Dazza and I spent a long weekend around Liverpool and the north-west. Lots of walking, a little birding and some fine dining!

During our stay, we spent a morning at WWT Martin Mere situated in Burscough on the West Lancashire coastal plain. Currently, it's a bookings only system to visit but all hides are open and it seems well organised during the current pandemic restrictions.

Two of four Whooper Swan on-site ~ Still capable of flying but apparently choosing to remain all year-round. The local birders call them 'Lazy or Lame'.
As you'd expect at WWT there was a good selection of common wildfowl on the pools and during our visit, plenty of House Martin were busy feeding over the water, along with the occasional Swallow. An added bonus was three Swift, a nice September sighting for my records. Raptors included a Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. Four Whooper Swans, two of which flew in during our stay were a bit of a surprise, which at this time of year could easily be confused as early arrivals but the locals told me that these particular birds choose to remain all year-round.

Tree Sparrow ~ A welcome year-tick
A selection of waders was also noted and included (2) Ruff, (4) Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe and Common Sandpiper. A nice find and in fact year-tick was a single Tree Sparrow, a small population do reside here apparently.

A short drive from Martin Mere is the relatively new RSPB reserve at Hesketh Out Marsh. First restored in 2007 as a saltmarsh the 2nd phase was completed in 2017. Dazza and I enjoyed a long walk from the car park along to the River Douglas (Google Map HERE).  The weather was for the most part overcast with a stiff north-westerly breeze but it remained dry during our visit.

The only half-decent photographic opportunity at Out Marsh was a Wheatear which suddenly appeared on a nearby post, most other sightings were mostly scoped views at distance. According to reports, the previous day to our visit had recorded over thirty Curlew Sandpiper but today we only managed to locate just two birds feeding in the margins. Other sightings included: Little Stint, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Ringed Plover and many Snipe, including a flyby flock of over 30 birds. Double figure Little Egret and three Great Egret, plus what seemed a constant movement of Meadow Pipits.

A few more images taken during the weekend.

Oystercatchers pass by during a trip to Blackpool
Lots of Meadow Pipits on the move during our walks.
A group of Sandwich Terns pass during a walk along the beach at Fleetwood Ferry
Managed to capture this Curlew (one of many) at Fleetwood Ferry.