Monday, October 26, 2020

📖 Autumn Along The Coast ☀️ 13C ~ Wind ↗SW@11mph 27/10/20

YTHAN ESTUARY ~ COLLIESTON & CRUDEN BAY

I'd originally planned to get the final unpacking done today after the move north but when I awoke to a glorious autumnal morning the only thing to do was to head out to the coast.

Sparrowhawk in off the sea with a persistent Crow in attendance

A 30-minute drive to Newburgh, where I began my day with a walk to the famous 'Tin Shack' which overlooks the Ythan Estuary. The timing wasn't good as the tide was almost in and with the dog walkers already out in force most birds had been flushed to the opposite bank, although I could make out a decent flock of Golden Plover. However, the usual congregation of Eiders were a pleasure to watch mid stream, along with Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser and of course, the Grey Seals were popping up and down almost anywhere. I watched a Sparrowhawk come in off the sea being mobbed by a persistent Crow in the crystal clear sky before a spot of hedge bashing along the golf course perimeter on my way back to the car park.

A lone Barnacle Goose flyby at the Waulkmill Hide

I decided to head off a little further north along to Collieston for a walk along the cliffs, stopping off on route at a few points on the way, including the Waulkmill Hide. The hide is located at 'Bridge of Forvie' and overlooks the mudflats where the river Ythan begins to open out into the estuary. Again, with the tide in and little mud showing, there were very few waders, although around twenty or so Curlew were in a nearby field. A second Sparrowhawk of the day did me a favour by flushing nine Snipe from the nearby reeds. Eleven Whooper Swans, hoards of Pink-footed Geese and a flyby lone Barnacle Goose were the highlights.

Tree Sparrow at Waulkmill Hide

To the rear of the hide there is a 20+ colony of Tree Sparrows and I positioned myself strategically for a while and managed a few decent images, while here Great-spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest and a couple of Coal Tits. A number of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits overhead, plus more skeins of Pinkies.

Dolphins heading north past Collieston

Collieston is turning out to be one of my favourite spots on this stretch of the coast and I really enjoy a walk along the cliff tops. Despite the offshore wind there was plenty going on today with the usual Seal activity and a good passage of Dolphins, I think Bottlenose but I'm still honing my skills on this one! 

Guillemot off Collieston

Double-figure Red Throated Divers today

Double-figure Red-throated Divers were another feature and lots of Guillemots bobbing around, as seems the norm around these waters.

Rock Pipit ~ Constant companions along the cliffs

I sat for a good while in expectation but just the usual Gull species and the occasional Kittiwake passed by, even the Gannets were way offshore today.  Rock Pipits are always around while here and I did manage a decent image of one that came close during my stay. 

Slains Castle ~ deliberately unroofed in the 1920s to avoid property taxes

Finally, a walk up to Slains Castle at Cruden Bay. Apparently, Bram Stoker took inspiration for the great room in Dracula's Transylvanian Castle directly from Slains Castle. It's quite spectacular and from a birding perspective, the heavily wooded gully which leads to the castle from the car park looks well worth investigating. Cruden Bay has accumulated an impressive list of rarities over the years, although like most things fewer over the past decade. A quick look at what's known as the 'Water of Cruden', which runs into the sea back at the village produced two Grey Wagtails and a Dipper, a nice end to an enjoyable morning along the coast.