Friday, November 27, 2020

πŸ“– Glenshee ☁️ 4C ~ Wind → W@ 5mph 27/11/20

We had hoped that the recent good weather would hold out for our trip to the Cairngorms today and although it was a bright and frosty start at home by the time we arrived at the Glenshee Ski Centre an hour later the cloud had drifted in.

Glenshee Ski Centre ~ Grid Ref: NO138781

This is the highest road in Scotland and gives access to some good mountain country but due to the weather and not being experienced hillwalkers we decided to take a designated track up the mountain from the Ski Centre. 

Good numbers of Red Grouse during our walk today.

This a great place to see Red Grouse and even before we'd set off from the car park we could hear them calling not far up the hillside. During the winter months, flocks of Snow Buntings can usually be found around the car park but not today, likely too early in the season.

View down towards Loch Vrotachan at 2,460ft.

It was a steep climb up as far as Loch Vrotachan at around 2,460ft and although at times we were shrouded by low cloud the views as you would imagine were stunning. The loch is fed from springs from limestone schists and has a high ph. This means lots of insect life and larger than normal trout if you're a keen fisherman but were told that very clear water makes for very wary trout. 

Mountain Hare ~ Also known as Blue Hare as you can see from the colour in my photo.

What was easier to catch was a glimpse of Mountain Hares and without any snow, they literally do 'stick out like a sore thumb'. There were lots today, such wonderful and mostly confiding animals and it's beyond belief that the Scottish government allowed the slaughter of this iconic species to continue for so long. Now banned of course thanks to petitions and the successful proposal from Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who lodged an amendment to the Animals and Wildlife Bill. The amendment now makes Mountain Hares a protected species, effectively ending the recreational killing and mass killing on grouse moors.

Still a good few Stag Red Deer at the higher slopes.

We were also hoping for Ptarmigan today but it wasn't to be, likely not moved down yet from higher grounds but at certain times of the year, they do drop to almost car park level. However, we did come across a few groups of Stag Red Deer, amazing animals and looking quite content in their surroundings. From a birding standpoint, the weather and time of year didn't help today and so the only other species noted were Raven, Kestrel and Buzzard. During May and June this area holds Dotterel, Golden Plover and Ring Ouzel and so, of course, we'll be back.

Other Images of the Visit...

An atmospheric lunch break at Glenshee

Did you know the ears tips remain black all year round on the Mountain Hare?

This one not quite there yet!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

πŸ“– Muir of Dinnet ☀️ 5C ~ Wind ↗SW@5mph 26/11/20

With migration now seemingly at an end and things beginning to quieten down along the coastline, I've now turned my attention to some of the inland sites. With Dazza also on 3 days holiday from midweek, it was a great opportunity for us both to get out and about.


Muir of Dinnet Grid Ref.. NO449981

Today we took the 40-minute drive out to The Muir of Dinnet. This is a national nature reserve which extends 1166 hectares from the River Dee to Culbean hill and encompasses a wide range of habitats including dry heath, raised bog, woodland, and two freshwater lochs: Loch Kinord and Loch Davan. We began at the Burn o' Vat Visitor and Interpretation Centre, which is a good starting point for all paths around the reserve. 

Firstly though a short walk to the 'Vat', (above video) an impressive rock cauldron and according to local folklore, the cave behind the waterfall in the vat was used by Rob Roy, a notorious outlaw, to hide from the authorities. In fact, this is not true, with the cave instead being used as a hiding place for Patrick Gilroy Macgregor, an outlaw renowned for his exploits in Deeside during the 17th century and a possible relative of Rob Roy!

A rather colourful Lesser Redpoll along the shoreline of Loch Kinnord.

Scottish Crossbills inhabit the pinewoods here, although my experience of the species is thus far non-existant and several birds seen and heard today will remain in my log as Common Crossbill. There are also some large flocks of Lesser Redpoll and we came across one such flock of around 50 birds while walking along the shoreline of Loch Kinord. Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker were also noted during our enjoyable long walk. 

Wigeon on Loch Kinnord

The Lochs themselves held double-figure Goldeneye, Wigeon and Goosander. This is a wonderful place to explore and with species such as Tree Pipit, Cuckoo, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher all found here during the summer months, this is somewhere that firmly has a place in my diary to visit again.

BUBO Listing
NEW Scottish Life-List Since Relocating in October 2020

Thursday, November 19, 2020

πŸ“– RSPB Fowlsheugh πŸ₯Ά☀️❄️ 3C ~ Wind ↘NNW@16mph 19/11/20


A blustery northerly and heavy rain overnight gave way to snow showers this morning. Thankfully by the time I reached RSPB Fowlsheugh just south of Stonehaven around mid-morning, the sun had broken through to produce a gorgeous crisp but somewhat πŸ₯Άchilly day.

RSPB Fowlsheugh ~ Grid Ref.. NO880804

Fowlsheugh is normally a summer destination and holds the second-largest seabird colony on the Scottish mainland. As such it has extensive cliffs and this, of course, means lots of seawatching opportunities. Naturally, at this time of year, the place is all but deserted with most of the summer inhabitants spending the winter out to sea. That said, in my current mode of visiting as many near local sites as possible to get a feel for Aberdeenshire I decided to take the 5km round trip across the clifftops. 

Rock Pipits ~ A constant companion around the cliffs and seashore.

The one thing I've become accustomed to when anywhere near cliffs or the rocky seashore is the sharp explosive 'ssiip' of the Rock Pipit. Today was no exception with at least eight birds noted by the time I'd completed my walk. 

A passing Oystercatcher

Apart from the Pipits and a few large skeins of Pink-footed Geese overhead the clifftop was as I'd mentioned earlier pretty quiet apart from a passing Oystercatcher, with most of the action taking place below on and around the water. These are high unprotected cliffs and if you're a little skittish with heights (like me) it can be quite daunting. 

A Peregrine directly overhead.

Thankfully there are a few small benches strategically placed around where you can perch safely for a while and just enjoy the views offshore. My first shortstop paid off when four Velvet Scoters flew through heading south, very distinctive with their white wing flashes. While here I was quick off the draw when a Peregrine, one of three sightings today passed closely overhead. 

Great Northern Diver ~ Neck collar & feet protrusion seem to show well in this record shot.

There were a few Redwings sheltering in the gorse as I continued my walk and below apart from the regular Gulls, the odd Kittiwake would pass by. No sign of any Dolphins today but the occasional Seal would surface in what seemed pretty turbulent waters. A few Red-throated Divers and what I thought could have been a Great Northern Diver. I think confirmed (unless anyone has any further comments ~ when I got home later by the photographs I'd managed to fire off. Rubbish quality but great for ID purposes!

A few more Images...

Red-throated Diver

BUBO Listing
NEW Scottish Life-List Since Relocating in October 2020

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

πŸ“– BLACKDOG ⛅ 16C ~ Wind ↗SW@12mph 17/11/20



With the unseasonal temperatures continuing for at least a few more days I took a long stroll along the sand dunes and beach at Blackdog, just north of Aberdeen. The main interest here is usually on the sea but with autumn migration now at an end and southerly winds, it was relatively quiet. Along with the usual passing Gulls, Eider & Shag, just a couple of Red-throated divers were noted along with two passing flocks of Common Scoter, with sadly nothing unusual within.

Sanderling ~ Real charismatic birds and my favourite wader

It was actually 16C during my visit and I paused on numerous occasions, particularly to watch my favourite wader, Sanderling, which as per usual were scurrying around at breakneck speed. Another highlight was eight Snow Buntings, which flew south along the beach but continued on.

Monday, November 16, 2020

πŸ“– Pitfour Lake ⛅ 10C ~ Wind ↗WSW@16mph 16/11/20


Pitfour Lake, Mintlaw Aberdeenshire ~ NJ 9751 2885

This was my first visit to Pitfour Lake, primarily for a Greater Scaup which has been on-site for several days now.

1st-Winter Greater Scaup

Although this is not a designated birding site it was a pleasant lakeside walk in open countryside and your visit can also be linked with a walk through Aden Country Park. I managed to locate the bird at the top end of the lake near the fishing pontoons. 

One of three Goldeneye on the lake today.

During my short visit three Goldeneye, 2 Crossbill in the conifers, three Little Grebe and seven Goosander were also noted.

Friday, November 13, 2020

πŸ“– Girdle Ness ☁️ 8C ~ Wind ↗SW@13mph 13/11/20


Girdle Ness 

Just a 30-minute drive from home the harbour and headland of Aberdeen at Girdle Ness is fast becoming one of my favourite sites to visit.

Black Redstart ~ A walk to the old Marex buildings just west of the allotments where my walks begin.

Girdle Ness is the headland on the North Sea coast of Aberdeenshire and extends into the sea at Aberdeen, separating Aberdeen Bay from Nigg Bay to the south. The shipmaster of Aberdeen demanded a lighthouse be built at Girdle Ness when the whaling ship Oscar was wrecked there in 1813 with only two survivors out of a crew of 45. The lighthouse was eventually built in 1833, by Robert Stevenson. My walk, which begins at the local allotments takes in the scrubby embankment, rocks and shoreline below the harbour entrance and continues on as far as the lighthouse. 

Guillemots are a common feature around the waters here

I arrived just on high-tide and there were five Rock Pipits foraging around the rocks as I made my way down to the shoreline below the allotments. In the large sycamore tree as you make your way down the slope seven Greenfinches and a solitary Redwing. Out in the harbour were several Seals and Guillemots, one of which was swimming pretty close in as I reached the first breakwater. 

Five Ringed Plover sheltering on the breakwater.

A spectacular roost of Purple Sandpipers.

A mixture of Purple Sandpipers and Redshank.

Amazing to see so many Purple Sandpipers in the roost.

These large breakwaters often hold good numbers of Gulls but nothing visibly out of the ordinary today. There were around thirty or so Shag, a similar amount of Oystercatchers and a spectacular roost of over one hundred Purple Sandpipers. My second Black Redstart of the day suddenly landed nearby but didn't hang around and was gone in a flash! In among the Sandpipers, other roosting waders included Ringed PloverTurnstone, Redshank and a couple of Knot before I headed over to the Battery.

A view of Tory Battery across to the harbour

Torry Battery - built to defend the harbour in 1860 - is one of the best spots for finding migrant birds and has an outstanding track record for rarer species along with the more commoner migrants and although late in the birding year you still get a sense that anything could turn up. Today was quiet but there were still a number of Blackbirds from the recent influx, Meadow Pipit and a couple of Redwing.

The foghorn opposite the lighthouse, currently the limit of my walk due to the new harbour extension, offers plenty of shelter for sea-watching in most conditions and today, although conditions were a little calm with south-westerlies, I spent an hour watching Common Bottlenosed Dolphins, Eiders, Seals and also noted were Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver, Guillemot and a selection of Gulls: Herring, Common, Great Black-back and Black-headed. The surprise of the visit, was when a Kingfisher suddenly flashed between the rocks below. Another addition to my 'new' Scottish birding list.

A Few More Images of the visit...

Another of the Black Redstart around the Marex building

Rock Pipit on the breakwater gates.

Stonechat along the headland.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

πŸ“– Forest of Birse ☀️☁️ 11C ~ Wind ↗SW@13mph 12/11/20


Forest of Birse Aberdeenshire

A short drive out today for my first visit to the Forest of Birse, parking at the Forest of Birse Church, a remote building accessed only by a five-mile-long single track road, which is spectacular in itself! Once you arrive at the church the habitat opens out and consists of highland glen and moorland, along with birch and conifer woodland.

Stonechat ~ Not sure if he was a little annoyed to see a person!

From the small parking area (I was the only visitor), there are several walks in all directions so I decided to head north-west along the forest edge to a height of around 1200ft. The views across the moorland from here are stunning and the whole area is carpeted with Bell Heather and pockets of Gorse. Great habitat for Stonechats and it wasn't long before I registered the first of three. 

Red Kite drifts silently over

At one point a Red Kite drifted silently over and a Buzzard which had been mewing since my arrival finally gave itself up and disappeared into the woodland. A surprise was a small flock of Bullfinch, which passed overhead calling, nine birds in all which is likely the most I've ever seen at once! Further along the path, a Yellow-browed Warbler called a few times but despite my best efforts I never managed to connect. The bird fell silent and had likely moved on by the time I finally reached the area. 

The highlight of the day was most definitely a flock of around 40+ Crossbill, and I spent a good half hour watching them feed frantically, they were so engrossed I think they were completely oblivious to my presence. Also seen during my visit were woodland species such as SiskinChaffinch, Coal Tit & Treecreeper, I would also have expected Nuthatch if this was England but research tells me there quite a rarity in Aberdeenshire! This strikes me as good Grouse area too, although I saw none today and I look forward to visiting again in spring, where I'll certainly hope to spend more time investigating.

Monday, November 09, 2020

πŸ“– Greater Short-toed Lark ☁️ 13C ~ Wind ↗SW@5mph 9/11/20


This weekend has been pretty dreich here but mild and calm and these conditions seem to have prompted a large fall of Blackbirds particularly overnight! While having breakfast with Dazza looking out across the Benachie hills every tall tree seemed to have a half dozen or so in each one. In fact, when I arrived at Nigg Bay in Aberdeen a short while later they were still literally falling from the sky. 

Short-toed Lark Grid Ref Link... NJ963 047

However, I wasn't here for the Blackbirds I was here initially to see a Greater Short-toed Lark which had been reported while we were enjoying breakfast. I'm not a twitcher by nature but since arriving here in north-east Scotland I've discovered that you can move around these parts with absolute impunity and if the satnav says you'll arrive in 30-minutes then you'll arrive in 30-minutes!  And besides, if I connected with this particular bird it would be a British and of course Scottish 1st for me so it was worth the effort!

A very bedraggled looking Greater Short-toed Lark 

Actually, it was no effort at all thanks to the ABZ WhatsApp group directions and a few local birders who pointed me in the right direction when I arrived.

Greater Short-toed Lark looking quite forlorn in the gloom

At first sight, the bird was obviously exhausted and at one point it seemed you could almost reach out and touch it. However, I'm glad to report that after an hour spent watching the bird, it was feeding well and indeed having the odd fly about and even calling on occasions so a successful first twitch all around!

This was my first visit to this side of the harbour and what struck me is that the whole area is just a wonder to explore. This despite being almost in the city centre and with a huge extension to the harbour currently underway. Away from the shoreline most of the headland here is golf course but it still holds lots of areas of cover and Nigg Bay itself has a series of marshy pools and wooded areas. At one stage I could hear a Water Rail calling and the wooded areas held Greenfinch,  Siskin and Goldcrest.

Rock Pipit

After Nigg Bay, I drove around to Aberdeen Harbour and took a walk passed the allotments and along the embankment up to the lighthouse. In the harbour entrance, the usual Seals and Guillemots were present, along with double-figure Shag, Cormorant and a selection of Gulls: Common, Great Black-backed and Herring. Just a few waders to be found Oystercatcher and Redshank, plus I'd counted six Rock Pipits by the time I arrived at The Battery. 

Common Scoters in the descending gloom off Girdleness

Here I registered eighteen more Blackbirds, Song Thrush, female Blackcap and three Meadow Pipits. As the weather had now begun to deteriorate I had a quick sea-watch before heading home and among the many Eider, a group of four Common Scoter were a first for my new Scottish list.