After what seemed an age of high pressure, frosty mornings and bright sunny days the weather finally broke on Monday to produce some well-needed rain. I know, It seems a strange thing to be saying when you're living in northeast Scotland! A more prolonged rainy day followed on Tuesday and temperatures struggled to reach just 8C in the chilly northeasterly breeze. Wednesday was a day of April showers, some accompanied by hail but we did enjoy a few longer periods of sunshine raising the temperature to a balmy 12C.
|A Sandwich Tern dives on the Ythan
On Monday and despite the rain I spent a few hours around the Ythan Estuary and actually timed my visit to perfection. The tide had turned and was on its way in as I made my way down to Newburgh beach, the best place to look for Terns with the Forvie Sands ternary on the opposite bank now cordoned off.
|One of at least eight Little Terns
Little Tern, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern and Arctic Tern can all be found here and all four species were noted during my visit. In fact, I spent an enjoyable hour watching them diving for fish only yards away from the beach. There is also a large Black-headed Gull colony here too and I was considering the fact that it must be so frustrating for them to watch the more aerobatic Terns diving and coming up with a tasty morsel on almost every descent.
|Interesting leucistic looking Eider Duck among the many at Ythan
Breeding Eider Ducks are also a highlight along the Ythan and numbers are now beginning to increase even more as the local birds are being joined by other flocks from around the Scottish coast. At one time Forvie was home to the largest population of breeding Eiders in the UK. Sadly a dramatic decline of this wonderful enigmatic sea duck, which began in 2005 means that this is no longer the case and I read that the 2019 breeding season has seen the lowest spring population of Eiders in at least the last 58 years, with only 1323 birds.
After the visit to Newburgh Beach, a brief Seawatch at Collieston produced two Puffins on the water, Red-throated Diver and various numbers of Shag, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Guillemot and Razorbill, plus a steady trickle of Gannets heading north.
Finally, a stop at Meikle Loch before heading home produced of note Whimbrel (over), 2 drake Pochard and my first House Martins of the year.
|Dipper on the River Dee
Although I've visited Muir of Dinnet on a few occasions Tuesday I paid my first visit to Dinnet Oakwood, about 40-minutes from home. This is one of the few old oakwoods left in northeast Scotland and my target birds were Common Redstart and Tree Pipit. Parking on the north side of the River Dee the walk across the bridge to the entrance gate produced a Dipper on the rocks below and a fleeting glimpse of Grey Wagtail.
It was a pleasant enough walk, occasionally in heavy rain and the best I could manage was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch, Siskin and Song Thrush. I'm sure the weather played its part but not even a Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler was seen or heard.
|Common Redstart at Old Kinord
Not deterred after the oakwood I took the short drive along to the Muir Of Dinnet and took a stroll down towards Old Kinord and Loch Davan. It was at the preserved ruins that I had my first success of the day when a female Common Redstart perched briefly before departing into the nearby copse. Around the ruins, a flock of some twenty or so Meadow Pipits, two Pied Wagtails and while here Lapwing and a few Swallows and Sand Martins overhead.
|Osprey in the gloom over Loch Davan
My second success of the visit was a Tree Pipit which I inadvertently flushed from the ground into a nearby tree. A good deal of tail pumping before it quickly flew off not even giving me a chance to raise the camera! As I approached the loch an Osprey drifted over in the gloom and on the water Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and a number of Sand Martins feeding.
|An Osprey over Paradise Wood the second in as many days
Today an afternoon stroll in the nearby and aptly named Paradise Wood at Monymusk. It was a pretty quiet visit but a sharp shower brought down a good fall of Hirudines over the river with Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin all in the mix. Just prior to heading home an Osprey passed over heading along the river, no doubt looking for dinner!