Wednesday, May 26, 2021

πŸ“– Staycation Part 3 ~ Scotlands West Coast

Thursday, May 20th: After our trip to Mull yesterday a little lay in this morning and a late breakfast at Lochgilphead. The weather had indeed deteriorated overnight with heavy rain for most of the morning and with a break in the weather in the afternoon, we decided on a walk around the nearby Beaver Project at Knapdale.

Red Squirrel ~ One of Scotlands iconic sights

Little chance of seeing Beavers during the daytime but it was a pleasant enough walk. The birding was particularly slow in the dreich conditions but the Red Squirrels entertained. On route back to the cottage an early evening drive around Loch Gilp in the strengthening wind and more rain produced of note a few Swifts, Common Terns and a single Manx Shearwater

Spotted flycatcher from the living room window.

One of the highlights of our stay in the cottage has been watching a pair of nesting Spotted Flycatchers from the comfort of our living room. Each morning and most evening we were visited by at least one of the parents perching on the wires directly in front of the window. By the way, the wires were for keeping the cows and sheep from eating the garden!

Chequered Skipper ~ Finally connect, a lifer for Dazza and I

Friday, May 21st
: Our final day before heading home tomorrow was spent around Loch Creran just north of Oban across from the Connel Bridge, an extensive outwash fan of gravel, sand and boulders. At the head of the loch is Glasdrum Wood NNR which is renowned for its diverse flora and fauna, including sessile oak and ash trees, mosses, liverworts and rare invertebrates, like the Chequered Skipper Butterfly. Unfortunately and although there had been sightings earlier in the week we failed to find any in the overcast, breezy conditions. 

Pearl-bordered Fritillary at Glasdrum NNR

Saturday, May 22nd: However, waking to sunshine on Saturday morning we made a last-ditch attempt to connect with this nationally rare butterfly before heading back home. After a good hour, we finally found two specimens, along with a few Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, a brilliant end to a fantastic week and a 'lifer' butterfly for us both! 

A Few Final Images..

One of our resident Spotted Flycatcher

Chequered Skipper

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

One of the many Wheaterars seen throughout our stay.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

πŸ“– Staycation Part 2 ~ Scotlands West Coast

The Isle of Mull leaving Oban
Wednesday, May 19th: Today was the highlight of our week on the West Coast with a day trip to Mull. As luck would have it this was forecast to be the last good weather day before things changed. Unfortunately, as per usual, the weather forecast wasn't quite as expected and although we did enjoy some sunny periods we also encountered even longer periods of heavy rain.


The sailing takes around 45-minutes and offers the chance of a short spell of 'pelagic birding'. With the sea particularly calm today the birding, in general, was quiet during both crossings with just a single Manx Shearwater and the usual selection of sea birds Gannet, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Common Tern and of course Black Guillemots around the harbour. However, we noted several pods of Common Dolphin and a possible sighting of Minke Whale, which was just too far out for a positive ID but appeared much larger than any Dolphin!

White-tailed Eagle ~ photographed in heavy rain

On arrival, we took a clockwise route around Mull with our first stops on the southern end of the Island overlooking Loch Scridain and Loch Beg. Notable sightings here were several Great Northern Divers, a male Hen Harrier, Peregrine and our first sighting of White-tailed Eagle, which Dazza spotted from the car as it passed overhead during a heavy rain shower.

Otter ~ Dazza's spot of the day!

Of course as well as Eagles, Dazza was also permanently on the lookout for her favourite Otters and as per usual came up trumps as we skirted our way northwards. A wonderful dog Otter who we spent a good while with, at one time watching him demolish a large lobster!

Always at a distance another Great Northern Diver

At Loch na Keal and Loch Ba a number of summer plumage Great Northern Divers along with a few waders Common SandpiperWhimbrel, Ringed Plover and the ever-present Oystercatchers.

White-tailed Eagle at Ballygown

A few further sightings of White-tailed Eagle, including the above specimen along the shoreline at Ballygown. Golden Eagle was a little more difficult to pin down today with a few distant sightings but our best view was literally a few miles from the ferry terminal at Graigmure when one soared close by across the treeline, once again in the pouring rain.


Despite the weather, It was an excellent day with plenty of stops to enjoy the stunning scenery and wildlife and naturally included fish & chips at Tobermory. Other species of note today included: Raven, Whinchat, Stonechat, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Red-throated Diver.

A Few More Images of the Day..


Ringed Plover
Another view of White-tailed Eagle
Brute force Raven

Monday, May 24, 2021

πŸ“– Staycation Part 1 ~ Scotlands West Coast

West Coast Part 1...

I'm just back from an excellent 'staycation' week on the west coast with Dazza, staying at a working farm cottage near the village of Ford, around 45 minutes south of Oban. Really comfortable accommodation, if not a little rustic, with stunning views, lots of woodlands to explore all alongside Lochs Awe and Ederline.

The weather for the early part of the week was mainly sunny with occasional showers, which thankfully we managed to avoid on most days, but with a chilly northerly airflow. However, from Thursday the weather deteriorated somewhat, becoming wet & windy with temperatures struggling to reach double figures.

Wood Warbler ~ Scarce for Aberdeenshire but several seen and heard during our week in the west.

My early morning walks were a delight with Wood Warbler, Garden Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap and Nuthatch forming just a small part of the dawn chorus, the latter apparently no so common this far north, even scarcer in Aberdeenshire!

Black Guillemots ~ Always a treat to find then around Oban Harbour.

Sunday, May 16th: Our first full day was spent visiting Oban shopping and sightseeing, thankfully managing to avoid some hefty showers. The harbour here is always a great place to find Black Guillemots and at this time of year they can be found nesting around the harbour walls, so we spent some time watching them come and go.

The 'Atlantic' or Clachan Bridge linking Seil Island to the mainland.

Monday, May 17th: A day visiting two of the 'slate Islands' Seil & Luing. Seil is linked to the mainland by the Atlantic Bridge. An interesting looking bridge 72ft wide and is steeply humped to provide clearance above high water of 28ft to avoid obstructing the passage of small vessels. 

A nice find was this nesting Whinchat on Seil Island 

Luing Island on the other hand is accessed by a small ferry and takes less than 10 minutes to cross, the ferry has room for 3/4 cars.

One of several Wheatears around the Islands ~ This one at the old quarry

Early Purple Orchid on the Isle of Luing

An enjoyable day with Cuckoo's calling and showing occasionally, during most of our stops. Wheatears too were plentiful and a stop off at the old slate quarry found a number of Early Purple Orchids. The whole area is awash with Bluebells and during the odd sunny period a number of Orange Tip Butterflies were noted.

Tuesday, May 18th: Our plans today included a stop off a Moine Mhor, one of Britains last remaining raised bogs, a visit to the Crinan Canal, always a pleasure to reminisce about canals and a visit to Taynish NNR. Sadly, Moine Mhor was a complete right-off, with idiot dogwalkers and I'm not even going to waste time writing about this increasingly worrying disregard for wildlife and their habitat by a growing minority of dog owners, sufficed to say they got a good piece of my mind!

Spotted Flycatcher ~ Crinan Woods

At Crinan we enjoyed a long walk along the canal and took the steep climb up around the local woods. The canal, which opened in 1801, takes its name from the village of Crinan at its western end.

Crinan Canal

Approximately nine miles (14 km) long, the canal connects the village of Ardrishaig on Loch Gilp with the Sound of Jura, providing a navigable route between the Clyde and the Inner Hebrides.

The recent emergence of Four-spotted Chaser

From Crinan a short drive to Taynish NNR an ancient oak woodland, with marsh, meadows and a freshwater loch. Our visit here was more about the Odanata & Butterflies than the birding, which was particularly quiet. Plenty of Four-spotted Chaser and Large Red Damselflies were on the wing, along with a few Speckled Wood and Peacock Butterflies. 

Wood Sorrel

A wonderful array of plants too with Wood Sorrel, BogbeanGreater Stitchwort and Hare's Tail Cotton Grass.


Small Heath ~ A surprise find at Crinan Oakwood.

Another Wheatear ~ This one on Luing Island

Bogbean ~ A first for me.

Our first Large Red Damselflies of the year!

Friday, May 14, 2021

πŸ“– Ne'er clast a clout till May be out! 14/05/21

Ne'er clast a clout till May be out could well turn out to be true this year! Instead of enjoying some early signs of summer, the weather across Scotland and indeed the rest of the UK is currently more reminiscent of a typical April. It seems that the jet stream, coupled with a stubborn area of high pressure over Greenland and Iceland which is forcing areas of low pressure over Europe is to blame. 

An area of high pressure is blocking the movement of the jet stream northwards

The jetstream is currently positioned well below the UK and is preventing any warmer and more settled conditions from heading our way. Until the high pressure is displaced allowing the jet stream to move north, these conditions will unfortunately persist. The good news is that things could be changing with a lot of forecasts predicting the jet stream will move north late next week!

Garden Warbler

We did actually enjoy a brief period of southerly winds in the early part of this week but they already seem a distant memory as once again we find ourselves back to the more familiar north, northeasterly. Anyway, I'm thankful for small mercies as that brief period seems to have allowed for an increased arrival of warblers, thus far thin on the ground. My first Garden Warbler at Dalmadilly Ponds on Wednesday, along with larger numbers of Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. Swallows are now far more prominent and the first Swift at the pond was noted during today's morning visit.

Pochard ~ An increasingly scarce visitor.

On Wednesday an addition to my waterfowl list with two Pochard on the pool when I arrived.

Pied Flycatcher ~ A record snap of this scarce visitor to the north-east

One particular species, the Pied Flycatcher, that I'd mentioned in my previous post as being an uncommon passage migrant to the north-east, with just ten records according to the 2019 North-East Scotland Bird Report suddenly popped up on Birdguides. A male in 'The Plantation' at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg. This is actually a remote part of the reserve on the northern side of the loch but once I discovered where to park I found it to be a pleasant walk out to the wood, although the low cloud and occasional mizzle didn't help. 

Corn Bunting happily singing in the gloom on route to the plantation

Wheatear, Corn Bunting, and Whimbrel all noted before I reached the plantation and almost immediately the Pied Flycatcher showed for long enough to obtain a quick snap. A bonus while here were my first Spotted Flycatchers of the year.

Let us hope the weather is a little warmer in the west of Scotland next week, here we come!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

πŸ“– Weekly Roundup 11/05/21

Having only relocated to Aberdeenshire permanently in October of last year, this is my first spring, and it could well be one of the coldest on record! I have to say that so far it's been a real learning curve with many of the species I'm so used to seeing during late March and April only just beginning to arrive here in Aberdeenshire if at all. Even most of the trees and plants have only recently decided to wake up!

My 1st Orange Tip Butterfly of the year.

A constant airflow of cold north or northeasterly winds coming down from as far north as the polar regions have held up many species migrating north thus far. However, over the past few days and after a heavy rain day on Saturday, I'm glad to report that we have actually been enjoying some warmer southerly winds, which sadly are not meant to last and I actually spotted my first Orange Tip butterfly of the year yesterday. Let's hope that this brief interlude pushes more birds north!

Sedge Warblers finally arriving in numbers now

In fact, during my morning walks locally at Dalmadilly Ponds and Paradise Wood the dawn chorus is beginning to increase in volume. There are plenty more Swallows, Sedge Warblers, Blackcaps and Whitethroats to be found and Swifts are beginning to appear over the village.

Wood Warbler (taken in the Wyre Forest 2018) a scarce visitor to Aberdeenshire

Yesterday I made an early morning visit to Muir Of Dinnet NNR, about a 40-minute drive. With an excellent habitat of mixed pine and birch woodland, along with Loch Davan and Loch Kinord, this is one of my prime sites for picking up woodland species. Unfortunately, Wood Warbler remains a scarce visitor to Aberdeenshire and is usually only found almost exclusively around mid-Deeside. Pied Flycatcher is another species thin on the ground and often only seen at coastal locations during spring and autumn migration, so one of my exciting personal projects is finding both of these species.

Dipper on the River Don ~ Paradise Wood

, another species so easily found in the south, is also another rarity for the county and any sightings have to be considered by the North-East Scotland and Scottish Birds rarity committee. Add to this Willow Tit, Marsh Tit and Little Owl for example and you can understand why it's very much a learning curve. 

King Eider on the Ythan Estuary this evening

That said, one has to draw the balance and seeing species such as Osprey, Dipper, Tree Sparrow and Crossbill on an almost daily basis and being able to drive just 30-minutes for a stunning drake King Eider this evening more than balances the books.

Eight Tree Pipits recorded at Muir of Dinnet

One of two Male Common Redstarts at Muir of Dinnet

I had quite a successful day at Dinnet yesterday too picking up Redstart, Cuckoo and Tree Pipit and indeed a few other county rarities such as Green Woodpecker and Great Crested Grebe. Also of note during my visit Common Sandpiper and Red Kite.

32 Whimbrel at Rattray ~ Couldn't get them all in the frame!

Also in the past week, a morning visit to RSPB Loch of Strathbeg picked four Garganey, three drakes and a female and a walk along the beach at Rattray found no less than 32 Whimbrel, by far my best ever record. Add an afternoon visit to Meikle Loch for Wood Sandpiper and my new Scottish list is building steadily.


Drake Garganey ~ RSPB Loch of Strathbeg

Hooded Crow

Whimbrel  ~ Rattray

Crossbill ~ Paradise Wood

Wood Sandpiper ~ Meikle Loch

Ringed Plover ~ Rattray

Cuckoo ~ Muir of Dinnet

Stag Roe Deer ~ Dalmadilly Ponds
Tree Pipit ~ Muir of Dinnet

Redstart ~ Muir of Dinnet

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NEW Scottish Life-List Since Relocating Permanently to Aberdeenshire in October 2020