Monday, June 28, 2021

πŸ“– St. Cyrus NNR 🌫 14C ~ Wind SE@8mph 28/06/21

Today, a trip to St Cyrus National Nature Reserve which is situated between the village of St Cyrus and the North Sea in the far south of Aberdeenshire. The reserve comprises a narrow strip of land that is 3.5 km long and less than 500 m across at its widest point. The total area is 92 hectares most of which is only a few metres above sea level and bounded by cliffs to the west. It forms the northern third of Montrose Bay, with the River North Esk marking its southern boundary. The reserve was declared in 1962 and is managed by Nature Scotland. 

The view on arrival walking down from the Visitor Centre

The cliffs and dunes provide a nationally important habitat for flowering plants and insects, many of which are at their northern limit in Britain. The reserve is one of the most important botanical sites on the northeast coast of Scotland, supporting over 300 plant species.

The view once the sea haar had arrived

The main target of the visit was to try and locate a very small population of Northern Brown Argus Butterflies that reside in the northernmost part of the reserve. The weather on arrival was decent enough with temperatures around 18C but just a half-hour in and the sea haar arrived reducing both visibility and unfortunately temperature, now just 13C. 

My first Northern Brown Argus since moving north. ~ In Scotland, most individuals are of the race Artaxerxes and have a characteristic white spot in the middle of the forewing (see photo). In northern England, this spot is generally dark brown or black. Similar to Brown Argus but differentiated by orange spots.

In effect, the sea haar can actually be a bonus and in this case, it was a help rather than a hindrance. Nothing worse than chasing butterflies around in full sun trying for the money shot. If I could locate any today they certainly were not going far and in this case, it paid off with two specimens! 

Small Heath ~ Pretty abundant around St. Cyrus it seems


Common Blue

Meadow Brown

Having completed the initial task an enjoyable few hours spent locating lots of Small Heath, plus a few more year firsts with Ringlet, Common Blue and Meadow Brown. Frankly, with such a desperate spring continuing on into the early summer I was beginning to wonder if things would ever improve. I was aware that everything is a little later in appearance up here in Aberdeenshire, but it had become a concern!

Parent Sedge Warbler ready to complete the next feed.

Juvenile Sedge Warbler ready for dinner.

Several parents and juvenile Stonechats were seen today

Wonderful to just sit and have lunch watching the many nesting Fulmars on the cliffs above, the odd Peregrine causing a few eruptions. It was also good to see so many juvenile Stonechats and Sedge Warblers being ably attended to by the parents.

Common Comfrey

Clustered Bellflower

Bloody Crane's Bill

Finally a few additions to the wildflower database.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

πŸ“– Emergence! ☁️ 14C ~ Wind E@12mph 26/06/21

A busy week for Dazza back down in England for most of it called for a nice long walk along the Aberdeenshire coastline on Saturday afternoon to recharge her batteries.

A typical stretch of Aberdeenshire beach at Balmedie ~ Today was very busy πŸ˜€

The remit was just that, a nice walk along the beach but of course, nature is always on the radar when we're out and about. The stroll beachside was enjoyable, the easterly wind keeping the temperature down and diving Gannets, Sandwich Terns and the odd Seal popping their heads above the parapet is always a wonderful sight.

Sea Rocket

On the return journey, we walked along the top edge of the sand dunes, which in this case runs alongside Mr Trump's loss-making golf course in the hope of encountering the odd butterfly. Here there are some large carpets of Bird's-foot trefoil with Wild Pansy and Sea Rocket mingled in. Northern Marsh Orchid and to a lesser extent Heath Spotted Orchids appear to be abundant at the moment.

iPhone image of Six-spot Burnets on Northern Marsh Orchid

It was at one such area that we came across an amazing emergence of Six-spot Burnet Moths a few of which were still emerging from their cocoons. Most were nectaring and clinging to Northern Marsh Orchids and the surrounding grasses were awash. It was a lovely sight, nature throwing up one of those enjoyable unexpected 'wow' moments!

An Interesting fact while researching Burnet Moths...
There are around 800 species of Burnet and Forester moth worldwide. Only ten live in the British Isles with seven in Scotland, (six species of Burnet and one Forester). Five of these are subspecies that are endemic to Scotland ie they occur nowhere else in the world!

More iPhone Images of the Day...

Six-spot Burnet emerging!

Six-spot Burnet fully emerged & drying out

Heath Spotted Orchid

Wild Pansy

Heath Spotted Orchid

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

πŸ“– Muir of Dinnet ⛅ 21C ~ Wind SE@16mph 23/06/21

I hadn't planned to go far today with an afternoon earmarked for lawn cutting and a spot of gardening. However, by around 1pm the temperature had risen to 22C and the breeze had dropped, (quite a rarity around here currently) so like the breeze, I dropped everything and headed off to the Muir Of Dinnet NNR for a few hours.

Part of the Boardwalk at Muir of Dinnet NNR 

This is now a recognised key site for Northern Damselfly and I've actually visited a few times over the last month in search but without success. Today was no exception, having spent another hour along the boardwalk the best I could manage was a dozen Large Red Damselfly, two Common Blue Damselfly and ten Four-spotted Chaser.

A couple of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries on Bell Heather

I did fair much better with Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, another one of my targets for the day. There were a few on the wing that simply wouldn't land, but I finally managed to come across at least four resting and feeding on the Bell Heather and looking pretty fresh too.

Clouded Buff Moth

Another bonus of my visit was my first Clouded Buff Moth for Scotland, in fact, I'll have to check my records as it could actually be a lifer! Birding highlights were a couple of Cuckoo and singing Tree Pipits.

Other Images of the Day...

Red Admiral

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Saturday, June 19, 2021

πŸ“– Loch Ruthven 🌦15C ~ Wind SW @11mph ~ 19/06/21

A weekend break around Inverness and the Black Isle gave Dazza I an opportunity to visit Lock Ruthven. It's about 20 years since our last visit here and after a rainy morning, things were beginning to brighten up as we arrived around midday.

View of Loch Ruthven from the beach area.

This is a large loch that lies to the southeast of Loch Ness in the Highland region. It is 2.25 miles long, extends over an area of 368 acres and is up to 42 feet deep in places. The most important breeding site in the UK for Slavonian Grebes, it has one of the highest populations of this species in Europe.

I must say that on arrival we were a little surprised to find that there were no members of RSPB staff, voluntary or otherwise on duty. This also meant (according to signage) that the hide would also be closed due to the lack of staff.

Slavonian Grebes from the beach area

Nevertheless, we took a stroll along to a small beach area where on arrival we managed to see four of the Grebes. Two of which were mid-water, the others disappearing into the reeds. Despite being closed we walked up to the hide and here at a small viewing screen adjacent, we were able to pick out at least three more birds, once again taking advantage of the cover of reeds. We left when the midgies started to annoy!

One of at least three seen from the screen adjacent to the hide.

It was a pleasant enough visit and thankfully we managed to catch a glimpse of these smart looking birds. Unfortunately, as we arrived back at the beach we were astonished to find a 'wild swimmer' had begun to take a dip. It goes without saying that the disruption to the birds, not to mention the other visitors who had also arrived to see them was galling, to say the least! I've written to RSPB Scotland with my views.

A few more images of the visit...

Heath Spotted Orchid

A familiar sight around the lochs and rivers of Scotland ~ Common Sandpiper

Loch Ruthven has ideal habitat for Stonechats


Sunday, June 13, 2021

πŸ“– Happy Ramblings ~ 13/06/21

Stunning views across the Aberdeenshire Cairngorms during a walk at Ballater

Since my last post a few weeks ago Dazza and I have been out and about both along the Aberdeenshire coastline and inland within the Cairngorms National Park. Walking in the Cairngorms is always a treat and during a hike near Ballater in beautiful conditions Curlews, Ring Ouzels and a distant Golden Eagle were just some of the highlights.

Razorbill at RSPB Fowlsheugh

The huge colonies of sea birds along the coastal cliffs are now in full breeding mode and every time we visit a cacophony of noise suddenly hits you as you approach and then before you know it you become completely immersed in the sights and sounds. 

One of a large pod of Bottlenose Dolphin off the coast at Girdleness

Below the cliffs, the sea is bursting with Guillemots and Razorbills, along with smaller numbers of Puffin with Fulmars and Kittiwakes soaring overhead. Further out Gannets and Sandwich Terns dive for food and if your lucky occasionally harassed by Great Skua! Every so often a Bottlenose Dolphin will break water and both Common and Grey Seals can pop up at any time just to take it all in. This is exactly how we envisaged it during the summer months when we made the move up here and it's beyond expectations and with almost perpetual daylight at this time of year, we can enjoy nature 24/7.

A Grey Seal along the Ythan Estuary

Birding, in general, has been particularly quiet during this spring with just a few gems popping up away from the norm. A Golden Oriole just 15 miles from home, which even after arriving just 30 minutes after the report had already moved on. No sign of a Bluethroat at Collieston plantation, once again arriving within the hour and several reports of Rosy Starlings, all unfortunately within private gardens with little or no information on access, very frustrating! Even a Pallid Harrier seen on Aberdeenshire moorland was kept a closely guarded secret, quite rightly in this case.

Northern Marsh Orchid ~ One of several at my local Dalmadilly Ponds

So away from the birding things are finally starting to happen. The trees are looking amazing in their full canopy and lots of Wildflowers and the odd Orchid can be found on our travels, plus small numbers of Butterflies and Odonata are on the wing. 

Pearl-bordered Fritillary at Muir of Dinnet NNR

Pearl-bordered Fritillary appears to be in good numbers, with several seen during most of my walks, along with Green-veined White, Speckled Wood and even freshly emerged Orange Tips still abound. No sign of any Blues thus far and although species I'm so used to seeing each year don't venture this far north (Brimstone for one) I'm looking forward to hopefully picking up a few new species such as Scotch Argus and Mountain Ringlet.

The only Dragonflies I've encountered thus far this year had been Four-spotted Chaser. However, Dazza once again came up trumps with a stunning find while out walking in Dinnet Oakwood yesterday. The above-photographed male Golden-ringed Dragonfly, the UK's longest Dragonfly and a lifer for us both. 

A Few More Images...

Common Blue Damselflies out in force.

Green-veined White in the garden

Juvenile Robin Paradise Wood

Great Spotted Woodpecker ~ Paradise Wood

Juvenile Pied Wagtail at Girdleness

Interesting Rock Pipit Girdleness

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Sedge Warbler at Dalmadilly Ponds