Saturday, July 24, 2021

πŸ“– Cairngorms ☀️ 27C ~ Wind ↖NW @ 5mph ~ 24/07/21

I think we'd slightly misjudged the weather today when we headed off to the Aberdeenshire Cairngorms for a long hike and picnic. Wall to wall sunshine, which we'd expected but at 27C the going was tough considering most of our walk was on open moorland, not the best of planning. Still, we persevered (someone has to do it) and enjoyed a wonderful day mostly in the company of Scotch Argus butterflies. 

My best effort today finding a Scotch Argus with its wings actually open!

As its name suggests, this butterfly is found predominantly in Scotland where it flies in tall, damp grassland. In the sunshine, males fly almost without rest, weaving low through the grass in search of a mate. We can vouch for this as we spent most of our time trying to photograph them. I'm told they do actually perch on grass clumps in poorer weather, flying out to investigate any passing brown butterflies. 

Northern Brown Argus ~ Beginning to look quite worn now.

There we're other species on the wing too today with a few Northern Brown Argus, looking quite worn now, lots of Small Heath (still can't find a Large Heath despite being associated with the area), Common Blue, Ringlet, Green-veined White and the odd Small Tortoiseshell

Golden-ringed Dragonfly ~ One of my favourites! 

As you'd expect plenty of Odonata about too with Common Hawker, another species I'm struggling to find perched, Black Darter and fast becoming one of my all time favourites Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

Beware of the Horse Fly

By the way, I should mention Horse Flies or Clegs! According to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, more people are being bitten by horseflies up here due to the long spell of warm weather. We can confirm this, the ones we encountered today don't just pierce the skin these buggars dig a hole in you!

A Few More Images of the Day...

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

Scotch Argus ~ Almost fully spread!

Scotch Argus ~ This one with a more familiar pose and interestingly taking on ground minerals.

A few images of the hike

Devil's-bit Scabious

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

πŸ“– Muir of Dinnet NNR ☀️ 24C ~ Wind ←E@ 3mph ~ 21/07/21

Living just 15 miles from the coastline I've become quite accustomed to waking on a summer's morning to low clouds and the occasional sea harr. When this happens I usually head into the Cairngorms where just a 35-minute picturesque journey often brings you into cloudless skies. It was just that when I arrived at Muir of Dinnet NNR around midday.

Since moving here last year I've been on the lookout for Dragonfly 'hotspots' and thus far the boardwalk on Parkin's Moss at Muir of Dinnet seems to offer the best opportunities. Right now it's the height of Odonata activity and I spent an enjoyable hour pacing the boards.

Male Black Darter

Female Black Darter

There are still Four-spotted Chasers on the wing, which caught the eye immediately, as did a single Golden-ringed Dragonfly, which didn't linger but by far the most active were the Black Darters. With the hot conditions most were constantly on the wing but with patience one or two would drop down for a brief respite. 

Common Hawker in flight and highly cropped

Another Dragonfly I was keen to register today was the Common Hawker and I did manage a few sightings but on each occasion, they were constantly 'hawking' and frustratingly refused to land. 

However, my attempts to capture one in flight actually paid off, much to my astonishment! 

Emerald Damselfly

As for Damselfly's, the Large Reds seem to rule the roost here with the occasional Common Blue but then for me, these are outclassed by the metallic green and powder blue eyes of the Emerald Damselfly!

iPhone image of Mottled Beauty on Silver Birch

Despite the conditions, there were just a few Butterfly encounters today which strangely did not include any Fritillary. On the other hand, Small Heath was high in numbers with Small Tortoiseshell, Ringlet, Green-veined White and Meadow Brown. Day flying moths included the above Mottled Beauty

Thursday, July 15, 2021

πŸ“– RSPB Troup Head ☀️ 24C ~ Wind ↗SW@ 2mph ~ 15/07/21


Summer has finally arrived here on the Scottish East coast and today in cloudless skies and a gentle breeze I headed off to RSPB Troup Head for a few hours. 

The view looking south of Troup Head 

Apart from the usual selection of Auks, Fulmars and Kittiwakes the high cliffs of Troup Head provide a spectacular setting for Scotland’s largest mainland Gannet colony. The walk up to the cliff edge isn't particularly long but quite dramatic and today, a whole host of butterflies along the path which included Dark-green fritillary, Grayling, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Common Blue and my first Painted Lady of the year.

Yesterday ('you should have been here yesterday) a Fin Whale, the planets second largest species was seen just offshore but sadly not today! However, for me, it was all about the Gannets and I enjoyed the company of these amazing birds for a few hours in glorious conditions. Watching Gannets hunting fish, spotting one, and seeing them rain down on their prey is surely one of Wildlife's greatest spectacles! And, for nearly the whole duration of my stay, I was practically on my own!

A Few Images of the Day...

Thursday, July 08, 2021

πŸ“– Sands of Forvie ⛅ 18C ~ Wind E@5mph 08/07/21


Stops at Inch Point and the 'Snub' car park which both overlook the Ythan Estuary before heading on to the Forvie nature centre for a leisurely stroll around the dunes and along the cliff tops. With nothing initially planed I just got in the car after breakfast today and drove the 30-minutes or so to the coast. It was overcast and a little gloomy to start but dry with not much in the way of wind for a change.

Little Tern fishing off Inch Point

There were a good few fishermen along the Ythan today when I arrived at Inch Point but despite this, lots of young Eiders and plenty of terns were busy diving for food. Little Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern and Sandwich Tern all nest at Forvie and I would imagine that the ternary is going full tilt at the moment.

Redshank ~ Large numbers along the Ythan at present.

At the 'Snub' car park there was plenty of activity too with more waders now beginning to appear. The majority were Redshank but (3) Greenshank and (4) summer plumage Knot, along with a single Little Egret, the latter not particularly common for the area. Curlew numbers are also starting to increase with well over 100 on the sandbank. Plenty of young Shelduck was noticeable and also a few juvenile Red-breasted Merganser along the shallows.

Record shot of a Puffin ~ always good to see at any distance.

From the cliff tops at Forvie, the sea was a hive of activity with many Guillemots, Razorbills and the odd Puffin, plus every so often a Bottlenose Dolphin would break water easily spotted in the almost flat calm. Both Fulmar and Kittiwake are still busy nesting and occasionally a Raven would drift by causing plenty of anxiety amongst them.

My 1st Dark-green Fritillary of the year ~ A species I've normally noted well before now!

Regardless of the dull conditions, a few butterflies were on the wing, mostly Small Heath but the odd Common Blue and finally my first Dark-green Fritillary of the year.

More Images of the Day...

Mouse-eared Hawkweed

Six-spot Burnet Moth


Forvie is awash with Northern Marsh Orchids

A Roe Deer runs for cover

Rock Pipit ~ this one feeding young.

Monday, July 05, 2021

πŸ“– June Month End Update

Another month passes by and up here in Aberdeenshire, there's still no real signs of summer. In the past month, temperatures locally have struggled above 20C on just a few occasions with what seems like a constant, unabating northeasterly airflow. This is often accompanied by persistent sea haar that will actually come inland as far as home, around 15 miles! The lowest temperature recorded on my weather station for the month was actually just above freezing at 2C! The locals tell me this is not a normal year and having been on holiday here on several occasions over the years before moving permanently I'm inclined to agree.

A glorious sunset over the hills of Bennachie ~ Taken on my iPhone from the kitchen window.

Noctilucent clouds ~ These taken once again from the kitchen window at midnight on June 27th

However, we do get just short of 18 hours of daylight at this time of year and quite often some amazing sunsets. More recently noctilucent clouds have become an evening phenomenon, usually seen just a few hours after sunset, which is currently around 10pm.

Looking south from the heart of the Invercauld Estate showing its diverse habitat with the cliffs of Craig Leaf top right

When the sea haar does hit a 40-minute drive into the Cairngorms can often produce clear sunny days and on the penultimate day of the month (29th), I did just that. Checking my records I last visited Invercauld on the first day of the month, a journal entry of which can be found HERE along with more details of the site.

The views from the track at Invercauld

Today just a few fair-weather clouds and a pleasant 23C when I headed along the track that leads from the estate offices towards Inver and Felagie. Tree Pipits were in song and a female or perhaps juvenile Redstart made a brief appearance along the treeline. There were also a good number of juvenile Stonechats along most of my route today. Small Heath butterflies were plentiful and like my previous visits, Green Tiger Beetles were also easily encountered every few yards.

My first Aberdeenshire Whinchat ~ Lovely to hear one singing!

The best from a birding perspective was my first Aberdeenshire Whinchat, which although remaining at a reasonable distance, could be heard singing.

My first ever encounter with a Northern Dameslfy

There are several water bodies to explore along the route which currently hold many Four-spotted Chasers and the odd Golden-ringed Dragonfly plus Large Red and Common Blue Damselfly. If your luck is in and you spend what seemed an age searching you may even come across a Northern Damselfly. Having been searching for the past few weeks, today was my first ever encounter.

Northern Brown Argus at Felagie

I paused at Felagie Burn for lunch before making the return journey and here at least four Northern Brown Argus and six Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Unfortunately, still no sign of any Large Heath, which according to East Scottish butterflies can be found within the area. Also of note today Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and two larger Fritillaries flashed by at a rate of knots so I'm assuming these to have been Dark-green Fritillary, although I've not placed them on my year-list.

A Few More Images of the Day...

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary resting on birdsfoot trefoil

Juvenile Stonechat

Adult Male Stonechat

Four-spotted Chaser

Common White Wave or possible Smokey Wave considering the location.