Monday, March 20, 2023

📖 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 South of the Border ~ 17th/03/2023

 ðŸ´ó §ó ¢ó ¥ó ®ó §ó ¿ Friday 17th March 2023 ðŸŒ¤ 🌨️ 9C ~ S @ 8MPH ~ The second of two days in Norfolk and a morning visit to Cley Marshes before the rain came in the early afternoon.

Long-billed Dowitcher on Simmond's Scrape

After paying my dues at the Nature Centre I headed straight across to the hides overlooking Simmond's Scrape and Pat's Pool. On route, I was told about a Black Redstart which had just been seen in a nearby paddock and I spent about 15 minutes searching with no luck. Just prior to entering the hides there was a good deal of Bearded Tit activity but try as I might I was unable to obtain any snapshots.

Long-billed Dowitcher from Daukes Hide

Almost immediately from the Daukes Hide, I noticed a wader fly up from cover to aggressively move on two Black-tailed Godwits that had just dropped in. I was happy when things settled down to note that it was the Long-billed Dowitcher, which has been on site now for some weeks. The bird gave some ridiculously close views and spent the whole hour or so I was in the hide feeding well.

Water Pipit briefly on Simmond's Scrape

While here a number of Ruff on the scrapes, along with Dunlin, Avocet, Snipe, Turnstone, Ruff, Redshank, more Black-tailed Godwits and a single Curlew, plus the bonus of a Water Pipit which flew in briefly before heading off. I wasn't surprised to see a few more Red Kites, along with Marsh Harrier and when I moved around to Bishop's Hide, three Spoonbills

Drake Pintail at Cley

The usual wildfowl around the pools includes a few Pintail and the surrounding marshland held Brent and Greylag Geese. Despite the deteriorating weather, I took the short drive over to Kelling Heath but frankly I was being extremely optimistic in the hope of seeing any Dartford Warblers. That said singing Woodlarks, even in the now persistent rain was worth the effort and the soaking. An enjoyable and nostalgic few days!

A Few More Images of the Day...

Spoonbill ~ When you gotta scratch you scratch!

Ruff on Pat's Pool Cley

Long-billed Dowitcher 

📖 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 South of the Border ~ 15th/16th/03/2023

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Wednesday 15th March 2023 ðŸŒ¤ 2C ~ S @ 2MPH ~ Apologies for the lack of posts of late so I thought I'd begin my resurgence with a couple of diary entry's of my recent trip south to Warwickshire and  Norfolk.

Great White Egret drops onto East Marsh at Brandon

Water Rail from the John Walton Hide

Having driven down on the 14th to Warwickshire It was great to see some of my old buddies at Brandon Marsh, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust on the 15th. As I arrived a Green Woodpecker flew calling across the top reedbed and as I drove to the parking area a Cetti's Warbler called, both a scarcity in Aberdeenshire but Brandon has long been an excellent place to find both species. Although it was more about catching up with the guys for a good natter the birding produced some other good moments when a Great White Egret dropped onto East Marsh Pool and some good views of a Water Rail from the John Walton Hide.

Frozen Bank Vole

Also worth a mention was the above Bank Vole, which sadly appeared to be freezing to death on a small ice shelf in front of the hide. Thankfully after a short lack of activity, he scurried off unperturbed into the  nearby reedbed. 

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Thursday 16th March 2023 ðŸŒ¤ 5C ~ SW @ 5MPH ~ A drive over to Norfolk this morning for a few days birding but firstly a stop at Edernell, Cambridgeshire. The bank at Eldernell allows extensive views over the Nene Washes and it's a great place to look for Cranes and at this time of year, Short-eared Owls!

Red Kite passes close by at Eldernell.

After parking and a quick scan, which initially revealed two Common Cranes I took a walk along the bank as far as the spinney. What was apparent during my drive across and indeed as I began my walk was the amount of Red Kites I was encountering, at least a half dozen during the drive over and already two individuals overhead at Eldernell. It's 5 years since my last visit to the area and plain to see how the Red Kite population has rocketed in that time.

A male Marsh Harrier over Eldernell

With the recent rains, the area was well flooded so it was no surprise to draw a blank on any owl activity by the time I reached the spinney but I'd managed of note six Common Cranes, a pair of Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, four more Red Kite and a Kingfisher along the ditches. One surprise was to see and hear a Woodlark as it flew overhead heading east, a first for me here at Eldernell. Friends had told me to look out for a Tawny Owl which can be seen quite often in the spinney. 'Find the right hole and you'll find the owl'. Well despite a good search of many holes, cracks and crevices, no sign today but it was a little breezy!

Such a treat to watch this Long-eared Owl at Eldernell

On my walk back to the car it was time to check out the many hawthorn and bramble patches along the ditches in my search for owls. It paid dividends too with two Long-eared Owls and a single Short-eared Owl and I spent an enjoyable half hour watching one Long-eared Owl occasionally preening but most of the time sleeping, a very enjoyable visit! 

My first Sandwich Tern of the year resting on the fresh marsh at Titchwell.

The afternoon was spent at RSPB Titchwell and after lunch at the reserve a walk to the beach. It was good to see so many Brent Geese, a little scarce in northeast Scotland and so too Avocets which are here in good numbers. Some distant views of Marsh Harriers over the reedbeds, plus my first Sandwich Tern of the year was found nestled in amongst the resting Gulls. 

Meditteranean Gull at Titchwell

Talking of Gulls I remember Titchwell being a good place to see Meditteranean Gulls and I wasn't disappointed to find at least a half dozen. Three Chiffchaffs and a Stonechat by the time I reached the beach with little of note on the sea. Along the shoreline Oystercatchers, Sanderling and a single Bar-tailed Godwit.  Also of note during the visit Ruff, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Snipe, Redshank, Dunlin and the odd Curlew. To end the visit three Spoonbill over towards Thornham heading north.

More Images of the Day...

Short-eared Owl at Eldernell

Yet another wonderful Red Kite

Ruff at Titchwell

Monday, February 06, 2023

📖 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ Loch of Strathbeg ~ 07/02/2023

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Monday 6th February 2023 ðŸŒ¤ 8C ~ Wind Variable @ 1MPH ~An enjoyable visit to RSPB Loch of Strathbeg in glorious springlike conditions and then on to Scotstown and Buchanhaven.

Tree Sparrows at Strathbeg

I arrived at Strathbeg around 10:30am and as is my routine had a quick coffee while enjoying the many Tree Sparrows that reside around the centre. A look over Starnafin Pools and in particular the large gull population which failed to yield anything out of the ordinary. A Skylark singing overhead and the usual selection of Teal, Wigeon, (3) Shelduck and a single Little Egret (4 in total today) before I headed off to the Dunbar Hide. 

Drake Pintail

Before I settled into the hide a Water Rail suddenly took flight as I approached the boardwalk, a nice year tick, to begin with.  There were plenty of Wigeon and several families of Whooper Swans plus a single drake Pintail and many Teal to search through in the hope of finding a reported Green-winged Teal, which I dipped on! 

Marsh Harrier from the Dunbar Hide

A little further out descent numbers of Curlew, Dunlin, Lapwing and circa 300 Golden Plover, which were occasionally spooked by a Marsh Harrier. Likely one of last year's juveniles who has decided to winter here. However a bird high on my list today was the elusive long-staying juvenile Bewicks Swan, which I failed to connect with on two previous visits. 

At a distance the best I could manage on the Canon of the juvenile Bewick Swan

Today was 3rd-time lucky when I noticed a lone Swan way at the back of the pools. It kept disappearing into the reedbeds but I was confident this was the bird, in the scope a smaller bird with a smaller rounded head and the patch on the bill not extending beyond the nostrils. I was delighted when Mark Sullivan arrived, always best to get a second opinion who, once on the bird, left no doubt this was indeed the Bewick Swan!

Eurasian White-fronted Goose at St Fergus.

Mark had mentioned a Eurasian White-fronted Goose he'd come across with a Pink-footed flock in a field North of Scotstown beach road, St Fergus and a Black Redstart at Buchanhaven, both on my route home. Although it was getting quite late in the day thankfully the goose was still there when I arrived and after a few record shots, I headed off to Buchanhaven where the Black Redstart obliged by perching on the roof of one of the dwellings, just long enough for a photo, a great end to an excellent day.

Black Redstart at Buchanhaven

Saturday, February 04, 2023

📖 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ Journal Update ~ 04/02/2023

It's been quite mild of late and locally things have remained mostly quiet on the birding front over the past few weeks. I've managed patch visits to Dalmadilly Ponds and with the west pond still frozen, even with the recent warm weather most of the action has been on the east side. 
1st Winter Drake Goldeneye 

Assuming it's the same bird I've had more sightings of a Kingfisher, which I first noted on January 13th, still preferring to fish on the small burn next to the quarry access road. My visit on February 2nd produced the first returning Tufted Ducks of the year with six, this also coincided with my highest count of Goldeneye with seven, one of which was the ever-present first winter drake, now beginning to look the part.

Snow Bunting showing a ring on the bottom right leg.

On the coast, an enjoyable but quiet walk birding-wise around Forvie Sands on February 3rd was brightened when seven Snow Buntings dropped down in front of me as I reached the north end of the beach. One bird, in particular, was ringed but unfortunately, I couldn't get close enough to secure any better images before they took flight.

Parrot Crossbill ~ Invercauld

On January 28th Dazza and I spent the day walking in the Cairngorms at Invercauld in beautiful conditions, managing the above record shot of a male Parrot Crossbill. Also of note year ticks of Red Grouse, Red Deer and Mountain Hare. On the way home we pulled in near Dinnet when we noticed a large group of raptors circling. Incredibly all Red Kites and we counted eighteen but there were certainly more!

More Recent Images...

Rare Nacreous clouds taken from the house on the evening of January 29th

Skylark at Forvie Sands

One of the seven Snow Buntings at Forvie Sands

Cairngorms from Invercauld ~ Surprising how much the snow has thawed already!

Monday, January 23, 2023

📖 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ Peterhead Harbour ~ 23/01/2023

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Monday 23rd January 2023 ðŸŒ¤ 10C ~ Wind SW @ 5MPH ~ While in the area a late afternoon visit to Peterhead Harbour today and what a treat to find two Iceland Gulls at the end of Alberts Quay late afternoon. The birds remained just yards away during my 30-minute visit.

First of the Iceland Gulls

Second Iceland Gull on the rocks at Albert Quay

Friday, January 20, 2023

📖 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ Ythan Walk ~ 20/01/2023

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Friday 20th January 2023 ðŸŒ¤ 3C ~ Wind NW @ 5MPH ~ I had intended to travel a little further north today along the Aberdeenshire coast but with most of the back roads like sheet ice, I decided to take the main 'A' roads across to Newburgh and the Ythan instead. Even the route out of the village to Kintore was treacherous but I made it down to the A92 unscathed!

Eider Duck ~ An icon of the Ythan

I parked at the Waterside Bridge Car park and from there I took a circular route from the Ythan anticlockwise, heading back along the beach. With the tide in there were only a few waders feeding along the water line: Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Dunlin. At this time of year, the Eider Duck is already beginning to display and it's always a treat to hear their cooing display call echoing around the estuary. Not much movement overhead today, just a small passage of Skylark, (4) in total before I reached the beach.

Snow Buntings

The usual flock of thirty or so Twite were around the ternary, although as usual very flighty. I spent a while here trying to search out a small flock of Grey Partridge reported recently here but to no avail. However, I did manage to capture a shot of three Snow Buntings as they flew by.

Some of the 21 Grey Plovers seen along the shoreline today.

The return walk along the beach provided the best spectacle of the day with an unprecedented (21) Grey Plovers along the shoreline. I think my previous best count was three! In the foreground was a colour-ringed Knot but unfortunately, the flock moved off before I had a chance to attempt any better images, several Ringed Plovers were also noted.

One of a group of (18) Curlew

With little wind, the sea was pretty calm today and indeed quiet, with the exception of the odd Seal which would come up occasionally for a nose. In fact, the walk back from the shore was particularly quiet, best was a group of (18) Curlew, which had discovered an area of unfrozen pasture, plus three Fieldfare and a Redwing. I left the best until last with a Merlin perched on the roadside fence as I drove around to Meikle Loch which produced the usual wildfowl, my first two Stonechats of the year but nothing unusual during the briefest of visits.

Today's Route ~ MapMyWalk

Friday, January 13, 2023

📖 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ Dalmadilly & Paradise Woods ~ 13/01/2023

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Friday 13th January 2023 ðŸŒ¤ 5C ~ Wind WNW @ 5MPH ~ I stayed local today with visits to Dalmadilly Ponds and Paradise Wood. The pools at Dalmadilly were only partly frozen today but with the imminent cold snap almost upon us, I suspect the thaw won't last! 

Not the best photo I've ever taken of a Kingfisher but a first for me at Dalmadilly.

On the partly frozen areas of the eastern pool, the larger of the two, a count of (21) Common Gulls, (5) Herring Gulls and a lone Black-headed Gull. Checking the perimeter, just a single Snipe was noted but it was when I reached the burn to the south just before the quarry access road that I was delighted to see my first Kingfisher here in the 2 1/2 years I've been visiting.

Dipper below Dalmadilly on the River Don

The rest of the visit was parred for the course, one the highlights a flock of circa 50 Siskin, with the odd Lesser Redpoll mixed in and looking down onto the River Don I spent a half hour watching a Dipper swimming out and diving for food.

Paradise Woods & River Don ~ Library Photo

A first visit this year to Paradise Wood a lovely circular walk near Monymusk, around a 10-minute drive from home. Owned by the Grant family since the early 18th century the walk takes you through ancient woodland with giant Sequoia trees and alongside the River Don through paths and fields. Due to the lateness of the day, it was a particularly quiet visit with the river running above normal levels but it did throw up (4) Brambling and at least a dozen Redwings in the woodland and Mistle Thrush in the surrounding fields.

Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Greenfinch now regular visitors to the garden.

Back home my new garden feeding station is now beginning to produce. Having struggled to attract some of the key winter finch species of the area like Siskin and Redpoll, with a change of position and produce there now regular visitors.

Lesser Redpoll

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

📖 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ Girdleness ~ 11/01/2023

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Wednesday 11th January 2023 ☀️ 6C ~ Wind SW @ 7MPH  ~ My first visit of the year to Girdleness today and I arrived mid-morning just as the wind had abated and in beautiful sunshine.

This Bottlenose Dolphin was feeding along the harbour inlet

I parked at the allotments and walked the shoreline below as far as the lighthouse. A few Eiders to start within the harbour mouth, plus a Bottlenose Dolphin was busy feeding, one of many seen offshore today and I was fascinated as it swam first one way and then the other, occasionally surfacing. 

Red-throated Divers within the harbour mouth.

There were also at least four Red-throated Divers within the harbour walls too, a couple coming reasonably close to the shoreline, I recorded eleven during my visit. On the rocks below a few Rock Pipits and Oystercatchers and also seen along the bank (2) Song Thrush, Wren and Meadow Pipit

Purple Sandpiper

With the tide just ebbing there were only a few waders on the breakwaters with (11) Dunlin, (7) Purple Sandpipers and (8) Ringed Plover. Turnstone, Redshank and Curlew were also noted, plus a flyby Great Northern Diver heading south. Out to sea, a steady build-up of Auks with Razorbill and Guillemot both noted, along with usual Gulls, Cormorants and Shags.