🏴 Sunday 15th April 2023 ☁️6C ~ SSE @ 2MPH ~Another early start this morning at Cabrach meeting up at Clashindarroch with thirteen other members of the RSPB Aberdeenshire Local Group.
Around 25 miles from home the Cabrach is an estate and largely depopulated rural community. It's one of the largest planted coniferous forests in the northeast. There's a good variety of habitats here: typical forests and clearings, birch woodland, scrub and open stream valleys as well as adjacent upland farmland and moorland.
|Two of six Crossbill from the car park just before sunrise.|
I arrived in advance of the other members at around 06:15 and immediately set up the scope on a lekking group of around six Black Grouse. A male Hen Harrier was also quartering the moorland but some distance away. Even at this early hour, a group of Common Crossbill were chattering away around the car park. A few Lesser Redpoll and Siskins were also in the surrounding treetops and several Meadow Pipits were flitting around the roadside. A skein of some 200 Pink-footed Geese was also seen at height heading north and all before my first coffee!
|View down to the 2nd lekking group of Black Grouse from the roadside.|
Once the other group members had arrived along with today's group leader David Leslie and we were happy in the knowledge that everyone had managed good scoped views of Black Grouse we headed off now car sharing to a second lek around 10 minutes away. It was an excellent display with around ten male birds involved while a couple of females looked on in anticipation. While here a male Hen Harrier, possibly the same bird I'd observed earlier, was seen quartering the hillside once more, plus a herd of some 30 Red Deer, two Red Grouse and a Red Kite.
|Curlew ~ Good numbers nest at Cabrach|
From here we moved on up into the Cabrach farmlands, noting lots of Curlew, winnowing Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Lapwing, all of which nest in the farm areas. Also of note were a few Sand Martins at the riverside as well as a large colony of nesting Common Gulls plus a smaller colony of Black-heading Gulls not far away.
|My 1st Wheatear of the year|
Moving down from the valley a Wheatear along the stone walls provided a brief photo opportunity before our next stop to overlook the valley really paid off!
|Ring Ouzel just as one of the Wheatears takes flight|
During a scan of a wooded valley a Ring Ouzel was spotted just behind the group giving good flight views, shortly followed by a passing Peregrine. We did manage to reconnect with the Ring Ouzel a little further along the road with everyone getting good views, as well as three more Wheatear. which were in the same area.
|Plenty of Common Crossbill active today.|
Back at the car park for a quick snack before a woodland walk through the forest. Plenty more Crossbills, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin as well as Sparrowhawk overhead and a singing Tree Pipit before the majority of the group dispersed in good spirits. I and three others stayed for an hour or so enjoying our lunch in the car park and were rewarded with a Goshawk over the woodland heading south as if this wasn't enough brief views of a Golden Eagle which unfortunately dipped down behind the treeline leaving us frustrated but elated after a terrific morning birding!