Thursday, July 27, 2023

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 July Update ~ 27/07/2023

Since my last post, I've mostly been trying to avoid the frequent rain showers during my outings. July has been a disappointing month in northeast Scotland, with daytime temperatures occasionally dropping as low as 13C and persistent north northeasterly winds a constant companion! Sadly Dalmadilly Ponds, my local birding spot, has become a haven for people in rubber dingies and even wild swimming. Since moving here in 2010 I've never quite managed to understand whether the pools were originally built for nature or leisure. There are two excellent bird hides which have remained locked and the only time I've seen them used was for the storage of the local scout group kyaks!

Castle Fraser, Kemnay ~ Stands on over 300 acres of landscaped grounds, woodland and farmland. 

On Sunday 24th, Dazza and I went to nearby Castle Fraser to join the RSPB Aberdeen & Local Group outing. Our original intention was to search for butterflies and dragonflies, but unfortunately, the weather was not in our favour. Consequently, we ended up spending most of our time observing birds in the nearby farmland and woodland regions. Nonetheless, we were fortunate enough to have a brief period of sunny weather around noon, which allowed us to explore the lake and pools.

Spotted Flycatcher ~ A species doing well in my local area.

The birding highlight was a family of four Spotted Flycatchers. This species seems to be thriving in our local area with another family seen during our RSPB outing to Bennachie. 

A healthy population of Emerald Damselfly reside at Castle Fraser.

At Castle Fraser, there is a small pool that is home to the rare Northern Damselfly. Unfortunately, I think we were here a few weeks too late to see them with only the Common Blue Damselfly and a healthy population of Emerald Damselfly in attendance.

A baffling encounter between Common Hawker and Golden-ringed Dragonflies!

Speckled Wood
and Green-vein White butterflies did brave the conditions, along with Large red Damselflies and Four Spotted Chaser dragonflies but there was one sighting that is simply baffling. The above image seems to show a male Common Hawker mating with a Golden Ringed dragonfly! 

Golden-ringed Dragonfly after the event, which in fact began ovipositing on the pool immediately after.

On the 25th, I made the most of a short period of high pressure and went for a drive to RSPB Troup Head, which is about an hour away from my home. It is the biggest Gannet colony on the mainland in Scotland.

My first Dark-green Fritillary of the season.

I took the coastal path out to the cliffs which was a pleasant walk, encountering my first Dark-green Fritillary butterflies of the year. 

Meadow Pipit with young to feed.

Also along the way, several Meadow Pipits were busy feeding young, the constant contact calls could be heard deep in the grasses and at one time a juvenile Willow Warbler appeared from the gorse.

A Gannet brings more nesting materials onto the cliffs.

As I neared the cliffs, the mix of fish and white guano splattered on the rocks creating a strong smell that is typically associated with seabird colonies. Gradually, the sound and squawking grew louder as I approached the birds. Despite being crowded with thousands of Gannets, I could immediately spot gaps. Regrettably, the colony has suffered a significant setback due to avian flu over the past few years as I was already aware!

One of many juvenile Gannets seen today.

Ending on a positive note, Troup Head had an abundance of healthy juvenile birds. A recent study revealed that Northern Gannets can recover from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1, as indicated by their black irises, which show evidence of a previous infection. See HERE

More of the Gannets...

Saturday, July 08, 2023

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 RSPB Aberdeen Local Group 26/06 & 06/07/2023

Apologies to my reader for the lack of posts recently due to health issues. Fortunately, Dazza and I have a plan moving forward and can at least return to some normality in the interim. 

Red-backed Shrike ~ Photo courtesy of David Dunlop

Over the past month, I had the chance to go on a couple of trips. I led an RSPB Aberdeen local group outing of nearly 30 members with David Leslie in assistance at Loch of Strathbeg on Sunday, June 26th, where we also enjoyed a 'bring your own grillables' BBQ. The highlights included Red-backed Shrike, Common Crane, Spoonbill and Marsh Harrier

Spoonbill on Starnafin Pools Strathbeg ~ Photo courtesy of Jayne Simmons 

A full report of the outing to RSPB Loch of Strathbeg can be found HERE.

The group riding the chairlift at Glenshee

On 6th July fifteen of the local group headed off to Glenshee in the Cairngorms. It was a unique experience for me, the first time I've actually begun my birding day with a trip up a chairlift but it was great fun. As you would imagine in the high Cairngorms the weather played its part today with low clouds and the odd shower not helping the cause.

Juvenile Red Grouse ~ Courtesy of Ruth Howie

Regrettably, we did not spot any Ptarmigan, our intended species today. However, we were fortunate enough to witness a Golden Plover with its offspring, as well as numerous Red Grouse with their own young. The Mountain Hares have donned their darker summer coats, making them slightly harder to spot, but we still managed to observe several individuals. 

Juvenile Wheatear from the car park at Glen Callater.

Following lunch, some of the group made their way back towards Braemar for a visit to Glen Callater, renowned as one of the best walks in the UK. Thankfully, while the bridge is undergoing renovations, the parking still remains accessible. In the immediate vicinity, at least five juvenile Wheatears, Meadow Pipits, plus Lesser Redpoll and Siskin flying overhead. After a brief walk up the glen, not I hasten to add the 5 miles to Loch Callater, we caught a glimpse of a Spotted Flycatcher intermittently appearing amongst the recently planted Aspen. Along the rocky Callater Burn, a Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail were also noted.

A brief appearance of a Spotted Flycatcher.

Also of note was my first Golden-ringed Dragonfly of the year and on the return walk to the car park it was good to see so many juvenile Stonechats, I estimated at least three families with several youngsters.

Other Images of the Day...

Golden-ringed Dragonfly 

Peek-a-Boo Red Grouse

Juvenile Stonechat

Male Stonechat

Juvenile Stonechat