Autumn is here my favourite time of year, but the summer weather seems to be taking revenge after an underwhelming July. Almost everywhere in Europe it has been sunshine as far as the eye can see, with highs exceeding the 30s in some parts of the UK. Thankfully up here in the northeast of Scotland, we've hovered around the 25C mark and unlike further south the night temperatures have dropped to more comfortable levels and even below double figures on a few occasions.
|Great White Egret ~ Two now regular at Strathbeg and becoming a little less uncommon to the area.
Since my last post, I've visited my usual birdwatching spots such as Loch of Strathbeg, Rattray, and the Ythan Estuary. There was a lot to see, including Cranes, Marsh Harriers, Great Egrets, Ospreys and plenty of returning waders including a Spotted Redshank, Ruff and many Greenshank but nothing particularly noteworthy to get excited about. I think the weather is to blame for the lack of interesting migrant birds visiting the Aberdeenshire coastline. However, at the end of August, I had a good sighting of a female Red-crested Pochard at the south end of Loch of Strathbeg. Although it was only visible from a distance, it was a great addition to my Aberdeenshire birding checklist.
|Lesser Whitethroat ~ A lucky shot taken from the car window as I was parking at Rattray.
On a particularly quiet visit to Rattray on September 2nd the highlights were a Lesser Whitethroat and just a single Wheatear along the beach. There was little passage past the lighthouse, the exception a steady trickle of Sandwich Terns.
|Northern Wheatear ~ A lone bird along the beach at Rattray.
On the evening of Sunday, September 3rd, I was sitting in my garden when I saw two swifts flying high over me. I got quite excited since our local swifts departed a few weeks ago and at this time of year there's always the possibility of an Alpine Swift, but they turned out to be Common Swifts. Nonetheless, it was my latest record since I moved north. The following evening, I saw the first skein of Pink-footed Geese flying over towards Bennachie, autumn has definitely arrived.
|Another car window photo ~ one of the two Curlew Sandpipers.
On Wednesday 6th, I added two Curlew Sandpipers to my year list while I was at the Ythan Estuary near Foveran Burn. I had stopped my car along Inch Road in Newburgh for a first look around when I noticed the two birds feeding contently on the receding tide below.
|Plenty of Sanderling scurrying along the tideline at Blackdog.
Yesterday I went to Blackdog for my last trip of the week with the RSPB Aberdeen & District Local Group. Blackdog is a beautiful area of coastal dunes and beaches, which is about a half-hour drive from my home. Today's plan was a walk along the beach south towards Donmouth. During the trip, we mainly aimed to spot Waders, sea ducks like Scoters and Eiders, as well as Divers. If we were lucky, there's always a possibility of being able to see Skuas.
|Knot with Sanderling in the foreground.
With a turnout of thirteen, we had a very enjoyable day in glorious weather. The highlights were large rafts of Common Scoter and many Common Eiders along with occasional small groups of Red-breasted Merganser, Teal and Wigeon. Try as we might not a single Velvet Scoter to be found but several Red-throated Divers heading south along with Sandwich & Arctic Terns. Waders for the day list included Sanderling, Knot, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit. An account of the visit can be found HERE on the RSPB Aberdeen & District Local Group Website.