Wednesday, September 20, 2023

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Autumn Update ~ 20/09/2023

On the morning of Monday, September 11th I travelled south for an hour just across the border into Angus & Dundee, for a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper which had been found northeast of The Slunks at Montrose Basin. Although I arrived just prior to high tide, which was not an ideal time, I did manage to catch a brief glimse of this elusive bird as it fed within the reedbed. Shortly after I got my best views as the bird took flight from where it had been feeding, flying directly overhead before circling once or twice and relocating to the far side of the reserve. Although it was not a perfect sighting for me, I am happy to have ticked it off as a lifer. There's an excellent photograph of the bird on the Birguides Review (11-17 September) taken by Dan Pointon.

So far early autumn has remained pretty uninspiring along the Aberdeenshire coastline with little to get excited about in the rarity department. That is unless you're an ardent sea watcher with some excellent passage on Sunday 17th. A short period of easterlies produced an array of species along our coastline, including Long-tailed Skuas, a few Sabine's Gulls, two Storm Petrels at Girdleness and the odd Balearic Shearwater. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get out on the day and enjoy the spectacle which was somewhat disappointing. 

A group of Sandwich Terns before the rain arrived at Rattray.

I finally managed to get out on Monday 18th beginning with an early morning visit to Rattray. There had certainly been an arrival of thrushes overnight with several Redwings as I drove along the track to the lighthouse cottages. A search of the immediate area produced (5) Stonechat along the fences and a few Meadow Pipits but little else. Unfortunately when I reached the lighthouse the heavens opened and the wind got up but before retreating back to the car I did manage (3) Red-throated Divers (south) and a single Manx Shearwater.

In the gloom, a trio of Common Terns take a breather at Cairnbulg. During my stay, there was a constant flow of Sandwich Terns, Common Terns and the odd Arctic Tern.

As the rain grew heavier, I decided to head to Cairnbulg. After parking strategically to face away from the wind but still have a view of the wreck, I was able to enjoy a few hours once the rain abated. Some of the highlights out to sea included Arctic Skua, (5) Manx Shearwater, Great Skua, Velvet Scoter, (22) Red-throated Diver (all south) (9) Pale-bellied Brent Geese, (22) Common Scoter, as well as approximately 40 Wigeon and 20 Teal. There was a constant passage of Gannets today with a high percentage being juveniles which was good to see.

One of two Wheatears in off the sea at Cairnbulg.

As the tide came in a couple of Wheatear suddenly flew in off the sea, a surreal sight but lovely to watch them for a while catching flies among the seaweed before heading south.

Grey Plover at Girdleness ~ One of two seen today.

After heavy rain last night, I took a walk along the shoreline of Girdleness, from the allotments to the southern breaker. Halfway through, a very pristine-looking Grey Plover feeding along the shoreline. Not much else was happening in the surrounding scrub, except for a male Blackcap. I spent a short time sea-watching at the foghorn, despite the challenging conditions. During this time, a Minke Whale, whose dorsal fin rose above the waves several times, which made it identifiable was a real treat along with several Manx Shearwater moving rapidly in the strong southwesterly wind, as well as a single Arctic Skua and (6) Red-throated Diver (all south) Eventually, I had to give in to the elements and call it a day.