Tuesday, April 30, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Ythan Estuary ~ 30th April 24

🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Tuesday 30th April 2024 🌀 13C ~ Wind SSW @ 11MPH ~ Theo de Clermont one of my birding buddies from Warwickshire spent the night on Monday, travelling across from Mull, where he guides for NatureScot on his way to Shetland for an alternative 3 months guiding. This gave us the opportunity on Tuesday for a day of birding before he headed off on the overnight ferry from Aberdeen.

Whimbrels are now beginning to come through. 

We spent the day along the Ythan Estuary at Newburgh in springlike conditions, although it was still a little chilly and breezy. At Inch Point, we had a nice selection of waders with a single Ruff and various numbers of Redshank, DunlinBar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Knot, Curlew and Whimbrel. A Little Egret was feeding near Forvie Burn. On the water, a few pairs of Red-breasted Merganser a Red-throated Diver, a couple of Long-tailed Ducks, and many Eiders. Some of the Eiders were displaying and using their characteristic cooing calls.

The wonderful Eider Ducks along the Ythan.

A stroll from the Newburgh car park to the tin hut provides a sheltered view of the ternary on the opposite bank and the numerous Arctic Terns and Sandwich Terns, as well as a substantial colony of Black-headed Gulls, all of which nest here. We did manage a single Common Tern among the melee but it's still a little early for the Little Terns, both of which also nest here! Two fishing Ospreys were another highlight.

Osprey - A regular feature along the Ythan during spring, summer and autumn.

Our final stop was at the Snub car park where we noted five Pintail and added a couple of Greenshank to our wader count but the highlight had to be seeing three Ospreys, likely the two we noted earlier plus a third. A good day birding and good luck to Theo on his next adventure.

Monday, April 29, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Back to Local ~ 29th April 24

🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Monday 29th April 2024 🌀 7C ~ Wind SSW @ 4MPH ~ Back to local birding for the next week before heading off to the Outer Hebrides on May 5th. "As the month comes to an end, we are finally bidding adieu to the cold northerly winds that have been prevalent in the northeast for the most part of the month. I believe this may have been one of the reasons why spring has been slow to start in this region."

View down to the River Don from Dalmadilly Ponds with Fetternear Woods on the opposite side.

A noticeable increase in the volume of the dawn chorus at Dalmadilly Ponds during my visit this morning, as compared to my last visit over 10 days ago. As you can see from the trees in the image above spring hasn't quite taken hold here yet!

Blackcap ~ Smaller numbers currently than in previous years.

Willow Warblers
appeared to be everywhere today with at least ten recorded and five Chiffchaffs were also in song. Blackcaps still appear to be a little short on numbers compared to previous springs but I did manage three sightings. With almost clear skies just three Swallows passed through today and on the ponds (16) Tufted Ducks and (2) Little Grebes. No sign of the Osprey's yet but of course, I've been away and I'll get a better picture later on in the week when I visit the local sites.

Grasshopper Warbler ~ This is from my previous sighting at Dalmadilly

A nice surprise was a Grasshopper Warbler recorded in the same place and on almost the same date as a previous sighting a few years ago. I managed the briefest of views of the bird while recording it. Also of note today a couple of displaying Buzzards over Fetternear Woods, (6) Lesser Redpoll, (3) Bullfinch, (2) Yellowhammer and below on the River Don a Kingfisher, my first of the year!

While I'm away next week, I hope the Blue Tits and Blackbirds nesting in the garden will thrive.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Orkney Trip 22/26 April 24

Dazza and I are just back from our trip to the Orkney Isles and although our visit was not primarily for the birding, we did spend some time visiting various RSPB sites around the mainland. Our accommodation for the duration was in Stromness in a delightful little eco-cottage overlooking the harbour. The weather for the best part remained dry with long periods of sunshine but the biting northerly wind was a constant companion keeping temperatures in single figures.

View from cottage window overlooking Stromness Harbour.

There are two main towns in Orkney: Kirkwall and Stromness. While they have unique features, they share a common trait of having a majority of locally owned businesses. We were surprised to see that Kirkwall's town centre is flourishing with independent shops and boutiques that offer an array of products, ranging from Orkney cheese to traditional knitwear. On the other hand, Stromness is a picturesque town with a rich history of pirates, whalers, and explorers and both are worth a visit.

A couple of the double-figure Scaup at Brodgar.

During our stay, we did visit several birding areas including the Ring of Brodgar which is situated between Lochs of Harray and Stenness, the latter of which is saline. Here several Goldeneye along with a large group of Tufted Duck, plus at least eleven Greater Scaup and a single Slavonian Grebe

A Fulmar at Marwick Head making light work of the stiff northerly wind.

Marwick Head is a beautiful location with tall 90-metre cliffs and the biggest seabird colony on mainland Orkney. It's also the site of the Kitchener Memorial. We took the coastal trail heading north which was a bit challenging due to the cold and biting northerly winds. However, it remained dry throughout our walk and the sun even made a few appearances. "It was definitely worth the effort, as it offered breathtaking panoramic views of Orkney."

The Kitchener Memorial is a 48 ft tower war memorial erected after the sinking of the British battleship HMS Hampshire which was hit by a mine in June 1916 with the loss of 737 souls!

Many Guillemots, Razorbills, and Fulmars, along with several Ravens nesting along the cliffs and many Kittiwakes flying over the sea below. Sadly no Puffins were seen today!

Great Skua (Bonxie) seen on route to the Birsay Moors Hide

Orkney is a wonderful place to spot Hen Harriers. One of the best locations we came across to view them is Birsay Moors. There is a hide that provides an overlooking view of Lowrie's Water and the surrounding moorland. As we drove to the hide from the roadside, we saw a couple of Great Skuas (Bonxie) flying overhead. From the hide, we could see at least four Hen Harriers flying across the moorland including a magnificent male. We also spotted a couple of Short-eared Owls from the layby along Hillside Road (B9057).

20/30 Purple Sandpipers at Newark Bay.

Newark Bay forms a lovely crescent of near-white sand on the more sheltered southeast coast of the main island and is a great place to find waders. Dazza and I spent an hour walking the area and ended up with a good selection. Purple Sandpipers are common here along with Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Redshank, we also came across a couple of Sanderling. Offshore there were several Black Guillemots (Tysties), which can be found all around the coast of Orkney and four Long-tailed Duck

A single Black-tailed Godwit from the Loons Hide

A regular morning stop during our stay and just a short drive from our accommodation was the Loons Hide in Birsay which overlooks the Loons and Loch of Banks reserve - the largest remaining wetland in Orkney. There are large areas of open water surrounded by a mosaic of marshy grassland, swamp fen, mire and reedbeds, all dotted with smaller pools. From the hide, nesting Shoveler plus a few Little Grebe and Gadwall and the whole area has many nesting Lapwings and Curlew. Both Sparrowhawk and Hen Harrier were seen during one visit. 

Orkney has a large population of Hares.

During our 4-day stay on mainland Orkney, Short-eared Owls were a regular sight and Hen Harriers can be found around any of the many moorland areas. You can come across Great Skuas almost anywhere and we noted several as we drove around sightseeing. It also has a large population of Hares and Ravens for me are another feature, there are many! There are a few Carrion Crows that can be seen in Orkney, and the majority of crows you'll come across are Hooded Crows. While walking, we noticed many traps that had been set up to capture Stoats, which are not native to Orkney. These animals were first reported in 2010 and are now well-established. Since they have no natural predators in Orkney, they pose a significant threat to the local ecosystem. Stoats On Orkney. We also managed a few passerines during our stay and these included Wheatear and Willow Warbler

Standing Stones of Stenness

Orkney's most famous archaeological treasures – Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness, and the Maeshowe chambered tomb – form the keystones of the UNESCO Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site and are worth a visit. 

Some More Images of the Visit... 

Greater Scaup

Golden Plover ~ A section of around 500 seen while walking.

Ringed Plovers nest on Orkney

Male Hen Harrier ~ The best I could manage when this one caught me by surprise!

Sanderling at Newark Bay

Purple Sandpiper at Newark Bay

Monday, April 22, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Orkney 22/04/24

Today we sailed with Pentland Ferries from Gills Bay on the mainland to St. Margaret's Hope on Orkney. An occasionally bouncy but pleasant enough hour and fifteen minutes crossing and thankfully it remained dry with good spells of sunshine. 

Black Guillemot

On the sea several Black Guillemots around the harbour, at least 20 Puffins, and many Common Guillemots and  Razorbill. At one time we watched two Great Skuas, the pirates of the sea harassing a Gannet, obviously trying to steal a free meal. 

Fulmar flying alongside.

Plenty of Kittiwakes enjoying the stiff breeze and often we'd be joined by the odd Fulmar flying alongside the ship. Shortly after disembarking, we stopped briefly at Echna Loch and were amazed to find at least 100 Long-tailed Ducks. Also of note before we reached our accommodation at Stromness we watched a Merlin flying low over the fields.


One of the two Great Skuas seen today harassing a Gannet.

A small section of the Long-tailed Ducks on Echna Loch today.

Highly cropped image of Long-tailed Ducks

Sunday, April 21, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Dunnet Head 21/04/24

🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Sunday 21st April 2024 🌀 13C ~ Wind SSW @ 3MPH ~ Today we spent the morning and early afternoon exploring the area from Dunnet Beach to Dunnet Head, the latter being the most northerly point on mainland Britain. 

View from Dunnet Head towards Orkney and the Old Man of Hoy stack.

From Dunnet Head, you get good views of the Orkney Islands, our destination tomorrow. Today's weather was a surprise with plenty of sunshine a light breeze and a temperature of 13C.

Great Northern Diver

We spent an hour at Dunnet Beach, observing many Great Northern Divers in different plumages and a few Red-throated Divers. Several Sandwich Terns were resting on the rocks. Although only a few waders were seen, we did spot Ringed Plover, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank. "A group of six Sand Martins flew by, and a Willow Warbler was heard singing in the vicinity."

Hooded Crow

As we approached Dunnet Head, we stopped several times to watch a pair of Stonechat, three Wheatear, and several Hooded Crows. After parking at the lighthouse, we went for a walk along the high cliffs where Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemot and Fulmar were nesting and on the water below many Kittiwakes. Skylark, Meadow Pipits and Twite were also noted along with Rock Pipit before we headed off for lunch.

Tree Pipit

After lunch, we drove a short distance to Castlehill Heritage Centre where we spent some time around the old harbour. We sat and watched more Great Northern Divers and were pleasantly surprised to see a Tree Pipit followed shortly after by three Whimbrels, constantly calling out before disappearing across the harbour, both year firsts. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Orkney Islands Stage 1 20/04/24

We began our trip to Orkney today, and the first stage involved a 4-and-a-half-hour drive north. We are staying about 20 minutes away from John o'Groats. Tomorrow, we plan to spend the day here. On Monday, we will take the ferry from Gills Bay to St. Margaret's Hope, where we will spend four days exploring the islands.

Short-eared Owl at Campbeltown.

A few stops along the route provided birding opportunities. The best one was observing a Short-eared Owl flying over the coastal dunes in Castletown.

Short-eared Owl

Friday, April 19, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Coffee & Cake 19/04/24

 πŸ΄σ §σ ’󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Friday 19th April 2024 🌦️πŸ’¨ 6C ~ Wind N @ 20MPH ~ David Leslie and I had planned to take a morning walk before high tide around the Ythan estuary at Newburgh today. We knew it would be a little challenging in the strong breeze but having also been soaked on two separate occasions after an hour we gave up and headed off to the sanctuary of the Trellis cafe in the village for coffee and cake!

A Drake Pintail 

As you'd expect there were plenty of waders, mostly Redshank along with Greenshank, Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone, a single Bar-tailed Godwit and a flock of (35) Ringed Plovers. Along Foveran Burn Teal and Gadwall and where the burn runs into the river a single drake Pintail.

Sandwich Tern

Taking shelter in the 'tin hut' we scanned through the 100s of Black-headed Gulls but nothing unusual here. Sandwich Terns are now back in numbers and before getting down to the task of breeding, several were busy fishing in the latest downpour. On the opposite bank, thirty or so Oystercatchers were sheltering along with the many Eider Ducks that reside here.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Dalmadilly Ponds 17/04/24

 πŸ΄σ §σ ’󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Wednesday 17th April 2024  9C ~ Wind N @ 9MPH ~ Even with the sun shining the weather can be quite deceptive up here and when a biting northerly breeze blows the temperatures can plummet. So for me, it's still a hat & gloves.  

Newly arrived Willow Warbler

A few visits to my local Dalmadilly Ponds over the past few days and finally things are starting to happen with a good influx of Willow Warblers, seven singing birds counted today. 

Male Blackcap from today.

on the other hand are a little lighter in numbers with just a pair seen during today's visit. I dropped in yesterday briefly after my trip to the Cabrach and the east pool had (17) Sand Martins and a couple of Swallows but just a single Sand Martin today. Chiffchaffs continue to sing, (4) birds during my visit and there are at least 3 pairs of Little Grebes, which hopefully will nest but I fear that the regular wild swimmers who now frequent the pools might put pay to that. 

East Hide

East Hide

After 4 years of living here, I am still unsure whether these ponds were formed by the local quarry for nature or leisure purposes. There are two substantial hides present, but unfortunately, they remain locked. Even if they were accessible, they wouldn't be of much use since the paths run in front of them, and dog walkers wander freely with dogs often swimming in the pools. It won't be long before the rubber dingies are out too!

Roe Deer

During my walk, I tried to capture a quick photo of a Roe Deer hiding in the thicket. The deer looked like it had been damaged at some stage in the past, but it looked sprightly enough and bolted as soon as it saw me. Also of note today was a Red Kite, which drifted at height to the north.

A Willow Warbler with attitude!

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 The Lek 16/04/24

Up with the larks this morning for a few hours drive around the Cabrach. This area is located on the northern edge of the Cairngorms National Park and is about a 40-minute drive from my home. It's a beautiful but remote and sparsely populated area consisting of mountainous terrain, stretching ten miles (16 km) wide by eight miles (13 km) long.

View across the Cabrach from the roadside.

The main reason for the early start was to catch the Black Grouse lek and I managed six Black Grouse, all in the surrounding open fields. Unfortunately, the sun was shining almost directly at me and photography was difficult. 

Black Grouse

Not one of my best photos of Black Grouse

While parked up a couple of Buzzards were displaying high up in the distance, plus a couple of 'cronking' Ravens passed overhead with plenty of Meadow PipitsCurlew, Oystercatchers, Lapwings & Skylarks, all regular nesting species here. Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls also breed here and several pairs were noted. 

A female Wheatear on a roadside fence 

A few summer migrants are now beginning to arrive and a Willow Warbler was seen, along with at least three Wheatear. I say three but I'm pretty sure I picked up a few distant birds. 

Song Thrush takes a breather. 

On the edges of the surrounding woodland, a few Song Thrush along with Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin & Chaffinch all singing and doing their best to attract a mate against a stiff northerly breeze.


When I was up here with Theo de Clermont, one of my Warwickshire buddies, earlier in February we managed Golden Eagle and Goshawk but disappointingly none today. Another raptor normally encountered while on the Cabrach, Hen Harrier was also another of today's absentees. Also of note today was a single Dipper on the Burn of Redford and a large mixed flock of Siskin/Lesser Redpoll, around 100 or so. A bitterly cold day with a stiff northerly breeze may well have had an influence on today's absentees but it's always a treat to see a lek.

A Few More Images of the Visit...


Oystercatcher display.

A pair of Wheatear