Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Scottish sojourn tied off !!

In bringing this Blog up to date I'll first of all offer something akin to advice ,with an accompanying moral attached !

"When moving from one "base" to another don't leave key computer components at your last place of residence".  I'll leave it to you to piece together !

The last days spent in Scotland saw weather conditions being fairly constant and saw little in the way of unexpected bird records during routine birding, other than a Barn Owl on the 8th. A further visit to the Cromarty Firth encountered similar tidal conditions to previously, lots of birds, which included a nice flock of Lapwing and a few Bar-tailed Godwit. Numbers of gulls, ducks and waders were impressive, but revealed nothing exciting, although it was nice to see several groups of Scaup so easily.

A visit to the Findhorn valley was unproductive and disappointing. The lack of activity generally set against the sheer splendour of the isolation and tranquility was adequate compensation in itself. However, returning over the high ground to the north and coming across the major works in hand installing new transmission lines and the seeming plethora of new access roads cutting across the moorland was a direct contrast to what had gone before. The only new thing here was Red Grouse and a cyclist in training who commendably matched my progression over the twisting road !

A series of calls to various sites on Speyside, the Insh Marshes and the Firth of Forth before returning home provided some nice sightings including Whooper Swan, Northern Eider, Velvet Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck and a few common waders, but no Red-necked Grebe or Surf Scoter !

Things are now back to normal (22nd ) ,  although sadly the Scottish sojourn didn't produce as much as hoped for. I suspect a "Can do better !" verdict overall in several respects !!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Black Isle and Cromarty Firth. 4th January, 2019.

A more pleasant day, even with a period of sunshine!  With day temperatures at 8/9 C this was northerly sub tropical stuff at this time of year !!!


A full circuit of the Black Isle and a prolonged period watching over the Cromarty Firth.  A vain search for a reserve area on the north bank east of Alness and Invergordon provides an excuse for a further visit !   Munlochy Bay  was fully inundated but , nonetheless, held some Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck with some Curlew and Redshank at the extreme western end.   Chanonry Point was disappointing with virtually nothing in sight other than confirmation that charges are now made for car parking.  First erect some hideous and unnecessary barriers, install a bit of landscaping and then charge the public for looking out over the Moray Firth with the hope of seeing Bottle -nosed Dolphins.  But you could do that before and with a greater sense of the outdoors without the intrusion of some contrived provision !!  Yes, higgledy piggledy parking may have been the order of the day,  but do we want a spoonfed , disciplined countryside which doubtless delights the health and safety brigade no end ?!

So, leaving that behind I cut across to the Cromarty Firth and began to scan the water. A flock of Scaup were present, several Northern Eider , some Long-tailed Duck , with a few males getting excited,  Goldeneye , Red breasted Merganser  and the odd Slavonian Grebe. As ever the inner sanctum of Udale Bay played host to numbers of Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck  with lots of waders in evidence on the now developing, more distant mudflats, providing both a challenge and delight when scanning through them.

Late afternoon saw more cloud developing and temperatures dropping.  Definitely no longer tropical !!

Alturlie Point,Inverness. 3rd January, 2019

An extended visit to Alturlie Point alongside the Moray Firth east of Inverness,  (which can be combined very easily with a trip to the Retail Park !! ).

Rather grey and cold with daytime temperatures around 2/3C .  Tide was fully up with the accompanying collections of waders and gulls on the shoreline.   A good selection of corvids in nearby fields  ( Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow, Rook and Jackdaw )  would have been a good study ground for any beginner. 

Out on the Firth there was a good selection of duck on offer ( Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Scaup, ) with an odd Red-breasted Merganser and a very obliging female Long-tailed Duck. Several small rafts of both Scaup and Goldeneye were farther out too.  Grey-lag Geese fed in nearby fields and an overflying Cormorant added to the picture. Waders were represented by Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew.  Noticeably absent were any small birds as I walked along the road running immediately adjacent to the water.

So, a modest but pleasant array of birds, good views and an easily visited location.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A kaleidoscope of colour. 1st January, 2019.

It's a new dawn ,
It's a new day,
It's a new life.

An' I'm feeling good.

Whilst it was never intended to be a designated birding day, in the end it turned out to be really enjoyable. I'm in the Scottish Highlands, west of Inverness, with yesterday being an unseasonable 15C.   I've a feeling this will change !!

Up early and all the feeders filled in anticipation of a good showing in the garden.  I wasn't disappointed.  But first, in that cold light of dawn, Whooper Swans called from the nearby Firth and a few small skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew out to their feeding areas.

The next few hours were a bustle of activity with Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Siskins, Tree and House Sparrows, a small flock of Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and an odd Greenfinch, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a few Yellowhammers.  Seen at close quarters the colours were great to see and certainly brightened up the day. A Red Kite drifted over late morning adding a little excitement to the proceedings. I enjoyed it , although compared to the undoubted frantic activities of some, the ultimate day total of , ( whisper it ), 23 was relatively modest. Most surprising was a pair of Oystercatcher seen feeding later on the grass verge near to some traffic lights in the otherwise built up area leading to Charleston School.  Unexpected and a real blaze of contrast as I waited my turn at the lights !   

I no longer have a garden and realised how much of a luxury and privilege it can be to really study birds up close. If I'm honest I really enjoyed it, despite it being a low key intro to what I hope will be a bumper year.  

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone.