One of the things I am doing this year is a bird challenge along with some other bird watchers where we have to record as many different species of birds seen in our home patch. We have to stick within a five mile radius of our house. This has resulted in us visiting places in our area where we have not actually been to bird watch and revisiting places close at hand which we had forgotten about.
The year started well as I had lots of winter visitors in the garden. I also saw some birds that I might not have seen easily. The first of course was the Kingfisher but I also saw a Merlin down at Findhorn. The Merlin was too far away for a picture but I managed to video it for identification. So far I have reached seventy-five in my bird count.
With this in mind I have been going regularly to Sanquhar Pond in town and to Brodie Castle Pond. As well as the usual Mallards and Moorhens at both places, the swans have returned to Sanquhar and there have been swans at Brodie for a while. At Sanquhar there has been a pair of Tufted Ducks and recently there were three Goosanders, a male and two females. Then a few days later at Brodie I saw three Goosanders, again one male and two females although one of the females flew off. It was possible that these were the same ones seen at Sanquhar so we went up to Sanquhar to see and certainly the ones there were not around, but they have been seen in Sanquhar since then. There was also a Cormorant sunning itself on a log at Sanquhar. There used to be one or two Cormorants a few years ago at Sanquhar but I don’t think I saw any last year.
At Brodie Pond there were four Tufted Ducks and lots of Mallards. Although the male Mallard is the more striking of the two, in the right light the tawny-brown and black colours of the female can stand out also. Brodie Pond has a lot of Moorhens and some Coots. It also has at least four Little Grebes. Little Grebes are very shy birds and although you can hear them they usually disappear under water as soon as they sense your presence. However, I think they are getting more confiding as certainly the ones at Brodie seem to swim past ignoring people. It would be lovely if they breed there so that we can have a chance to see their young.
The cold wintry weather at the end of February and the beginning of March certainly brought lots of birds into the garden. On the last day of February alone, I had twenty-six different species of birds in the garden . There were really high numbers of the usual birds but then four Fieldfares came in and started eating the apples on the ground. Unfortunately these were the last of our store of apples from the tree so Frank was sent off to buy some more. One of the Fieldfares did hang around most of the day. Then a male and female Yellowhammer came in, the first I had seen in the garden this year, but they are regular summer visitors. I got a fleeting glimpse of a male Blackcap but they are quite shy birds and I expect there was too much activity in the garden that day . However it did return on some of the following days. Then later a Redwing appeared to eat on the apple, followed later by a Song Thrush. The Redwings and Fieldfares will soon be leaving for other climates but it was lovely to see them close up as usually they are in large groups in the fields with Thrushes and they fly away quite quickly. Finally that day a Long-tailed Tit and a Pied Wagtail came in the the garden. Although Pied Wagtails are quite common in green open areas I do not recall ever having one in the garden before.
Since that day I have also had a Great Spotted Woodpecker come in for a short time and the Blackcap, the Redwing, the Song Thrush and the Pied Wagtail have made return visits although now that the snow has gone they have not returned. However, at the end of the week a Brambling appeared in amongst a large group of Chaffinches. It was always feeding on the ground. I would have liked to get a picture of it on the tree as it blended in too well with the ground. i got a glimpse of it the following day but it has not been seen since.
Although the bad weather has stopped me getting out and about it has certainly allowed me to enjoy the various birds in my garden . The Kingfisher is still around at the Mosset Pond but I have not been back again since my first photos. I saw this Dipper up at Sanquhar Pond and the Grey Heron just outside Forres on the way to Rafford.