I have never known a time at the end of a year when there have been so few birds in my garden and so few to be seen even when I have been out and about. Other people have been commenting about this happening in their gardens also. We have had a reasonably mild winter so I expect they don’t need to feed in the garden. Hopefully, at the start of next year, I might see some of these winter visitors again before they fly off for good.
A walk around Brodie Pond gave me a chance to see these Little Grebes and the Moorhens. There were a few Mute Swans there and many Mallards.
The female Blackcap continues to visit the garden regularly and the male occasionally. The number of Tree Sparrows continue to grow. At one point I had over twenty. So I am hopeful of them nesting in the nesting box once again. There has been up to nine Long-tailed Tits coming in fleetingly.
I got a gift of a small birdbath for Christmas and I positioned it quite close to the window so if anything went on it I might have a chance of getting a photograph. So far nothing has been near it, except to my dismay, a Herring Gull. it is probably situated too close to the window but the Gull was definitely unperturbed!
Three different Blackcaps came into my garden this month. The last time one appeared in the garden was at the beginning of the year. A Male Blackcap came in and was feeding on the peanut butter jar. It was only around for a few days but then a female Blackcap came in. It was around for what I thought was ten days but when I looked at my photos I found that the first female had a ring on its leg and later there was one without a ring. So I think it was only a few days that the first female came in and then another one came in later. I was able to get some information from the ring by looking at the photos but not completely. However, it was enough to find out that this Blackcap had been ringed earlier this year in France and now it was in my garden! These little birds continue to amaze me and it is wonderful to find out something about their journey here.
There were hundreds of Fieldfares and Redwings in the area this month. At the Enterprise Park, there were hundreds on the trees and it was difficult to get a sense of how many there were in a photograph but I did manage to get a photo of a small group on a tree at the same time. I also had some in my garden too eating the apples. I was happy to see the Goldcrest, the Wren and the Long-tailed Tits still coming back in. Unfortunately, a Sparrowhawk was also making an appearance. It was hard to photograph but I did manage a shot through the window. I was not aware at any point of it being successful chasing the birds.
At Hopeman, on one of the days, I saw a small group of Sanderlings at the water’s edge. Inland there was a group of Red-legged Partridges in a field near Dulsie Bridge.
The winter birds have started to arrive. The first Waxwings that I saw this year were not in my garden, unfortunately, but quite close by in town. There were nine of them initially, but their numbers increased quite quickly elsewhere in town. I quickly put out apples but I still hoping some will come into the garden. During the month, a Treecreeper, a Wren, a Goldcrest. a Redwing and some Long-tailed Tits came in. I also had a multi-coloured Feral Pigeon that came in regularly. The numbers of Tree Sparrows are beginning to increase again.
Bird watching has been very quiet this month with just some Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and Pheasants seen when I was out and about. I have also seen very little at the coast but I can always depend on seeing a seal at Burghead harbour.
I have not seen many Dragonflies this year at all. Usually August and September are the times I see the most. However, I did see a Common Darter and also two Common Lizards on the same log at Loch Spynie. There are quite a few Woodpeckers near the hide there and on that day I saw this one.
At Burghead I saw some Sandwich Terns in with a group of Oystercatchers The Sandwich Terns will soon be moving away from the area. There have been very few birds in my garden this month so I suppose they are getting plenty to eat out and about. I did, however, manage to capture this Juvenile Greenfinch mesmerized by its reflection in the pond.
It is nevertheless lovely to see all the Autumn colours in all their glory!
Once again I have seen many butterflies when I have been out and about. As well as the ones I mentioned last month I have seen a Scotch Argus, a Small Copper and a rare find (for me), a Dark Green Fritillary which I spotted on the Dava Way.
The other exciting event for me is that the Tree Sparrows are once again nesting in the nest box. This will be the third brood in that box. I am assuming that it is the same Tree Sparrows on each occasion but I cannot be certain. How lucky I am to be able to watch them nest building, then watch the parent birds regularly feed the young and then encourage them to fledge! Tree Sparrows are not too common in this area but I often have about thirty in my garden at certain times of the year.
Even if I am not seeing many birds in the garden at this time of the year there are always plenty of insects to see. Grasshoppers are not easy to find to photograph but I found an obliging one. Black Slugs are usually on the ground as you walk along but this one was clinging to a single blade of grass.
The Greylag Geese will soon be moving away from their breeding grounds inland but I was fortunate to find a group near Little Aitnoch which had a Leucisitic Greylag in amongst them.
Finally, at the end of the month, we had a lovely few days at Crianlarich from where we visited Fort William, Oban and Loch Lomond but did not find enough time to go bird watching.
The Tree Sparrows were once again nesting in the bird box. The first brood fledged last month and it looked as if there is going to be another brood. Once again I sat opposite the nest box and watched the attentive parents feeding their young. The garden had lots of young birds in it this month. The Magpies were still around hoping to catch one of the young birds. An unusual Feral Pigeon came into the garden for a few days. A Red Squirrel also appeared in the garden and has been feeding from the Squirrel feeding box. It concentrated so much on eating that it allowed me to get quite close to it. About the middle of the month this second brood of Tree Sparrows fledged also.
This has certainly been a month for seeing lots of butterflies mainly in the garden. The Red Admirals, Peacocks and LargeWhites are often in the garden but this year a Speckled Wood, a Small Tortoiseshell, a Ringlet and Painted Lady, all made an appearance. There seems to be an abundance of Painted Ladies in the country at the moment. When I was out walking one day on the Dava I managed to get a lovely picture of a Common Blue.
The weather was so good this month that we went back to Gairloch. We packed a picnic and set off for the day. It was beautiful sitting at the edge of Loch Maree enjoying our picnic and watching some canoeists. Unfortunately, we never saw any birds. There are Black-throated Divers on the loch but we did not see any.
I was delighted to find that the Tree Sparrows were nesting in the nest box. The box has a camera in it but the birds had covered it up and we were reluctant to disturb them by going into the box, However, they were very obliging by feeding the young as I sat in the garden and I was able to watch two of them fledge. There were two of them sunbathing on the garden bench one day in the sunshine although I am not sure how many were in the nest altogether. Hopefully, they will all survive but a Magpie appeared in the garden one morning and usually it is the young birds that they are seeking. A little Woodmouse sometimes appears when it is a quiet time in the day to feed on the ground under the bird feeder. I would think its chances of survival are slim as not only have I got an Magpie coming in but there is a regular Herring Gull and occasionally the Sparrowhawk. It appears to be a young Sparrowhawk as on one occasion I saw it sitting on the ground with two Wood Pigeons feeding close too it and it made no attempt to go for the Wood Pigeons.
Over the last few years we have had the occasional molehill in the garden. I often sit and watch one rising up in the hope of getting a glimpse of a mole but I never see one. However, one highlight of this month for me was seeing two moles running about one sunny day in the garden. I have not sure what brought them to the surface but it was after a long period of wet weather. They disappeared into the bushes quite quickly. There is a piece of ground next to my garden which the council has always maintained but this year, areas like these are no longer being maintained by them so the grass is growing really wild. It will be interesting to see if this encourages more wildlife into the garden.
Two Bar-headed Geese had been sighted near Lochindorb in the middle of the month. We went a couple of times to see if we could see them. The only sighting of them was in the distance on the other side of the loch in a field with Greylag Geese. It would have been great to see them on the loch but had to make do with looking at them through the binoculars. However, there was plenty to see in and around the area. On the lochs there were Mallards with Ducklings, Red-throated Divers displaying, and another highlight for me, two Black-throated Divers happily swimming alongside the road. Although I have seen them in the distance, I never for a moment thought I would see them so close. They are such beautiful birds. I also saw Redshanks, RedGrouse, Lapwings with chicks and Curlews with chicks. On the moor, there were some young Stonechats. There was also a juvenile Greylag Goose running through a field with no other Greylag Geese in sight.
Nearer to Forres, at the pond near East Grange, there were two Moorhens with young and a Little Grebe.
At the end of the month, we went across to Gairloch for a few days. The weather was good and I saw a few birds. I was lucky to see two Great Skuas flying past and a pair of Ravens sitting together on the edge of a cliff. I also saw some Wheatears, Common Sandpipers, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats. In one area I also saw lots of Dung Beetles but when they flew they had white spots on their wings which made them appear rather attractive. I have tried to find out what they were but cannot find anything on them.
The young birds have started to appear in the garden. The first ones as usual were the Blackbirds but it was not long before they were feeding themselves. I still had apples left from the tree and the young were quickly led by the parent birds to the ground where they were. There have been lots of young Tree Sparrows in the garden and lots of young Starlings. I am still noticing a Tree Sparrow going into the nest box during the day but so far no sign of any food being taken in. Unfortunately the bird has managed to completely cover up the camera in the box and we really do not want to disturb it by opening up the box in case it is nesting there. There are four Yellowhammers, two males and two females, who are regularly coming in to feed but no sign of any young there so far. Usually there are quite a few juvenile Blue Tits come in with their young but so far I have only seen one. During the last few years I have had two Feral Pigeons that look like Rock Doves come into my garden about this time to feed. They have appeared again this year but so also has a striking white and grey Feral Pigeon. I try not to encourage these Feral birds into the garden as I already have plenty Wood Pigeons which come in. A Great-spotted Woodpecker came into the feeders this month but It flew as soon as it sensed any movement. I have not seen it since.
During the second week in May I heard and saw my first Cuckoos. There was one at Little Aitnoch, which I managed to get a distant photo of, and another between Loch Allan and Black Loch. The second one just flew along the road in front of the car landing on fence posts and then continued. That same day I saw a Red-throated Diver and later in the month, there were two displaying on a loch. There seemed to be at least three pairs of Stonechats nesting between Refouble and Little Aitnoch. In that area, there were also plenty of Red-legged Partridges. It is lovely to see quite a bit of activity with many of the summer visitors back, the Willow Warblers, the Chiffchaffs, the Whitethroats and the Swallows. I have not seen many Common Sandpipers this year. There are usually quite a few at Lochindorb but so far I have not seen any there. I did see two near Drynachan. There were lots of Sand Martins flying over the water there too. Near Dulsie Bridge I saw my first Spotted Flycatcher this year. There used to be quite a few Lapwings up in the Dava area but their numbers seem to have diminished. Towards the end of the month I heard Cuckoos near Knockaneorn and near Balnught but could not see them.
To my amazement I had fifteen Yellowhammers in the garden on the first day of this month. The most I have ever had at one time have been three so it was wonderful to see so many. That same day there was also one Brambling, two Lesser Redpolls and a Wren. But the Yellowhammers appear to have taken over the garden. They feed from the ground while the Bramblings and Lesser Redpolls feed from the bird feeders and the ground.
After that first week the total of Yellowhammers began to decrease but then I had eight Lesser Redpolls at the feeders one day. Again this was an unusually high amount to have ever been in the garden. There has been a great deal of birdsong in the mornings and watching the Robins I am not sure if they were displaying to each other or being aggressive. The Herring Gull has found a mate and now there are two coming in regularly. I have still plenty apples left which the Blackbirds are enjoying.
There has been a lot of activity out and about also. On the occasions when I was up the Dava I have seen, two Black Grouse and two Red-throated Divers. There have been lots of Greylag Geese heading back to their breeding grounds. In amongst them I saw four Pink-footed Geese although most of them will have gone by now. Two Tufted Ducks were on Black Loch and later on their were two Goldeneye. At Refouble there were twelve Golden Plover but they soon will be moving on also. Lapwings are nesting in this area and near Burnside Farm. Here I also saw my first Swallow and between here and Little Aitnoch there are always plenty of Stonechats and Meadow Pipits.
The bridge at Rumachroy is a beautiful place to stop and just listen to the birdsong and look around for the variety of birds there. There are Grey Wagtails on the river, Crossbills in the trees and I heard and saw my first Willow Warbler of the year there. I had expected all the Redwings and Fieldfares to have left the area but in the middle of the month, there were three Redwings near Newton of Fleenas and a Kestrel west of Knockaneorn.
There have been quite a few Wheatears in the area too. I saw two at Aitnoch and two at Moyness and one at Earlseat. On a trip to Nairn, I saw my first Sandwich Terns of the year and at Cawdor, I saw the resident Mandarin Ducks. At Kepperach Wood I saw a pair of Teal in a little pond but I have not seen them there since. Further on at Achavraat, there were six Skylarks flying around and singing beautifully. In the pond near East Grange, there have been a pair of Little Grebes.
It has been a month of in with the new and out with the old. The Bramblings, Lesser Redpolls, PInk-footed Geese, Golden Plover, Fieldfares and Redwings have all moved away and although some birds might have been around all winter it is mostly at this time of year that they are seen well. Crossbills, Grey Wagtails, Wheatears, Willow Warblers, Red-throated Divers, Skylarks, Lapwings, Sandwich Terns, Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins and Dippers to name but a few, all appear.
Finally , this month has brought in the appearance of more Butterflies, especially Orange-tipped ones and even some Dragonflies and Damselflies. There seem to be more Bumblebees around earlier too.
I have only one nest box in my garden with a camera in it. So far no birds have actually nested in it although it has been there a few years now. However, this winter I discovered that a Tree Sparrow has been roosting there overnight for a few months. This may have happened in previous winters and I just had not noticed. It has certainly been there for a few months now. I am hoping that it will find a mate and eventually nest there.
My garden is still being visited by Yellowhammers, Lesser Redpolls and Bramblings all of this month. Their numbers keep increasing. I have had up to ten Yellowhammers and four Lesser Redpolls. The Brambling numbers had decreased a little but I still get up to four. There were twenty-one Tree Sparrows and over twenty Siskins on some of the days this month in the garden. The Sparrowhawk still flies through the garden regularly but I am not sure how much it actually catches but it keeps coming back so I suppose it reckons it to be worth its while. However, I found a pile of feathers one morning outside and it appeared to be from a large bird. I thought at first it was from a Wood Pigeon but I now think it is from one of the Collared Doves as four came into the garden and now there are only three. They somehow seem to be easy prey for the Sparrowhawks. To add insult to injury it later came in and sat outside my window as if to say ‘look at me’. I have a regular Herring Gull which comes in also. I try not to encourage Gulls but this one seems to chase all the other Gulls away and as I have a plentiful supply of apples I don’t mind. At least it is eating healthily. I got a quick glimpse of a Goldcrest one evening but have not seen it since. The Wren is also appearing more regularly in the garden.
At Brodie Pond there were the usual Mute Swans and lots of Mallards. The Hybrid Mallard which has been around there for a long time now was still there. There are always plenty of Moorhens and Little Grebes along with a group of Tufted Ducks. At the Mosset Pond, there was a lovely female Goosander sunning itself on the bank. No sign of a Kingfisher so far this year. One hung around the pond for quite a few weeks last year. There were two pairs of Goosanders also at Sanquhar Pond along with the Mallards. On a recent walk around Blairs Loch, I spotted six Crossbills. This is a good time of year to spot Crossbills as they nest early.
As the weather has not been too bad this winter there have not been as many ducks in the harbour at Burghead. Just the occasional Eiders. Off the coast, there has been a pair of Goldeneye. However, along the coast at Hopeman, I always see quite a few pairs of Stonechats. They usually sit on the top of the gorse and remain long enough for a photo. At Hopeman I saw my first butterflies this year when I saw a pair of Small Tortoiseshells. Further along the coast at Portgordon there are still large numbers of Redshanks, Dunlins and Godwits near the harbour.
On my way up to the Dava, the Buzzard was in its usual place at Darnaway. It had not been around much this winter but now it seems to have returned and I am pretty sure I will see it there every time I go past. At this time of year, there are plenty of Greylag Geese and Pink-footed Geese on the Dava. The Pink-footed Geese will soon be moving away and the Greylag Geese are beginning to breed. In amongst a large group of Pink-footed Geese and some Greylag, I spotted an oddity – a Brent Goose. There is a large group of Brent Geese which winter around Nairn but it is unusual to find one inland.