We added a small pond to our garden earlier in the year in the hope of encouraging Dragonflies or Damselflies. We have not put any fish in it. The first Dragonfly I saw there was this Black Darter. There are always birds drinking from it particularly the House Sparrows and the Tree Sparrows.
There has been a large amount of Red Admiral and Peacock Butterflies the whole of the summer in the garden and this month I think they have reached their peak. Certainly the Buddleia flowers attract them and the Bumble Bees, Carder Bees and Hoverflies.
As usual a Sparrowhawk came in and unsuccessfully tried to hide behind the bird feeder. However, the birds were all too quick for it. I am not sure if it even actually saw me at the bottom of the garden.
A Rabbit is still coming in to the garden but towards the end of the month there were two. The Chiffchaff was still appearing in the garden at the beginning of the month but it will not be long before it goes. There were still young House Sparrows and Wood Pigeons on the go. One day I had six Collared Doves in the garden. Usually the most I have had is four.
Loch of Blairs
I have only visited Blairs Loch once this month and I saw that there were now some Wigeon there but only in a small number. There were lots of Mallards, two Moorhens, three Little Grebes and four Mute Swans. However, for the first time I saw a Grey Wagtail there and a Goosander.
Along The Coast
We have started going along the Coast to Cullen and working back through the small towns and villages towards Elgin. There is usually plenty to see. At Cullen itself I saw Grey Wagtails where the river enters the sea and some Rock Pipits. At the East beach there were lots of Turnstones and Redshanks. In amongst them were three Ringed Plovers. At Findochty harbour there were four Redshanks and a Common Guillemot. At Buckie harbour there were four Goosanders and a Black Guillemot.
There were lots of Seals basking on the rocks near Buckie. There are always seals in the harbour at Burghead also. One of the days I was at Hopeman I saw seven Stonechats and a Wheatear. I don’t often see Magpies at the coast except usually at Cummingston but when I was out walking at Findhorn I saw four chasing each other on the sand dunes.
On The Dava
When I went up the Dava a couple of times this month I saw very little. However at Rumachroy Bridge I saw this spider making a beautiful web in the sunshine and I saw a Dipper in the river. Earlier in the year I had seen Grey Wagtails and Dippers in the river but there was a spell of really heavy rain when the rivers burst their banks and I did not see any again.
We often stop for coffee when we are up on the Dava at the Old Dava School House and this Red Squirrel was taken at the feeders in the grounds.
Finally we had been walking through Lower Bradshaw Woods to the reservoir there a couple of times this month. On some of the walks I had seen a Southern Hawker Dragonfly and a Scotch Argos Butterfly. At the reservoir there were three Tufted Ducks and two Moorhens with chicks.
On one of the occasions as we got back to the car there were two Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other near the car. At one of the crossroads on the way there, near Darnaway, there is nearly always a Buzzard sitting on fence post and sometimes it is obliging and stays just that minute longer so I can get a photograph albeit a distant one.
This has certainly been a month for butterflies in the garden. Usually in previous years it has been either Red Admirals or Peacock butterflies but last month I saw a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and it has been quite a few years since one of these has been in the garden. This has been a record year for Red Admirals. They usually arrive early but leave pretty quickly. However they have exceeded the numbers of Peacock butterflies in the garden this month. There has also been the occasional Small White passing through.
There are still lots of juvenile birds in the garden. It is lovely to watch my regular garden birds bring their young in to the garden. At the beginning of the month a Treecreeper came in. One sometimes appears during the year but it is usually in the winter when food is scarce. A new visitor to the garden was a Chiff Chaff. Although I have the occasional Willow Warbler in the garden I have never knowingly had a Chiff Chaff. It was its call which drew my attention to it. I often have Sparrowhawks come in looking for prey and often the occasional Osprey flying overhead on its way to the coast or back from it but I was surprised one day to see a Buzzard which was being chased by Crows fly right over the garden. The Blackbirds are still conspicous by their absence.
A Kingfisher was seen at Blairs Loch this month. Although we have been there quite a few times I still have not seen it. Frank thought he saw it on one occasion but as I did not see it , he is not sure. But hopefully one day!
There were the usual Moorhens, Mute Swans with Cygnets, Mallards and Grey Herons. There were also Little Grebes with chicks. In the woods round the Loch I have seen Spotted Flycatchers, Goldcrests, Treecreepers and Long-tailed Tits. This is also the perfect habitat for Speckled Wood butterflies.
Along The Coast
Our trips along the coast usually involve going to Burghead, Cummingston and Hopeman but recently we have decided to go further afield and start at Cullen and go along the coast from there to Portgordon. One one of these trips we saw a Black-headed Gull with a ring on its leg. Fortunately it stayed in the one place long enough for me to photograph the leg from different angles so I could identify the ring number. On looking into this further we found that this Gull had been ringed in Norway in 2012, had been seen in Cullen in 2014 and here it was again in 2017. We will continue to watch for it when in Cullen again to see if it winters there.
At Portgordon you can always see Common Seals basking near the edge of the road. On one occasion I saw eight Goosanders on the rocks there also and a group of Sandwich Terns. Near the harbour wall there are often large groups of Redshanks .
On a trip back from Golspie we stopped at Alturlie and there were quite a few Ringed Plovers and Dunlin wading at the edge of the water.
Sometimes a walk to the mouth of the Findhorn can allow you to see different birds. On one occasion I saw a Greenshank there and there were three Ospreys flying overhead.
Butterflies can be found at the coast which are not seen in the garden. On separate occasions I saw this Meadow Brown and Common Blue at Burghead.
On the Dava
There are many birds that I can be almost certain I will see if we go up the Dava. One of these is Red-legged Partridges. They are often just running along the road and like Pheasants they do not know how to get out of the way. They are quite colourful birds and show their colours spectacularly well when flying.
The other birds I regularly see are Red Kites but they are usually often flying overhead. I was lucky on one occasion to see one land on a fence post and although it is a distant shot and not a particularly good one as it was really out of the reach of my camera, you can quite clearly see what it is.
At Lethen on the way up to the Dava there were large gatherings of Swallows and House Martins. At Lochindorb there were still plenty Mallards.
One Sunday this month I went to a Historic Scotland Heritage Day at Fort George. It was a lovely day with plenty to keep my interest and well organised. One of the the highlights of the day for me was a Falconry Display. I had only seen two of the birds in the wild – the Kestrel and the Peregrine Falcon. Although it is possible to see the Merlin in the wild here the chances of my seeing it and recognising it are pretty slim. They were all truly beautiful birds. The Siberian Owl and the Merlin were the two birds used in the display. Unfortunately the Merlin flew off during the display and the Falconer was having difficulty getting it back. Hopefully he succeeded after we had all gone.
I had a trip down to Loch Garten one day this month. It was a dull, dreich day and the Osprey at the reserve had already gone. There were Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Crested Tits at the feeders along with the Red Squirrels. I did not take many pictures because of the weather but I did take these two Rats which popped out regularly from the grass at the bottom of the feeders to feed. They were not bothered by the people round about them.
There was very little in the way of bird spotting at Moyness this month although I did see this Wheatear on fence post. On a walk through Lower Broadshaw Wood these cows lined up to watch as we went past. All eyes were focused on us as I took the photo. Each cow was a different colour which made them more interesting. Then on the walk I saw this Common Darter Dragonfly. This was probably my first Dragonfly of the year.
I started this month with butterflies so I will finish it with butterflies. Being up the hills introduced different butterflies again. This time at Tombae I saw a Scotch Argus and a Ringlet as well as the usual Red Admirals and Peacocks. I also saw a Small Tortoiseshell here on a Thistle. The Thistles were in full bloom showing off their colours nicely as was this unusual ‘orange’ sheep. They are a breed of sheep but have not yet found out their name.
I am always amazed at the variety of birds I have in my garden and it has been special this month to be able to see the young of most of them. This has been a month when there were lots of juvenile birds in the garden. The family of Yellowhammers are still coming in although not always at the same time. The Magpies have returned. I have seen two but Frank said he saw three one morning. I suppose they are around as there are still plenty of young birds. There are at least two young Robins and I saw a juvenile Tree Sparrow getting fed. Later in the month there were at least five young Tree Sparrows. The cute ones are the young House Sparrows which pop out and in the bushes but the chattering noises they make when in there reminds me of a party or clan gathering. The other cute ones are the young Dunnocks but they have been very timid this year and I have not had many photographs so far.
It is not often I see the larger birds with young in the garden but there have been Woodpigeons, Collared Doves and Jackdaws all with juveniles. Watching the Jackdaws being fed I realise that the bigger the bird the more vulnerable they can appear compared to the smaller birds who can be hardy wee souls, such as the Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and Blue Tit young.
A young Sparrowhawk has been frequently in the garden looking for prey. On most occasions, it is unsuccessful because suddenly it is aware of my presence and flies off. However, one morning it flew in before I had gone outside and caught something. It appeared to be squeezing the life out of its prey on the grass. It remained motionless for a while. I knew if I moved the blinds it would be off. It was such a beautiful bird and I was disappointed that my only shot should be through the blinds.
There are fewer and fewer Blackbirds in the garden now as they are still moulting. One solitary Long-tailed Tit came in for a few days in the garden. They are birds that usually come in groups but this one hung around on its own. Also, a Great Spotted Woodpecker came in to feed on the peanuts. It was a dismal day when it came in but I managed to get a quick shot.
Finally, at the end of the month the first butterflies appeared. I was delighted to see that the first one was a Small Tortoiseshell. It has been a few years since I have had one of them in the garden. On another day a beautiful Garden Carpet Moth came in.
On the 12th July a friend organised a boat trip from Macduff to Troup Head in the afternoon. It could not have been a more perfect day. The sun was shining and the sea was perfectly calm. The trip was to see the Puffins at Troup Head and I had never seen any before. However, on the day we saw so much more. We were not ten minutes out of the harbour when a pod of Dolphins with young came towards us. The boat stopped and they all swam around us for about ten minutes. They put on a spectacular display and the water was so clear that we could look down on them as they swam around the boat. I knew they were big as I often see them from the coast but when they are right beside you it is then you actually realise how big they are.
On the way to Troup head there were Black and Common Guillemots and Razorbills on the water and as we got nearer the cliffs there were Puffins on the water too. The amount of birds on the cliffs at Troup Head was spectacular – Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Razorbill, Guillemots and of course Puffins. The Puffins looked like little golf balls sitting on the cliffs. A Great Skua flew past us quite close. I was disappointed that none of my photographs of the Puffins were any good. Unfortunately I think it was my poor photographic skills at that particular time. On the way back the skipper threw fish into the water and there was another wonderful display this time from the gulls. Gannets, Common Gulls and Herring Gulls all vied for the fish. I did see one Great Black-backed Gull in amongst them. Also I saw an Artic Skua chasing another bird until it eventually got it in the water.
Thanks to Hilary for organizing it and to Harold, the skipper of Seacat as this trip was probably my highlight of my birdwatching year so far.
Along The Coast
I have not been along the coast in Moray a great deal this month. At Cummingston there were plenty Linnets flying around and I saw a Whitethroat. Whitethroats are summer visitors but they can usually be seen at Cummingston. Off the coast an occasional Eider can be seen.
On The Dava
For various reasons this has been a busy month and I have not been up the Dava very often. However, on one occasion I saw three Kestrels in the area at Knochaneorn where I had previously seen the three Cuckoos. They were too far away to get a photo. I also saw another at Rumachroy. That same day on the way back I saw a beautiful Red Kite flying over at Auchravraat. At this time of the year I can often see Red Deer anywhere in the Dava area. There are often Stonechats around and this one was at Dulcie Bridge.
Moyness Area & Tilliglens
I saw my first Ringlet Butterfly of the year at Moyness. There seems to be plenty of them around this year. Near Fornighty I saw at least ten Grey Wagtails. I usually see them in pairs but not in large groups. In the same place there was a bedraggled looking Grey Heron. There were some Pied Wagtails with young at Moyness and the usual Buzzard hanging around. There was also a Hooded Crow feeding young in a field. We have had a couple of walks up to the reservoir at Lower Broadshaw Wood and on one occasion there were lots of swifts flying over it.
We went for a walk up Tilliglens Wood and I managed to see a Spotted Flycatcher there. This was the second one I had seen this year as I had seen one earlier at Drynachan but had not been able to photograph it.
My daughter lives in Thurso so we make quite a few trips up there. We had gone up for a day which was in fact the day before we went on the boat trip from Macduff. On the way up we saw a Red Kite flying over near Dornoch. We stopped at Loch Fleet and saw some Common Sandpipers, some Curlews and some Shelducks. From Thurso we first went to St John’s Pool and then to Dunnet Head. St John’s Pool was hive of activity with lots of Sandwich and Artic Terns, Redshanks, Tufted Ducks, Moorhensand Coots with young, Gadwell and Common Gulls.
At Dunnet Head I saw my first Puffins (the day before the boat trip). There were quite a few of them on the cliffs. I had a lovely view through my binoculars but it was a bit far for a good photograph. There were also lots of Fulmars and Guillemots. I also saw a Great Skua fly past quite close.
We returned to Thurso at the end of the month for a few days. We headed up towards Durness and stopped at Strathy Point on the way. There were some Ringed Plovers with young there. On the way to the point I saw a Mountain Hare which was watching me as I went past. There were also lots of Rock Pipits with juveniles flying around. I also saw one lone Dunlin. Near Dunnet Head I saw two Red-throated Divers on a loch but the Puffins had gone. There were some Gannets flying around in groups and an Arctic Skua. At Duncansby Head and the Stacks there were lots of Fulmars with young chicks. Here there were lots of Cormorants and Shags hidden in the crevasses of the rocks. There was also a Great Skua. Until I started to go north I had never seen Skuas before although they are sometimes seen off the Moray coast. I were would certainly recognise them now if I saw one.
Although I have not seen much activity out and about, this month like last, has been a busy time in the garden. The adult birds were still going to and fro gathering food or if the young had already fledged they were busy feeding in the garden. It was lovely to watch the juvenile birds. I often spend a bit longer looking at a Juvenile Robin and a juvenile Dunnock as they can appear at first glance to be quite similar but it is only when you see them together that the differences become obvious. The young Siskins, Greenfinches and Goldfinches are easier to recognise as they have usually the correct markings on their tails and they only have stripes down the front and on the head with no colours either on the front or on the head.
There has occasionally been Lesser Redpolls in the garden but I have only seen one although Frank said he saw four one morning. It would be lovely if they would appear in the garden with their young. Although I have not actually seen the Song Thrush in the garden it often sang in the early evening in the tree at the bottom of our garden. The Sparrowhawk still flies through but does not linger. Although it is a beautiful young male I have not been able to get a photograph of it.
Many of the birds at this time of year lose their first feathers and many of them stay out of sight for a while until this is passed. This is particularly true of the Blackbirds when their numbers fall drastically. At the beginning of the month for one day only, the Blackbird with the white head and neck returned to the garden. I had not seen that bird in the garden since November and even then it just stayed for a couple of days. It just seemed to pass through at the beginning of winter and then away again as soon as Spring was over. I have no idea where it was over these months. However, I have seen the occasional raggedy Robin or Blue Tit appear in the garden.
I don’t recall seeing young Tree Sparrows in my garden before so it was lovely to see them appear and watch them get fed. Their numbers increased to twelve as the month went on. It is much quieter as there are only a few Starlings around this month as mostly they have moved on. I got a lovely surprise towards the end of the month when a young Yellowhammer appeared in the garden. I have never had the young of Yellowhammers in the garden before. It was already feeding by itself although I did see an adult feed it occasionally. From then on, all three Yellowhammers came in to feed sometimes at different times from each other. It appeared to me that they just had the one fledgling but I could not be sure.
There have been some sunny days this month and the birds, particularly the Blackbirds and the Dunnocks have been sunbathing. Apparently, there are two reasons for that. The first is that it helps spread vital oils along the feathers and the second reason is that it helps drive out any parasites that may be feeding on the bird’s plumage.
There have been quite a few mornings this month when I have been sitting having breakfast and have watched the Rabbit munching its carrot and a Red Squirrel eating peanuts from the feeder or the squirrel box when a magpie has flown in and there has been a lot of activity, happy birds, adults and young, on the ground feeding. What more could I ask for!
Blairs Loch / Sanquhar
Again, I only visited Blairs Loch once this month and saw the Mute Swans with six cygnets. While I was there I saw one Coot and one Little Grebe with young. While walking to the bird hide at Chapelton, Sanquhar I spotted this large toad on the path but we did not see any birds to record at the hide.
Along The Coast
Grey Herons are very common along the coast and it would be impossible not to notice them. It is worthwhile just spending time to observe them as they stalk the fish. They can stand motionless for a long time on one leg before pouncing. Most birds are usually seen at Hopeman and Cummingston depending on the tide I can see some at Burghead. You can see far more birds in Burghead during the winter as many come into the harbour to shelter.
I can usually see Stonechats, Yellowhammers, Rock and Meadow Pipits, Yellowhammers and Hooded Crows at Hopeman. I can often hear Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers in the summer but I only managed to get a photo of one Willow Warbler. At Cummingston there is usually a pair of Magpies hanging around but one day there were two adults with two young on a line. This Grey Wagtail I spotted when I was walking up the River Nairn with a friend.
So far there has not been many butterflies around as they seem to be later this year. A good place for butterflies is Cummingston but all I have seen lately there are Ringlets.
On The Dava / Lochindorb
At the beginning of the month we were up the Dava and went past Knockaneorn where I had previously seen the three Cuckoos. On this occasion, I saw one which I presumed to be one of the three I had seen last month. This time it was too far away to get a good photograph. There were various groups of Greylag Geese at Little Aitnoch, Aitnoch, Black Loch and the Lochan opposite Black Loch. At Refouble there were some Red-Legged Partridge.
Later in the month there were still lots of Greylag Geese around. At Dunearn I saw a Red Kite flying over the area. There were three Stonechats including one juvenile at Dunearn also.
As we were driving past Little Aitnoch there was a Woodcock at the side of the road. This is just the third one I had seen. A few years ago, in the same area there was one at the roadside and unfortunately I could not get a picture as it was at the wrong side of the car so I had to relent and let him take the photo. This time it was at my side but was about to disappear so I had to take a shot through the car window. I was quite pleased with it anyway.
At Aitnoch there was a family of Oystercatchers just off the road and I managed to get a picture of one of the young. There were also seven Canada Geese in a field.
We often make a long trip up to the Dava and taking in many of the back roads and on many occasions, I have seen deer. This is just the time of year when they have their young with them and are sometimes easily spotted. At Lochindorb I saw Mallards with chicks and a Curlew standing on one leg on sentry duty right at the top of an old telegraph pole.
Like the butterflies, I have not seen many Dragonflies on the go either. This Common Blue Dragonfly I saw on a walk at Loch Kirkaldy.
The hedging has all been cut down around the bus shelter at Moyness this year and I am finding I am not seeing as many birds as I used to. I don’t think I will ever see the long-eared Owl there again or any other Owls for that matter. I saw two Grey Partridges in a field there last month and I saw another two in another field this month. They were quickly disappearing into the rows of potatoes growing there.
Finally, we often go up for a walk to Tilliglens Wood near Relugas. On one occasion, we diverted from the woods and went towards the Dorback Burn. I saw a Reed Bunting there. On the way back through Relugas I saw a juvenile Wheatear.
The garden is full of activity this month with adult birds coming in and out for food to take to their nest or with the young already appearing in the garden and wanting to be fed. The Blackbirds certainly let me know when the Magpie appears in the garden as they fly around making their alarm calls. I get out there and chase it away but it does not stop it from returning as it is particularly persistent.
Two long – tailed Tits came in at the beginning of the month but I have not seen any since. It would be really lovely if they came in with young as I have not seen Juvenile Long-Tailed Tits. I am sure they would be really cute. The first Juvenile birds in the garden this year were Blackbirds. They were quite big before they appeared and obviously well able to fend for themselves but when the adult birds appeared they chased after them until they got fed. Then the Juvenile Dunnocks appeared. I am not sure how many of them there were as they scurried about all over the place. One day I spotted the Magpie playing with something in the play area. I thought it was just grass but then I saw it move and realised that it had got hold of a young Dunnock. There was nothing I could do as it flew off with the bird in its beak. Towards the end of the month two Magpies came in to the garden. They must be nesting somewhere on the estate as they have been seen in various gardens in the area.
Next the Juvenile House Sparrows came in and the parent birds were very attentive at feeding them. The adults try hard to get them to feed themselves but they linger on wanting fed longer than some of the other birds.
Last year I discovered a family of Starlings nesting in a hole in my neighbours’ roof tiles. I was able to watch the parent birds encourage them out of the nest although the last one took quite a bit of persuading. This year the Starlings returned but the young were almost ready to fledge before I discovered them. The whole brood hung around the garden for ages squawking and demanding attention. The parents were quick to ignore them so they could start to feed for themselves. On one occasion, they were all around the bird bath and it was almost as it the parent was telling them where to drink and bathe. Despite their noise you can’t help but like them.
There was just the occasional Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Greenfinch and Great Tit in the garden this month, not as many as usual. They obviously go further away to nest. The pair of Yellowhammers continue to visit every day. I am hoping that they are nesting quite near and that I might be able to see the young. A Lesser Redpoll came in about the middle of the month but has not visited since.
Finally, the Rabbit is getting bigger each day. I wonder if the next brood will appear in the garden. It comes into the garden every day and usually eats the bird seed at the bottom of the feeders and the carrot. The Red Squirrel although not a daily visitor does make frequent appearances also.
Loch of Blairs
I have only been to Blairs Loch once this month and although we heard a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff in the trees we did not see them. On the loch, there were two Mute Swans and six Little Grebes. They are easily distinguished by their call. The sun came out for a few moments and this Treecreeper appeared on a tree close by.
Along The Coast
There were quite a few things of interest along the coast this month. At Cummingston I saw a Wheatear, a Lapwing and a Yellowhammer. There are often Yellowhammers on the Burghead to Hopeman coastal walk. I do not see many Wheatears there but sometimes just an occasional pair. At this time of year most of the Lapwings are inland breeding but non-breeding ones can still be seen at the coast. At Burghead there were the usual Cormorants and Shags on the rocks. On one particular occasion, I saw one with an usually white head. I was not sure whether it was a Cormorant or Shag. It is not uncommon to see Wrens, Dunnocks, Thrushes and Meadow Pipits sitting on top of the gorse in the sunlight. Along the coast House Martins and Sand Martins can be seen flying around and stopping on the muddy bits on the beach to collect food. They rarely stop and can blend in quite effectively with the seaweed.
On the way to the coast I often go via Netherton and the far end of the bay where the Mosset flows into the Bay. I saw a field with a group of Skylarks in it near Netherton and some Reed Buntings at the far end of the bay This is a good place to watch for Osprey which have been feeding in the bay and to see ducks with their young. I saw a Willow Warbler on the Kinloss Road.
Sometimes we start at Cullen and go back along the coast from there. At the end of the month at Findochty I saw groups of Eider with their ducklings round the harbour. There are often large groups of Eiders there and some have been breeding. While I was there a Goosander came close in. A pair of Ringed Plovers were feeding in the harbour.
On The Dava
At Lochindorb I saw my first Common Sandpiper of the year. Every year there appears to be an Oystercatcher nesting in the same place just at the roadside at Lochindorb. I always feel that it is a dangerous place to nest so close to the road. The parent birds must get the young away from the nest as soon as possible. There were also large groups of Greylag Geese with their young on the loch.
The Lapwings have had their young and they can be hard to spot on the ground. I often wonder how many of them survive as there are lots of birds of prey in these areas. Mind you the parent birds can give the predators a run for their money. We usually see some Red-legged Partridges, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats somewhere on the Dava.
At the beginning of the month we went to Glenlivet. There are always plenty of birds at the Packhorse Bridge mainly because it goes over the fast-flowing River Livet and someone has kindly put up bird feeders to encourage the birds in. It is a lovely place to sit and relax and watch the variety of birds that come in. On this particular day, I saw three Grey Wagtails, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Grey Heron, two Pied Wagtails and three Common Sandpipers. The Sandpipers were chasing each other all over the place because of a persistent male who eventually succeeded in mating with one of them. A Sparrowhawk landed on the ground right beside where we were sitting but unfortunately did not linger.
At Drumin Castle I also saw three Common Sandpipers, two Grey Wagtails and a Dipper. A Willow Warbler came out of the foliage just long enough for me to get a photo
Knockaneorn and Rumachroy
This month we found a different route to head up towards the Dava. We go up to Dulsie Bridge via Knockaneorn and Rumachroy. There are various landscapes on the way there which means there will also be a range of birds to see. So far I have seen, Grey Wagtails, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Magpies, House Martins and Swallows.
Although I heard a lot of Cuckoos last year I did not see any. The year before that I was lucky enough to see four Cuckoos, one on the Grantown Road near Aitnoch and three on another day on the Dallas / Knockando road. So I did not know what to expect this year as I had heard quite a few but so far had not seen any. Near the end of the month on our way back from the Dava I spotted not one but first two Cuckoos sitting on a wire at Knockaneorn. As I was photographing them a third joined them on the wire and the other two flew away. How lucky was that! I expect that will be it for this year but you never know. We will keep going back in the hope of seeing some juvenile Cuckoo being fed by some hapless poor bird.
Every May the Bird Club has a day set aside for a bird race. In groups of three or four we have to record as many birds as we can and where we saw them in Moray between the hours of 6.00am and 6.00pm. As we have to keep moving quickly I don’t find time to take photographs and this year it was a pouring wet all day. However, just as we were leaving Loch Spynie I felt sorry for this bedraggled looking Swallow sitting beside us on the fence that I took a photo.
I saw my first Swallow of the year near Whitemire where it was waiting for its mate at the bus shelter. Since then there have been others at the farm and at Moyness bus shelter. At this time of year this area is full of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Reed Buntings and Linnets. One sunny evening just before sunset I saw a Wheatear on a rock but just before I got a photo it flew and I have not seen it in that area since. However, that same evening I saw two Grey Partridges showing off their lovely colours in the sun. On previous occasions when I have seen Grey partridges it has always been their head just peeping above the ‘parapet’ so to see two birds standing in a field like this was a bonus.
There have been Grey Wagtails at Sanqhuar Pond this year but so far, I have not seen any Dippers.
We have not been here often this month but on the two occasions I have been I saw this Great spotted Woodpecker in the same place each time.
After watching a Siskin last month feed another Siskin as part of a courting ritual I saw a Robin feed another Robin in the same way. There were three Robins in the garden at one stage so he must have been pulling out all the stops to woo her. However, a few days later the three of them were back in the garden.
I was sitting having my breakfast one morning when a Red Squirrel came in and ran off with the large carrot. I wondered what it was going to do with it, if it was going to bury it. It would be quite disappointed to come back and find it had gone mouldy. Another day a Squirrel came in and was exploring the garden and it jumped from the picnic table and accidently fell into an open bag of apples. I think it got quite a fright and I was just going to let it out when it ran off. Another young Squirrel came in later in the month. It was amusing to watch as it did not seem to know how to get into the Squirrel box. It took a short while to realise it had to open the lid and then it was unsure whether to go in it. When it eventually got a nut, it would run around the garden burying it. It even buried one in a big plant pot.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker came in one morning before I was dressed and was feeding on the suet balls and peanuts. It lingered for a short spell and then flew off. They are such colourful birds to watch. I do notice that the other birds keep well away from it when it is in the garden.
In the second week of the month a male and female Bullfinch arrived in the garden, I very rarely get Bullfinches in the garden. They seem to like the insects around the leaves and buds just before they open. That same day the Yellowhammer appeared again, two Long-tailed Tits and a female Lesser Redpoll. The Bullfinches hung around the garden until nearly the end of the month and then just disappeared.
I went to Thurso and then across to Orkney for a few days towards the end of the month. When I came home I was surprised to find a baby Rabbit in the garden eating the carrot. I suppose I should not have been surprised and wondered how many more would appear! There was no sign of the adult Rabbit. It was a few days later before it appeared and it seemed to lead the young one across the play area towards the carrot. They both would happily share the same carrot. Sometimes they were too slow and the Red Squirrel would get there before them. There were two Herring Gulls mating in the play area and they were hesitating about attacking the young Rabbit. When I came back there was also a Magpie in the garden. It would jump into the bushes looking I think for birds’ eggs or the young birds themselves. They are another bird that has beautiful colours but a bird I don’t want to encourage it into the garden.
There has been a young Sparrowhawk making an appearance in the garden. One day it was just sitting on the bird table. Last year a Sparrowhawk got one of two Collared Doves that were in my garden and this year I have two Collared Doves again so I am hoping there is no repeat. However, that is just nature and they all need to survive one way or another.
We have been watching the House Sparrow through the camera in the next box for a few weeks now. It has been a bit of a disappointment, as just when we think it has started to build a nest it takes everything out again. I once saw two Sparrows in there and my hopes were raised but now it is empty again.
We now have a small pond in the garden and it has been a bit of a curiosity for all the birds. Some drink from it, others bathe in it and others just stand and look at their reflection.
Along the Coast
No matter where you go along the Moray coast you will always see Cormorants or Shags on the rocks. They are often sunning themselves on the rocks just off the mainland or on the harbour walls. Sometimes they are easy to spot flying along the coastline. If they are flying low then is safe to say it is a Shag but if they are flying high then it is a Cormorant.
Although Dunnocks spend most of their lives chasing each other and flying low in to the gorse bushes, at this time of year they are often perched on the top of the bushes singing. Linnets are other birds that have a lovely song but often do not stay in the one place long enough to photograph.
The Brent Geese were in Nairn long before the end of the year and they were still around there in April. At some point, I think there were about 70 in the area. The interesting thing was that not only did they feed at the edge of the water but sometimes they went on to the Links to feed and really were unfazed by people and dogs. I went back to see them this month but their numbers had gone down. They now seem to return to Nairn every winter. While I was there I saw about 50 or more Redshanks feeding on the shingle at the mouth of the harbour. On the River Nairn, there was a pair of Goosanders.
On one of the days I was at the coast I saw four Bar-tailed Godwits on the beach at Burghead just as the tide was going out.
On the Dava
Although Lochindorb is not in Moray and Nairn it is one of my favourite places to visit. In summer, you can often see Ospreys fishing there although I have not been fortunate to see any so far. It is a favourite breeding area for Common Gulls and near the loch you will find Lapwings and Oystercatchers breeding there too. In the summer, there are also Common Sandpipers which breed there but so far, they have not arrived. On one occasion when I was up there this month I spotted a Mallard with a Leucistic Mallard which I assume was a female as they were always together. Quite an attractive duck she was!
There are still large flocks of Pink-footed Geese on the Dava although they should soon be moving on. The Greylag Geese are moving in as many of them breed up there.
One day we went towards Drynachan at the edge of the River Findhorn. There are often Common Sandpipers there but I think we were too early in the year. On the way, there were lots of Red-legged Partridge on the road and in the fields. There was quite a lot of squabbling, amongst the males I presume. They are very colourful birds especially when they are flying.
At this time of the year most of the Fieldfare and Redwings had gone but in the middle of the month I saw a flock of about twenty Fieldfare near Dunearn crossroads. So, there were still a few around.
At a pond near Levrattich there were two Little Grebes enjoying the sunshine. We sometimes go past this pond but do not often see anything.
Towards the end of the month I saw and heard my first Cuckoo of the year near Dulsie Bridge. It landed on a tree just beside the car. I should have taken the photo through the window but instead I wound down the window and at this point it went ‘Cuckoo’ and flew off. I had missed my chance. Two years ago, I managed to get pictures of three different Cuckoos but last year I only heard them. So, I was pleased to see one even if I missed the shot.
On a visit to Elgin we parked near Cooper park and there were quite a few Tufted Ducks in the pond, a few Mallards and the usual Gulls. The Tufted Ducks were very obliging for a photo shoot.
This is the time of year that you see the hares boxing in the fields. This one was with a mate but it was difficult to photograph them both together.
At the beginning of April, we saw about two hundred Golden Plover sheltering in a stony field near the crossroads. They were extremely difficult to see on the stony ground. During the month, we returned frequently and the numbers kept getting higher. They were always in the same place and never moving just sheltering together. It was hard to work out what exactly they were feeding on as they never moved. Late one evening we did see them fly around the other fields like Starlings do in a murmuration but they were back to their usual spot in the morning. These were still around sixteen days later and their numbers had gone up to over three hundred. Then they just disappeared ‘en masse’. It seems they were likely to be Northern Golden Plovers which were about to leave this country and were possibly building up their strength and waiting for the right winds before leaving.
In the middle of the month we went to Thurso where my daughter lives and then across to Orkney for a few days. We went to St John’s Pool near Thurso and I saw Teal, Gadwall, and Sandwich Terns. It was a hive of activity with Redshanks, Tufted Ducks, Black-headed Gulls, Wigeon and Moorhens. Our visit there was very short but it is well worth a visit.
In Orkney I saw a Great Skua or Bonxie which it is known locally as. It flew past me and I was so busy watching it that I forgot to try to photo it. We saw a Snipe at the road side one day but it cowered down and was impossible to photo without scaring it away.
As well as visiting the attractions in the area, on some of our walks, I saw Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Wheatear.
Finally, a quick trip up to Sanquhar Pond rewarded me with a sighting of a Mallard and Ducklings. I don’t go up there often enough even if it is just on my doorstep so to speak.
This has been a good month for birds that usually only visit the garden occasionally. As well as the little Goldcrest which made another appearance and the Common Pheasant, the male Yellowhammer arrived. I had last seen it in January. The male Blackcap came in at the beginning of the month for a few days and then towards the end of the month a female Blackcap came in. The male Blackcap is grey with a black cap while the female Blackcap is a paler colour with a chestnut brown cap.
The total number of Siskins at one time went up to thirteen and in with them came a group of ten Lesser Redpolls. There was a mixture of male and female Redpolls. They both have the very red head but the male also has a red front on his chest. The first time I saw a male Lesser Redpoll in the garden a few years ago, not recognising the bird, I thought at first it was an injured bird.
One day I watched a male Siskin feeding a female Siskin. Apparently, this is part of a courtship ritual by Siskins.
I had seen a Brambling in the garden in January and another one returned this month and stayed around for a few days. I think the one in January was a female but this was was definitely a male. They soon go elsewhere for the summer.
There were as many as fourteen Goldfinches in the garden at one time. They tended to chase away the Redpolls from the feeders. There were four Tree Sparrows also. Later in the month a female Yellowhammer joined the male in the garden. They only feed from the ground never on the feeders. Towards the end of the month two male Yellowhammers came in. I don’t know if they were competing for the same female but it has not happened again.
The regular birds as usual all make an appearance at some point. There were a couple of Blue Tits around. One enjoyed looking at its reflection in the window. Another spent a lot of time chasing the other birds round the apple tree unti it eventually got rid of them. I did not see what the point of this was.
About the middle of the month a female Great Spotted Woodpecker came into the garden and stayed quite a while on the tree. Unfortunately, this time I did not manage to get a picture of it. I have not had a Woodpecker in the garden for a while.
Spring is definitely coming as I heard a Song Thrush singing at the top of my neighbour’s tree. It sang for about an hour and returned every evening about the same time for a few days. It did not come into the garden however. The birds are all singing around the garden looking for a mate but none singing as beautifully as the Song Thrush. I think the Robins and the Wood Pigeons have already found their mates.
I am still getting visits from Long-tailed Tits although not in large groups. Sometimes there is only one or maybe two.
All these birds in the garden mean that the Sparrowhawk still makes an appearance in the garden. It is quite a young one and I don’t think it is very successful at catching anything.
Finally, the Rabbit is still coming regularly for its carrot. I have not seen the Squirrel back at it again. Does it ever wonder where this mysterious carrot comes from?
I only visited Blairs Loch once this month. On the loch there were six Little Grebes, two Moorhens, one Mute Swan, two Tufted Ducks and three Wigeon. Two Buzzards were flying overhead. The only bird I managed to get a photo of was a Long-tailed Tit.
At the Coast
It must have been a busy month for me elsewhere as I was only at the coast once this month as well. Although I saw quite a few birds, such as Dunnocks singing, Rock Pipits on the rocks, a large group of Oysterctchers and a Sparrowhawk flying along the road in front of us, I only got a photo of a Linnet.
On the Dava
At the beginning of the month when were going to the Dava I saw five Red-legged Partridges at Moyness. There were also 320+ Starlings on a wire at Moyness. One snowy day in the middle of the month I saw four Black Grouse on the Dava. They were not lekking but feeding happily on the ground.
There were still lots of Pink-footed Geese and Greylag Geese at Little Aitnoch. At Dunearn crossroads I saw Lapwings, two Common Teal, Greylag Geese and a Golden Plover. They are lovely birds, the Golden Plover, but not easy to photograph in order to show off their beautiful colours. This is also true of Lapwings.
A new coffee lounge opened on the Dava this month. It is at the Old Dava Schoolhouse. As we are often up in that direction for a quite few hours each week it is great to have somewhere to pop in for a cup of coffee. I can highly recommend the choice of coffees and cakes. They have bird feeders in the garden and a wide range of birds come in as the feeders are close to woods. One wet day this Dunnock was happily singing in the pouring rain as we returned to the car.
At Loch Belivat I saw a male and female Crossbill at the top of a tree and also a Red Squirrel watching us.
At the end of the month as we went up to the Dava we turned off to go to Drynachan. The road was full of Red-legged Partridges. It was a very dull day but on the way back we were surprised to see a male and female Crossbill sitting on a TV aerial at Banchor. They were only there for a few seconds and I was lucky to get a photo.
Lower Broadshaw Wood
We often walk up to the reservoir here and on one occasion this month I saw lots of mating toads on the road. We often see birds of prey in this area including a Kestel and Buzzards. We have also in the winter months seen a Peregrine Falcon there.
On the water, there we have seen Tufted Ducks, Wigeon and Mallards. On one occasion, there was a large group of Oystercatchers on the edge. The woods home lots of Bullfinches, Treecreepers and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
During the month, I spent a weekend with family at Nethybridge. It was a really hot weekend and this seemed to keep many of the birds out of sight. In the garden I watched a pair of BlueTits cooling down and a Pied Wagtail feeding on a leatherjacket grub.
On a visit to Loch Insh I saw some Tufted Ducks and a pair of Goldeneye. I also saw a male Goosander in the distance. There were also a large group of White Ducks. and Mallards.