The birds that visit here in the summer are mostly all gone and the winter ones are arriving. We did not have any birds nesting in the nest boxes this year and actually we had very few House Sparrows and Tree Sparrows around at all.
There was a Guillemot at Burghead harbour on one occasion. It looked healthy enough but so many birds have been found dead along the coast. Avian Flu has reached these parts and many geese have been found dead. There was a large group of Sanderling at Hopeman along with Ringed Plovers.
However, the snowy weather which arrived in December brought in many birds looking for food. The apples from our apple tree attracted a few Blackcaps and some Fieldfare. A few Yellowhammers which normally I don’t see in the garden during the winter appeared and my first Brambling of the year.
There were twelve swans on the frozen water of Blairs Loch and seven of them were Whooper Swans which only visit these parts in Winter.
It has been rather a quiet year for the birds in the garden this year and similar out and about. I am hoping 2023 will be a more successful year with bird numbers increasing and a few rarities.
The Fieldfares have finally moved away, but the Blackcaps and Long-tailed Tits are still around. As well as the pair of Yellowhammers coming in to feed, to my delight I now have a pair of Bullfinches feeding also. There has never been Bullfinches at the feeders before although I have seen one on the apple tree. They were still coming in at the end of the month. There were two Treecreepers came in one day together. That is the first time there have been two.
When on a walk around Brodie Pond there were lots of Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Moorhens, Mute Swans and Little Grebes. There was also a Hybrid Mallard which is often there but I am not sure if it is always the same one.
On a walk up at the Enterprise Park there were lots of Common Gulls pairing up and preparing for nesting. The roofs of the buildings there are very popular breeding grounds. There were also many Magpies in and around the park.
Quite a few interesting moths in the trap this month, three of which are pictured above.
There had been some really frosty days and quite a bit of snow in February. It has been quite a few years since we have had frost patterns on both inside and out the windows. They are always so pretty that taking a photograph of them does not really do justice to their beauty.
The cold weather has kept the Fieldfares, the Blackcaps and the Long-tailed Tits coming back into the garden looking for food. The Song Thrush also came back and there was a daily ongoing battle between it and the Fieldfares over any of the apples, No matter which one went to a particular apple it was chased away despite the fact that there were other apples scattered around. I began putting out grapes and pears as well as apples and the Fieldfares were eating those too.
The first Yellowhammers of the year appeared when two came into the garden regularly this month. Their colours stood out brilliantly against the white snow. Another first visitor this year was a little Goldcrest which was seeking shelter and food in the cold weather. Even the regular small birds are fighting with each other to survive over the food and water. A House Sparrow and a Blue Tit had a standing battle at the bird bath. The House Sparrow eventually saw off the Blue Tit.
On a visit to Sanquhar Pond there were two Goldeneye and a rare Scaup.
Our moth trap went out one night and this lovely Chestnut moth was in it. This was the first time it had been out this year. We had some lovely moths in the trap last year and are hoping to get the same again this year. We are finding it difficult to name them without help.
January started again with another lockdown which meant we could not go far out and about, so most of the bird observations had to done in the garden.
Most of the usual winter garden visitors had returned. The ones that remain in the garden are the Blackbirds, of which we have many, Siskins and Chaffinches. However, on New Year’s Day a Fieldfare came in. At this time last winter we had one Fieldfare which hung around on its own well into February and it used to chase all the Blackbirds away from all the apples on the ground. I did wonder if this was the same one. This one however, was not so keen to eat the apples in the garden but rather eat apples that had landed in the grassy area over the fence. It was later joined by another Fieldfare and both of them hung around all month. A large group of about sixteen Fieldfares came in on a few occasions, but once the stock of apples diminished they were off leaving just the two. A Song Thrush sometimes came in with the Fieldfares and then there would be a squabble over the apples.
A group of eight Long-tailed tits came in regularly all month at different times to feed on the suet balls. They tended to come in either first thing in the morning or just as it was getting dark at night. Towards the end of the month a pair of Blackcaps came in and were still around at the end of the month.
Some birds came in fleetingly and then disappeared just as quickly. I got a glimpse of a Brambling but never saw it again. A male Bullfinch landed on the apple tree and disappeared and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was feeding for a short while on the suet balls. Also a Lesser Redpoll appeared with some Siskins but again it too fled quickly, It was disappointing that they did not linger but it was lovely to even get a glimpse of them.
I have had Wrens in the garden sometimes and one came in occasionally this month. I worry about the little Wrens because two neighbouring cats come in daily to catch birds and the Wrens would be easy prey for them.
We had one trip this month down to the coast where there were Eiders , Long-tailed Ducks and Golden Eye off the coast at Burghead and unusually in the harbour there was a Great Northern Diver. A good one to tick off the bird list at the beginning of the year.
The winter birds that come into the garden in January are usually the ones that I have seen in the garden in November and December of the previous year. As long as there is food on the ground they hang around. I did not have many apples on the apple tree the year before so there was not a surplus of apples to feed any passing Fieldfares or Redwings.
A male and female Blackcap visited the garden regularly right through until March. In winter they enjoy the suet balls as do any visiting Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits. I had the occasional visit of a Treecreeper and on one occasion, surprisely, it was feeding on the seeds on the ground. The first Yellowhammer came in at the beginning of February and from then they regularly came in. At one point there were eight in the garden at one time.
On a short walk up at the Enterprise Park I saw a small group of Bullfinches feeding on the ground and the bare trees allowed me to get a decent glimpse of Great Spotted Woodpecker. One of the buildings there had a large group of Feral Pigeons huddling together for shelter from the cold. There must have been well over a hundred.
The usual winter ducks were to be found at Burghead also – Eider and Long-tailed Ducks – but not in particularly large numbers.
Signs of Spring were beginning to appear in the garden when the Tree Sparrows and the House Sparrows were checking out the same nest box and deciding which of them could use it. In the end neither of them used it.
It was March before I made the first trip of the year up the Dava. There were lots of Pink-footed Geese near Little Aitnoch flying overhead and in the fields. There was also the usual Stonechats that can be seen all year round near there.
Little did I know then that this would my last trip away from home for a while as Lockdown started.
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 first day of the new year brought a Treecreeper into the garden. This started the year for quite a few winter visitors. Long-tailed Tits started to appear in small numbers but gradually as the month went on their numbers increased to nine. At the end of last year, there had been a male Blackcap in the garden but this month, for one day only, I saw a female Blackcap. Next, a solitary Brambling appeared. There have been unusually large numbers of Bramblings around the area this winter. In some cases, there numbers have been in the hundreds. My first Yellowhammer also appeared and it was a very bright male. I thought I had seen a Wren in the garden at the beginning of the month but was not certain, but it put in an appearance again about the middle of the month. It is not an easy bird to photograph as it never lights long enough in one place. Two Lesser Redpolls started to come in also and were feeding on the niger seeds. At the end of the month, a Fieldfare came into the garden. We had masses of apples on our apple tree last year and we had stored them to feed the birds. That same day thirteen Fieldfares came into the garden and started eating them but something scared them off and I never saw the large group again. More than likely it was the regular Sparrowhawk which flies pretty much daily through my garden. It does not linger anywhere so I cannot get a photograph. On one occasion it struck the window and appeared concussed but it managed to fly off eventually. Two Fieldfares appeared on the last day of the month but one kept chasing the other away.
These were mainly unusual birds to the garden but there were quite high numbers of regular birds in the garden also. There were twenty or more Tree Sparrows. I used to have a large amount of House Sparrows in my garden and they nested in the nest boxes, but the Tree Sparrows have driven the House Sparrows away. I am hoping they will use the nest boxes too. There were also twenty plus Goldfinches and thirty-five or more Chaffinches. It is not often I see these birds in such large numbers and the weather was not particularly cold.
Although most of my birdwatching took place in the garden this month I did manage to see a distant Merlin at Findhorn. There has been one hanging around there for a while. I also got a glimpse of a Grey Partridge in a field at Easter Lawrenceton and a Dipper at Sanquhar Pond.
So on the whole I was quite pleased with the unusual variety of birds I had seen this month.
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.
A Blackcap has been visiting my garden now for a few days and yesterday I was delighted to see not only a male Blackcap in the garden but also a male Brambling. The birds must be finding food is in short supply and they are starting to come into the gardens for food.
Today not only did the Blackcap come back in, but later in the day a Treecreeper also appeared. As I was photographing the Treecreeper a little Goldcrest also came in but it was too quick for me to get a picture of it. There was no sign of the Brambling today, so it must have moved on. Hopefully the other birds will continue to come back in for a few weeks.
There were plenty of the usual birds in the garden and I had twelve or more Siskins which is quite a lot to see at one time. Usually when the Siskins start to come in, one or more Lesser Redpolls start to appear with them too. So I will look out for those.
This weekend is the Big Garden Birdwatch, so it would be great if there was a wide variety of birds in for that.
I went for a walk around Sanquhar Pond today and saw a Goosander and a Tufted Duck in the pond with the Mallards. Two people told me there had been a Kingfisher seen there recently but unfortunately it was not seen today. I have only ever see Kingfishers flying past me, never sitting on a branch so it would be lovely to see one. As we walked round the pond we saw a Grey Heron in the reeds, a Jay calling on a tree above us and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.