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.
The Fieldfare hung around the garden for six days. It spent each day entirely in the garden eating the apples and chasing all the Blackbirds and the other Fieldfare away. Sometimes it tired itself out completely and had to spend about an hour just sitting in the tree. Up to eight Bramblings came in at the one time into the garden this month. Some of them stopped feeding on the ground and were feeding on the feeders. If it happens to be a particularly cold winter I sometimes get a pheasant visiting the garden and this month one appeared. February was an unusually warm month so I was surprised to see it. It continued to appear on odd days throughout the month. I do wonder where it comes from as I live in the town and am a wee bit away from any farmland. The Long-tailed Tits are still coming in. I saw seven of them together at one time. There may have been more but they flit around so quickly that it is sometimes difficult to count them. I also now have two male Yellowhammers and a female Yellowhammer coming into the garden on a regular basis. One of my favourite birds in the garden is the Collared Dove. I have two pairs coming in. There is sometimes a dispute between the pairs over territory and I think one pair is starting to nest in the trees at the bottom of the garden. They are such gentle looking birds and a few years ago I witnessed a Sparrowhawk in the garden tearing one to shreds so I would hate that to happen again. The Wren still makes an appearance and there are two Lesser Redpolls still coming in. The big surprise of the month was two male Bullfinches which came in fleetingly into the garden. It is quite a few years since I have seen a Bullfinch in the garden.
It is in winter when you see most birds of prey sitting on fence posts or poles close to the roads. I was lucky enough to see two Kestrels this month, one in Moyness and the other at Kinloss, and a Buzzard at Darnaway. Quite often, particularly with Buzzards, they will still be in the same area when you go back. There had been a Great Grey Shrike seen up the Dava and I went up a few times to look for it. It was very popular with bird watchers at these times. Finally, on my third attempt, I managed to see it but it was very distant. I must admit I was quite smug as I had seen one two years ago at Loch Kirkaldy and had got a lovely photograph of it then. In the same area, there was also a Peregrine and a Red Kite flying around. Deer also are quite close to roads at this time and I have seen quite a few when I have been out and about. One of the days I was at Loch Spynie and saw one of the Water Rails there and a Red Squirrel at the water’s edge also. I went to Nairn to see the Brent Geese which winter there every year but I am not sure the numbers were as high as previous years. Finally, another trip along the coast, and I managed to see lots of Dunlin and Redshanks at Portgordon and Purple Sandpipers at Burghead.
The Sparrowhawk has started coming into the garden frequently these last few months. I have not been aware of it catching anything and there have been no telltale signs of feathers in the garden. There are still plenty of Tree Sparrows. The numbers are unusually high and they seem to be driving away the House Sparrows of which we had a lot. The Jackdaws fly in a few families at a time and their numbers can be quite high also but they do not linger for long. I have had few visits from a Great Spotted Woodpecker but it is not easy to photograph as it flies off at the slightest movement. We have started stockpiling our apples from the tree for the winter and already there are signs of winter visitors. Redwings have started to appear and were eating the apples and a male Blackcap came in and was eating the suet balls. There was also a Fieldfare in the play area next to our garden. At the end of the day, at dusk, Long-tailed Tits have been coming in small groups. Usually, I have just one or two Bramblings in the garden but on one occasion there were three. Every year about December a Pheasant appears in the garden and this year was no exception. It did not hang aroudn for long.
On our trips along the coast, we have seen lots of Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Ringed Plovers in the harbour at Port Gordon. Occasionally I have seen Gosanders in that area. The Seals are always basking on the beach near Port Gordon also. I was delighted to see my first King Eider at Burghead in October. Also on that same day I saw a Viking Gull. I thought it was a Glaucous Gull but a reliable source told me it was a Viking Gull. Waxwings arrived in this area about the beginning of November. I had not seen any in Forres and they did not seem to be in large numbers. However, there were about fifty seen in Cullen and as we sometimes started our birdwatching along the coast at Cullen we went through to see them. Fortunately, it was a bright sunny day while we were there. On a trip to Inverness we stopped at Alturlie to see what was on the water but there just the usual Teal and Wigeon.
There have not been so many geese in the fields around Moyness as in previous years. I think they were more in the hundreds than in the thousands which had been there before. On my way there one day I spotted a Jay on a tree. Although not he best of photographs it was the closest I have got to photographing one.
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.
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.
The first unusual visitor to my garden this year was the Common Pheasant. It certainly brightened up a dull, wet day. It constantly came in and out at various times to feed on the seeds on the ground under the bird feeder. I am not sure if it hangs around the gardens in the area or flies back to the woods or fields a short distance away. I have seen it more than once in the garden this month. It runs when you go outside but soon comes back again.
The Blackbird with the white tail feathers is always in the garden but is more timid than the other Blackbirds. At this time of year, we usually have a higher number of Blackbirds then normal as many Blackbirds come across here for the winter from Scandinavia. The apples from our apple tree are neither good for eating or cooking but we always have a good crop so we store them for the birds over the winter. The Blackbirds just love them. On previous winters, we have had the odd Fieldfare or Redwing joining them but although I have seen them in their hundreds out in the countryside none have so far visited the garden this winter. There has been one Blackbird with an injured leg and no tail in the garden. It tends to come in when things are a bit quieter in the garden looking for food. It can still fly and will land at our feet when we go out to the garden shed. We keep a little store of food for it where the other birds cannot find it.
Two Siskins have come into the garden at various times over the month. It is months since I have seen any Siskins here. I am hoping that more will come in, as along with the groups of Siskins you sometimes get the occasional Lesser Redpoll in the garden also. Perhaps it is too early as it was April last year before I saw one.
A Rabbit has been coming into the garden for months now. We often have some Rabbits in the summer but we don’t usually see them in the winter. We decided to put out a carrot for it to see if it would eat it. The carrot kept disappearing but I had not actually seen the Rabbit eat it. However, one morning the Rabbit came running across the play area, straight into the garden and proceeded to eat the whole carrot right in front of the window at which I was sitting. It was really cute. Again, we did not see the Rabbit for a few days but as the carrot was disappearing I assumed it was coming back. Then, one morning as I looked out the window there was a Red Squirrel busy munching away on the carrot. So now I am not sure if they are both feasting on the carrots.
About the middle of the month a large group of Chaffinches came into the garden. I looked very carefully and found what I was looking for. In amongst the Chaffinches was a lovely Brambling. You really have to look carefully because unless you know what you are looking for it could easily be mistaken for a Chaffinch. Although it was around most of the day I think I have only seen it once more this month.
At one point this month there were six Tree Sparrows coming into the garden. They usually feed on the ground seeds or on the feeders. They never go near the suet feeders. They have completely different colouring from House Sparrows and have rather attractive autumn colouring. They have a small black spot on each cheek. They are not always easy to photograph as they blend in with their surroundings quite well.
The frosty and sometimes snowy weather has brought in more birds than normal. A Yellowhammer was feeding on the ground one morning but I have not seen it again. The Great Spotted Woodpecker is often at the suet or peanut feeders first thing in the morning and the Sparrowhawk flies in and out regularly. It did not notice my husband one morning and landed just beside him. There have been up to six Long-tailed Tits coming in daily for the whole of the month. They flit in and out regularly during the day. Also, the Treecreeper comes in occasionally. One morning I spotted a Magpie in the garden. Unfortunately, only one but it was a rare visitor!
The same day as the Brambling appeared a Goldcrest came in and has been coming in daily all month. Devilishly hard to photograph though! At the end of the month a male Blackcap came in for two days and then disappeared. It was feeding from a suet candle.
Away from the birds for a moment I heard the sound of warring cats. I found these two squaring up to each other in the garden across the road. More noise than action I decided.
One morning while walking up at the Enterprise Park I saw these two metal sheep on the roof of the Horizon building which I had never noticed before. It looked quite effective. I did see two Magpies flying around up there and on the way back I saw a Great Tit singing loudly. The birds definitely think Spring is just about here.
I have had a few visits up to Sanquhar Pond recently hoping to see any Grey Wagtails or Dippers but nothing so far. There has been a solitary Tufted Duck there most of the month, two Moorhens and a Grey Heron as well as the Mallards and one Mute Swan. The woods around the pond have lots of Great Tits, Blue Tits, Siskins, Treecreepers and Goldcrests. A Water Rail had been seen across from Sanquhar Pond but I have not seen it.
I still sometimes see the Peregrine Falcon at Moyness. On one of the days there, it was perched on a tree close to the road and stayed there while I took some photographs.
There have been lots of Redwings and Fieldfares in the area and as we walked up to the Reservoir at Lower Broadshaw woods we saw them all flying over. At the Reservoir recently there has been a large group of Tufted Ducks as well as the usual Mallards. On one walk there as we came back to the car there were six or seven Bullfinches flying around the same tree in the sunlight although the sunlight is short lived these days. We have also seen or heard Jays on every occasion we have gone there.
One frosty morning at Moyness when we drove along the road there were masses of cobwebs on the bushes all along the road and the cobwebs extended right across the road and we had to drive through them. Quite an unusual sight!
No matter where we have gone this month we have seen Buzzards. At this time of the year they are often perched close to the roads looking for prey. They vary in colour, some are dark and others quite pale. Most of them have a white band across the top of their chest. They always fly as soon as you stop the car to take a photograph. This one was sitting on a fence post at Darnaway. Nearer the end of the month there were two together in the same place. Once you see one you are almost certain to see them again n the same area.
Towards the end of the month there was a large group of Fieldfares and Redwings just as we turned off towards Darnaway. I am beginning to see more of them feeding on the ground now as earlier in the month they were always up in the trees or bushes.
On the Dava
There are still large groups of Fieldfares and Redwings to be seen near Dunearn also. There are always plenty of Red-legged Partridges running about in that area too. This is another area where there are always Buzzards.
One day when we were through at Inverness we stopped off at Alturlie. It has been quite a while since I have been there. There were plenty Scaup, Mallards, Scoters and Wigeon. It was a dull day so the light was poor on the water.
Along The Coast
This month the exciting event along the coast was that two Humpbacked Whales were seen off the coast of Burghead and Hopeman. Unfortunately, I did not see them but it apparently brought lots of visitors to the area to see them.
One day when I was at Hopeman there were a pair of ‘confiding’ Stonechats flying on the grass at the car park. One of them actually flew on to the car. I am sure if I had had some bird seed with me and dropped it on the ground beside the car they would have eaten it.
There have been quite a few groups of Eiders coming into the harbour at Burghead. There are plenty Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks out at sea but I have as yet not seen any Long-tailed Ducks in the harbour. On one occasion I saw a Goldeneye just off the bay.