Signs of Spring are arriving with the first butterflies and bees arriving. Orange Tip Butterflies are often the first seen but they do not light and pass swiftly through the garden.
Usually I see a Brambling or two during the winter months but the first one I saw this year was in April. They are usually not around in the summer months. The Blackcaps and Fieldfares have moved on. A male Bullfinch had come to the feeders in January but I had not seen it since. However, a pair of Bullfinches have arrived and usually they hang around for quite while until nesting time.
The summer visitors are beginning to arrive. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs can be difficult to distinguish until you hear their call. In May the Swallows and House Martins arrive and many of the garden birds have fledged. Stonechats can be seen at any time of the year either at the coast or on the moorland. If you are lucky you might see a Whitethroat singing beautifully – another summer visitor.
The Great Crested Grebe was taken on Lake Zug in Zug, Switzerland while I was there on holiday in the summer.
We have a variety of moths which come into our moth trap. Too many to display but here are three from June – a Silver Ground Carpet, a Sandy Carpet and a Common Marbled Carpet.
The year has started with many of my regular winter visitors returning. Lesser Redpolls, Blackcaps, Long-tailed Tits and even a Bullfinch have appeared in the garden. The Bullfinches usually arrive later on in the year so I was pleased to see this one. In previous years I have had a few Fieldfare come in to feast on the apples and stay around but I have had very few apples on the tree in Autumn so only one Fieldfare appeared and did not stay long. I occasionally have a Treecreeper come into garden during the year and one appeared for the first time at the end of January. it was lovely to get a visit from a Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding on the peanuts during these winter months.
The Eider ducks come into the harbour at Burghead during the winter months usually in large numbers. There was still not a great deal of snow around and I saw on one sunny day nine Grey-legged Partridges in a field near the coast. They are so well camouflaged in the surroundings of the field that it was only when some moved that i noticed them. They are quite attractive birds when you see them up close. At Hopeman there were a group of Sanderling and Ringed Plovers together on the beach.
One surprise was seeing a Grey Heron sitting on top of a neighbour’s roof. It rested there for a while and I can only surmise that there was a pond in one of the gardens which had attracted it to the area.
At Loch of Blairs there were the usual Mute Swans and Little Grebes. As winter comes to an end and spring was arriving, for the first time, I saw a pair of Mandarin ducks on the loch. I have been back there since and have not seen them again so they must have been passing through.
The first bird I saw which heralded the beginning of Spring was a Wheatear at the coast. It is also the start of my moth trapping year and the first one of interest was this Yellow Horned.
I have seen very little this month, both out and about and in the garden. The pair of Bullfinches continue to visit and are more relaxed about being seen from the window. For some reason we do not see many young Chaffinches in the garden, just adults, but this one appeared for a drink. It is lovely to watch the Robin singing around the garden. It is a sure faithful companion when sitting outside at any time.
The Razorbills and Guillemots are still in large numbers along the coast and were often found in the harbour at Burghead. There was a Little Grebe at Sanquhar Pond for a while and usually Moorhens are to be found at the pond near The Loft.
For most of this month it was just the male Bullfinch which kept coming into the garden. I am concerned that something has happened to the female. The Magpie has also continued to come in. We get the occasional Feral Pigeon coming in and this one stood out because of the markings on the front of it. On the whole there has been very few birds in the garden this month but there was one highlight. A Jay dropped into the garden one afternoon and landed on the grass. They are really almost impossible to photograph as they fly at the slightest movement. I just managed to get a shot through the blinds on the window and then it was off.
There have not been so many Swallows around this year. This was my first photo of one. At the Enterprise Park there are many Common Gulls with young. This seems to be a favourite place for breeding Common Gulls. At Brodie Pond there were quite a few Moorhens with chicks.
This was another good month for moths. Here are a few examples of some of the more interesting ones. For anyone who has not done any moth trapping it becomes quite addictive when you see so many different species, some of which are quite attractive. The challenge is being able to name them all and this can be very time consuming and even then mistakes are made. Fortunately, we have a local moth recorder who is very helpful in identifying ones that we just cannot name and correcting mistakes we have made. I doubt we would be able to identify any unless I get a picture of them. Indeed many escape from the trap before they are photographed.
The pair of Bullfinches have continued to visit the garden this month. Never before have Bullfinches stayed in the garden for any length of time and fed from the feeders. However, this seems quite common now in many gardens around. Although it is lovely to watch them it may not be a good thing to increase their dependence on us and they might be easy prey for the regular Sparrowhawk which comes in.
We have also had a few Yellowhammers in the garden too. Their numbers have decreased since previous years. This, of course, could be a good sign as they may have found plenty eat in their natural habitat. There has also been a Wren appear fleetingly in the garden . A Chiffchaff came into the garden, a rare visitor, for a short spell only.
It was lovely to discover that the Tree Sparrows had successfully nested in the usual nest box again. I only noticed this just when the fledglings were ready to take flight. Once they have flown they all seem to disappear from the garden.
Out and about there were many young birds to be seen. The pond at Brodie had their usual brood of Cygnets and up at the Enterprise Park there were lots of Juvenile Oystercatchers and lots of families of Greylag Geese on the Dava.
Once again there were many interesting moths in our moth trap, a few of which are pictured here. Along with the moths in the trap we had some unexpected finds. There were three Northern Cockchafers. Although Cockchafers are quite common, apparently these Northern ones were uncommon in our area. There were also sometimes Carrion Beetles which are quite distinguishable with their red markings.
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.
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.