Once again I have seen many butterflies when I have been out and about. As well as the ones I mentioned last month I have seen a Scotch Argus, a Small Copper and a rare find (for me), a Dark Green Fritillary which I spotted on the Dava Way.
The other exciting event for me is that the Tree Sparrows are once again nesting in the nest box. This will be the third brood in that box. I am assuming that it is the same Tree Sparrows on each occasion but I cannot be certain. How lucky I am to be able to watch them nest building, then watch the parent birds regularly feed the young and then encourage them to fledge! Tree Sparrows are not too common in this area but I often have about thirty in my garden at certain times of the year.
Even if I am not seeing many birds in the garden at this time of the year there are always plenty of insects to see. Grasshoppers are not easy to find to photograph but I found an obliging one. Black Slugs are usually on the ground as you walk along but this one was clinging to a single blade of grass.
The Greylag Geese will soon be moving away from their breeding grounds inland but I was fortunate to find a group near Little Aitnoch which had a Leucisitic Greylag in amongst them.
Finally, at the end of the month, we had a lovely few days at Crianlarich from where we visited Fort William, Oban and Loch Lomond but did not find enough time to go bird watching.
The Tree Sparrows were once again nesting in the bird box. The first brood fledged last month and it looked as if there is going to be another brood. Once again I sat opposite the nest box and watched the attentive parents feeding their young. The garden had lots of young birds in it this month. The Magpies were still around hoping to catch one of the young birds. An unusual Feral Pigeon came into the garden for a few days. A Red Squirrel also appeared in the garden and has been feeding from the Squirrel feeding box. It concentrated so much on eating that it allowed me to get quite close to it. About the middle of the month this second brood of Tree Sparrows fledged also.
This has certainly been a month for seeing lots of butterflies mainly in the garden. The Red Admirals, Peacocks and LargeWhites are often in the garden but this year a Speckled Wood, a Small Tortoiseshell, a Ringlet and Painted Lady, all made an appearance. There seems to be an abundance of Painted Ladies in the country at the moment. When I was out walking one day on the Dava I managed to get a lovely picture of a Common Blue.
The weather was so good this month that we went back to Gairloch. We packed a picnic and set off for the day. It was beautiful sitting at the edge of Loch Maree enjoying our picnic and watching some canoeists. Unfortunately, we never saw any birds. There are Black-throated Divers on the loch but we did not see any.
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.