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.
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.