January – March 2022

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.

February 2021

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 2021

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.

October – December 2020

On a trip along the coast to Cullen we saw very little at the coastal towns except quite a few Ringed Plovers and Turnstones as Cullen. It was a lovely sunny day and the Ringed Plovers stood out in the sunshine.

Previous winters at the Enterprise Park there have been Waxwings, Fieldfares and Redwings feasting on the abundance of berries there. This winter although there were some Fieldfares and Redwings the trees were stripped very quickly of berries and they all moved on. I did not see any Waxwings. Indeed I have not been fortunate to see any at all this winter. When we go up to the Enterprise now we have only seen one Fieldfare and that too has disappeared. However, at the end of December, one appeared in my garden and has continued to appear every day since then. It spends all its time eating the apples on the ground and chasing the blackbirds away. I wonder if it is the one that had been at the Enterprise Park.

On a walk around Sanquhar Pond I saw a Little Grebe. That was the first time I had seen one there.

The winter visitors have started to come into the garden. Long -tailed Tits are starting to come in, in groups of eight or ten, and I saw my first Lesser Redpoll this winter in amongst a large group of Siskins. The occasional Blackcap and Treecreeper have also appeared but not lingered long. I fear the presence of the cats and the Sparrowhawk keep them away.

The weather had been quite mild until the middle of December and at the end of November a Hedgehog walked through the garden, After a short feed it moved on. It appeared quite healthy and it was possible it was taking advantage of the warm weather. We have a Hedgehog house in the garden but so far it has not been used.

What made this year particularly special in the garden was that we had a Badger visit. Living in the town I certainly did not expect this. We have a night time camera which we had not used for most of the year. After watching Autumn Watch one night we decided to put it on and that night a Badger came in. We have no idea how long it had been coming into the garden but over the next few weeks it appeared five times in total. It came in in one direction and went out in another. The camera has gone off again for a while so not sure if it is still around.

If that was not enough excitement for me this year , three days after Christmas a friend told us that there was a Grey Phalarope in Burghead harbour. We went along to see it. I was surprised how small it was as I was expecting it to be about the size of a Gull. It was definitely way off course. It was very tame and swam about the harbour unperturbed. I was glad we had gone out that afternoon to see it as it had gone by the following day and for me that was probably a once in a lifetime experience.

We are back into almost extreme Lockdown again so who knows what wonderful things will appear in my garden in 2021.

February 2019

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.

January 2019

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.

5 March 2018

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.

19 January 2018

I have abandoned the idea of writing this blog at the end of each month and decided to write it only on days when I have seen things of interest.


Today was  a beautiful sunny day but extremely frosty.  One of those crispy winter days that most of us like.  Up till now January has been pretty uneventful both in the garden and out and about for bird watching.  However, today was much more interesting.  Firstly a lovely Fieldfare flew into the apple tree this morning.  Unfortunately it did not hang around even though I had apples on the ground.  Hopefully it will come back.

We decided to head along the coast from Burghead to Hopeman.  Waxwings had been seen in a garden in Burghead during the last week and I had hoped to see them.  Unfortunately they were not to be seen.  On some rocks at Burghead a small group of Redshanks were sheltering as the tide was in.  Their red legs and beaks stood out brightly against the grey rocks.

On the harbour wall there was a small group of Turnstones scurrying along the wall.  At first I  did not notice them, but looking at them more closely I saw two Purple Sandpipers in the middle of them.  At the mouth of the harbour there appeared a group of over eighty Eider Ducks  and a Cormorant.  Only one Eider and the Cormorant actually came into the harbour where I saw the usual  Seal.

At Burghead Point  there were four Goldeneye in the water and lots of Eider flying past.  A lone Herring Gull was standing at the point thinking about its next meal.

On the way back I spotted another Fieldfare near Roseisle and I saw a Grey Heron on the back road to Kinloss.

In the afternoon three Long-tailed Tits came into the garden to the feeders.  They are such cute balls of fluff.   Later, when I was upstairs  saw a small flock of birds land on the top of some trees in a garden in the distance down the road.  I did wonder if they might be Waxwings so I got out my binoculars.  Sure enough, in among Chaffinches and Goldfinches were four Waxwings – the first I had seen this year.  Disappointingly they were far too far away to get a photograph.

I will keep putting apples on the ground in the hope that the Fieldfare or the Waxwings come into the garden long enough for me to get a picture.  Although that might be a bit of a forlorn hope as I saw a Sparrowhawk fly through the garden at the end of the day.

November 2017

In The Garden in Forres

We have had our first fall of snow this month.  Despite this, there was still a Bumble Bee collecting pollen from the flowers.  A Red  Squirrel came in looking for nuts to hoard over the winter.  Not only was it taking nuts from the Squirrel box it boldly climbed on to as many of the feeders it could find.

I have had a pair of Feral Pigeons visiting the garden.  Although there are plenty of these all over the town we don’t have many at all in the area where I live.  They certainly cleaned up any of the bird seed that had fallen on the ground.

A little Goldcrest visited the garden last month and has come in regularly this month too.  Then a wren appeared one sunny afternoon and hopped around the garden for a while.  It makes a rare appearance in the garden but I can often hear it without seeing it.  Then from the very small too the very large!  A Magpie made an appearance and has been visiting daily and usually at the beginning of the day.


Brodie Pond

One Wednesday morning I went a walk around Brodie Pond..  It had certainly been a long time since I had  been there. There were lots of Mallards and in amongst them was this Hybrid Mallard.  I am sure there has been one at the pond before.  There were plenty Moorhens and a few Little Grebes as well as the resident Mute Swans.


Along The Coast

On one of my visits to Cullen this month I saw  a large group of Turnstones.  In amongst the Turnstones there were a small group of Purple Sandpipers.  I watched a Herring Gull with a fish trying to eat it while at the same time keeping the other gulls away.  There was a Shag sunning itself on the rocks there too.  Off the coast I watched a small group of Porpoises  displaying.  I thought at first It was Dolphins but when I looked at the pictures I think they were  Porpoises.

At Portgordon I watched three Seals playing together in the harbour.

At Hopeman on quite a few occasions this month I have seen Ringed Plovers together with Sanderlings on the sands just beside the  car park.


On The Dava

When I have been up the Dava  this month I have not seen a great deal.  I can still see the occasional Stonechats on the moors. They can often be seen at the coast also.  At Lochindorb there  was a small group of Mallards  and a larger group of Greylag Geese.  A Red-legged Partridge  can brighten up a dull winter day and a beautiful wintery scene are the sheep grazing in the snow.




During the winter months near Darnaway there are always Buzzards to be seen in the fields  as we drive  past.   I saw this flock of about thirty  Linnets on a tree near Golford along with five Fieldfare.