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 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.
Early on this month the Great Spotted Woodpecker came into the garden and lingered long enough for me to get a photograph through the window. There was no red on the back of its head or on the top so it must be a female. The Long-Tailed Tits are still coming in and I have had a Feral Pigeon coming to visit. There are Feral Pigeons all over the town but it is unusual for me to have one in the garden.
On a recent trip to Inverness I stopped off at Alturlie and there were many Wigeons and Mallards but a lone Goldeneye was swimming along away from all of these.
I went down to the Mosset Burn last week to look for the Kingfisher but again was unlucky. However I saw this lovely Goosander there and then this Tufted Duck at Sanquhar Pond.
All my expectations were exceeded on Friday and Saturday when I at last saw the Kingfisher. I make no apologies for showing a few pictures of it as its colours appeared differently on both days depending on the sunlight and the time of day. Never did I imagine that I would be able to photograph one sitting in front of me and for such a long period of time. It was completely unperturbed by people walking past with their dogs and focused solely on its catch. It would be lovely if it remained there for a while. Certainly a photographer’s dream.
Finally that Saturday finished off nicely when I went to Hopeman to see two Waxwings which had been seen there. After the hundreds of Waxwings that that were around last winter there has been very few this winter. I saw four at the top of a tree along the road from the house one afternoon last month but that was only through my binoculars and i never saw them again. So I was lucky to see the two at Hopeman and although it was not very bright I managed to get some shots.
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.
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.
It is not that the numbers of birds have decreased this month in my garden, but that there has been so little sunshine and therefore the light has been so poor that I cannot get any decent photos. There has been large groups of Chaffinches and Tree Sparrows. The Tree Sparrows are outnumbering the House Sparrows at the moment.
A male Blackcap came into the garden for two days only. I kept hoping it would come back but there has been no sign of it again. There were three Magpies in the garden on one occasion although I have seen four together in the play area next to the garden.
Along The Coast
While walking along the coast one Wednesday morning with Caroline from Hopeman to Burghead a Kestrel appeared above us. It hovered in front of us then settled on a rock overlooking the beach. It remained there for a long time. Near Burghead there was a rock with a large group of Oystercatchers sheltering and in with the Oystercatchers were a small group of Godwits.
When I visited Cullen this month I was pleased to see a pair of Stonechats flying around the rocks along with a Rock Pipit and some Redshanks.
On a trip to Inverness I stopped at Alturlie and saw masses of Wigeon in the bay. There were many other ducks also but the distance was too far and the light too poor to make out what they were.
So far the number of Redwings and Fieldfares arriving in the area has been pretty low this winter compared to the hundreds seen last winter. There was a field near Moyness that did have a mixture of Thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings for a few weeks but they have since disappeared.
On the whole the year started well for my bird watching and nature watching but as the year has gone on it has disappointingly decreased due mainly to poor weather conditions. Hopefully 2018 will be a better year and will bring me some new challenges.
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.
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.
Along with the usual birds in the garden there were a few visitors. There had been large groups of Goldfinches and Chaffinches in the garden. In amongst the Chaffinches one cold and wet morning there was Brambling feeding on the tree. I unfortunately did not get a photograph of it and it only came in the once. Towards the end of the month a little Goldcrest was flitting about the apple tree. Again the light was poor and I could not get a photograph. However, for quite a few days, small group of Long-tailed Tits came in.
I did see this lovely Silver Y Moth on a window ledge.
Along The Coast
As well as being on a holiday this month I had been unwell and did not get out and about as much as would have liked. I was only at the coast twice. As well as finding an increase in Turnstone, Ringed Plovers and Redshank numbers at Cullen, Cummingston and Burghead, I saw this Bar-tailed Godwit amongst the Plovers at Hopeman.
On the Dava
I was only up the Dava once this month and saw three Red-legged Partridges at Dulcie Farm and a Stonechat near LIttle Aitnoch.
On our way back from Cullen one day we stopped off at Loch Oire near Elgin. There i saw a Gadwall in amongst a group of Mallards. This was only the second occasion I had seen a Gadwall as I had seen one at St John’s Pool near Thurso earlier in the year.
The Redwings and Fieldfares have started to arrive but not in particularly large numbers as yet. This Redwing was near the reservoir in Lower Broadshaw wood. This Buzzard was watching a group of Fieldfares and Redwings from the top of a telegraph pole.
We went to Berlin for a week in October to see the Festival of Lights. I had heard that Goshawks were sometimes seen on the top of buildings there. Unfortunately i did not see any. However, on a trip to Potsdam I saw a large group of Coots together. Here we just see the occasional one or two in ponds or lochs but in Potsdam there were well over a hundred. In the same area I saw this lovely Hooded Crow, a solitary Cormorant and this beautiful Great Crested Grebe.
We added a small pond to our garden earlier in the year in the hope of encouraging Dragonflies or Damselflies. We have not put any fish in it. The first Dragonfly I saw there was this Black Darter. There are always birds drinking from it particularly the House Sparrows and the Tree Sparrows.
There has been a large amount of Red Admiral and Peacock Butterflies the whole of the summer in the garden and this month I think they have reached their peak. Certainly the Buddleia flowers attract them and the Bumble Bees, Carder Bees and Hoverflies.
As usual a Sparrowhawk came in and unsuccessfully tried to hide behind the bird feeder. However, the birds were all too quick for it. I am not sure if it even actually saw me at the bottom of the garden.
A Rabbit is still coming in to the garden but towards the end of the month there were two. The Chiffchaff was still appearing in the garden at the beginning of the month but it will not be long before it goes. There were still young House Sparrows and Wood Pigeons on the go. One day I had six Collared Doves in the garden. Usually the most I have had is four.
Loch of Blairs
I have only visited Blairs Loch once this month and I saw that there were now some Wigeon there but only in a small number. There were lots of Mallards, two Moorhens, three Little Grebes and four Mute Swans. However, for the first time I saw a Grey Wagtail there and a Goosander.
Along The Coast
We have started going along the Coast to Cullen and working back through the small towns and villages towards Elgin. There is usually plenty to see. At Cullen itself I saw Grey Wagtails where the river enters the sea and some Rock Pipits. At the East beach there were lots of Turnstones and Redshanks. In amongst them were three Ringed Plovers. At Findochty harbour there were four Redshanks and a Common Guillemot. At Buckie harbour there were four Goosanders and a Black Guillemot.
There were lots of Seals basking on the rocks near Buckie. There are always seals in the harbour at Burghead also. One of the days I was at Hopeman I saw seven Stonechats and a Wheatear. I don’t often see Magpies at the coast except usually at Cummingston but when I was out walking at Findhorn I saw four chasing each other on the sand dunes.
On The Dava
When I went up the Dava a couple of times this month I saw very little. However at Rumachroy Bridge I saw this spider making a beautiful web in the sunshine and I saw a Dipper in the river. Earlier in the year I had seen Grey Wagtails and Dippers in the river but there was a spell of really heavy rain when the rivers burst their banks and I did not see any again.
We often stop for coffee when we are up on the Dava at the Old Dava School House and this Red Squirrel was taken at the feeders in the grounds.
Finally we had been walking through Lower Bradshaw Woods to the reservoir there a couple of times this month. On some of the walks I had seen a Southern Hawker Dragonfly and a Scotch Argos Butterfly. At the reservoir there were three Tufted Ducks and two Moorhens with chicks.
On one of the occasions as we got back to the car there were two Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other near the car. At one of the crossroads on the way there, near Darnaway, there is nearly always a Buzzard sitting on fence post and sometimes it is obliging and stays just that minute longer so I can get a photograph albeit a distant one.
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.