The birds that visit here in the summer are mostly all gone and the winter ones are arriving. We did not have any birds nesting in the nest boxes this year and actually we had very few House Sparrows and Tree Sparrows around at all.
There was a Guillemot at Burghead harbour on one occasion. It looked healthy enough but so many birds have been found dead along the coast. Avian Flu has reached these parts and many geese have been found dead. There was a large group of Sanderling at Hopeman along with Ringed Plovers.
However, the snowy weather which arrived in December brought in many birds looking for food. The apples from our apple tree attracted a few Blackcaps and some Fieldfare. A few Yellowhammers which normally I don’t see in the garden during the winter appeared and my first Brambling of the year.
There were twelve swans on the frozen water of Blairs Loch and seven of them were Whooper Swans which only visit these parts in Winter.
It has been rather a quiet year for the birds in the garden this year and similar out and about. I am hoping 2023 will be a more successful year with bird numbers increasing and a few rarities.
Once again I have seen very little of note this month. Just the usual garden birds and a little Wren that has been coming in frequently and singing loudly.
The only interesting bird out and about was a Common Snipe which was sitting on a fence post on the way to Burghead. They are not easy to find and they are usually well hidden in the undergrowth. I was lucky to find this one sitting out in the open. The only other time I have seen one was up on the Dava when there was one drinking from a puddle of water one snowy day. At Burghead there were lots of Turnstones and Herring Gulls feeding on the fish when the boats come in and a Guillemot in the harbour. The small group of Mute Swans were at Blairs Loch.
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.
Again there have not been many birds in the garden this month. The weather has been good so perhaps they are finding plenty food elsewhere. There are still some young birds coming in. I don’t often get a Song Thrush in the garden but a young one came in for a while. I have many Wood Pigeons and not surprisingly we often get young ones. Although they are the same size as the adult birds they stand out from them as they do not have the fluorescent green and purple at the neck.
We have the usual butterflies in the garden, Red Admirals, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells. Last year I had a Comma Butterfly in the garden which was rare, but unfortunately I did not see one this year. However, I saw quite a few butterflies when out walking on Burgie Hill which is a good place to spot lots of varieties. Another good spot for seeing lots of moths and butterflies is walking along a stretch of the Dava Way. It was here that I saw the Vapourer caterpillar but I have yet to see a Vapourer moth. We again had lots of moths this month in the moth trap but I have only put up a Canary Shoulder Thorn which was rather attractive.
Although we were not at the coast very often this month I have put up a picture of a Guillemot. There had been reports of thousands of Guillemmots and Razorbills along large stretches of coastline and many of them were found dead. One day when we were at Kingston this month, the tide was in and there were hundreds of Guillemots and Razorbills swimming close to the shore. So far no explanation has been given for this phenomenon but it was rather upsetting to see as many would not survive,
The easing of Lockdown allowed us to go a bit further than the garden although we did not go that far. Heading towards the Dava on a few occasions we really did not see that much. There was the usual Stonechats near Refouble and also Red-legged Partridges. On one occasion we stopped off at an old skating pond in the wood of Achnatone where there is usually an abundance of dragonflies. On this occasion I only saw a Four-spotted Chaser and a Large Red Damselfly.
A Red-throated Diver had appeared unusually in Burghead harbour. When I went to see it, not only was there the Diver, but also quite a few Guillemots and Razorbills in the harbour too. The weather had been quite stormy so this must have brought them in.
The moth trapping continued during these months. The trap did not go out every night but twice a week so that we were certain that we were not repeating the same moths. One night we had Bridled Green moth in the trap. This turned out to be a good find as it was quite a rare moth for this part of the country. At the same time when I was sitting in the garden, I spotted a Humming Bird Moth fluttering around the Buddleia. This was also quite rare as was the beautiful Comma Butterfly which appeared also on the Buddleia. Again these were lucky finds only because I was spending more time in the garden.
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.
I am always amazed at the variety of birds I have in my garden and it has been special this month to be able to see the young of most of them. This has been a month when there were lots of juvenile birds in the garden. The family of Yellowhammers are still coming in although not always at the same time. The Magpies have returned. I have seen two but Frank said he saw three one morning. I suppose they are around as there are still plenty of young birds. There are at least two young Robins and I saw a juvenile Tree Sparrow getting fed. Later in the month there were at least five young Tree Sparrows. The cute ones are the young House Sparrows which pop out and in the bushes but the chattering noises they make when in there reminds me of a party or clan gathering. The other cute ones are the young Dunnocks but they have been very timid this year and I have not had many photographs so far.
It is not often I see the larger birds with young in the garden but there have been Woodpigeons, Collared Doves and Jackdaws all with juveniles. Watching the Jackdaws being fed I realise that the bigger the bird the more vulnerable they can appear compared to the smaller birds who can be hardy wee souls, such as the Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and Blue Tit young.
A young Sparrowhawk has been frequently in the garden looking for prey. On most occasions, it is unsuccessful because suddenly it is aware of my presence and flies off. However, one morning it flew in before I had gone outside and caught something. It appeared to be squeezing the life out of its prey on the grass. It remained motionless for a while. I knew if I moved the blinds it would be off. It was such a beautiful bird and I was disappointed that my only shot should be through the blinds.
There are fewer and fewer Blackbirds in the garden now as they are still moulting. One solitary Long-tailed Tit came in for a few days in the garden. They are birds that usually come in groups but this one hung around on its own. Also, a Great Spotted Woodpecker came in to feed on the peanuts. It was a dismal day when it came in but I managed to get a quick shot.
Finally, at the end of the month the first butterflies appeared. I was delighted to see that the first one was a Small Tortoiseshell. It has been a few years since I have had one of them in the garden. On another day a beautiful Garden Carpet Moth came in.
On the 12th July a friend organised a boat trip from Macduff to Troup Head in the afternoon. It could not have been a more perfect day. The sun was shining and the sea was perfectly calm. The trip was to see the Puffins at Troup Head and I had never seen any before. However, on the day we saw so much more. We were not ten minutes out of the harbour when a pod of Dolphins with young came towards us. The boat stopped and they all swam around us for about ten minutes. They put on a spectacular display and the water was so clear that we could look down on them as they swam around the boat. I knew they were big as I often see them from the coast but when they are right beside you it is then you actually realise how big they are.
On the way to Troup head there were Black and Common Guillemots and Razorbills on the water and as we got nearer the cliffs there were Puffins on the water too. The amount of birds on the cliffs at Troup Head was spectacular – Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Razorbill, Guillemots and of course Puffins. The Puffins looked like little golf balls sitting on the cliffs. A Great Skua flew past us quite close. I was disappointed that none of my photographs of the Puffins were any good. Unfortunately I think it was my poor photographic skills at that particular time. On the way back the skipper threw fish into the water and there was another wonderful display this time from the gulls. Gannets, Common Gulls and Herring Gulls all vied for the fish. I did see one Great Black-backed Gull in amongst them. Also I saw an Artic Skua chasing another bird until it eventually got it in the water.
Thanks to Hilary for organizing it and to Harold, the skipper of Seacat as this trip was probably my highlight of my birdwatching year so far.
Along The Coast
I have not been along the coast in Moray a great deal this month. At Cummingston there were plenty Linnets flying around and I saw a Whitethroat. Whitethroats are summer visitors but they can usually be seen at Cummingston. Off the coast an occasional Eider can be seen.
On The Dava
For various reasons this has been a busy month and I have not been up the Dava very often. However, on one occasion I saw three Kestrels in the area at Knochaneorn where I had previously seen the three Cuckoos. They were too far away to get a photo. I also saw another at Rumachroy. That same day on the way back I saw a beautiful Red Kite flying over at Auchravraat. At this time of the year I can often see Red Deer anywhere in the Dava area. There are often Stonechats around and this one was at Dulcie Bridge.
Moyness Area & Tilliglens
I saw my first Ringlet Butterfly of the year at Moyness. There seems to be plenty of them around this year. Near Fornighty I saw at least ten Grey Wagtails. I usually see them in pairs but not in large groups. In the same place there was a bedraggled looking Grey Heron. There were some Pied Wagtails with young at Moyness and the usual Buzzard hanging around. There was also a Hooded Crow feeding young in a field. We have had a couple of walks up to the reservoir at Lower Broadshaw Wood and on one occasion there were lots of swifts flying over it.
We went for a walk up Tilliglens Wood and I managed to see a Spotted Flycatcher there. This was the second one I had seen this year as I had seen one earlier at Drynachan but had not been able to photograph it.
My daughter lives in Thurso so we make quite a few trips up there. We had gone up for a day which was in fact the day before we went on the boat trip from Macduff. On the way up we saw a Red Kite flying over near Dornoch. We stopped at Loch Fleet and saw some Common Sandpipers, some Curlews and some Shelducks. From Thurso we first went to St John’s Pool and then to Dunnet Head. St John’s Pool was hive of activity with lots of Sandwich and Artic Terns, Redshanks, Tufted Ducks, Moorhensand Coots with young, Gadwell and Common Gulls.
At Dunnet Head I saw my first Puffins (the day before the boat trip). There were quite a few of them on the cliffs. I had a lovely view through my binoculars but it was a bit far for a good photograph. There were also lots of Fulmars and Guillemots. I also saw a Great Skua fly past quite close.
We returned to Thurso at the end of the month for a few days. We headed up towards Durness and stopped at Strathy Point on the way. There were some Ringed Plovers with young there. On the way to the point I saw a Mountain Hare which was watching me as I went past. There were also lots of Rock Pipits with juveniles flying around. I also saw one lone Dunlin. Near Dunnet Head I saw two Red-throated Divers on a loch but the Puffins had gone. There were some Gannets flying around in groups and an Arctic Skua. At Duncansby Head and the Stacks there were lots of Fulmars with young chicks. Here there were lots of Cormorants and Shags hidden in the crevasses of the rocks. There was also a Great Skua. Until I started to go north I had never seen Skuas before although they are sometimes seen off the Moray coast. I were would certainly recognise them now if I saw one.