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.
I was delighted to find that the Tree Sparrows were nesting in the nest box. The box has a camera in it but the birds had covered it up and we were reluctant to disturb them by going into the box, However, they were very obliging by feeding the young as I sat in the garden and I was able to watch two of them fledge. There were two of them sunbathing on the garden bench one day in the sunshine although I am not sure how many were in the nest altogether. Hopefully, they will all survive but a Magpie appeared in the garden one morning and usually it is the young birds that they are seeking. A little Woodmouse sometimes appears when it is a quiet time in the day to feed on the ground under the bird feeder. I would think its chances of survival are slim as not only have I got an Magpie coming in but there is a regular Herring Gull and occasionally the Sparrowhawk. It appears to be a young Sparrowhawk as on one occasion I saw it sitting on the ground with two Wood Pigeons feeding close too it and it made no attempt to go for the Wood Pigeons.
Over the last few years we have had the occasional molehill in the garden. I often sit and watch one rising up in the hope of getting a glimpse of a mole but I never see one. However, one highlight of this month for me was seeing two moles running about one sunny day in the garden. I have not sure what brought them to the surface but it was after a long period of wet weather. They disappeared into the bushes quite quickly. There is a piece of ground next to my garden which the council has always maintained but this year, areas like these are no longer being maintained by them so the grass is growing really wild. It will be interesting to see if this encourages more wildlife into the garden.
Two Bar-headed Geese had been sighted near Lochindorb in the middle of the month. We went a couple of times to see if we could see them. The only sighting of them was in the distance on the other side of the loch in a field with Greylag Geese. It would have been great to see them on the loch but had to make do with looking at them through the binoculars. However, there was plenty to see in and around the area. On the lochs there were Mallards with Ducklings, Red-throated Divers displaying, and another highlight for me, two Black-throated Divers happily swimming alongside the road. Although I have seen them in the distance, I never for a moment thought I would see them so close. They are such beautiful birds. I also saw Redshanks, RedGrouse, Lapwings with chicks and Curlews with chicks. On the moor, there were some young Stonechats. There was also a juvenile Greylag Goose running through a field with no other Greylag Geese in sight.
Nearer to Forres, at the pond near East Grange, there were two Moorhens with young and a Little Grebe.
At the end of the month, we went across to Gairloch for a few days. The weather was good and I saw a few birds. I was lucky to see two Great Skuas flying past and a pair of Ravens sitting together on the edge of a cliff. I also saw some Wheatears, Common Sandpipers, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats. In one area I also saw lots of Dung Beetles but when they flew they had white spots on their wings which made them appear rather attractive. I have tried to find out what they were but cannot find anything on them.
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.
Although I have not seen much activity out and about, this month like last, has been a busy time in the garden. The adult birds were still going to and fro gathering food or if the young had already fledged they were busy feeding in the garden. It was lovely to watch the juvenile birds. I often spend a bit longer looking at a Juvenile Robin and a juvenile Dunnock as they can appear at first glance to be quite similar but it is only when you see them together that the differences become obvious. The young Siskins, Greenfinches and Goldfinches are easier to recognise as they have usually the correct markings on their tails and they only have stripes down the front and on the head with no colours either on the front or on the head.
There has occasionally been Lesser Redpolls in the garden but I have only seen one although Frank said he saw four one morning. It would be lovely if they would appear in the garden with their young. Although I have not actually seen the Song Thrush in the garden it often sang in the early evening in the tree at the bottom of our garden. The Sparrowhawk still flies through but does not linger. Although it is a beautiful young male I have not been able to get a photograph of it.
Many of the birds at this time of year lose their first feathers and many of them stay out of sight for a while until this is passed. This is particularly true of the Blackbirds when their numbers fall drastically. At the beginning of the month for one day only, the Blackbird with the white head and neck returned to the garden. I had not seen that bird in the garden since November and even then it just stayed for a couple of days. It just seemed to pass through at the beginning of winter and then away again as soon as Spring was over. I have no idea where it was over these months. However, I have seen the occasional raggedy Robin or Blue Tit appear in the garden.
I don’t recall seeing young Tree Sparrows in my garden before so it was lovely to see them appear and watch them get fed. Their numbers increased to twelve as the month went on. It is much quieter as there are only a few Starlings around this month as mostly they have moved on. I got a lovely surprise towards the end of the month when a young Yellowhammer appeared in the garden. I have never had the young of Yellowhammers in the garden before. It was already feeding by itself although I did see an adult feed it occasionally. From then on, all three Yellowhammers came in to feed sometimes at different times from each other. It appeared to me that they just had the one fledgling but I could not be sure.
There have been some sunny days this month and the birds, particularly the Blackbirds and the Dunnocks have been sunbathing. Apparently, there are two reasons for that. The first is that it helps spread vital oils along the feathers and the second reason is that it helps drive out any parasites that may be feeding on the bird’s plumage.
There have been quite a few mornings this month when I have been sitting having breakfast and have watched the Rabbit munching its carrot and a Red Squirrel eating peanuts from the feeder or the squirrel box when a magpie has flown in and there has been a lot of activity, happy birds, adults and young, on the ground feeding. What more could I ask for!
Blairs Loch / Sanquhar
Again, I only visited Blairs Loch once this month and saw the Mute Swans with six cygnets. While I was there I saw one Coot and one Little Grebe with young. While walking to the bird hide at Chapelton, Sanquhar I spotted this large toad on the path but we did not see any birds to record at the hide.
Along The Coast
Grey Herons are very common along the coast and it would be impossible not to notice them. It is worthwhile just spending time to observe them as they stalk the fish. They can stand motionless for a long time on one leg before pouncing. Most birds are usually seen at Hopeman and Cummingston depending on the tide I can see some at Burghead. You can see far more birds in Burghead during the winter as many come into the harbour to shelter.
I can usually see Stonechats, Yellowhammers, Rock and Meadow Pipits, Yellowhammers and Hooded Crows at Hopeman. I can often hear Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers in the summer but I only managed to get a photo of one Willow Warbler. At Cummingston there is usually a pair of Magpies hanging around but one day there were two adults with two young on a line. This Grey Wagtail I spotted when I was walking up the River Nairn with a friend.
So far there has not been many butterflies around as they seem to be later this year. A good place for butterflies is Cummingston but all I have seen lately there are Ringlets.
On The Dava / Lochindorb
At the beginning of the month we were up the Dava and went past Knockaneorn where I had previously seen the three Cuckoos. On this occasion, I saw one which I presumed to be one of the three I had seen last month. This time it was too far away to get a good photograph. There were various groups of Greylag Geese at Little Aitnoch, Aitnoch, Black Loch and the Lochan opposite Black Loch. At Refouble there were some Red-Legged Partridge.
Later in the month there were still lots of Greylag Geese around. At Dunearn I saw a Red Kite flying over the area. There were three Stonechats including one juvenile at Dunearn also.
As we were driving past Little Aitnoch there was a Woodcock at the side of the road. This is just the third one I had seen. A few years ago, in the same area there was one at the roadside and unfortunately I could not get a picture as it was at the wrong side of the car so I had to relent and let him take the photo. This time it was at my side but was about to disappear so I had to take a shot through the car window. I was quite pleased with it anyway.
At Aitnoch there was a family of Oystercatchers just off the road and I managed to get a picture of one of the young. There were also seven Canada Geese in a field.
We often make a long trip up to the Dava and taking in many of the back roads and on many occasions, I have seen deer. This is just the time of year when they have their young with them and are sometimes easily spotted. At Lochindorb I saw Mallards with chicks and a Curlew standing on one leg on sentry duty right at the top of an old telegraph pole.
Like the butterflies, I have not seen many Dragonflies on the go either. This Common Blue Dragonfly I saw on a walk at Loch Kirkaldy.
The hedging has all been cut down around the bus shelter at Moyness this year and I am finding I am not seeing as many birds as I used to. I don’t think I will ever see the long-eared Owl there again or any other Owls for that matter. I saw two Grey Partridges in a field there last month and I saw another two in another field this month. They were quickly disappearing into the rows of potatoes growing there.
Finally, we often go up for a walk to Tilliglens Wood near Relugas. On one occasion, we diverted from the woods and went towards the Dorback Burn. I saw a Reed Bunting there. On the way back through Relugas I saw a juvenile Wheatear.
The garden is full of activity this month with adult birds coming in and out for food to take to their nest or with the young already appearing in the garden and wanting to be fed. The Blackbirds certainly let me know when the Magpie appears in the garden as they fly around making their alarm calls. I get out there and chase it away but it does not stop it from returning as it is particularly persistent.
Two long – tailed Tits came in at the beginning of the month but I have not seen any since. It would be really lovely if they came in with young as I have not seen Juvenile Long-Tailed Tits. I am sure they would be really cute. The first Juvenile birds in the garden this year were Blackbirds. They were quite big before they appeared and obviously well able to fend for themselves but when the adult birds appeared they chased after them until they got fed. Then the Juvenile Dunnocks appeared. I am not sure how many of them there were as they scurried about all over the place. One day I spotted the Magpie playing with something in the play area. I thought it was just grass but then I saw it move and realised that it had got hold of a young Dunnock. There was nothing I could do as it flew off with the bird in its beak. Towards the end of the month two Magpies came in to the garden. They must be nesting somewhere on the estate as they have been seen in various gardens in the area.
Next the Juvenile House Sparrows came in and the parent birds were very attentive at feeding them. The adults try hard to get them to feed themselves but they linger on wanting fed longer than some of the other birds.
Last year I discovered a family of Starlings nesting in a hole in my neighbours’ roof tiles. I was able to watch the parent birds encourage them out of the nest although the last one took quite a bit of persuading. This year the Starlings returned but the young were almost ready to fledge before I discovered them. The whole brood hung around the garden for ages squawking and demanding attention. The parents were quick to ignore them so they could start to feed for themselves. On one occasion, they were all around the bird bath and it was almost as it the parent was telling them where to drink and bathe. Despite their noise you can’t help but like them.
There was just the occasional Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Greenfinch and Great Tit in the garden this month, not as many as usual. They obviously go further away to nest. The pair of Yellowhammers continue to visit every day. I am hoping that they are nesting quite near and that I might be able to see the young. A Lesser Redpoll came in about the middle of the month but has not visited since.
Finally, the Rabbit is getting bigger each day. I wonder if the next brood will appear in the garden. It comes into the garden every day and usually eats the bird seed at the bottom of the feeders and the carrot. The Red Squirrel although not a daily visitor does make frequent appearances also.
Loch of Blairs
I have only been to Blairs Loch once this month and although we heard a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff in the trees we did not see them. On the loch, there were two Mute Swans and six Little Grebes. They are easily distinguished by their call. The sun came out for a few moments and this Treecreeper appeared on a tree close by.
Along The Coast
There were quite a few things of interest along the coast this month. At Cummingston I saw a Wheatear, a Lapwing and a Yellowhammer. There are often Yellowhammers on the Burghead to Hopeman coastal walk. I do not see many Wheatears there but sometimes just an occasional pair. At this time of year most of the Lapwings are inland breeding but non-breeding ones can still be seen at the coast. At Burghead there were the usual Cormorants and Shags on the rocks. On one particular occasion, I saw one with an usually white head. I was not sure whether it was a Cormorant or Shag. It is not uncommon to see Wrens, Dunnocks, Thrushes and Meadow Pipits sitting on top of the gorse in the sunlight. Along the coast House Martins and Sand Martins can be seen flying around and stopping on the muddy bits on the beach to collect food. They rarely stop and can blend in quite effectively with the seaweed.
On the way to the coast I often go via Netherton and the far end of the bay where the Mosset flows into the Bay. I saw a field with a group of Skylarks in it near Netherton and some Reed Buntings at the far end of the bay This is a good place to watch for Osprey which have been feeding in the bay and to see ducks with their young. I saw a Willow Warbler on the Kinloss Road.
Sometimes we start at Cullen and go back along the coast from there. At the end of the month at Findochty I saw groups of Eider with their ducklings round the harbour. There are often large groups of Eiders there and some have been breeding. While I was there a Goosander came close in. A pair of Ringed Plovers were feeding in the harbour.
On The Dava
At Lochindorb I saw my first Common Sandpiper of the year. Every year there appears to be an Oystercatcher nesting in the same place just at the roadside at Lochindorb. I always feel that it is a dangerous place to nest so close to the road. The parent birds must get the young away from the nest as soon as possible. There were also large groups of Greylag Geese with their young on the loch.
The Lapwings have had their young and they can be hard to spot on the ground. I often wonder how many of them survive as there are lots of birds of prey in these areas. Mind you the parent birds can give the predators a run for their money. We usually see some Red-legged Partridges, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats somewhere on the Dava.
At the beginning of the month we went to Glenlivet. There are always plenty of birds at the Packhorse Bridge mainly because it goes over the fast-flowing River Livet and someone has kindly put up bird feeders to encourage the birds in. It is a lovely place to sit and relax and watch the variety of birds that come in. On this particular day, I saw three Grey Wagtails, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Grey Heron, two Pied Wagtails and three Common Sandpipers. The Sandpipers were chasing each other all over the place because of a persistent male who eventually succeeded in mating with one of them. A Sparrowhawk landed on the ground right beside where we were sitting but unfortunately did not linger.
At Drumin Castle I also saw three Common Sandpipers, two Grey Wagtails and a Dipper. A Willow Warbler came out of the foliage just long enough for me to get a photo
Knockaneorn and Rumachroy
This month we found a different route to head up towards the Dava. We go up to Dulsie Bridge via Knockaneorn and Rumachroy. There are various landscapes on the way there which means there will also be a range of birds to see. So far I have seen, Grey Wagtails, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Magpies, House Martins and Swallows.
Although I heard a lot of Cuckoos last year I did not see any. The year before that I was lucky enough to see four Cuckoos, one on the Grantown Road near Aitnoch and three on another day on the Dallas / Knockando road. So I did not know what to expect this year as I had heard quite a few but so far had not seen any. Near the end of the month on our way back from the Dava I spotted not one but first two Cuckoos sitting on a wire at Knockaneorn. As I was photographing them a third joined them on the wire and the other two flew away. How lucky was that! I expect that will be it for this year but you never know. We will keep going back in the hope of seeing some juvenile Cuckoo being fed by some hapless poor bird.
Every May the Bird Club has a day set aside for a bird race. In groups of three or four we have to record as many birds as we can and where we saw them in Moray between the hours of 6.00am and 6.00pm. As we have to keep moving quickly I don’t find time to take photographs and this year it was a pouring wet all day. However, just as we were leaving Loch Spynie I felt sorry for this bedraggled looking Swallow sitting beside us on the fence that I took a photo.
I saw my first Swallow of the year near Whitemire where it was waiting for its mate at the bus shelter. Since then there have been others at the farm and at Moyness bus shelter. At this time of year this area is full of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Reed Buntings and Linnets. One sunny evening just before sunset I saw a Wheatear on a rock but just before I got a photo it flew and I have not seen it in that area since. However, that same evening I saw two Grey Partridges showing off their lovely colours in the sun. On previous occasions when I have seen Grey partridges it has always been their head just peeping above the ‘parapet’ so to see two birds standing in a field like this was a bonus.
There have been Grey Wagtails at Sanqhuar Pond this year but so far, I have not seen any Dippers.
We have not been here often this month but on the two occasions I have been I saw this Great spotted Woodpecker in the same place each time.