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.
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.
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.
After watching a Siskin last month feed another Siskin as part of a courting ritual I saw a Robin feed another Robin in the same way. There were three Robins in the garden at one stage so he must have been pulling out all the stops to woo her. However, a few days later the three of them were back in the garden.
I was sitting having my breakfast one morning when a Red Squirrel came in and ran off with the large carrot. I wondered what it was going to do with it, if it was going to bury it. It would be quite disappointed to come back and find it had gone mouldy. Another day a Squirrel came in and was exploring the garden and it jumped from the picnic table and accidently fell into an open bag of apples. I think it got quite a fright and I was just going to let it out when it ran off. Another young Squirrel came in later in the month. It was amusing to watch as it did not seem to know how to get into the Squirrel box. It took a short while to realise it had to open the lid and then it was unsure whether to go in it. When it eventually got a nut, it would run around the garden burying it. It even buried one in a big plant pot.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker came in one morning before I was dressed and was feeding on the suet balls and peanuts. It lingered for a short spell and then flew off. They are such colourful birds to watch. I do notice that the other birds keep well away from it when it is in the garden.
In the second week of the month a male and female Bullfinch arrived in the garden, I very rarely get Bullfinches in the garden. They seem to like the insects around the leaves and buds just before they open. That same day the Yellowhammer appeared again, two Long-tailed Tits and a female Lesser Redpoll. The Bullfinches hung around the garden until nearly the end of the month and then just disappeared.
I went to Thurso and then across to Orkney for a few days towards the end of the month. When I came home I was surprised to find a baby Rabbit in the garden eating the carrot. I suppose I should not have been surprised and wondered how many more would appear! There was no sign of the adult Rabbit. It was a few days later before it appeared and it seemed to lead the young one across the play area towards the carrot. They both would happily share the same carrot. Sometimes they were too slow and the Red Squirrel would get there before them. There were two Herring Gulls mating in the play area and they were hesitating about attacking the young Rabbit. When I came back there was also a Magpie in the garden. It would jump into the bushes looking I think for birds’ eggs or the young birds themselves. They are another bird that has beautiful colours but a bird I don’t want to encourage it into the garden.
There has been a young Sparrowhawk making an appearance in the garden. One day it was just sitting on the bird table. Last year a Sparrowhawk got one of two Collared Doves that were in my garden and this year I have two Collared Doves again so I am hoping there is no repeat. However, that is just nature and they all need to survive one way or another.
We have been watching the House Sparrow through the camera in the next box for a few weeks now. It has been a bit of a disappointment, as just when we think it has started to build a nest it takes everything out again. I once saw two Sparrows in there and my hopes were raised but now it is empty again.
We now have a small pond in the garden and it has been a bit of a curiosity for all the birds. Some drink from it, others bathe in it and others just stand and look at their reflection.
Along the Coast
No matter where you go along the Moray coast you will always see Cormorants or Shags on the rocks. They are often sunning themselves on the rocks just off the mainland or on the harbour walls. Sometimes they are easy to spot flying along the coastline. If they are flying low then is safe to say it is a Shag but if they are flying high then it is a Cormorant.
Although Dunnocks spend most of their lives chasing each other and flying low in to the gorse bushes, at this time of year they are often perched on the top of the bushes singing. Linnets are other birds that have a lovely song but often do not stay in the one place long enough to photograph.
The Brent Geese were in Nairn long before the end of the year and they were still around there in April. At some point, I think there were about 70 in the area. The interesting thing was that not only did they feed at the edge of the water but sometimes they went on to the Links to feed and really were unfazed by people and dogs. I went back to see them this month but their numbers had gone down. They now seem to return to Nairn every winter. While I was there I saw about 50 or more Redshanks feeding on the shingle at the mouth of the harbour. On the River Nairn, there was a pair of Goosanders.
On one of the days I was at the coast I saw four Bar-tailed Godwits on the beach at Burghead just as the tide was going out.
On the Dava
Although Lochindorb is not in Moray and Nairn it is one of my favourite places to visit. In summer, you can often see Ospreys fishing there although I have not been fortunate to see any so far. It is a favourite breeding area for Common Gulls and near the loch you will find Lapwings and Oystercatchers breeding there too. In the summer, there are also Common Sandpipers which breed there but so far, they have not arrived. On one occasion when I was up there this month I spotted a Mallard with a Leucistic Mallard which I assume was a female as they were always together. Quite an attractive duck she was!
There are still large flocks of Pink-footed Geese on the Dava although they should soon be moving on. The Greylag Geese are moving in as many of them breed up there.
One day we went towards Drynachan at the edge of the River Findhorn. There are often Common Sandpipers there but I think we were too early in the year. On the way, there were lots of Red-legged Partridge on the road and in the fields. There was quite a lot of squabbling, amongst the males I presume. They are very colourful birds especially when they are flying.
At this time of the year most of the Fieldfare and Redwings had gone but in the middle of the month I saw a flock of about twenty Fieldfare near Dunearn crossroads. So, there were still a few around.
At a pond near Levrattich there were two Little Grebes enjoying the sunshine. We sometimes go past this pond but do not often see anything.
Towards the end of the month I saw and heard my first Cuckoo of the year near Dulsie Bridge. It landed on a tree just beside the car. I should have taken the photo through the window but instead I wound down the window and at this point it went ‘Cuckoo’ and flew off. I had missed my chance. Two years ago, I managed to get pictures of three different Cuckoos but last year I only heard them. So, I was pleased to see one even if I missed the shot.
On a visit to Elgin we parked near Cooper park and there were quite a few Tufted Ducks in the pond, a few Mallards and the usual Gulls. The Tufted Ducks were very obliging for a photo shoot.
This is the time of year that you see the hares boxing in the fields. This one was with a mate but it was difficult to photograph them both together.
At the beginning of April, we saw about two hundred Golden Plover sheltering in a stony field near the crossroads. They were extremely difficult to see on the stony ground. During the month, we returned frequently and the numbers kept getting higher. They were always in the same place and never moving just sheltering together. It was hard to work out what exactly they were feeding on as they never moved. Late one evening we did see them fly around the other fields like Starlings do in a murmuration but they were back to their usual spot in the morning. These were still around sixteen days later and their numbers had gone up to over three hundred. Then they just disappeared ‘en masse’. It seems they were likely to be Northern Golden Plovers which were about to leave this country and were possibly building up their strength and waiting for the right winds before leaving.
In the middle of the month we went to Thurso where my daughter lives and then across to Orkney for a few days. We went to St John’s Pool near Thurso and I saw Teal, Gadwall, and Sandwich Terns. It was a hive of activity with Redshanks, Tufted Ducks, Black-headed Gulls, Wigeon and Moorhens. Our visit there was very short but it is well worth a visit.
In Orkney I saw a Great Skua or Bonxie which it is known locally as. It flew past me and I was so busy watching it that I forgot to try to photo it. We saw a Snipe at the road side one day but it cowered down and was impossible to photo without scaring it away.
As well as visiting the attractions in the area, on some of our walks, I saw Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Wheatear.
Finally, a quick trip up to Sanquhar Pond rewarded me with a sighting of a Mallard and Ducklings. I don’t go up there often enough even if it is just on my doorstep so to speak.
My family gave me a chimenea for Christmas and this allows me to stay out in the garden longer on cold days. The cold weather and the frosty mornings bring in some of my rarer visitors to the garden. The Goldcrest continues to appear and quite often the Long-tailed Tits. Their visits are usually very brief. A Great Spotted Woodpecker came in one day at the beginning of the month and I hoped it would become a regular visitor for a few months but then two Jackdaws came in and immediately frightened it away. The Pheasant has been back in the garden on a few occasions this month. it has been a few months since I have seen a wren in the garden but at the beginning of the month one appeared. On that particular day there was a huge density of birds around but it hopped around heedless of all the other birds. About the middle of the month a Treecreeper came in and spent some time on the apple tree. It likes the peanut butter that I sometimes spread on the bark of the tree.
Although I had been getting at the most two Siskins in the garden at any one time a Lesser Redpoll at last appeared with them. Then a few days later there were two – a male and a female.
I watched a Blackbird and a House Sparrow sharing a suet ball on the ground quite amicably but then the blackbird hopped off with it into the bushes quite swiftly followed by the Sparrow. I never saw the outcome of this or who was the winner in the end.
We have one bird nesting box in the garden which has a camera in it. It had not been used in previous years but this month a male House Sparrow has been inside it cleaning it out and although it brings things in for nesting material it keeps rearranging them and taking some out again. I have not seen a female near the box but we look forward to watching it to see if it develops into a nest with young in it.
About the middle of February a male Blackcap also appeared in the garden but it did not linger.
The Blackbirds keep enjoying the apples that are put out as do our two resident Herring Gulls. The Gulls treat the garden and the adjoining play area as their territory and although they will share anything they find with each other they will viciously chase off any other Gulls that come near.
This month there have been up to ten Siskins, four Tree Sparrows and three Lesser Redpolls at one time in the garden. There has also been an increase in the number of Goldfinches visiting the garden.
The Rabbit is still coming in for its carrot and sometimes lettuce daily. The Red Squirrel came in one morning and was running around the garden. It climbed onto the bird bath to get a drink and then climbed on to the window ledge and looked in at me. I am not sure who got the bigger fright!
It had been a while since I had visited Brodie Pond although it is not far from Forres. I went there one morning for a walk with my friend. I was pleased to see some Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Mute Swans, Moorhens, Little Grebes and a Mallard Hybrid. On the way back this Buzzard was sitting on top of a telegraph pole.
Along The Coast
There have been up to seventy Brent Geese at Nairn for most of the winter months and I had seen them in the sea around the harbour and Leisure Centre area. However, strangely they had taken to feeding on the links in Nairn so I went through to see them again. There were about sixty-four of them on that occasion. They seemed oblivious to passers-by and sensibly were out of the way of most dog walkers.
One of the days this month I had to go through to Cullen on an errand and passed through some of the coastal villages on the way. At Cullen there were nineteen Purple Sandpipers in with a group of Oystercatchers. It was a bitterly cold day and they all seemed to be to be sheltering with each other against the wind. There was also one Redshank in with this group. It appears that this was a particularly large group of Purple Sandpipers for Cullen.
At Findochty there were a pair of Common Seals in the harbour and a large group of Redshanks and Turnstones at the bottom of the harbour wall. Some of them flew to a nearby pool of water to bathe. A solitary Rock Pipit was the only small bird around at the time. The tide was in and we enjoyed watching the huge waves come over the sea wall.
I went with the Bird club for a trip to Spey Bay one Saturday. There had been a Black Redstart seen close by the golf course there. Although we managed to see it I was unable to get a photograph disappointingly. However, I did see this Skylark on the golf course and the Wigeon which were at the bay.
When I visited Cummingston I saw that the Fulmars were already picking their nesting spots although they were not yet into pairs.
Coming back from Inverness one day I saw this Rook posing nicely in the sunshine at Alturlie..
We often take a walk into Lower Broadshaw Wood and go up to the reservoir. On one occasion we saw seventeen Tufted Ducks and five Wigeon in with the ducks. There were also two Oystercatchers, a Cormorant and some Mallards. We heard the call of Jays in the woods but did not see any.
The Peregrine Falcon was back sitting on the tree close to the road. There were also thousands of Pink- footed Geese in a couple of fields near the crossroads. It was nice to see that the Lapwings had returned inland and in one field we counted eighteen Lapwings.
This month I have fortunate to see two Red Kites flying over the Moyness to Lethen road on two occasions. One of those times I saw a Red Kite being chased by a Crow. There were lots of Buzzards in the area and one was sitting on a post at the crossroads but it took off just as I took its photograph.
On The Dava
I have not seen a great deal on the Dava this month. Quite often when we have gone up the Lochs have been empty. At Little Aitnoch there is always a Pheasant or two on the hay bales there. This was just waiting to be photographed.
The first unusual visitor to my garden this year was the Common Pheasant. It certainly brightened up a dull, wet day. It constantly came in and out at various times to feed on the seeds on the ground under the bird feeder. I am not sure if it hangs around the gardens in the area or flies back to the woods or fields a short distance away. I have seen it more than once in the garden this month. It runs when you go outside but soon comes back again.
The Blackbird with the white tail feathers is always in the garden but is more timid than the other Blackbirds. At this time of year, we usually have a higher number of Blackbirds then normal as many Blackbirds come across here for the winter from Scandinavia. The apples from our apple tree are neither good for eating or cooking but we always have a good crop so we store them for the birds over the winter. The Blackbirds just love them. On previous winters, we have had the odd Fieldfare or Redwing joining them but although I have seen them in their hundreds out in the countryside none have so far visited the garden this winter. There has been one Blackbird with an injured leg and no tail in the garden. It tends to come in when things are a bit quieter in the garden looking for food. It can still fly and will land at our feet when we go out to the garden shed. We keep a little store of food for it where the other birds cannot find it.
Two Siskins have come into the garden at various times over the month. It is months since I have seen any Siskins here. I am hoping that more will come in, as along with the groups of Siskins you sometimes get the occasional Lesser Redpoll in the garden also. Perhaps it is too early as it was April last year before I saw one.
A Rabbit has been coming into the garden for months now. We often have some Rabbits in the summer but we don’t usually see them in the winter. We decided to put out a carrot for it to see if it would eat it. The carrot kept disappearing but I had not actually seen the Rabbit eat it. However, one morning the Rabbit came running across the play area, straight into the garden and proceeded to eat the whole carrot right in front of the window at which I was sitting. It was really cute. Again, we did not see the Rabbit for a few days but as the carrot was disappearing I assumed it was coming back. Then, one morning as I looked out the window there was a Red Squirrel busy munching away on the carrot. So now I am not sure if they are both feasting on the carrots.
About the middle of the month a large group of Chaffinches came into the garden. I looked very carefully and found what I was looking for. In amongst the Chaffinches was a lovely Brambling. You really have to look carefully because unless you know what you are looking for it could easily be mistaken for a Chaffinch. Although it was around most of the day I think I have only seen it once more this month.
At one point this month there were six Tree Sparrows coming into the garden. They usually feed on the ground seeds or on the feeders. They never go near the suet feeders. They have completely different colouring from House Sparrows and have rather attractive autumn colouring. They have a small black spot on each cheek. They are not always easy to photograph as they blend in with their surroundings quite well.
The frosty and sometimes snowy weather has brought in more birds than normal. A Yellowhammer was feeding on the ground one morning but I have not seen it again. The Great Spotted Woodpecker is often at the suet or peanut feeders first thing in the morning and the Sparrowhawk flies in and out regularly. It did not notice my husband one morning and landed just beside him. There have been up to six Long-tailed Tits coming in daily for the whole of the month. They flit in and out regularly during the day. Also, the Treecreeper comes in occasionally. One morning I spotted a Magpie in the garden. Unfortunately, only one but it was a rare visitor!
The same day as the Brambling appeared a Goldcrest came in and has been coming in daily all month. Devilishly hard to photograph though! At the end of the month a male Blackcap came in for two days and then disappeared. It was feeding from a suet candle.
Away from the birds for a moment I heard the sound of warring cats. I found these two squaring up to each other in the garden across the road. More noise than action I decided.
One morning while walking up at the Enterprise Park I saw these two metal sheep on the roof of the Horizon building which I had never noticed before. It looked quite effective. I did see two Magpies flying around up there and on the way back I saw a Great Tit singing loudly. The birds definitely think Spring is just about here.
I have had a few visits up to Sanquhar Pond recently hoping to see any Grey Wagtails or Dippers but nothing so far. There has been a solitary Tufted Duck there most of the month, two Moorhens and a Grey Heron as well as the Mallards and one Mute Swan. The woods around the pond have lots of Great Tits, Blue Tits, Siskins, Treecreepers and Goldcrests. A Water Rail had been seen across from Sanquhar Pond but I have not seen it.
I still sometimes see the Peregrine Falcon at Moyness. On one of the days there, it was perched on a tree close to the road and stayed there while I took some photographs.
There have been lots of Redwings and Fieldfares in the area and as we walked up to the Reservoir at Lower Broadshaw woods we saw them all flying over. At the Reservoir recently there has been a large group of Tufted Ducks as well as the usual Mallards. On one walk there as we came back to the car there were six or seven Bullfinches flying around the same tree in the sunlight although the sunlight is short lived these days. We have also seen or heard Jays on every occasion we have gone there.
One frosty morning at Moyness when we drove along the road there were masses of cobwebs on the bushes all along the road and the cobwebs extended right across the road and we had to drive through them. Quite an unusual sight!
No matter where we have gone this month we have seen Buzzards. At this time of the year they are often perched close to the roads looking for prey. They vary in colour, some are dark and others quite pale. Most of them have a white band across the top of their chest. They always fly as soon as you stop the car to take a photograph. This one was sitting on a fence post at Darnaway. Nearer the end of the month there were two together in the same place. Once you see one you are almost certain to see them again n the same area.
Towards the end of the month there was a large group of Fieldfares and Redwings just as we turned off towards Darnaway. I am beginning to see more of them feeding on the ground now as earlier in the month they were always up in the trees or bushes.
On the Dava
There are still large groups of Fieldfares and Redwings to be seen near Dunearn also. There are always plenty of Red-legged Partridges running about in that area too. This is another area where there are always Buzzards.
One day when we were through at Inverness we stopped off at Alturlie. It has been quite a while since I have been there. There were plenty Scaup, Mallards, Scoters and Wigeon. It was a dull day so the light was poor on the water.
Along The Coast
This month the exciting event along the coast was that two Humpbacked Whales were seen off the coast of Burghead and Hopeman. Unfortunately, I did not see them but it apparently brought lots of visitors to the area to see them.
One day when I was at Hopeman there were a pair of ‘confiding’ Stonechats flying on the grass at the car park. One of them actually flew on to the car. I am sure if I had had some bird seed with me and dropped it on the ground beside the car they would have eaten it.
There have been quite a few groups of Eiders coming into the harbour at Burghead. There are plenty Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks out at sea but I have as yet not seen any Long-tailed Ducks in the harbour. On one occasion I saw a Goldeneye just off the bay.