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.
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.