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.
In May the young birds started to appear in the garden. The parent birds were busy all the time feeding their young. There were juvenile House Sparrows, Starlings, Dunnocks and Blue Tits. When I was out and about on the Dava, I saw Lapwing chicks, Mallard with ducklings and I even saw my first Cuckoo of the year in the same place as I had seen them in previous years. The Red-breasted Divers had also returned to the lochs on the Dava. The young Deer could also be easily seen in the fields. The Orange Tip Butterflies are seen quite early in Spring in the garden but it not always easy to get a photograph as they never settle, just pass through. In the woods there are plenty Speckled Wood Butterflies.
At the beginning of June we were in Ghent, in Belgium, for a few days. It was a lovely city with plenty to see. I always see Great Crested Grebes when I go abroad to various cities and Ghent was no exception to this. They were seen on every waterway. They are very photogenic birds as they glide gracefully past. I also noticed a Coot there, out of the water and did not realise they had such large feet!
Back home, there was plenty of activity along the coast. I was fortunate to see Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers with their Chicks and Eider Ducks with young in the sea. As the weather was so good there were always plenty Grey and Common Seals basking along the shores. On the Dava, I saw my first Red-legged Partridge chicks and Juvenile Stonechats being fed. There were plenty of Dragonflies to be seen near a small pond in the woods. A little mouse has been appearing at the bottom of my birdfeeders for a while now. I hope it survives as there are Herring Gulls and Jackdaws often in the garden.
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.