The young birds have started to appear in the garden. The first ones as usual were the Blackbirds but it was not long before they were feeding themselves. I still had apples left from the tree and the young were quickly led by the parent birds to the ground where they were. There have been lots of young Tree Sparrows in the garden and lots of young Starlings. I am still noticing a Tree Sparrow going into the nest box during the day but so far no sign of any food being taken in. Unfortunately the bird has managed to completely cover up the camera in the box and we really do not want to disturb it by opening up the box in case it is nesting there. There are four Yellowhammers, two males and two females, who are regularly coming in to feed but no sign of any young there so far. Usually there are quite a few juvenile Blue Tits come in with their young but so far I have only seen one. During the last few years I have had two Feral Pigeons that look like Rock Doves come into my garden about this time to feed. They have appeared again this year but so also has a striking white and grey Feral Pigeon. I try not to encourage these Feral birds into the garden as I already have plenty Wood Pigeons which come in. A Great-spotted Woodpecker came into the feeders this month but It flew as soon as it sensed any movement. I have not seen it since.
During the second week in May I heard and saw my first Cuckoos. There was one at Little Aitnoch, which I managed to get a distant photo of, and another between Loch Allan and Black Loch. The second one just flew along the road in front of the car landing on fence posts and then continued. That same day I saw a Red-throated Diver and later in the month, there were two displaying on a loch. There seemed to be at least three pairs of Stonechats nesting between Refouble and Little Aitnoch. In that area, there were also plenty of Red-legged Partridges. It is lovely to see quite a bit of activity with many of the summer visitors back, the Willow Warblers, the Chiffchaffs, the Whitethroats and the Swallows. I have not seen many Common Sandpipers this year. There are usually quite a few at Lochindorb but so far I have not seen any there. I did see two near Drynachan. There were lots of Sand Martins flying over the water there too. Near Dulsie Bridge I saw my first Spotted Flycatcher this year. There used to be quite a few Lapwings up in the Dava area but their numbers seem to have diminished. Towards the end of the month I heard Cuckoos near Knockaneorn and near Balnught but could not see them.
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.