July 2017

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.


Boat Trip

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.


North Coast

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.


April 2017

In the Garden in Forres

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.

North 500

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.

Sanquhar Pond

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.