2011 was another amazing year of birding for me; so much so that it merits many posts to describe the numerous high points that were had. As with any birding year, it had its low points, but overall there were many more high points than lows, particularly in regards to local birding with 3 mega rares seen, including one first for Britain: White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter and Sandhill Crane. In amongst these major highlights were a series of other top quality birds which will be charted over the forthcoming several posts. This post summarises the birding that took place in January. Enjoy, for more detailed accounts of these days birding see – http://josephnicholsbirding.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html
8th: The first bit of the birding of the year saw me head down to Girdle Ness and Torry for the long staying first winter Glaucous Gull. I had already seen this bird prior to the new year, but was keen to catch up with it again. My efforts were not in vain, as on arrival at the fishy smelling Torry warehouses there she (I believe it was a female) was, perched on her usual lookout of the large ASCO warehouse. Ideally, she wasn’t particularly flighty either and was very obliging, moving between the ASCO Warehouse and nearby buildings. After entertaining ourselves with this bird we headed round to Girdle Ness, where the highlight was 28 Purple Sandpipers. Not much else was seen, so the yearlist sat at 45 species. A good start to the year. Below is our friend the Glauc.
16th: More Aberdeen based birding took place on 16th when a female Smew at the nearby Lochside Pool, Bridge of Don proved irresistible. Despite its obscure location in the middle of an Aberdeen suburb, this stunning sawbill was superbly showy, diving and swimming around 30ft away at its closest and sticking with a couple of Tufted Ducks. A little gem; one of my favourite duck species. In the surrounding woods a few commoner species were picked up for the year, including Great Spotted Woodpecker, though only one I’ve ever seen within Aberdeen itself. After this short outing, the yearlist had moved up to 58 species.
22nd-23rd: The 22nd was the first day’s birdng had outside of Aberdeen, but wasn’t particularly productive in totals or seeing anything more unusual. A Long-tailed Duck at the Ythan was a year-tick and the best bird seen at this site. Strathbeg was quiet, but did hold 3 over wintering Ruff, a small number of Whooper Swans and a notable count of 80 Tree Sparrows, the latter of which was arguably the highlight of quiet day. Tree Sparrows are resident to the Strathbeg car park feeders and garden, normally being seen in counts between 15- 30, but this was an alarming amount. The next day we decided to take a gamble and went to Red Moss of Netherley SWT just south of Aberdeen to see if we could relocate a wintering Great Grey Shrike there that hadn’t been seen for two weeks. With no sense of thinking I’d see this bird, imagine the joy when I managed to relocate it sitting atop a bush by the side of the road! It was quite a dramatic re-find as we were driving at about 50 miles an hour when I caught a second’s (at most!) glimpse of a small, long-tailed bird at the top of this bush. My Dad rammed the breaks on, and luckily found a place nearby to park and within minutes we were watching the Great Grey Shrike. It fared quite widely but was still very obliging, at one point heading well up a lane on the other side of the road. Eager to get some photos, I spent nearly two hours with the bird; you can see the results below. A fantastic bird, I never have enough of shrikes! On the way to pick up a friend who lived nearby, we stopped at Inverbervie where we came across a couple of suspiciously tame Pale-bellied Brent Geese. There was no sign of these birds being escapes though. A very enjoyable day out.
30th: This was a very productive day’s birding so I am not going to go into great detail about it. The day was spent birding in Perth & Kinross and on the Fife Coast for a few goodies and a change of scene. Getting up very early, our first stop was a brief one at Longforgan at around 8 in the morning, where in the trees by the roundabout before the dual carriageway sat 90 Waxwings, long staying birds that favoured this odd location. As always when seeing Waxies in these numbers, it was a fantastic sight. It was then onwards to Scone Palace, where I aimed to catch up with a bogey species of mine; Hawfinch. If you want to see Hawfinches in good numbers in Scotland during the winter, here is the place to go. Things for the first hour or so were unsuccessful as we wondered round the woodlands of this picturesque palace, until suddenly c.15 Hawfinches were flushed from deep in the woodland – result! Views were brief as they zipped past and disappeared further into the foliage. What I didn’t anticipate a few minutes later was an ‘explosion’ of Hawfinches as 30 (!) erupted from a bush. They proceeded to land for no more than 10 seconds, allowing for close but poor views due to bad light, before flying onwards. Despite the views being so poor, this was an amazing experience.
The Fife Coast was mostly successful for our target species. Two Mediterranean Gulls were very obliging at the seafront in Buckhaven, one sporting a ring and a developing hood (I was unfortunately unable to read this) ; also here a nice mixed raft of Common and Velvet Scoter was seen. A check of Largo Bay from Lower Largo for Surf Scoter as we ambled up the coast was unsuccessful which put a slight downer on things. However, our final stop of the day at Roome Bay in the beautiful fishing village of Crail resulted in great views of a flitty wintering male Black Redstart; they really are stunning birds. With a decent array of birds seen throughout the day, we headed home delighted, with the yearlist ending that month on 85. A brilliant way to end a great month and start to the year, with the highlight probably being the Great Grey Shrike, closely followed by the Hawfinch experience.
Thanks for reading,