Having finally become free of exam pressures, yesterday saw me making a day of birding alone by foot at Girdle Ness. For those of you who are not local, Girdle Ness (or ‘The Ness’ as it is known) is a headland by Aberdeen Harbour in the south of Aberdeen. It’s primarily renowned for its passerine migrant holding abilities during the mig seasons, but is always well worth a visit regardless. I check Girdle Ness regularly every year and have done so ever since I was a youngster. Recently though, I’ve found I’ve neglected it a little too much outside of the mig season…
Temptations of a long staying Short-eared Owl and the possibility of finding a white-winged gull provided a natural incentive for me to make a visit, so in order to relieve my guilt I did my duty and had a full check of the site from the North Bank all the way along to Nigg Bay. It was a nice sunny start and I was well prepared for the cold. However, I wasn’t prepared for a strong southerly wind which basted me for much of my visit. Yet despite the deceivingly bad weather, the birding was rather good and emphasised the rewards of meticulous checking. The Torry warehouses, where I was dropped off, did not hold any white-winged gulls as largely expected, so I headed round to the North Bank along the rocky shorline. Things started quietly with the usual smattering of Eider and Herring Gulls on the water, but at the second breakwater a group of 78 Purple Sandpipers were widely spread amongst a few Redshanks. Further on at Greyhope Bay, another 14 Purple Sandpipers were had, taking the total of Purple Sands for the day up to 92 . Purple Sandpipers are a common winter visitor in Aberdeenshire and Girdle Ness is the regional hotspot for this species; at times it can hold up to 200+ . This was my personal highest count at the Ness, partially because I haven’t put much effort into counting them in the past. Below are the first group of 78 Purple Sands.
Walking past the second breakwater, I was pleasantly surprised to flush a single Knot from the rocks; quite a noteworthy species at the Ness, it appears to have been around since Sunday. I slogged my way against the wind to the foghorn, where I managed to shelter and get some sea-watching in. Although not at sea, the undoubted highlight here and of the day was a Woodcock, flushed from right under my feet on the raised ground by the foghorn. It flew quite a way and appeared to land somewhere along the South Bank. This bird had certainly just come in off the sea; behaviour that’s been witnessed country wide since this cold spell. My first of the year and always great to see. A half an hour seawatch produced a few commoner things, including 3 Red-breasted Mergansers (two drakes and a female) north, 7 Gannets north and a few Fulmars, Kittiwakes, and auks milling around; great to see at this early stage in the year.
It was then round to the southern most part of Girdle Ness at Nigg Bay, which held a Red-throated Diver but not much else. On the way back I headed across the golf course to try for the long-staying Short-eared Owl. As expected due to the wind I was unsuccessful, but this wasn’t too disappointing considering the great views of the Strathbeg bird recently. A Redshank scurrying around right at the heart of the golf course was interesting; presumably because it was sheltering from the wind. To finish off, at Victoria Bridge there was a female Sparrowhawk. All in all, a worthwile visit despite the weather and quiet time of year; definitely inspires me to have a full check again at a better time of year.
Thanks for reading,