After an eventful January, things toned down in February and March as expected. March was frustratingly devoid of decent birding and was the worst month of the year, whilst there were not many opportunities to get out birding in February, although when I did it was good…
20th: Things started at the Ythan where it was quiet, with 110 Knot from the Snub being the highlight and a female Goosander a site tick on Meikle Loch. It kicked off at Strathbeg, where checking the visitor centre saw a redhead Smew being located (my second of the year), shortly followed by a stunning male Hen Harrier over the visitor centre. A rush out to the fields behind the visitor centre garden saw it relocated and hunting low down for a few minutes alongside a Buzzard; an absolutely beautiful bird and this individual my first of the year. Heading round to Tower Pool Hide we sifted through various wildfowl, including 28 Pintails. The undoubted highlight though was relocating a drake Green Winged Teal amongst a group of Teal; this bird having been seen twice by others at the other end of the reserve but not from here. Compared to others I had seen, the white vertical stripe near the flanks was surprisingly faint on this bird, but the absence horizontal stripe was obvious. The bird was also noted to have a larger and brighter yellow vent than its commoner cousins and was slightly larger and bulkier in appearance. It was watched for half an hour; a brilliant bird and personal second at the site. A great way to end a top day’s winter birding.
26th: Much quieter, but still with a few highlights. The day started with a successful search for the Ythan Estuary Twite flock, resulting in 38 Twites. Good views of this mobile flock were had down to 60ft at one point. Small signs of spring were apparent, with at least 4 Yellowhammer and my first Skylarks (2) of the year singing in the area. The rest of the estuary held a few things including 7 Grey Plovers. It was otherwise quiet, although a Great Northern Diver heading north at Battery Park, Peterhead was a nice way to end and my first of the year. The month ended on 109 species for the year.
5th: A very quiet day’s birding on the coast, with the best birds of the day being 2 Great Crested Grebes and the female Goosander at Meikle Loch, a couple of Red-throated Divers off Scotstown Head, and 4 Stock Dove at Rattray, the latter being a year tick.
19th: A day with great promise but no result, as trips to Rhynie and the Moray Coast proved completely unsuccessful. At Rhynie we aimed to locate a Great Grey Shrike, but failed to do so. Consolations included 10 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Mistle Thrush and 2 Common Crossbills for the year. This was about as productive as it got and was deeply frustrating as many miles were covered by car for no reward. At Loch Oire near Elgin, we dipped on an Iceland Gull, as well as a King Eider off Burghead, then headed home with no success whatsoever….
26th: A brief check of the Ythan area liftened earlier spirits a little. The 2 Great-crested Grebes were still on Meikle Loch, whilst at Collieston it was great to see the Kittiwakes back on the cliffs and 2 Puffins offshore, the earliest date I have seen the latter species.
After a dire March, birding quality was due to vastly improve in April. Along with May, this will be accounted in the next post.
Thanks for reading,