After last weekend’s brilliant birding, I wasn’t expecting today to be half as productive. However, despite there being less variety today, the birding was of very good quality. We spent the day at the Loch of Strathbeg, where we planned to give the area a wide and thorough search. We started by checking the Loch itself from Bay Hide. On arrival it was clear there was a large number of wildfowl on the loch that were going to take a while to sift through, and I happily started to check the various flock. The predominant species on the Loch were Teal and Wigeon, particularly the former which number some 200+ birds and were my first priority, loosely spread out across the loch. As I reached the right hand end of the flock I quickly passed across a Teal lacking a white scapular stripe. This did not register immediately, but very shortly afterwards I did a mental double take and quickly returned to the bird in question, distantly at the back of the flock towards the reedbeds in front of a few Wigeon but with no Teals around it. It was immediately obvious that there was no white scapular stripe and instead a vertical white stripe at the front of the flanks. This was clearly a drake Green-winged Teal, result!
News was put out, and shortly after another birder arrived and was soon watching the bird alongside us. The Green-winged Teal proceeded to wander away from the reeds and join the main raft of Common Teal, where it became clear that this bird was a shade larger and bulkier than its commoner cousins. Once it had blended with the main raft of Common Teal it was lost on a number of occasions but was quickly relocated. It was quite wide ranging, at times with smaller slightly detached groups of Teal and at other times right at the heart of the main group. After nearly half an hour of watching it had come quite a bit closer, but it was at this point that the majority of the Teal flock took to the air and flew down the Loch towards the pools at the Visitor Centre, not to be seen again. This was frustrating as just at the point that it flew it was getting to a close enough range for a digiscoped record shot. As it was, I did not manage a pic of the bird, but nonetheless I left delighted to have come across it; I should imagine it will hang around and be seen over the next few days. February seems to be the month for this species up here, the last one I had was in February 2011 and also at Strathbeg. This was my third at the site, and my fourth overall. A cracking bird.
The rest of Strathbeg and the day in fact was quiet. A visit to Fen Hide was quite lively though, (the second hide overlooking the loch) with a couple of drake Goosanders, a few Red-breasted Mergansers and a smattering of Whooper Swan. A ringtailed Hen Harrier distantly over the reeds was a beauty and proved to be interesting as we later found out from others that it was a 3cy male, who had noticed from closer quarters that the first signs of adult grey feathering were present around the tail. The pools in front of the Visitor Centre and Tower Pool Hide were quite quiet, the best we could muster being 5 Pintails, 30 Dunlins and a mixed bunting flock which held 25 Reed Buntings, a Corn Bunting and 4 Yellowhammers, the first two which were yearticks.
A check Cairnbulg Harbour near Fraserburgh was quiet but provided some interest with the unusual sight of at least 15 Goldeneye on the sea. I couldn’t resist a smidgen of white-winger action, so popped into Fraserburgh Harbour for a couple of minutes. A number of big boats were in there which seemed to mean there was a comparative clear out of gulls to my last visit, but a stonking second winter Glaucous Gull and second winter Iceland Gull were very obliging.
At this point, rain stopped play, so we headed home after an overall very successful day. A great continuation to what’s proving to be a fantastic winter.
Thanks for reading,