The exams finally ended on Friday 25th May, and in the interim period between this and the start of my last year at school I finally managed plenty of birding. As a whole its been pretty quiet considering the amount of birding I’ve done, but has had some highlights. Read on to find out more…
26th May: This was my first full day’s birding in ages. I spent much of the day at Strathbeg, starting at the lagoon where the only highlight were two feeding Whimbrels, and on the mammalian front a Roe Deer which bounded across the sand and came to drink by the water’s edge; an evocative experience. The Plantation as expected held nothing so it was off to the Visitor Centre. We were greeted by two splendid Little Gulls on the nearest pools, including a stunning adult. Also on the closest pools were 2 Ruff (including a fab sumplum male) which were later joined by a smart Little Ringed Plover. On the further pools a female Osprey sat for ages, whilst a female Marsh Harrier occasionally quartered the reeds. Whilst having a practically resident feel to it at the time, the GREATER YELLOWLEGS was also around, doing its usual by feeding around the juncus on the edge of the pools. The next day would be the last time it was seen by the looks of it…
As a whole the reserve was pretty quiet, but the birds it did hold made it well worthwhile, especially with the presence of this ornate drake Red-crested Pochard, which showed well with Mallards by the boathouse at the south end of the loch. This was a welcome regional and Scottish lifer for me and was the significant highlight of the day. It was watched at close quarters for 10 minutes before it swam behind an area of reeds and did not reappear. It has since relocated to Forfar Loch in Angus.
We moved down to the Ythan area mid-afternoon, with Meikle Loch being quiet. Stopping off at the Snub car park revealed a very pleasant surprise in the form of 8 Little Gulls; 6 first summers, one near adult and a full adult, taking the Little Gull total for the day to 10. We indulged in these little gems for a while (with an Osprey fly-past providing more entertainment) before moving down to Blackdog. The conditions were idyllic for scoter watching as the sea was completely still, but there were barely any scoters to watch; just 50 Commons. 2 Great Skuas heading north were nice though and were new for the year. We headed home after a very enjoyable day’s birding, just the release I needed after exams.
28th May: Last Monday I took an early bus up to the Ythan for a day’s birding. I started at the mouth and progressed up to the Waterside Bridge. It’s fair to say that the estuary was very quiet. Wader numbers were at a minimum, with a reasonable amount of Curlew, 10 Ringed Plover and 6 Dunlin being it. Ducks were also very thinly represented, the best being 13 Common Scoters going north offshore. A meticulous look at the ternery was probably the most entertaining part of the check, with 20 Little Terns noted amongst the hundreds of other commoner tern species, all of which were sent into frenzy by a Peregrine at one point. The estuary by Waterside Bridge was also deadly quiet so with nothing else to do, I headed up on to the nearby Sands of Forvie NNR to see if any passerine migs were about.
I was finally rewarded when I came across this beauty singing from an area of bushes. This Cuckoo was the first I had seen on the coast for a very long time and showed fantastically down to about 35ft, probably the best and most prolonged views I’ve ever had of one. I took the following pics and video of this splendid bird, which I was first alerted to it as it flew past me whilst being mobbed by Mipits. There weren’t any other migs around, but a pair of Stonechats were lovely to see. This Cuckoo made an otherwise quiet day worth it, heading home mid afternoon.
1st-3rd June: I’ve managed a good deal of birding over the last few days but once again rewards have been sparse. 1st June saw me doing a round of The Ness, which was completed with uncomfortable rapidity. This was due to how quiet it was, with everywhere on the headland holding nothing save a few Ringed Plovers at Greyhope Bay. Offshore provided the most, with a Puffin heading north with a steady stream of auks being new for the year and the highlight of this unfrutiful check. Popping in to Rigifa Pool the next morning (2nd) provided 3 Dunlins; its always nice to see waders passing through there. Yesterday I did a long walk from Blackdog to Donmouth to grill the scoters and see if I could bump into the King Eider there. Unfortunately the latter was not to be despite proper ‘grilling’, with thousands of Eiders being present offshore, conditions being tricky and a good deal being too far out to work through properly. 500+ Common Scoters were also present but at much closer quarters, which were well checked. At least 15 Velvet Scoters were present amongst them (new for the year), and a dingy looking Long-tailed Duck, and 15+ Red-throated Divers were also on the sea. A bit of presumed passerine mig action was had at Murcar when a dune-side bush produced a Willow Warbler and at least 2 Goldcrests. It was unfortunately high tide at Donmouth so nothing was here. That was more or less that, but it had been an enjoyable walk nonetheless.
Thanks for reading,