Sunday 10th June provided a contrast from the coastal, passerine mig oriented birding of the day before as we headed inland to Deeside for some local breeding specialities. We started off at an undisclosed site for arguably the gem of our targets; Wood Warbler. Almost as soon as we got out the car we heard our first singing Wood Warbler in the beautiful area of oakwoodlands, albeit distantly to the east of us. We entered the wood, already confident that we wouldn’t have any trouble here. It didn’t take us long to connect with a singing male Wood Warbler much closer to where we’d parked up. This individual’s behaviour was interesting as it was difficult to see well and was keeping high up in the oaks. Combined with occasional bouts of sub-song rather than full song (it tended to sing the concluding part of its song), it was obvious that this bird had already established a territory and had bred. The bird I saw here last year was extremely showy (seen down to 7ft!) and keeping very low, presumably because it was yet to have bred unlike this bird.
After 25 minutes or so Sim and I managed a brief fantastic view of it on a low branch, before it dived dramatically to the ground and disappeared at the blink of an eye. A phyllosc alarm call came from nearby, at which point it became clear nesting was taking place in the immediate area of ground. Sim was the only one with a scope on him and aptly picked out a female Wood Warbler on the nest!
The nest was largely obscured, but from within the minutest of holes in the ground the female Wood Warbler was hunkered down in all its vibrance, stone still as it incubated its eggs and only face and throat in view. This was a wonderful moment and we all felt our hearts lighten up when we first clapped eyes on it. At least 10 minutes were spent watching it in pure admiration. I also noted the lovely dark eyestripe and how beautifully this contrasted with the uniform lemon yellow face at very close range. I grabbed the opportunity to film the female as it sat on the nest, which should give you an idea of how wonderful this was. The male can be heard doing its sub-song in the background at one point. We left after an hour or so, having managed 3 Wood Warblers and discovered a nest. With Wood Warbler arguably being up amongst the rarest breeding passerine species in the region (restricted to a couple of sites), this was a truly memorable experience and a definite highlight of Sim’s stay. A Cuckoo was also heard here.
Our next stop was Muir of Dinnet NNR, which was combined with checks of both Loch Kinord and Loch Davan. We started off by taking the Loch Kinord Trail down to said loch. The woods here are extremely pretty here and were full of birdlife, including no less than 10 Tree Pipits – many singing and showing well as they perched atop various trees – tons of Willow Warblers and other commoner warbler species as well as a showy Garden Warbler, my first of the year. Loch Kinord was quiet on the wildfowl front, holding a few breeding Goldeneyes, but did hold a nice Common Sandpiper. In the surrounding trees a pair of Spotted Flycatchers showed nicely. On the walk back a Cuckoo flew overhead and we were graced with nice views of a pair of Bullfinch. Moving up to Loch Davan revealed a nice Great-crested Grebe, whilst as we drove back through Muir of Dinnet on the way to Dinnet Oakwoodlands I managed a tantalizingly split second view of a male Redstart as it darted across the road in front of the car.
At Dinnet Oakwoodlands our target was Redstart, and we were successful here with brief views of a singing male. Almost more exciting here though was a Green Woodpecker, a very elusive and restricted breeder in Aberdeenshire. This was only my second record of this species in the region. Adding more flavour to the occasion were at least 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, another 2 Tree Pipits, a Spotted Flycatcher, several Siskins, a Lesser Redpoll overhead and another singing Cuckoo amongst other things. A pair of Common Sandpipers were on the River Dee as viewed from the bridge here, whilst a spontaneous stop by the river a few miles south of Dinnet produced another one. Our final stop was an undisclosed site within the Forest of Birse. This area of the forest provides panoramic views and involves a tiring circuit, but it was worth the effort with cracking views of 3 different Redstarts (including one pair) and at least 6 Tree Pipits, as well as plenty of Willow Warblers and interestingly a few Swifts.
It had been a fantastic day in Deeside, with the overall combined totals for the day standing at 3 Wood Warblers, 5 Redstarts (4 males), 18+ Tree Pipits, 3 Cuckoos, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Common Sandpipers, Green Woodpecker and Garden Warbler. Well worth the long day and it was a joy to show Sim the inland delights of Deeside.
Monday 11th June: In short, this involved my second walk from Blackdog to Donmouth and the second successive failure to connect with either Surf Scoter or King Eider here. Once again Eider numbers were massive but these were largely offshore, making things difficult. Most scoters were a very long way out, which was frustrating as the Surfie was almost certainly amongst a massive raft around two miles offshore. It was a bland affair as a whole, though somewhat lightened up by the same reeling Grasshopper Warbler that we had heard a couple of days before and 6 Manx Shearwaters going north. When we got to Donmouth we decided to take in Seaton Park on the way back home instead of take the bus. At Donmouth 6 Goosanders and a Red-breasted Merganser were noted. A Peregrine over Brig O’ Balgownie was my first in the city for some time, whilst on the River Don at Seaton Park another 4 Goosander were present as well as a single juvenile Grey Wagtail.
Sim took the train back to Durham that Monday evening, thus concluding his stay. I am very glad that the coast turned up some decent birds and that Deeside produced the goods as this made our few days birding together a big success and greatly enjoyable; the undoubted highlights being the Marsh Warbler at Collieston and Wood Warbler on the nest. It was an absolute pleasure to have him here and to show him the birds of the area, and I will look forward to the next time he comes up here.
Thanks for reading,