Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ups and downs...

The last few days have been very interesting with a mix of frustration, disappointment and surprise thrown in. Let's start with the frustration...

Last Saturday (11th) I managed to get out with the Highland Ringing Group. I have been interested in ringing for quite some time and had been trying to get out with the group for awhile but weather made it not possible until last Saturday. I had been put in contact with Brian Etheridge via the BTO ringing page who is a member of the group.

The group was making a special visit out to the Lossiemouth area as part of a long-term study on Purple Sandpipers. The idea was to target some already sussed out roost sites in hope of capturing and ringing individuals and also fitting geo-locators on some of them. I met Brian and a few other members at the big Tesco carpark in Inverness. Introductions were made as we headed towards Lossiemouth. The first potential area was at Lossiemouth harbour but unfortunately there was not enough signs of use so we moved on. There was however a pod of dolphins spotted off shore. We headed further along the coast to Buckie. The first site at Buckie was also deemed not worth it but at the second it was decided it was worth a go. The canon net was setup and whilst we waited for high tide we ate lunch and checked a few other spots. Brian, Ron and I headed back to the harbour at Portgordon. There were a small group of Redshank, Wigeon and Turnstone about. With Cormorants, shags and most of the common Gull species. The day carried on and the target site was checked periodically as the tide came in further but it wasn't looking good. Eventually a small group of c.30 Purple Sandpiper were spotted but refused to land in the right place for the net. Other notable birds were more Turnstone, Long-tailed Ducks, Cormorants (2 that were already ringed), Shags and Eiders. It was getting close to 15:00 now and the Purple Sandpipers or "Purps" were sitting on a rock not 10 metres from where we wanted them. A few last ditch attempts didn't bring us anymore luck and by now the weather was miserable. We packed up the nets and headed home whilst the Purps remained where they were, frustrating! But it was interesting to learn some more about what's involved in ringing and met some nice people.

Now to disappointing. On Monday 13th a trip had been planned to the Tollie Red Kite visitor centre a few miles up the road from my house. My girlfriend and her parents were also coming through from Inverness to visit the site and we were all looking forward to it. We arrived before feeding time and Red Kite numbers were starting to build with 6-7 seen at the same time although distant. A couple buzzards were also flying around. After hanging around for about an hour it was clear no-one was going to turn up to feed them so we decided to head home very disappointed. Good views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker made up for it a bit, my first of the year. Later on I contacted RSPB North Highland about what happened and they explained that the volunteer coming to feed the Red Kites that day had called in sick at the last minute, so we were just really unlucky.

Distant Red Kite
Male Chaffinch @ Tollie feeders

Last but not least, surprise. On Tuesday (14th) we headed to Landmark in Carrbridge for our Forest Recreation class at college. I had been there many times before when I was very young and it;s not quite so exciting when you are in your mid twenties and half of the attractions aren't even running. We strolled around whilst the lecturer pointed out "interesting" features. Towards the end of the morning we made our way up the old fire tower which allows you to look across above the canopy of the Scots Pine woodland and out to the surrounding landscape. My girlfriend spotted a Goldcrest flitting about my first of the year and I turned and said to her "You know, this would be perfect for spotting some Crossbills, being up above trees". We walked over to the otherside of the platform and I noticed a group of 6 birds and would you believe it they were Crossbills, a life tick for me. A unexpected nice surprise but also frustrating that I didn't have bins or camera with me as one of the males in particular was posing quite nicely. I tried to take a photo with my phone but, well, you can see how well that came out below.

Male Crossbill...honestly.
So quite an interesting few days of birding. During this I also found out that my application for residential volunteering for the RSPB was also accepted. I will be spending two weeks in August at Forsinard, can't wait!

No comments:

Post a Comment