Thursday, 8 March 2012


Yesterday (7th) started off clear and sunny with a sudden heavy snow shower. This pattern continued for most of the day but it was too wet for the snow to settle.

In the garden the Song Thrush was back again, his perch becoming quite regular. Hopefully he will find a mate and nest nearby. Whilst standing on the back step I was hit on the head by a big lump of moss. When I looked up on the roof, there was 4 Rooks all picking the moss off and flinging it over the edge.

Song Thrush
I decided to go out and do some birding locally, down at the Conon River. Mainly because I hadn't been down there in a long time which is a shame because it's really nice and quality habitat for birds, especially the flooded woodland (more info here), but also because someone had reportedly seen a Kingfisher a couple days ago. It was sunny and clear so I headed out. I started at the old fish factory, which is now pretty much a pile of rubble, and walked along the river wall (oh how I dream of the gull watching opportunities on my door step if the factory was still running). Straight away I spotted a young Mute Swan on the river, a pair of Goosander (a life tick for me believe it or not) and a pair of Oytercatcher roosting on the opposite bank.

Male Goosander (female was busy diving)
Instead of walking through the woodland on Garrie Island which comes to a dead end before the road bridge I took the route  that runs alongside the adjacent field in the hope of finding a way past the road out towards the river mouth. Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Mallard seen along the way. I walked to near the road bridge where there is two stiles that lead to livestock track for moving them between fields under the road.

I had never been this way before and decided to explore. I hopped another fence to carry on through the woodland taking a route past the water treatment plant there where a Buzzard was soaring over. The path then started to open up with views out towards the river mouth.

View from footpath.
I made my way up a flight of steps which looked fairly newly built and kept heading East along the field boundaries. There were plenty of Geese flying around in the distant and Wood Pigeons in the edge trees. I kept going passing a small burn which had a contraption on it that I guess was a floating mink trap?

American Mink trap?

I could see lots of Geese coming into land now a few fields over so I carried on to see if I could get nearer and see where they were all gathering. I was starting to hear a large number of Geese now but I couldn't see them still so I climbed up to the top of an embankment and came face to face with hundreds of geese! The geese were just as shocked as I were and there were a couple seconds where we just looked at each other. Then they all took off flying over my head by a matter of a few metres, an almost deafening noise and only a few seconds to take some pictures! Even more special for me was that two of the geese closest to me were European White-fronts, my first proper view of this species close up. I sat at that point for a good 45mins watching the geese overhead which were mostly Pink-footed with some Greylags. There was also Mute Swans, Herring and Common Gulls and an amazing view out over the Cromarty Firth.

Mute Swans
Pink-footed and European White-fronted Geese
Pink-footed Geese - Anser brachyrhynchus
Pink-foot, White-fronted, Pink-foot
The View
European White-fronted Goose - Anser albifrons albifrons

Eventually the geese started to settle back down not far from where I first disturbed them when two Red Kites flew over the hill and sent them all up again. This time I noticed something different amongst the flock in the air. It looked very pale. On looking at my pictures later it seems to be a leucistic Pink-footed goose.

Leucistic Pink-footed Goose?
In a matter of seconds it had clouded over and I was caught in a heavy snow shower, where I ended up soaked through as I made my way back, but it was really worth it and I am glad I know my local area a bit better and the woodland should be interesting when spring really kicks off.

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