Monday, 21 January 2013

Dornoch 19/01/13...

Weather wise the second half of next week was pretty good here, sunny and frosty. I think the Dingwall / Inverness area was the only area in the whole of the UK that didn't have even the slightest covering of snow. And there is nothing worse when the whole country is complaining about winter conditions that isn't a new thing, it happens every year just like Summer, when you haven't got any snow to enjoy yourself.

Anyway I have been a bit under the weather the last few days with some cold type thing but on Saturday the weather was perfect, cold and sunny, and I was feeling a bit better so it was time to get some fresh air. Dornoch beach was the destination this time and we would also take my girlfriend's dog for a good long walk on the beach.

The great thing about making a bit of effort to go out in Winter, especially to the beach, is that more often that not you have the whole place to yourself and today it wasn't far from it. The other great thing about Dornoch is that apart from being a stunning stretch of beach is that when you first get there it looks like its devoid of bird life until you take a few minutes to get your eye in on this expanse of sand and dunes. Target birds for today were Purple Sandpiper, Sanderling and with some luck (I have tried the last two Januarys at Dornoch) some Snow Buntings.

We headed to towards the point first, sunny but quite windy. Plenty of gulls at the mouth of the burn including some stunning looking Great Black-backs. Bit further along and spotted a Stonechat in the dunes and then another a definate male this time.

Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)
I was keeping one or in fact two eyes on the strandline for the Snow Buntings but no joy. Futher on again there were a small group of Redshanks, more gulls and a single smaller bird which seperated from the flock of Redshank when they took off and landed a few minutes away. It looked like it had a possible broken leg as it was having real trouble hopping around. It was in fact a Sanderling, a bird I didn't manage to see last year and the only one I would see this day.

Sanderling (Calidris alba)
Near to the point a Buzzard was using the windy conditions to hover in one place over the sand dunes before it got chased off by two crows. Walked past the point for a quick check for Snow Bunting but it looked like another failed attempt as we turned round to head back to the car.

Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
A few hundred metres after turning back, there they were, finally. Snow Buntings. Third time lucky I guess and my first lifer of 2013. Cracking little birds feeding in the rotting seaweed, 16 in total. Would now love to see the same bird this summer on top of the Cairngorms but who knows! Made going out even more worthwhile that's for sure.

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)

Back at the car for a bit of lunch and 2 Pied Wagtails in the carpark to add to the year list. After lunch we decided to walk up the other end of the beach. By now the sun had gone in and the wind had really picked up with some pretty big waves crashing in. Not surprising there wasn't much to see but after turning back to the car again there were 3 birds only a few metres off shore close to the carpark. Turned out to be 2 Long-tailed Ducks and a lone Common Scoter all being hammered by the waves.. So all in all quite a good day out.

Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)

52. Stonechat
53. Sanderling
54. Snow Bunting (Lifer)
55. Long-tailed Duck
56. Common Scoter
57. Pied Wagtail

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