Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Another unusual visitor (26/02)...

Weather today again today was fantastic, clear and sunny. The recent group of Siskins are still present and it was nice to also see a couple of Greenfinch too which seem a bit scare lately. The Song Thrush was back again, this time feeding on the ground and at the bird table but I failed to get any half decent pictures. But it was later on in the morning that there was an unusual vistor to the garden, feeding from the table but mostly on the spilled seed on the ground, a male Yellowhammer. I have seen Yellowhammer in the garden before, once. It was for a split second early one morning, but this male came and went for most of the day staying for around 10 mins at a time. I took to the bird-hide shed to see if I could manage to get a photo, see below for results.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Bird Hide Shed (24/02)...

There has been plenty of Siskins in the garden over the last 3 days. Up to 16 at any one time in the garden which is much more than I have ever seen before which is usually at most about 5-6. I really wanted to try and get some photos of them that weren't from the upstairs window or through the downstairs window which always turn out rubbish. Then an idea struck me, which I am really surprised I hadn't thought of before, to use the shed as as my own bird hide. It is right next to the feeders and even has a window on the side facing it. I had the idea last night and decided to try it this morning and it was fairly productive.

The birds were a bit nervous to start with which I expected but the Siskins soon settled down and were not bothered at all and I managed to get some pictures. It wasn't the best light and at points it starting snowing but oh well it was fun to try and just to see them so close whilst sitting in relative comfort.

I was even rewarded with a guest that has been fairly regular the last few days but in general is not so commonly seen on bird feeders, the Treecreeper. There has been one (and I am assuming it's the same bird) that seems to turn up when the majority of the Siskins arrive and switches between creeping up the walls of the house and feeding on the peanuts and suet cakes. Was really nice to see this bird so close.

There were plenty different birds coming and going althought the Blue, Great and Coal Tits I kept finding difficult to get a decent picture of but finally managed some of the Blue Tit unfortunately not clear enough to read the ring on it's leg.

The Siskins are a feisty bunch, regularly arguing amongst themselves but also seeing off the larger Goldfinches whenever the come close although this once managed to land and grab a mouthful before being chased off.

Ground feeders proved difficult to get a photo of. In the case of the Blackbirds and Starlings they were just too nervous I think although they did seem to slowly relax a bit but never in the right position! Did manage a picture or two of Robin and Dunnock but with the camera pointing down and the busy background of the grass and seed the photos aren't great. Maybe I could set up some kind of strategically placed perch? It was fun though and I might try it again.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Update (20/02/13)...

Quick update from this morning. Finally a Song Thrush! One was in the garden briefly then hung around in the trees before flying off. Bit of a relief to finally see one locally, was getting a bit worried. Just confirms the national trend for this species in decline.

Also the number of Siskins in the garden has risen to 7 at one time.

That is all!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Weekend Break...

Just back from a weekend away with my girlfriend in the Cannich area. Our accommodation was just a few miles South of Drumnadrochit at Torcroft Lodges and I highly recommend them if you are planning a stay in the area. The lodges were spacious and clean and had more than everything you need for a great trip. The lodge is also ideally located to explore the fantastic surrounding environment including the Loch Ness area, Glen Affric, Glen Strathfarrar and Glen Cannich.

It wasn't a birding weekend but of course I am always on the lookout. Around the lodge there were plenty of Blackbird, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Greenfinch around with most of them in song. A heron and a Buzzard was seen flying over and a Tawny Owl calling nearby at night.

We got extremely lucky with the weather. On Saturday it was a bit cloudy but stayed dry and the weather on Sunday and Monday was superb almost feeling like Summer at times it was so warm. We visited Plodda Falls, Corrimony Cairn, Glen Affric and Craigmonie Wood. There weren't really many birding highlights but I did make up for missing thrushes with 3 Mistle Thrush seen on the way to Dog Falls in Glen Affric and a Song Thrush seen in the forest itself. Spent plenting of time searching for a sight of Golden Eagle but no luck.

View down Glen Affric
On Monday morning after vacating the lodge we went for a walk through Craigmonie Wood at the back of Drumnadrochit. Some really lovely Oakwoods and the weather made it feel like it should be much later in the year and packed full of birds. My girlfriend did, however, hear a Jay calling and after a bit of searching I came across 3 of them.

All in all a very relaxing and enjoyable weekend.

Year List Additions:
74. Mistle Thrush
75. Song Thrush
76. Jay

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

From the house (13/02/13) ...

Today (13/02) I awoke to a fairly wintery scene with everything covered in the white stuff and it was still falling. It didn't last for long however and turned to rain and sleet on and off which lasted for the rest of the day. One good thing about this kind of weather is that it drives many birds into the garden for food. I went outside and put out extra food and sat back to see what would take advantage. I think I had the whole range of birds I usually see in the garden show up at least once over the next hour.

I am very lucky where I live as althought I only have a small garden and live in a housing estate it backs on to some good countryside for birds. Half a mile away is the Conon River with it's riparian woodland and not a mile East is the start of the Cromarty Firth mixed in with plenty of farmland, scrub and scattered woodland which allows me to see a range of birds from my window.

Some of the highlights over the next hour included 2 sightings of a Sparrowhawk, one in a mid air battle with a Carrion Crow and one (not sure if it was the same bird) during a failed attack on the birds in the garden. I also saw Red Kite flying over several times and a Buzzard feeding on something in the field across the road. I also enjoyed up to 12 Goldfinch and 5 Siskin at a time enjoying the niger seed in two different feeders. A flock of 14 Long-tailed Tits also came and went several times. There were hundreds of Wood and Feral Pigeons in a far away field and also a large flock of small birds that were too far away to identify. The highlight of the hour was a flock of c30 Fieldfare which landed close enough in a tree across the road for me to identify. They flew from a Northerly direction stayed for around 5 minutes and departed heading East into the heart of the Black Isle. It was also a new species for the year. Towards the end of the hour the male Pheasant was back. He hung around outside the garden for awhile before hopping over the fence to feed on the mixed seed and this time I managed to get a coupel of pictures through the window.

For the rest of the day I kept an eye on the garden now and again and it's great to watch even on a miserable day and I managed 26 species without leaving the house!

Year List Additions:
72. Fieldfare
73. Feral Pigeon

Species Seen:
Long-Tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Great Tit
Common Gull
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Collared Dove
Wood Pigeon
Feral Pigeon
Red Kite
Carrion Crow

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

WeBS Count (12/02/13)...

A rather late WeBS count today but the weather was perfect, cold, sunny and calm. I usually do a circular route to the three sites that I visit ending with Loch Achilty but for some reason today I decided to do it in "reverse" order.  I arrived at Loch Achilty around 10.30. Surprising the loch was mostly covered by a thin layer of ice. The loch itself is quite large but fairly easy to survey from a couple points and there is usually not much worth shouting about. I made my first stop at the side of the loch and started scanning. 4 Goldeneye and 3 Mallard noted which is usually about as exciting as it gets but still the view was beautiful in the sun. Then to my left about 100m I heard a loud "plop" sound and as I looked around I caught a glimpse of something diving below the surface of the water. I waited with binoculars fixed on that point and it returned to the surface and to my surpise it was an Otter! Superb! This is the very first wild otter I have ever seen and on such a beautiful morning in such a great location with Buzzard calling overhead and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on one of the old Oak trees somewhere behind me. I watched the otter for a good couple of minutes before hurrying back to grab the camera. I could see the otter from the car and made my way back to the shore. But by the time I got there to my right I heard a scraping noise and saw an old man in a canoe pushing his way through the thin ice towards the otter. Of course the otter disappeared straight away and I never saw it again. Typical that on a Loch where 99 / 100 I never see anyone that someone in a canoe would be on the loch the one time I see an otter and heading to the exact same spot but such is life! I still saw it and I am very pleased. At Loch Kinellan and Kinellan there wasn't much to report apart from numbers of Tufted Ducks are building up.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Unexpected Saturday...

Weather this weekend has been pretty miserable, overcast and wet. Wasn't expecting to do much birding or to see much but I ended with a few interesting encounters throughout the day.

The first encounter happened around 10am. I went out of the backdoor of the house and something caught my eye not 2 metres away on the outside wall of the house. It was a Treecreeper. It was working it's way up the wall of the house just like it would on a tree trunk and after it had crawled up a few feet I expected it to fly off but it flew down to the bottom again and a couple feet over this time started over again. I went and got the camera and stuck my head back out and the bird still remained.

It was then off to Chanonry Point near Fortrose to meet my girlfriend and take her dog for a walk. On the way a Sparrowhawk flew across the road near to Munlochy, my first of the year. Unfortunately the tide was right in when I arrived but as it turned out I still managed to see a few things, including plenty of seals and 2 dolphin whilst waiting for my girlfriend to arrive.

One of the dolphins off Chanonry
From my car I could see plenty of Oystercatcher on the stoney shore who were then joined by 16 Ringed Plover and a handful of Turnstone. Walking along the beach towards Rosemarkie I didn't see much but the way back was more productive. 2 Red Breasted Merganser were floating off shore and a Shag flew by in close. There was also a couple of Long-tailed Ducks including one that was standing on the shore right at the point. I have never actually seen a Long-tailed Duck out of the water before.

Long-tailed Duck
A single Linnet was sitting on the lighthouse wall and at the same spot where I saw the Ringed Plover was now a group of 18 Knot which finished off the walk nicely.

We then headed back to Inverness and I had a small mission planned. The last couple days I had been talking with a women on the Highland and Moray Birds Facebook page with regards to some Waxwings. There had been a small but regular flock visiting the same area for most of the week and I thought it was my best bet to actually see on in the UK in daylight. After obtaining directions to the location I headed there to have a look and as I pulled up I could see them flying around already, superb! I got out of the car and walked up the road a hundred metres or so for a closer look. I counted 34 birds in total. Unfortunately the light was terrible for photos but a handful did come down to some bushes at the road side for some crappy record shots. I saw thousands of these birds in Finland but there is something special about seeing them here in the UK. Thanks again Wendy!

To finish off a pretty good day, whilst at my girlfriends house a flock of birds caught my eye out the window as they flew over and landed in a nearby tree. With the amount of small flocks of Waxwing being reported around Inverness lately that was my first thought but a nice surprise to find out it was 12 Redwing. So in the end some nice birds for the year list.

Year List Additions:
65. Sparrowhawk
66. Turnstone
67. Ringed Plover
68. Red-breasted Merganser
69. Shag
70. Knot
71. Redwing

Friday, 8 February 2013

Quick update (8th Feb)...

Just a few bits and pieces to update over the last week. Last weekend I heard a Tawny Owl calling from across the road around 11pm. I have heard Tawny Owl once before from that direction. There is no large trees in the immediate area so it would have been interesting to see where it was calling from.

On Wednesday (06/02) I went out the backdoor into the garden to be met by a male Pheasant in the middle of the lawn feeding on some of the spilled seed. I think we were both as shocked as each other. I did try and get a picture but someone walked past the garden and scared it off and it flew across the road to the farmland.

Today (08/02) I took a walk up into the hills behind Dingwall (The Heights) with my sister's dog. Still plenty of snow up there even if there is none at home. A flock of roughly 100 Linnet were flying around not far from the road in the rough grazing area. Further up the dog flushed out 2 Red Grouse and the walk back 2 Raven overhead. Some great views up there when it was clear, especially of Ben Wyvis.

Year List Additions:
61. Pheasant
62. Linnet
63. Red Grouse
64. Raven