Friday, 17 January 2014

Black Grouse (17/01/14)...

Had to drive out Lochcarron way today and on the way back around 16.30ish I saw two Black Grouse sitting up in some Birch at the side of the road feeding, not too far from Achnasheen. Very unexpected sighting and a bit brief, couldn't afford to stop and enjoy but still nice to see them. A not so interesting Pheasant seen at roadside near to Garve also.

Year List Additions:

28. Black Grouse
29. Pheasant

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Fyrish Hill (13/01/14)...

Yesterday I woke to a clear and frosty morning and with the weather forecast looking good I decided to go out for a walk. I decided to take a walk up to the top of Fyrish Hill near to Evanton because if forecast was right there would be some very clear views once I got up there.

There was a heavy frost on the ground once I got to the car park and the single track road up to was pretty icey but it appeared that quite a few people had the same idea as me because the car park was almost full. I set off through the forest where the path was covered in snow and ice. I like the woodland at Fyrish Hill because it is probably the most diverse conifer woodland you'll find in the area with bits of it having a real 'boreal' feel to it.

In terms of birds I knew the forest would be pretty quiet for this time of year and I hardly saw or heard anything on the way up, actually the only bird I did see was a fleeting glimpse of a Robin. I progressed up out of the woodland and onto the moorland and the Fyrish monument. There was a good 3-4 inches of snow by the time I got to the top and the views were stunning as I'd hoped. I found a spot away from the monument and the path and sat down for a cup of tea and some photos.

Looking West
Looking South-West with Conon in the distance
Fyrish monument.
Look East towards Cromarty and the Sutors.

The way back down was more productive. A Red Grouse was flushed near the top and upon reaching the open Pine woodland a group of Bullfinch was spotted with the males looking fantastic in the sun. Further down the path I took the alternative way back to the carpark which took be through some nice Pine woodland. Some movement and noise to me left caught my eye and I was pleansantly surprised too not only two Goldcrest but also two Crested Tit. Further on down the road still and I saw mixed flocks of Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest and more Cresties, as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Overall a lovely morning out and always a joy to see the Cresties. Grey Heron and Black-headed Gull spotted also on the drive home. Upon returning home I had some brilliant news. I have managed to get myself a job and I will be based near to Plockton over on the West coast so as you can imagine the bird and wildlife possibilities are pretty exciting and the content of this blog will shift again!

Year List Additions:
20. Red Grouse
21. Bullfinch
22. Goldcrest
23. Crested Tit
24. Great Spotted Woodpecker
25. Grey Heron
26. Black-headed Gull

Saturday, 11 January 2014

BTO Early Bird Survey (11/01/14)...

Finally got around to undertaking the BTO's Early Bird Survey this morning. It's a fairly simple but interesting survey if you are into a bit of bird science - more information HERE. There is still time to complete the survey tomorrow morning if you hadn't heard of it / not yet completed it.

I started my survey at 7.40 am, settling in with a cup of tea and some toast. It was a fairly frosty morning with clear skies with evidence of some light snow overnight. It was fairly dark for the first 20mins although I could see the feeders easily enough with the light from the two streetlights nearby (to be recorded in the survey).

Clear and frosty morning.
Just before 8.00am it was pretty light so I  was fully expecting one of the usual suspects to show up soon but would it be the Robin or the Blackbird first? A couple minutes later and a dark shape flew down from over the house into a nearby tree, this action of the morning. By 8.05am the female Blackbird was feeding in the garden shortly followed by a Robin at 8:07am. Both birds left after a couple minutes and it was fairly quiet until a couple Blackbirds returned followed by the first Chaffinch of the morning, a female feeding at 8.16am. The Chaffinch and Robin hung around feeding periodically with 5 Blackbirds now joining in until the 4th species to the garden arrived and begin feeding at 8.26am in the form of a Blue Tit. Three minutes later a Coal Tit started feeding at 8.29am and a full 10 minutes later a Great Tit arrived at 8.39am. At 8.45am the neighbour's cat showed up scattering the numbers that had been slowly building up and putting an end to the survey really. I waited around til just after 9 in the hope that something would return or to record a couple more species but it wasn't to be! So the results were as follows:

08:05 - Blackbird
08:07 - Robin
08:16 - Chaffinch
08:26 - Blue Tit
08:29 - Coal Tit
08:39 - Great Tit
08:45 - That bloody cat!

So what can I tell you from these results? Well not a lot really as I am not a scientist but hopefully my recording will contribute to studies on how light pollution is affecting the feeding habits of our most common garden birds around our cities and towns. I enjoyed doing the survey, and it was interesting that 3 ground feeding species showed up first, taking advantage of reduced predation due to low light levels and their bigger eyes? Birds are interesting...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Dunglass Island (05/01/14)...

Went out for a walk yesterday afternoon around Dunglass Island at the back of Maryburgh. Quite quiet on the bird front but a Dipper at close range on the almost submerged grass bank of the Conon River was a nice surprise amongst other common birds.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Happy New Year...

Well it's a new year again and it feels as good a time as any to revive this blog. It's been over 5 months since I have posted anything on here for various reasons which I won't go into. Since last August I have been outside a lot due to work but it's been a long time since I have gone out for the sole purpose of birdwatching and it has kind of taken a backseat in the last few months. I completed my degree this May (BSc Sustainable Forest Management with Forest Conservation if you are interested) and graduated in September at the ceremony in Inverness. Since the start of June I was working for Forestry Commission Scotland on a short-term 6 month contract which finished at the end of November and I am looking to open the next chapter now but what the future holds is uncertain at the moment, watch this space as they say.

Anyway, 2013, it was a pretty good year for birding (although it was really only 8 months). The year included two weeks in Poland near to Krakow and although I didn't see anywhere near as much as I had hoped I still managed some interesting birds.

My British list was only 129 which was down from 133 the previous year however, I did manage 10 entirely new species, a few which are Highland specialities that I feel a bit embarassed about not seeing since I have lived up here for over 25 years but better late than never! This included both eagle species which I actually ended up seeing both on several occassions throughout the year and my bogie bird in the form of a female Ring Ouzel. New species were:
  • Barn Owl
  • Black Grouse
  • Capercaillie
  • Common Redstart
  • Cuckoo
  • Golden Eagle
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Ring Ouzel
  • Snow Bunting
  • White-tailed Eagle
As mentioned I had two weeks in Poland near to Krakow which was through college and birding time was limited however I did get to take a couple trips to Las Wolski forest which is a beautiful forest for many reasons and where I managed to see most of the interesting stuff. New species were:
  • Black Redstart
  • Collared Flycatcher
  • Middle-spotted Woodpecker
  • Pied Flycatcher
  • White Stork
  • Wood Warbler
So overall that's 16 new species which took the life list up to 172. There were quite a few species that I didn't see this year that I have in previous years many which were related to location but some through lack of effort on my part. Geographic contraints meant no birds such as Green Woodpecker and Nuthatch but also seabirds were lacking this year too and I didn't manage to see Puffin, Kittiwake, Razorbill etc. Also two "white-wingers" were missing last year those being Glaucous Gull and Iceland Gull and I didn't see any reported locally.

Just a quick overview really of last year, not going to to an in-depth one like I have previously. But it's been good to post again and hopefully I can find the motivation to get the blog going again and more importantly get some good birdwatching in soon. Posts still might be a bit few and far between for the next month or two however.

All the best for 2014 and let's see what this next year brings!

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus ochrurus) - Black Isle
Male Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis) - Las Wolski