12th October - 1st November

November 04, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

An imperfect Autumn

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining but it wasn't a great autumn for rarities in my part of the UK although there were indubitably some quality birds elsewhere. The decent strength easterlies didn't come to pass along the north-east coast. At one point I hadn't had a year tick for three weeks - a personal worst! To dispel any despondency I decided to do something about it and booked a last minute week in Scotland. More of that later.

First of all a trip to Blacktoft on October 12th.  A curlew sandpiper at Marshland.

Curlew SandpiperCurlew Sandpiper Curlew SandpiperCurlew Sandpiper Curlew SandpiperCurlew Sandpiper Curlew SandpiperCurlew Sandpiper Curlew SandpiperCurlew Sandpiper Curlew SandpiperCurlew Sandpiper Konik PonyKonik Pony

Above: konik pony at Blacktoft.

I left for Scotland on October 21st calling at Budle Bay for a cackling goose. I found the 5,000 strong flock of barnacle geese at Ross, just north-west of the bay. Barnacle GeeseBarnacle Geese They were easily disturbed although I remained hidden behind a hedge. I spotted the cackling goose at the rear of the flock. Attempts to photograph it on the ground proved fruitless as it constantly disappeared among the foliage of the leaf beet. I took lots of flight shots too...

Barnacle GeeseBarnacle Geese You may spot the cackling goose a quarter of the way up, centre image. Next shot: another view. Barnacle GeeseBarnacle Geese I carried on northbound over the new Queensferry Crossing and on towards the Cairngorms.

October 22nd started near Loch Garten. Coal tits feeding from people's hands [including mine] and a couple of crested tits feeding on seed left on an electrical supply box. Coal TitCoal Tit Crested TitCrested Tit

Then up the Findhorn Valley in an area called Strathdearn - a magical place I hadn't visited before. Findhorn ValleyFindhorn Valley Findhorn ValleyFindhorn Valley

Red kite, buzzard, white-tailed eagle and golden eagle all seen - plus ravens. Red KiteRed Kite Golden EagleGolden Eagle Golden EagleGolden Eagle Golden EagleGolden Eagle Brown hare late afternoon near Nethy Bridge. Brown HareBrown Hare

October 23rd calling at Portsoy a long-tailed duck - a 'splodgy' female was in the harbour. Long-tailed DuckLong-tailed Duck Long-tailed DuckLong-tailed Duck Next stop Banff. Shags and a cormorant. Shags plus cormorantShags plus cormorant Eider everywhere...sometimes displays turned violent... EiderEider EiderEider

Lunch at Pennan [Local Hero film location]. Stonechat and rock pipits on the seaweed.

StonechatStonechat Rock PipitRock Pipit The wind was strengthening at Rosehearty - a juvenile gannet diving into the wild waves. GannetGannet Final stop at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB.

Loch of Strathbeg RSPBLoch of Strathbeg RSPB As we left we passed two fields each of which held several hundred whooper swans. Here's just a few. Whhopers near Loch of StrathbegWhhopers near Loch of Strathbeg October 24th a break at Cruden Bay where we found dippers. Here's one of the pair.

DipperDipper Near Peterhead by the mouth of the River Ugie we watched gulls, snipe and lapwings. River Ugie, PeterheadRiver Ugie, Peterhead We headed for the Ythan estuary and after a session at the Waulkmill Hide watching a variety of waders we headed for Newburgh where the river meets the sea. I don't think I've ever seen so many eiders gathered in one place. Eiders, Ythan estuaryEiders, Ythan estuary EiderEider October 25th we saw snow geese distantly with hundreds of pinkfeet at Loch of Skene. Loch of SkeneLoch of Skene The best stop that day was at Mar Lodge Estate where we saw few birds but the scenery was magnificent. It's where BBC Winterwatch is based. Mar Lodge Estate, BraemarMar Lodge Estate, Braemar Mar Lodge Estate, BraemarMar Lodge Estate, Braemar Mar Lodge Estate, BraemarMar Lodge Estate, Braemar I liked the dead pines. Here's one I deliberately over-processed. Dead Scots PineDead Scots Pine October 26th we toured the Black Isle north and east of Inverness. Apparently so-called [although a peninsula not an island] as it's warmed by the surrounding sea and low-lying so remains 'black' when all else is snow-covered. Lots of pinkfeet at RSPB Udale Bay. Memory card failure meant that two days worth of photos are currently still trapped in a crashed compact flash card!

The Kessock Bridge takes you across to the Black Isle from Inverness. [I used an old Nikon Coolpix 4500 on the trip for all my landscape shots] Kessock Bridge, InvernessKessock Bridge, Inverness

October 27th we set off to look for capercaillie again. Fortuitously we struck lucky almost immediately. In poor light and through glass I fired off some shots. Retrospectively I should have pushed the ISO up even higher than I did. Still pleased with this one anyway!

CapercailieCapercailie From there we went up the funicular and out on to the mountain top with a qualified guide [You can only do this if you have a licensed guide with you.]

The mist enveloped us but we did see ptarmigan reasonably close - a covey of 9 birds in total. Cairn Gorm summit pathCairn Gorm summit path PtarmiganPtarmigan PtarmiganPtarmigan PtarmiganPtarmigan In these conditions you could easily mistake the birds for lichen encrusted rocks.

Some reindeer were spotted on the lower slopes. ReindeerReindeer A walk at Allt Mor looking for crossbill produced coal tits and some nice but fleeting views of crested tits. Crossbills had been our target bird. Allt Mor WoodsAllt Mor Woods The river views were enchanting.

Allt Mor WoodsAllt Mor Woods Allt Mor WoodsAllt Mor Woods Another walk on the south side of Loch Morlich to try to track down some crossbills was more successful. Loch MorlichLoch Morlich CrossbillCrossbill CrossbillCrossbill CrossbillCrossbill CrossbillCrossbill CrossbillCrossbill We finished the day at Insh Marshes watching a ringtail hen harrier. Loch Insh. Loch InshLoch Insh

Insh Marshes plus a very distant hen harrier flying in front of the mound you can see on the right of the first picture below Insh MarshesInsh Marshes Hen harrier, Insh MarshesHen harrier, Insh Marshes

October 30th looking for some water pipits. Redshank from Phil Stead hide at Saltholme.
RedshankRedshank

RedshankRedshank Teal TealTeal The water pipits were seen briefly. Water PipitWater Pipit Bumped into Barry at Hartlepool Headland. He pointed out some purple sandpipers. Purple SandpipersPurple Sandpipers Purple SandpiperPurple Sandpiper Purple SandpiperPurple Sandpiper

November 1st. Barry and I failed to find any hawfinches at Rufford, Notts. So drove to Alkborough: allsorts seen there including bearded tits, avocets, marsh harrier to name just a few. Far Ings had a possible slavonian grebe. After a long walk we tracked it down hiding on Ness Pit in the reeds. Had to shoot when the breeze created a gap in the reeds! Slavonian GrebeSlavonian Grebe Slavonian GrebeSlavonian Grebe A kingfished dropped in in front of our hide. KingfisherKingfisher KingfisherKingfisher KingfisherKingfisher KingfisherKingfisher There may be more to come! You never know!!


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