Sunday, 10 April 2011

Day of the Eider, But Not The 'King'

There was method in our madness when we chose to stay in Fraserborough last night, it being just a 15 minute run to the Loch of Strathbeg Nature Reserve where I had all but promised Dave Tree Sparrow. The small colony there has always been a 'banker' and as he seemed a little less than convinced there was a pint for him if we 'dipped'!

The Abervale Guest House is a mid-range B&B, comfortable and warm with a hearty breakfast and while there are no frills, the landlady could not have been more welcoming or helpful. The early morning was already warm as we first headed for the fish docks in the hope of a Glaucous Gull, and while luck didn't shine on us there was the sight

of several 'deep sea' trawlers plus

a few of the near pelagic fishers.

Arriving at the village of Crimond it is only a 5 minute drive down the dirt track to the visitors centre where we saw Yellowhammer and this

Great Tit

before recording our first Tree Sparrow.

A 'year tick' for both of us, which is just as well

because these days there are few, if any, in Dorset

and connecting with a migrant could prove difficult. It took quite some time to gain these shots, which are not of the best, but joining Dave in the centre there was a Garganey feeding some distance away with a group of Teal - a second 'year tick' all round. A good job we asked the only other birder there if anything of significance was about as he had just seen the King Eider close to the

Rattray Head Lighthouse (another one for the Lighthouse People). On our way there, we encountered 2 large fields covered in

Pink-footed Geese which we gave a good deal of time to looking for a Snow Goose.

Unfortunately, that also was not to be, but leaving the car for the beach there was this amasing sight of many hundreds of birds flying over the Rattray Hotel. We spent over 2 hours there searching through the Common Eider flocks without result but that may have been due to the sea conditions which were not rough but enough to obscure the Ducks more than we could view them. This place has always been good over the years for

Corn Bunting

and we were not disappointed today as there were at least half a dozen present. Giving up on the King Eider, at least for now, we decided to cut our losses and head for the River Ythan where there had been a 'rare' Gull lingering for the past few days.

Now, any self respecting Birder would easily pick out the Bonaparte's Gull in this photograph, but those not familiar with this 'first winter' bird

here's one I blagged from Wikipedia. A 'lifer' for Dave and and a 'year tick' for me that was our 'hat trick' for the day but I should say that the view of this excellent little Gull was far better than the photo portrays when seen through a 60X telescope!

Crossing the bridge and reaching the golf course, we first took a walk to the mouth of the river with the Seal colony just viewable on the left hand side,

before turning and walking up=river and back towards the road bridge.

This is only about a quarter of the Seal colony and although we 'scoped' them all we could only find Grey Seal.

There were as usual many 'hundreds' of Common Eider and as this is such a scarce bird in our part of the world it was thought worthy of publishing a pictorial.

An adult male

Adult male displaying

adult female

an 'eclipse' bird

More Grey Seals

adult male Common Eider wing stretching.

We've never known a night like it, what a storm!

One of probably 50 or 60 Sandwich Terns.

2 of 6 very distant flying Long-tailed Duck

A flock of Sanderling flew in to feed before the rising tide

and were quite approachable

allowing a few close ups.

A sitting male Common Eider

and a standing bird

with this small group retreating at my presence.

and finally flight shots of both male

and female.

Despite not seeing the King Eider this has been a fantastic days 'birding' as the River Ythan is never still, you never know what will turn up next. In addition to those already mentioned we recorded Red-breasted Merganser, Smew (redhead / female), Teal, Shelduck, Guillemot, Linnet etc, etc and the Trip List now stands at 109.

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