Thursday, 19 January 2012

White Wings & Long Tails

After an extremely comfortable nights rest and a hearty breakfast in the Udny Hotel, Newburgh, I set off for the

estuary of the River Ythan (literally round the back of the hotel) under a cloudy sky and fairly cold south west wind. The ever present

Eider were there, and while I could make comparisons with my many spring trips here, safe to say there were nowhere as many.

male birds and females were there along with a few

eclipse plumage individuals, while searching around Mallard, Wigeon, Grey Heron, Black-headed Gull, House Sparrow all entered the log but a great surprise came by way of a 'ring-tail' (female) Hen Harrier* hunting the margins. So light and delicate was her flight it was reminiscent of a Nightjar on the wing.

There were 100's of Oystercatcher, but next in the book was a lone

Long-tailed Duck*, another addition to the Year List as denoted by the asterisk.

The first sign of Pink-footed Geese was the 'honking' of this small gaggle as it cut the still dark sky, but that is not all that was aloft!

The sight of this 'crew change helicopter' heading for an off-shore Oil Rig had me worried that it may try and get me back out there, so I hid under a bush. Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Blue & Great Tit, Herring, Great Black-backed & Common Gull, Cormorant, Feral Pigeon, Starling, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Shelduck, Redshank plus a Rock Pipit soon followed suit along with a few Grey Seals. Unfortunately there was no sign, so far, of the main target a King Eider but it was now time to go off in search of a couple of long lost friends.

All my wildlife records from the North Sea were sent here to Andrew Thorpe (North Sea Bird Club Recorder) and (Archive Compiler) Alma Fraser.

There was no way I could pay a visit to Newburgh and not drop in on them, but unfortunately Andy was away on business. Nevertheless, Alma an I spent some time catching up before I returned to the search.

Back on the beach, good numbers of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and

Sanderling were arriving to take advantage of the falling tide

while close to low water I took one more scan for the 'King', took a last look at the fantastic sand dunes on the other side before taking my leave. There might be time for a re-visit at the end of the trip.

On the way north, not for the first time I marvelled at this huge church that stands almost alone with only 5 other buildings close by,

and called into the remote Meikle Loch where in the past I have seen

American Wigeon and Snow Goose, but today it was given over totally to a variety of Gulls.

Peterhead Lighthouse.

Mr Read from Peterhead died and his widow, to save a few pence, put this short obituary in the paper.

Peter Read fa'Peterheed is deed!
The lady at the newspaper pointed out that for the same price she could have 3 more words.
So she re-jigged the entry to
Peter Read fa'Peterheed is deed! Volvo For Sale.

Another stop on the way was to look at this flock of feeding Curlew in a road side field, and how nice to be able to stop as there is no other traffic?

was today, as it always has been, another port of call if for nothing else

the Tree Sparrows*

The view from the Visitor's Centre, from where both

Bewick's Swan and Whooper Swan* could be seen, it is hoped the latter may be seen at closer quarters on one of the Lochs further north.

Highland Cattle in the sea-side fields, and

hundreds of Golden Plover and Lapwing.

Just around the corner is the Rattery Head Lighthouse and accompanying Sand Dunes. This is a cold place on the best of days, and this was no exception. The beach can be good for Snow Bunting and occasionally Shore Lark and even the King Eider ventures this far on occasion. None of these today unfortunately, but in many ways better were 5 Twite* (always here to my knowledge) and a first ever chance to compare their 'calls' with that of close relative the Linnet of which there were about 30 but not mixing with the others.

No Corn Bunting or Yellowhammer, which are also common here, but a great chance to watch Pink-footed Geese landing at close quarters and a few Meadow Pipit added to the Day List.

The plan had been to make it as far as McDuff some miles to the west, but days are shorter up here with sensible daylight not occurring until 09:00 and darkness showing its hand before 4pm. There was likely to be a long search ahead of me arriving at the Fraserburgh Lighthouse, built on a small headland at the edge of the town, and that was for reported 'White-winged Gulls'.

I had driven around the port a few times before spotting this Iceland Gull* perched on the roof of one of several Fish Processing Factories,

and with so many feeding spots to choose from all of these birds are very flighty. The roof shot was taken as I left the car with the fight shot moments later, that was the last I saw of this Gull.

Atlantic Grey Seals thrive here in the Inner Harbour, but it seems, given the laceration on this ones back he has not been able to avoid a skirmish!

While that one looked big, this one was bigger.

Kings Cross, a fine looking 'palagic trawler'.

After what seemed like 50 times around the harbour, chatting to a couple of trawler Skippers and even taking the ropes of one boat, I was now close to calling it a day. Once more and it would be time to find a B&B. Luckily that was enough as there it was sat on the rocks.

A Glaucous Gull quite unconcerned about my presence,

putting on all kinds of posses and

contortions before it too decided

it had had enough, and flew away. Thanks for these 2 'White Beauties' have to go to Sheila and John for reports and directions.

Finally, with all the chattering going on close to the Lighthouse, a quick investigation found this

fairly large roost (or pre-roost) of Starlings. While I won't attempt to keep count of all the species seen on the trip it would be good at least to note them, so in addition to those already mentioned Mute Swan, Goldfinch, Bar-tailed Godwit, Collared Dove, Blckbird, Turnstone, Knot, Rook, Little Grebe, Common Buzzard, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Kestrel, Barnacle Goose, Common Scoter and Shag were also seen along the way.

The Year (January) List now stands at 177

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