Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Middleton Lakes

Very busy at the moment so apart from seeing Argo on Saturday night, it was so good I thought I might give it an Oscar, we managed to get up to Middleton on what was a bleak Sunday afternoon.

The paths were quite manageable, but still recommend Wellies or Boots.  The feeders by the Heronry were very busy as was the Heronry itself, most of the Heronry nests were occupied, so looking good! The star for us at the feeders being the Lesser Redpoll:

The others seen here were Great & Blue Tits, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Reed Bunting:
So on up the path to the reserve, the path through the woods is closed for repair, so had to continue up the Bridleway. There was plenty of Crow activity as usual (I say as usual, it's the first time weve been since June last year!)

The reserve was pretty quiet as the water levels at the first lake were high so no waders, I guess everything is up the far end the other side of the works. It's difficult to tell how this is progressing other than the pathways are a quagmire because of the vehicles going up and down, but never mind!

We walked as far as we could around by the river, this resulted in:
Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Cormorant, Coot, Lapwing, 

BHG, a Kestrel and some Mallard, we heard a Cetti's we think, but couldn't find it. The river produced a pair of Goosander:
It was very cold so after coffee we headed back and encountered a very friendly Robin!
So 30 species in all, not great but a pleasant afternoon all the same. Just a shame there's no hide so you can get out of the wind! Especially at Coffee time!


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Scotland Trip Part 3

So last full day and we headed of to the RSPB reserve at Loch Kinnordy, where by all accounts there is a Drake Smew present, so after about an hour drive we parked up and a local told us that the Smew was showing from the Swamp Hide, so along we went.

There was a lot of ice on the Loch in front of the hide so sadly all the birds were pretty distant, but the Smew was there along with Teal, Wigeon, Goosander, Goldeneye, Whooper & Mute Swans and of course Mallard, so just for the record:

We then wandered back popping in all the other hides but the Loch in front of those was completely frozen so there was nothing much to see. On leaving the last hide we had a Buzzard land and try to hide in the trees not to far away:
Then a Brambling showed quite well at the feeders:

So after a successful visit we set off to Montrose to visit the Reserver at Montrose Basin, we first stopped at the SWT Visitor Center (to make use of the facilities of course!) Here we had the usual small bird suspects, plus some Tree Sparrows, which are always a welcome sight. We then set off for the hides over the other side of the basin near Dun House. We drove through Montrose and were about to cross the River Esk, when Tina shouted "Waxwings!" so a quick U-turn was called for, luckily there were no parking restrictions and sitting on a TV aerial opposite were 13 Waxwings:
Brilliant! We stayed and watched them for a while and were about to leave when they started dropping down into the garden of the house and feeding, so out of the car and more photo's (I took quite a few, I will add them to the Gallery shortly), but just one more here:
So 2 Waxwing sightings in 2 days, totally unexpected and both in the least likely of places, but I'm cot complaining! So onwards. We parked up and then walked the 2k to the hide overlooking the estuary,which was the best choice as the tide was out and viewing from the other hide would be distant to say the least, , finding a flock of Twite on the way:
The first things to see were 6 Goldeneye, (1m & 5f),
then Redshank, Oystercatcher, BHG, GBBG, Mute Swan, Goosander, Little Grebe, and a Common Sandpiper, but then the stars of the show turned up, first a female Long Tail Duck appeared:
She didn't stay to long and flew off over the other side of the estuary, then moments later the Drake came into view:
A shame that the light was going at this point as these were the best Long Tail sightings we had ever had, he then flew off to join his mate, we watched them for ages in the distance where they were joined by another pair, so 4 LTDs, pretty good. So after refreshments and before it got dark we headed back via the coast path, where we found some Curlew, Shelduck, Pink Footed Geese and a Black-tailed Godwit, well pleased.
Then we trekked back to the car the only addition being some Roe Deer in the trees.

When driving back over Glenshee it was dark and the snow was coming down quite heavily, but the reward were Mountain Hares everywhere, it took us ages to get down to Braemar as we were constantly stopping to avoid Hares and watch the Red Deer that had come down from the mountains for the night, even though it was pitch black I manged to get a Hare in the headlights and take a very shaky photo:

So Saturday arrived and time to leave, we weren't coming straight back to the Black Country though, we were returning via Edinburgh, so we called in at Loch Leven (Vane Farm) RSPB just north of Edinburgh for a first visit.
The weather was terrible, drizzle and murk, and the reserve was pretty quiet and all the ducks etc were staying way out in the Loch, we tried all the hides, only one had any decent sightings. Goosander, Whoopers, Heron, Greylag:

We were entertained if that's the right way of putting it by 2 wardens rescuing a Sheep stuck in the bog, at one time we thought someone would have to go and rescue them as they kept sinking to their knees in the mud, but they managed it.

We popped back to the excellent Cafe at the Center for lunch and courtesy of the scopes up there, watched two Short Eared Owls hunting along one of the tree lines, so it was worth the visit just for that. (The lunch was pretty good too!)

So endeth the Scottish trip, bringing our year tally to 85 and 59 for the trip.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Scotland Trip Part 2

Well the second half of the week saw an improvement in the weather (just about) We listened to the radio and there were no reports on Radio 2 of any closures, so we set out on Thursday to cross The Lecht and drop down to Loch Garten and Aviemore. There are two roads off the A93 that head that way, the first had a sign saying closed due to snow drifts, so we proceeded 5 miles further up to the second only to be faced with another sign!  We turned around and started to make a plan to head back over Glenshee and do something that way only to hear on the local radio 10 minutes later that the pass over the Lecht was open, so we turned around and headed up, I must say that I was thankful in places that we have a Landrover!

So we arrived at the Lecht Ski Centre and used that as our first coffee stop and to use the facilities! Even before we got out of the care the Lecht Snow Buntings did the job, I took more photos as this is a great little bird, but seeing as I have put a couple of Glenshee pictures in part 1 I wont add any more here. We had hoped to see Ptarmigan but alas no luck, just happy with more Red Grouse:
We proceed down off the mountains towards Garten, picking up a Heron, Pheasant and Buzzard.

We arrived at Garten and parked at the Osprey Center, the objective here was Crested Tit, we have always had good sightings, but today it looked like they weren't going to show, until one made a brief visit:
If you like Coal Tits this is also the place to be, I won't say there are hundreds, but certainly a lot and impossible to count, this though is when we had a bit of fun. We broke out the Coffee and had a snack, I was eating a cereal bar, next thing a Coal Tit pays me a visit and tries to land on my bar! So I thought well if they really want to:
Next thing they were at our supplies:
Then the Great Tits joined in:
In addition to these, we added a Great Spotted Wood Pecker, Chaffinch, Blue Tit and Robin, again with the Crested it's quality not quantity!

We then decided to have a ride across to Aviemore on the off chance of picking up Ptarmigan there, so headed through Aviemore Town to the Ski Slopes. We were just heading into town and I was stunned to see a tree full of Waxwing, sorry the photos aren't great but it was pretty dull!

Again just sheer quality!
So on to the slopes, the weather now become very murky, we managed a Goldeneye on the Loch driving up to the slopes, and more Snow Bunting, but no Ptarmigan. So after refueling with some hot Potato and Leek soup from the cafe, we headed back for Braemar via the Lecht as we didn't want to be going over in the dark.
Stopped again at the Lecht to use the facilities, now no Skiers just Snow Buntings! As we descended again we did pick up a new species for the trip some Red Legged Partridge which was nice (getting dark now):

End of part 2

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Scotland Trip Part 1 (Braemar Again!)

Well last week we were up in Scotland again using Braemar as our base. We had quite a few plans, visit Loch Garten, Loch Kinnordy, Montrose Basin, Loch Muick, plus various other places. However the weather had other ideas!  We arrived on the Sunday (spent Saturday with our fantastic daughter and partner in Edinburgh) and it promptly started snowing and didn't stop, so much so the snow gates were closed and we couldn't get very far.

Before arriving in Braemar though we did stop at Glenshee at the Ski Center car park, to see our first Snow Buntings of 2013 and they duly obliged with a small flock of about 12 birds:

We then headed down the valley to Braemar keeping our eyes peeled for Dippers and again result!
in fact we saw 3! We finally finished off with a White Mountain Hare, very distant though and only just about visible in the snow.

So Monday and Tuesday were spent going for local walks in the snow and a drive down the Linn of Dee. (in a blizzard!) The first walk on Monday around Keiloch Crag didn't produce much in the way of wildlife or birds in fact we only saw 4 species in a 3 hour walk, however the walk was fantastic with some great views (when it wasn't snowing).
Coffee Break in the Snow! Halfway up the hillside
On Tuesday we walked through Braemar and out on a track that runs parallel to the A93 but the otherside of the river, this proved a good choice with 15 species (not a huge amount but better than the 2 or 3 we expected)  The best being Buzzard (3), Lesser Redpoll, Red Grouse and Siskin, so a few record shots:

 Oh and a Westland Lynx!
In the few hours we were out the weather changed from Blizzard, to Glorious Sunshine, to Blizzard, Sunshine and then pouring rain! This made photography a nightmare!

So onto Wednesday, we thought we would head out as the Snow Gates had opened on Tuesday afternoon, only for the Tuesday afternoon rain to turn into heavy snow overnight and the gates were shut again. So we headed north to Glen Tanar a supposed Crossbill hotspot. After seeing some Goosander on the River Dee we arrived on the Tanar Estate and went on one of the circular walks through the woods and along the river. In 2 and a half hours we didn't see a single bird, despite stopping and being patient not even a Pigeon or Crow! Then just as we arrived back at the car park, I got excited a bird in the distance on top of a fir tree, so I whipped out the bins and............. a Woodpigeon! You can't win them all! That's birding for you!