Northern Flights

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A long weekend away, to visit the better-looking and smarter half of Team Sausage promised much based on her long-distance reports and previous visits. Scotland has given us a fair few firsts over the last year (Red Grouse, Osprey, Treecreeper, Dipper, Puffin, Kittiwake, Meadow Pipit, Crested Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Red Squirrel, Guillemot, Razorbill and Fulmar).

Starting in Edinburgh last Thursday, the day was pretty much dedicated to being tourists as it was my first visit there.  Friday was planned for a trek to Arthur’s Seat and some greenery and scenery.

Around Regent Terrace we hit our first significant patch of trees and among the Great Tits and Blue Tits something different caught my eye:

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Confirmed as a Willow Warbler after much head scratching and checking of the bird guide books. (Check earlier posts and see how similar to Chiffchaff this is).

There is a lot of similarities between the warbler species and we originally thought we had a Wood Warbler and as we hadn’t heard it’s song, it could have been 2 or 3 different species.

Despite the area being fairly quiet and the weather reasonable there wasn’t a huge variety of birds to be seen during the day. A Greenfinch and a Bullfinch among the more interesting spots in Edinburgh. The rest of the day was spent dodging some hefty hail-storms, drinking Seaweed ale and nursing bubonic blisters. The night train would take us further north to the granite city of Aberdeen.

Reports from Aberdeen in the days leading up to the trip were promising with 14 Waxwings recently seen among the ubiquitous gulls and noisy Oystercatchers.

Saturday was spent idle, allowing time for blisters to heal and limbs to refresh after covering some serious miles in Edinburgh. Sunday was all about Forvie Sands, a reserve north of Aberdeen in Newburgh. Forvie has the UK’s fifth largest dune system, sitting on the Ythan Estuary and is the least disturbed by humans.

Despite a micro-climate that went from bright warm sun to windy sandstorms to steady rain all in the space of around 90 minutes there was plenty of activity.

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Redshank were everywhere and in even greater number were Eider. Forvie is home to the largest breeding colony of these ducks in Britain and their low mumbling, muttering call was constant.

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Forvie’s other significant breeding species are terns; Little, Arctic, Sandwich and Common. I think we were a little too early in the year to catch them although we are sure a few Arctic Terns were seen among some pretty large flocks of noisy Herring, Black-Headed and Common Gulls.

I was very happy to have some very well camouflaged Curlews pointed out to me by my better half (who is still taunting me with the 25 seen in a park in North Berwick) and she could well be turning into a Curlew magnet as the more I looked, the more I saw:

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There really is a bird in the picture! The environment lends itself superbly to Curlew, offering not only exceptional cover but a plentiful food supply with tidal changes softening the ground for their long bills to root out insects and crustaceans.

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Also seen at Forvie were plenty of Cormorant, Common Seals, Oystercatchers, Shelduck, Sand Martins and a Red Breasted Merganser.

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The bus back from Forvie to Aberdeen took us past Seaton Park and the temptation to see if we could find Treecreeper and Dippers was too much to resist.

Alas, neither were to be seen this time and the famed Otters of Seaton Park also remained elusive to us. We did manage to see a Roe Deer foraging on one of the islands on the River Don and a small number of Goosander where the Dippers were seen back in February:

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More pics on my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/94900571@N05/

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