It’s been a fair few weeks since I last blogged but a mixture of traveling, non-birding activities and a lack of decent photo’s has prevented me putting fingers to keyboard. So here’s a run-down of things seen and heard over the last three weeks.
The May Bank Holiday saw me travel up to Aberdeen to spend some time with Mrs Sausage. This happily coincided with a trip on the Saturday to the beautiful Glen Tanar Estate in Aberdeenshire courtesy of her colleagues at Aberdeen University.
Guided by our excellent ranger Mike, our small group sauntered leisurely across parts of the 25,000 acre landscape. Sightings during our visit included Buzzard, Treecreeper, Dipper, Chaffinch, Swallow, Swift, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Red Squirrel, Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron and Orange Tip and Black-veined White butterflies. Soundings included Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Blackcap, Goldcrest and Cuckoo. Decent photo’s were few and far between though, with nearly everything either seen at a distance or proving elusive to the lens.
The scenery at Glen Tanar was outstanding, with Mike’s intimate knowledge of the estate adding to the experience. Be it tales of Pine Marten poo, mini biographies of the various beetles and bees to be found, exploring badger sets or explaining how they manage the Caledonian Pine Forest, the whole experience was fantastic and despite lucking out on Glen Tanar’s “big birds” (Golden Eagle and Goshawk) it was well worth the ten hours I spent on the sleeper bus from London to Aberdeen. Big thanks to Dr’s Gina Maffey, Rene Van Der Wal and Koen Arts in particular for allowing me to join the trip.
Sunday morning was grey and dull, typical Aberdeen, and a real contrast to the sunshine and greenery of Glen Tanar. We were not to be deterred however and spent the late morning and early afternoon at Seaton Park. With the fast flowing River Don running through the edge of the park I had hopes of seeing Dippers.
We were not disappointed, although the light was awful and the Dippers extremely mobile we did manage a few images of these lovely birds. Constantly flying between branches and rocks, we had at least three Dippers hunting for insect larvae and freshwater shrimp.
Dippers are expert freshwater hunters, with a whole range of adaptations perfectly suited to their environment. They have wings that act as flippers underwater, eyes that are able to change the curvature of the lens to enhance their submarine vision, nasal flaps to prevent water entering the nostrils and a high haemoglobin concentration allowing them to store oxygen and remain underwater for as long as thirty seconds. Wonderful birds!
Sharing the River Don with the Dippers were hundreds of Swallows, House Martins and Swifts. Skimming the surface of the rushing water like airborne scimitars for the plentiful supply of midges and other insects. On the opposite bank two Grey Wagtail were active, looking very much like a pair as they followed each other along the edge of the Don. They soon disappeared into the bank together leading me to think a nest was nearby.
Despite the gloom there was a healthy species count at Seaton Park with Treecreeper, Grey Heron, Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Starling, Skylark, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Oystercatcher and Cormorant all seen.
In summary, a weekend of contrasting weather but a very healthy species count and how can you not love Dippers? Definitely the stars of the weekend.