Northern Snippets and Southern Bits

It’s been a while since fingers and keyboard came together to produce a blog post. The pause since Singapore owes much to non-birding life preventing any sustained periods of birding and exploring. We have not been completely idle however and this post serves as a brief catch up on our patchy exploits. We begin in November on a freezing but very pretty Aberdeen afternoon.

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We were in Aberdeen to see Mrs Sausage officially become Dr Sausage and with celebrations, ordinations and machinations all completed we set off on our “farewell Aberdeen nature tour” which comprised of a re-visit to Seaton Park and culminated at the coastal Donmouth Local Nature Reserve. Seaton Park is a favourite spot for Mrs Dr Sausage, she was even able to observe their most recent rarity several years ago with the long stay of a Harlequin Duck. We were not to be blessed with such feathery exotica on this visit, a frosty afternoon where temperatures barely rose above zero despite a stunning winter sun and breathtaking scenes. Seaton did treat us to a few worthy sightings though with several female Goosanders braving a freezing River Don.

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Competing for frozen fish on the Don were Grey Herons and our favourite Seaton Park resident, Dippers.

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Dippers never fail to make us stop and enjoy their diving, well, dipping behaviour. To see such a small bird to move in and out of fast flowing freezing water with such skill and dexterity is something we never get tired of watching. Fabulous birds in every way.

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Other sightings within the park were fleeting and consisted of Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches, Robins, Grey Wagtail and Wrens. No Treecreepers or raptors on this visit although we did see a scampering Roe Deer on the opposite bank. We made our way out of the park, across the Brig O’ Balgownie and followed the Don toward the coast. We had some duck rewards for picking this route with some good sightings of Teal.

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Even more obliging were several Goldeneye on the mirror-like water.

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With waders being represented by a cluster of Redshank we made our way further along to Donmouth Reserve. The reserve was bathing in a beautiful winter sunset as a golden light washed over the sand as the River Don met the North Sea.

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We found more Redshank here along with Aberdeen’s regular wading resident, Oystercatchers.

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Among the gulls and occasional Pied Wagtail were a good number of Sanderling too, a few venturing into camera suitable distance for some record shots.

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If this was to be our last Aberdeen birding adventure it was one that left us with memories of a stunning sunset on a beach almost devoid of people. Aberdeen isn’t always a pretty place and it has been a struggle and a half to fall in love with the city over the years, but this afternoon reminded us that when Aberdonian magic happens, it can happen in stunning ways. Farewell Aberdeen, for now.

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Closer to home, Sunday 5th February saw myself and our good friend Danny pay a morning visit to Staines Moor. It was good to finally show him around the Moor, a place we have extolled the virtues of many times. I think the Moor left a good impression on him too as we racked up over 40 species during our 2 plus hours. Highlights included at least 2 Water Pipits, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, 4-5 Red Kites, a large Lapwing flock, Linnets, Greenfinch and a lot of Song Thrush.

With an hour or so left to kill, we made for Staines Reservoirs, a first-time visit for us both and one that brought us some handsome rewards. The water was awash with ducks – heavy numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Tufted ducks. The occasional Great Crested Grebe and Cormorant and a drake Scaup (picked out for me from among the Tufties by Danny’s expert eye) made for a very healthy and varied reservoir population.

Personal highlight and a lifer was this Black-necked Grebe, which came in very close to the causeway between the two reservoirs. An added bonus was that this bird was starting to come into breeding plumage, making for a very pleasing sighting.

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Last but not least was the final confirmed sighting of the day, 2 Ruddy Duck doing their best not be seen we think. As an invasive species, the Ruddy Duck is one of the few birds that are subject to a government-led eradication programme here in the UK, due to their inter-breeding with the critically endangered White-headed Duck.

We finished our Staines sojourn with just over 50 species for the day. Not a bad haul and hopefully the birding groove can commence for 2017 now.

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