Showing posts from 2015
Thought for Food

Recently, I was "oot'n'aboot" with a friend who knows a thing or two about nature - well in my mind he pretty much knows everything really, and I always enjoy the wanderings of our conversations.  This time we were in a forest, placing camera traps for checking on various species, and as we headed back to his long-suffering 4x4 (which usually goes places that even the manufacturer would be impressed with) he casually remarked on how quiet the forest was.

At first, I thought he meant with people, but it was birds.  As I'm quite a youngster in birding years, in the time that I've seriously watched and enjoyed our feathered friends I've only really known woodlands and such places to have pockets of bird activity.  Even at the height of the Spring when males call for females (my favourite is the Wood Warbler in terms of power and spectacle), or first broods of Crossbills are already on the wing and 'chipping' their way through the fores…
The Owl and the Hare
No, it’s not a children’s story!  Coming home late one night last week, I’m always on the look out for wildlife - partly for road safety (we have a lot of deer where we are), and partly for interest as to what’s going on at the midnight hour.  All was quiet until a mile from home, when I realised a fence post wasn’t quite right as it came within the swathe of the car’s headlights.  It was a Barn Owl, perched yet stretching its body which made it look thinner than usual.  The coal black eyes studied my now slowed car for a moment before the bird leapt into the air, but instead of flying away it stayed within the periphery of the headlights and flew alongside me for some way.  As I continued on with my ghostly companion just a few feet away, a Brown hare broke the cover of the verge and also ran along just ahead of me for a few yards before diving back into the bracken.
With the Barn Owl remaining alongside, I wondered if it had worked out that the sight, noise and vi…
Enter The Fall
Despite having lost the odd ‘u’ from certain words and developed various other grammatical mutations during the trip across the Atlantic on the Mayflower and other vessels, our North American cousins did choose a somewhat poetic term for what we call Autumn - namely ‘The Fall’.  I quite like it, and of course it does what it says on the tin especially as I write this looking out at our deciduous trees standing against a breeze.
In birding terms, ‘The Fall’ could be equally applied to the number of birds falling from our skies at the moment as various species continue their migrations ahead of Winter.  Literally thousands (and we’re talking 20,000 plus) Pink-footed Geese are on and around the Findhorn Bay just now having steadily grown in number over the past ten days or so.  Considering how many have already continued south, with many skeins passing over home throughout the day, the number that actually visit us at this time of year are probably nearly double that number.…
Happy birthday to us!
Today marks A9Birds' first birthday.  It’s been an exciting and fun year, and even the technically boring bits like admin and tax returns have been interesting to do for our venture.  A big thank you must go to all of those who have supported us through the past twelve months, most of all our great customers.  The Data Protection Act probably won’t let me mention them all by name (you know who you are, as the saying goes), but I can thank the friends of A9Birds for their various supporting acts and ‘wise words’ - Roy Dennis MBE of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Gordon & David Macleod of Aviemore Ospreys, Carol & David Shaw, Dave Slater of Birding Ecosse, Andy Smith, Jude and Steve Simms of Hellygog (the great little gallery which became the first to sell our images), Steve Hopper of Wild Skye Boat Trips, Philip Hardwick, Hilary Rolton, Gill Howie plus the owners of all of our affiliated B&Bs and guesthouses - see our website for details when…

Sights, sounds and struggles

July was a busy and interesting month, full of highs but with some lows.
The weather continued on its colder-than-usual trend, and this reflected as always in the happenings of our wildlife.Just “oot’n’aboot” generally, it was noticeable that there was a distinct lack of bees and wasps…though flies tended to appear (especially around my head whilst out walking!).Every now and then I’d get fed up looking like Pig Pen from ‘Charlie Brown’, raise a hand above my head and let them circle that for a while, which is fine until my darling wife points out how stupid I look.
‘Our’ Ospreys
Anyway, back to the birds.Our two closest Osprey pairs, which breed exactly a mile apart, are unfortunately poles apart in fortune.At our closest nest, the established pair has two well fed chicks who have been flying a good couple of weeks now.From the distance we view the family, when sat up on the nest all four birds are quite indistinguishable now in terms of size – only the golden edges of the otherwise bro…

F(lam)ing June!

I think I’ll leave the title to sum up the weather since my last blog!
Chicks continued to appear in abundance through June, with both of the Osprey pairs that breed nearest to us now feeding young, as are a pair of Short-eared Owls that we regularly watch.But perhaps the most pleasing sight was single youngster being raised by a pair of Black-throated Divers on a local loch.Last year, the birds here were disturbed by canoeists and failed to breed so a change in fortune for 2015 is most welcome.
However such a sight can be seen by anyone – no problem with that – but how many serious and casual birdwatchers are aware that divers of any species are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981?Standby for a rant…
Black-throated Diver pair with their chick - photo taken responsibly!

I was sat in my vehicle, watching the comings and goings around the loch, for over an hour.The family of three Black-throated Diverswere some way off, but patience was rewarded as they slo…
Sunlit Eyes and Spinning Coins

Well the merry month of May (although sans Nightingale here in Scotland, though plenty of Cuckoos so at least Thomas Dekker's poem applies there) is behind us.  Warblers such as Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler built upon their spearhead arrivals in April, whilst the first Garden Warbler and Blackcap became apparent in the trees and scrub around us.
Willow Warbler taking a break from singing
Swallows, first seen entering our outbuildings to inspect last year's nests as April drew to close, arrived in greater numbers too, and the first House Martins soon followed as did the Swifts - so great it was to hear their screaming through the streets of Forres for the first time in 2015.

Swallow touching down
May has been dominated, even in our 'dry' part of Scotland, by the weather - cold temperatures, keen winds and bands of rain (there's no such thing as 'organised showers' as the TV forecasters would have you believe) have all affected many…