Sun, snow and Spring

Well it's been a hectic few weeks since my last blog, and for those of you who've been able to share it with me (including my customers from Wales and Georgia, USA - two new flags on the customer board!), a big thank you.  Some folk (including our Welsh and American friends) enjoyed first-time sightings of Black Grouse, and whilst they were performing their magical lek displays.  One of the best things of my job as a guide is to show such a spectacle (and in a responsible manner), especially if you've never seen or heard it before.  Not that it ever gets old!

Black Grouse cocks on the lek - not a bad shot, even though I say so myself, as it was far away and dark!

It's been all about the birds, of course.  Strong northerly winds brought bands of snow, though an eventual shift to southerly winds finally brought in warblers and hirundines aplenty as they arrived after their long journeys from Africa.  Having said that, over 2,000 Pink-footed Geese have remained firmly in place on Findhorn Bay proving we're still very much in transition from Winter.

In the last week we've welcomed back 'our' Swallows at home, and the measures we've taken to stop a repeat of the almost total predation of their first brood of young by Pine Marten are Swallow-friendly at least (it involved a narrower access hole to our outbuilding where they nest).  The small quarry just up the road that Roy Dennis and I successfully made Pine Marten-proof last year has also seen its summer resident Sand Martins return, and friends of ours received their House Martins back on Friday.  Let the breeding season begin!

The Best Garden Bird?

I've discussed on here before about 'best birds', but what about the species that can be seen in or from our little patch of Scotland?  Yes there is an Osprey nest in sight of it (the previous owner's could've added a lot more to the asking price if they'd realised!  By the way, the 'widowed' male bird has attracted a new female - great news), but the palette of what we see is quite varied year-round.  

In recent weeks the gearing-up Spring has added sights and sounds of Cuckoo (only males so far), Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and - perhaps the most intriguing - drumming male Common Snipe.  They breed in the burn out the back of the house, but at dawn and dusk (and sometimes a bit either side) the eery sound of tortured air over their tail feathers fills the air.  It wasn't until a few days ago that I finally saw one during an early evening display and was amazed how high the bird was.  Usually, when you're stood outside, it sometimes sounds like they're about to hit you in the face (and yes, I do duck) but having seen rather than just heard it I know I was being silly as they're about 100 feet up.  Amazing.

Of course the real jewels of the garden bird list are the raptor species.  New on the list this past week or so has been Red Kite, indicating how the species continues to spread.
But what's our best garden bird?  Having themselves been back on territory in March, many hours of watching and waiting on my designated birdwatching bench (usually with a cuppa, and two dogs who eventually get bored and just sunbathe) finally paid off in the past week when our local Hen Harriers came hunting.  An adult and juvenile male have put in appearances so far, and we hope for more sightings in the coming weeks.

Male Hen Harrier quartering out the back of home - one fantastic garden bird!

Talking of birds...

For those of you either living locally or on holiday in the Highlands and Moray through Spring and early Summer, we're pleased to announce that we're giving talks (admission free!) at the Dava School House guest house once a week starting 25 May.  It's the same talk each week (my anecdotes and waffle only stretches to an hour or so!), so ideal for picking a date to suit yourself.  Poster for the talks is below - please note the requirement to book your place/s in advance, and have some pennies for charity donations and picture buying too!  I really hope to see some of you - and bring your binoculars as you can see some interesting things around Dava!

Click to enlarge

Happy birding


A9Birds is a birdwatching and wildlife photography company based in Moray, covering the local area including Strathspey, the Moray Firth and Inverness-shire.  Please see our website for details of what we can offer you, and why not keep up to date with our sightings and photos on our Facebook page.  All photos on this page are copyright Mike Crutch/A9Birds.


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