Sunday 8th March
Early Sunday morning and we headed over the hills towards the Moray and Nairn coast to look for Divers and Sea Ducks. We spotted a few Red Grouse on the way but with the sun barely up it was not worth stopping. There were plenty of the ducks just off the coast but the divers were in short supply. I think we must have been a couple of weeks late as we only managed to see one Red-throated Diver all day.
Starting at Nairn Pier we found Oystercatchers, Knot , Curlew, Turnstones and then crossing the river roosting Redshank and a Grey Wagtail.
Moving east, the tide was out when we got to Findhorn Bay. There were a good number of waders out on the mud but the real find was a mixed flock of Linnets and Twite close to the village. I know the difference between the two but spotting individual birds in a mobile and fast moving flock was hard work. Once I was sure that I had a yellow billed Twite safely in the camera I resorted to photographing anything that offered a good picture opportunity with the intention of sorting them all out later.
First the Linnets, throat streaked, grey bill, greyish head with pale patches above and below the eye, strong white edges to tail, male with red just starting to show on its breast.
The Twite are more of a buff colour with no grey on the head, bills are yellow outside the breeding season, there is no streaking on the throat, and the male has pink on the rump.
|Twite foraging along the tide line|
|Head and body same uniform buff colour|
|No streaking on throat|
|No pale patches above and below eye|
|Lacking strong white edges to tail|
|Male Twite showing pink on the rump|
We checked out the harbours along the coast hoping that the high winds would drive some of the ducks into shelter but we could not find any. The closest views were found at Burgh Head where Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Long-tailed Ducks, and Gannet were all present as well as a Rock Pipet and Hooded Crow. Burgh Head also had the advantage of being sheltered from the bitterly cold wind.
After a brew we moved on to Lossiemouth. There was nothing to look at in the harbour but the East Beach and estuary area had a few birds and we were able to sit in the car and observe them in comfort. It looked like the usual gulls, Redshank and Widgeon with a few Bar-tailed Godwits, until Dave spotted a small flock of Snowbuntings on the opposite beach.
A great find but it meant that we had to walk round to the beach. The wind was still strong and bitterly cold, the sand was being blasted across the beach and to top it all we got caught in a rain squall just as we reached the birds. Still once it cleared we had great views of the Snow Buntings and were able to get a few pictures.
|Even the Snow Bunting were trying to shelter from the wind|
With the day drawing to a close we called in at a hide on Loch Spynie. It was in a great spot sheltered from the wind with good views out over the loch and lots of feeders around it to attract the small birds and Red Squirrels.
On the drive back along the coast we finally managed to connect with a small flock of Pink-footed Geese. It was a bit of a relief as we had been searching for them all day. Of course once you spot one they all come along and we had two more small flocks before we got home and flocks of thousands by the end of the holiday.