Well 2012 has certainly got off to a good start here at Kinnordy
The weather has been a complete contrast to last year. Consider last year when we had three full months of the loch being completely frozen over, this year there has only been a week in the middle of December where it looked like the loch might freeze over (but even then there was still plenty of open water for the birds!) Whooper swan numbers have finally started to grow - with 43 (including some 1st winter cygnets) being seen on the middlemarsh from Swamp hide; meaning that there are more whoopers on-site than mute swans (usually up to 20 daily). Teal, wigeon, goldeneye and mallard numbers are fairly good with over 100 teal, more than 80 mallard, around 35 goldeneye and up to 30 wigeon being counted daily. Four goosander, 2 males and 2 females, are also seen quite regularly from Gullery hide. Greylag geese numbers have fluxuated alot during December - the highest count for the greylag goose roost has been nearing 400 geese, but then other times only a small group (~30-60) of greylags can be seen using the loch. On the bright side, since mid-Dec, 1 greenland and 10 european white fronted geese have been seen in a small group - mostly spending time in the field across from the car park, but more recently they have finally started to spend more time on the loch.
Winter 2011 saw regularl sightings of a red-headed smew but this year we have manged to go one better with the of a wintering male smew. He was first seen on the 19th Novemember, and the joined the next week (on the 24rth) by a red-headed female. Since then both disappeared mid-December (or where hiding) due to the colder weather that threatened to freeze the loch. However when the loch remained un-frozen the male smew re-appeared (unfortunately without the female). But again, on a brighter note, the male smew has been very regularly over the Christmas period and has even started to come close to Gullery hide, letting us get a better view of him - like he did yesterday.
Photo courtesy of Paul Jesset, Dec 2011