Whooper swan – Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
The autumn migration is in full swing as the birds continue to pour in to the Loch – 57 whooper swans on 3 October had increased to 292 seen during the WeBS count on the morning of Sunday 12 October, with 201 mute swans, 1046 wigeon, 444 teal, 72 goldeneye and 97 pochard also recorded. Three Slavonian grebes and one little grebe, three water rails, a smew and two scaup were also spotted on the loch. The pinkfooted goose count was down from the previous one, with only 34,213 recorded. This is not surprising, as it was a bright moonlit night prior to the count and the geese tend to stay out in the fields beyond the reserve, feeding in relative safety as they can see any potential predators. Count figures are always lower after clear, bright nights! A smattering of other goose species were also found – two snow geese, one Greenland white-fronted goose, three greylags and around 20 barnacle geese.
Dawn and dusk remain the best times to see the geese leaving and returning to the roost, and the carpark at Rattray Kirk is still a good place to see the big numbers; we’ll be starting our Dawn GooseWatch events on 2 November (see our webpage for more details) so why not book your place now!
Geese coming in to roost – Diana Spencer
Other species seen around include a gorgeous (ringtail) hen harrier, up to 10 bearded tits in the reedbeds around Fen Hide, and at least two little egrets around the Starnafin pools and Low Ground, best seen from either Tower Pool Hide or the Visitor Centre. Our Konik ponies continue to attract media attention and were featured in this report from Plantlife http://www.plantlife.org.uk/about_us/blog/ponies and on the BBC on Sunday 12 October – if you missed it, the clip can bee seen here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29442896 (Flash player required).
Hen harrier – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
This weekend saw our Christmas Crafts and Goose Fair, which attracted a good number of visitors. For the rest of the month, in the Visitor Centre, we will have an exhibition of wildlife photography (mostly pictures taken around the reserve or in the local area) by Peter Lewis and Brian Sandison which will be well worth a visit – entry is free!
Aberdeen and District RSPB Members Group paid their annual autumn visit to Strathbeg on Wednesday 25 Sep, and in their travels discovered a buff-breasted sandpiper by the lagoon – a nice find and one that resulted in some good pictures:
Shown with dunlin for size comparison – all pictures by RSPB Members Group
The weekend of 27/28 Sep saw a couple of little egrets back on the reserve, and an ever-increasing number of geese. On Monday evening there were thousands of pinkfooted geese coming in over Rattray Kirk and the south end, whiffling down to roost on the water and creating a raft of birds that covered at least a fifth of the loch. A rough count as dusk fell on Tuesday night gave over 35,000, although the counter felt this was nowhere near the total; a more organised count by more of the reserve staff on the morning of 1 Oct revealed a rather impressive total of 64,655 – the highest number we’ve had since the September count in the winter of 2005/6. There are still a handful of barnacle geese amongst them, and also a leucistic pinkfoot – which looks like it’s been dropped in a heap of flour! There is also an otherwise normally-coloured pinkfoot with white primary feathers.
It was definitely worth getting up before dawn to count the geese, and a stop at the Rattray end of the loch towards sunset is definitely worth your time if you want to see one of autumn’s truly spectacular sights!
Pinkfeet over Mormond Hill – Kath Hamper
Easterly winds at the beginning of last week brought a fall of migrants to the reserve, starting with a yellow-browed warbler in the Plantation on 15 Sep, followed by another two on Tuesday, along with two red-breasted flycatchers and a barred warbler. There was a red-throated pipit and a pied flycatcher at Rattray (the garden at the B&B proving quite productive!); a pied flycatcher found its way onto the reserve on Wednesday 17 Sep, along with a spotted flycatcher, and two yellow-browed warblers remained with them in the Plantation.
Pinkfeet and others on the Loch – Brian Sandison
A change in the weather slowed things down a bit, but north-westerlies brought more pinkfooted geese, with around 700 dropping in on the loch and dunes on the evening of Sunday 21 Sep, before dispersing into the local countryside. Around 300 barnacle geese passed though on Monday 22 Sep. Don’t forget the Goose Fayre on 11 Oct and our Dawn Goosewatches start on 2 Nov. Call us at the reserve on 01346 532017 to book a place!
Barnacle geese over Fen Hide – Brian Sandison
Flocks of waders continue to build up, with over 450 lapwing and around 300 curlew on Tuesday 17 Sep, and yesterday there were six golden plover, ten snipe, two ruff and a marsh harrier on the Low Ground, and three grey wagtails outside the Visitor Centre window.
The starlings are definitely gathering at dusk – a murmeration recorded by Brian Sandison.
On the domestic front, we’d like to welcome our new Habitats and Species Warden, Derren Fox, to the team!