...and just a short update on what’s about.
A red kite flew over the Visitor Centre last Monday (8 Sep) and a marsh harrier has been around all week. The first of the winter’s pinkfooted geese arrived; there are now about 72 of them, with more anticipated every day, although the majority won’t be here until the end of the month or the beginning of October. On Saturday 13th, there were 28 gadwall, 19 shoveler and 8 snipe, and regular birder and photographer Brian Sandison had good views of bearded tit from Fen Hide, and marsh harrier from Tower Pool Hide – check out our Facebook page RSPB Aberdeen and North East Scotland for photos and more information.
Curlew - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
The winter wader flocks are building up nicely, with 185 lapwing on 9 Sep and over 400 curlew on Mosstown Marsh on 11 Sep. These will continue to grow as we get birds arriving from the continent and from the upland breeding ground further north. Keep a lookout for starling murmurations as well, as the go to roost at dusk – let us know if you see any!
There are still quite a lot of butterflies around, with 14 red admirals seen in the wildlife garden over the weekend.
A date for your diaries – 11 October – Strathbeg ‘Goose Fayre’ – 10 am until 4 pm. Local craft stalls (time to start getting those Christmas presents!), children’s activities including a treasure trail, face-painting, and bird-feeder making. There may be a chance of geese coming into the evening roost as well. Hope to see you there!
What a fun-packed week we've had!
We started on Monday with interviews for our Species and Habitats Warden post - and we are pleased to say we have a new member of staff! Watch this space for more details.
On Tuesday, we had the annual visit by the vet, to check out the Koniks, microchip the new foals and oversee the fitting of GPS tracking collars on three of the ponies; fortunately, they were very relaxed about the procedure and no intervention was needed. These collars will enable us to track where they are, as part of the fen meadow restoration, and we're already getting some interesting data on where they seem to prefer grazing. Two collars are still in place - we tried fitting one on Kieran, but he managed to get it off himself in a couple of hours, so we'll refit it on another, less devious and wriggly, individual! On the birding front, there were 284 lapwing on Starnafin pools, and an osprey fishing over the loch.
On Wednesday, Starnafin island got weeded and the tern boxes were collected in, to be cleaned up ready for next year. The tern decoys are awaiting recovery (in more ways than one - some are looking a bit battered) and some TLC over the winter. In the evening, while we were preparing a farewell dinner for our departing residential volunteer Charlie, Ed spotted a peregrine chasing a ruff.
On Thursday, a short-eared owl flew up from Mosstown Marsh while the ponies were being checked. (We need to do this daily, especially at the moment to make sure there are no issues with the collars)
It's that time of year - things are popping up all over!
This morning saw our residential volunteers off on a Scottish Countryside Rangers Association training day, looking at the ecology and identification of fungi at NTS Crathes; SCRA run quite a number of outdoor training courses, which are good value and very interesting - they are open to everyone, and SCRA members and volunteers get a discount. (The latest list is here.) This left the staff to do the monthly Wetland Bird Survey, and there's nothing better on a damp and drizzly Friday morning than to spend it counting wildfowl and waders all over the reserve. Highlights of today's survey, in no particular order - 218 mute swans on the loch (and one whooper that has been here all summer), 223 tufted duck, 149 coot, 50 dunlin and 47 ringed plover in the lagoon, 2 little grebes, 13 redshank and 7 greenshank, 9 snipe, 25 pochard, 245 mallard, 81 goldeneye, 2 red-breasted mergansers and over 250 lapwings, mostly in one flock over Netherton. A quick look through the plantation found a couple of goldcrests, there were 2 wheatears on Back Bar, a very dashing sparrowhawk along the edge of the plantation and a female marsh harrier over the dunes.
We're still waiting for the geese to return - there's a real feeling of anticipation in the air as the darker evenings draw in...
The end of July saw a number of waders passing through the reserve, with green sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper and curlew sandpiper, and an elusive lesser yellowlegs seen in the lagoon on 29 July. Reasonable numbers of dunlin and golden plover were also seen on the seaward side of the reserve. A little stint appeared on 13 August, and since then numbers of waders have been steadily growing - a sure sign that autumn is on the way. A juvenile black tern was seen from the Visitor Centre on 22 August, but didn't stop for long.
There are still a few young common terns on the island at Starnafin; although their parents are still feeding them, it won't be long before they are on their way south for the winter. The swifts seem to have departed, and swallows and house martins are gathering in large numbers prior to their own departures, although we still have swallows feeding young in the outbuildings. Greenshank and ruff can usually be seen from the Visitor Centre. There are still ospreys fishing over the Loch, although they will also be setting off to Africa in the near future. Marsh harrier and peregrine have been sighted recently.
Young Swallow - Tom Marshall, rspb-images.com
Our herd of Konik ponies continues to work hard at reducing the amount of rushes, and a recent trip to Mosstown Marsh saw over 200 curlew and at least 25 snipe on the areas that have been cut or grazed - the most we've seen there in a very long time, which is excellent news and bodes well for the fen meadow restoration project. This year's foals are growing fast, and the yearlings are almost as big as the adult ponies; we're still waiting for the additional five geldings to arrive some time in September.
Haworths' minor moth (Paula Redman)
A number of 'Bat and Moth' nights saw a keen group of visitors hanging 'wine ropes' in the trees and painting fence posts with a gooey mix of syrup and over-ripe banana to attract moths, and tracking our farmyard pipistrelles with bat detectors. The really keen came back the following morning to see what the moth trap had gathered overnight, and have been rewarded with a wide variety of stunning moths, from garden tigers to elephant hawk moths. There's another 'Bat and Moth Night' on Friday 5 September, starting at 7.30 pm; why not come along and see what we find? We've also got a number of other family-friendly activities coming up - check out our reserve events pages for details!
Sallow moth (Paula Redman)
Our gannets at Troup Head are still feeding their youngsters, and over the weekend of 30 and 31 August we'll be celebrating their success with 'Glorious Gannets Weekend' at the Macduff Marine Aquarium. Details of this event and the guided walk on Saturday 30 August are on our website.
The next milestone will be the return of the pinkfooted geese - we expect the first 'scouting parties' around the middle of September. Numbers should build up quickly, and we will be running our autumn dawn 'Goosewatch' programme of events - watch the website for details. Put 11 October in your diaries too, as the date for the 'Goosefair' - a combination of craft fair and activities for all.