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!
...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...