Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Fancy a walk?

With the recent gales giving way to gentler Northerlies the omens for some good coastal birds are looking good!

Why not join me at Burghead on Friday for a nice gentle walk, stunning scenery and some great birds.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A rare day off

Today was an unplanned but very welcome day off, the weather was stunning, sunny calm and -1.  A perfect day for digiscoping.

Had a walk down to Whitemire Farm to check out the finch flock.  Conservative numbers for the flock were 250/300 Linnet, 20 Goldfinch. 30 Chaffinch and 5 Brambling.

However even though all the elements for good pics were present, all I could muster was these two of a male and female House sparrow (still nice birds though!)

Monday, 21 January 2013

Short tailed Long Tailed Ducks!

Very pleasant morning guiding around the Moray Firth, the weather forecast of strong winds could not have been more wrong and I arrived to an almost flat calm waterscape.  Brilliant!

The long tailed ducks are still showing very well in Burghead harbour, light for digiscoping was appalling but got a couple of record shots, the water had a beautiful green tone today which set off the striking plumage of the Long Tailed and Eiders.

Another bonus was the fact that the drakes were displaying with the bugling honking calls of the Long Tailed Males mingling with the Frankie Howerd OOooaa of the Eiders.

Once again great company with Pandora and Laurie (sp) and a fantastic way to spend a Sunday morning.

Male Long Tailed Duck

Laurie and Pandora enjoying a cuppa at Burghead.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Any ideas folks?

A work colleague took this fishy pic on the beach at Nairn on 17 Jan 2013.  Anyone put an ID to it?  He said it also had a small row of teeth.

Hopefully the heavy snow forecast will not get this far North, but getting my emergency kit sorted out just in case!


Many thanks for the replies chaps, def not one that I have ever seen!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Waxing lyrical?

Took a punt today and drove down to Findhorn to see if the Waxwings that had been reported yesterday were still in the area.

Good news, about 15 birds still hanging around
Better news, beautiful strong sunlight, ideal for digiscoping...........

Bad news, had all my kit but left my DCA adapter on the kitchen table, aaarrrrgghhhhh!

Below is the only "decent" record shot I got!


Monday, 14 January 2013

Cheryl the human bird table!

Had a great visit to a local RSPB reserve with my daughter Cheryl to feed the birds.  Once again they did not disappoint!

The vast majority were Coal Tit but Blue, Great and at least two Crested were all in the immediate area.

It really is a brilliant experience.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Sanderling to Seals with the colour Purple.

A very birdy wildlife day today for Lynda and myself out and about on a half day trip on the Moray coast.

The target birds for the day were Snow Bunting and Sanderling, both usually found on a beautiful sandy beach to the East of my area.  Today however the Buntings refused to play ball and remained hidden from view.  Sanderlings were present and gave brief views as they fed along the strand line and performed a couple of fly-bys.

Lynda sheltering from a biting wind.

Moving around the coast we were lucky to find a larger flock of Sanderling feeding on the receding tide line, they proved to be very difficult to digiscope as they were continually on the move, the first picture is included to show the true dynamic of the feeding group, just as you got a fix on one bird the rest would be dashing around all over the place.  Lighting was not great so I couldn't even push the shutter speed!

Sanderling feeding flock.

Sometimes however a bird could be singled out and at least a record shot obtained.

Further out (WAY further out!) on the recently exposed wet rocks, a small group of Purple Sandpipers landed, once again light not great but a fair representation of the habitat they like best.

Purple Sandpipers.

Final stop was back to yesterdays location at Burghead, don't know if the rumour of the presence of a TV crew had got around, or perhaps loads of people read my facebook/blog, but Burhead harbour was absolutely heaving (or perhaps survivors of the Burning of the Clavie last night!) 

The Long Tailed male and female were both still present, the male looking a lot perkier today, but the stars were the three North Atlantic Grey Seals, watching us watching them in the inner harbour.  Fantastic views.

Sammy the seal.

Cracking trip with some stunning birds, animals and  scenery, pity we missed the Snow Bunts, just means we will just have to go back again! 

Friday, 11 January 2013

Celebrity birding!

Had a great morning birding with Robert from Nethybridge. We were tempted to head through to Rattray for the long Staying Desert Wheatear, but decided to stay with plan"A" and keep local.

First port of call was Lossiemouth, in particular for Purple Sandpipers, a lifer for Robert.  We were not to be disappointed with a single bird present and showing well at my usual location.  A great way to start the day!

Next noteworthy bird was a very confiding winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe on the river Lossie, a stunning little bird which showed very well and very close to the river bank.

After a brief coffee stop in "The Bothie" ( fantastic Victoria Sponge and really nice coffee! Robert opted for the healthy option containing coconut, I had to point out this did not constitute one of his five a day!)  we headed for the High Viewpoint, all was quiet at sea with only the odd Common Scoter, Long Tailed Duck and a singleton Red Throated Diver.  En Route back to the car we noticed a camera crew down at the harbour.  My initial thought was that the local TV channel were filming for the Pictish New year fire festival "The Burning of the Clavie" that is taking place tonight.  Happy new year to all the Picts out there by the way!

Arriving at the harbour I was susprised and glad to see the Long Tailed Ducks that had been reported last week were still present, these birds gave great views and allowed some stunning pics to be obtained, however the bigger surprise was meeting Chris Packham of Spring/Autumn/Winter watch fame.  He was down with some film crew for the Long Tailed Ducks.  Really nice bloke to speak to and was happy to chat to Robert and Myself about various birds and what was around in the area.  (managed to get a business card to him as well, so if they ever need local feet on the ground for recces and information, you never know I may get the call :-)  And for all my customers that have heard me bleat on for the last two years about getting my face on Autumn watch this may be the nearest I get! )

Anyway a cracking morning was had, and it has notched up my years totals no end, Lynda you are playing catch up!

Long Tailed Duck (male)

Long Tailed Duck (male)

Long Tailed Duck (female) 

Long Tailed Duck (female)

Common Eider (males)

TV presenter Chris Packham

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Winter approaching!

The forecast for this weekend and the beginning of next week is looking a tad chillier that it has been of late ( it was +13 at 2200 on the way home from Inverness last week) so in preperation for cold snap I have been stepping up the garden feeding station.

Today the garden was alive with birds, 12 Coal Tits in the same field of view, heaps and heaps of Blue and Great tits, but most unusual where the thirteen Linnets in a nearby Silver Birch.

Here is hoping the wind stays light so I can get the 2013 ringing season under way at the weekend.

I will keep you all informed :-)

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year - A Brief round up!

Happy New Year one and all, hope you had a fantastic festive season and I wish you all the very best and good birding for 2013.

This blog entry is a quick round up of the end of 2012 and sets the scene for 2013.

The last remaining months of 2012 were very busy in terms of Birding tours, both full and half days, but also incorporating clients that had booked a special deal through the BWWC at the splendid Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey.  For these deals I provided a three hour guided trip around two local birding hot spots on the Moray Firth.

BWWC Mrs Palmer +3!
Once again I met many fantastic people (only a select few with dubious tastes in optics, see above).  Visited some old favourite locations and some new venues that will soon feature on the Birding Ecosse day tours itinerary.
Highlights for me on the bird front were visiting a local Black Grouse Moor and counting five Greyhens perched on top of a stand of birch trees, the most I have seen at this site and hopefully a good omen for the forth coming breeding season.
A beautiful frosty (-12) morning on a Black Grouse Moor
Heading North in the face of some truly miserable weather (the actual results of this weather front causing huge structural damage along the whole of the North East coastline, and as was to become sadly apparent also accounting for many deaths of Shags and wrecking of Auk's) Peter Hearn and I were lucky to pick up a Red (or Grey for us old timers) Phalarope feeding in the spume just off Golspie pier.  The gale force winds and almost night time light levels meant some awful pictures, so sorry for the quality of the following shot!
Grey Phalarope (or Little Gull, Little Auk, Kittiwake if you squint your eyes!)
Christmas eve saw Lynda and myself head North with John and Nicola from the Grant Arms hotel.  The weather was very kind that day and proved to be a small window of nice weather before returning to wind and rain.  A visit to the Black Isle, Portmahommack and Tarbat Ness.  The day went very well with some nice birds being seen throughout the day, Long Tailed Duck, Little Auk, Black Guillemot, hundreds of Scaup, Pink footed and Greylag Geese.  The day ended at Chanonry point trying to see dolphins, however by this time it was pitch dark and the dolphins had been put away for the night!
The lull between Christmas and New year was taken up with some local workshops along the Moray Firth, searching for seaducks in particular.  Is it perhaps the mild weather that is keeping the numbers of Scoters and Long Tailed Ducks so low?  Numbers are considerably lower than what I was picking up this time last year.
2013 dawned bright and fair, but with storm clouds lingering on the horizon.  Today was a busmans holiday so Lynda and I set off for a half day birding in the local area, because she is my charming and long suffering partner I decided not to charge her full price (only joking...... honest!)  Highlights of the day was a massive finch flock, just outside Nethybridge containing around 1000 birds with a minimum of 200 Brambling.  The most brambling I have ever seen!  Crested Tits showing well at a local RSPB reserve is also a nice bird to get on the year list on day one.

But without doubt, for me it was the confiding, bold and cheeky Coal Tits that stole the show.  A small amount of seed in your hand and they were all over the place! Lining up in the tree branches waiting to take their turn for this free banquet!  Now I'm a trained ringer and have handled hundreds of Coal Tits, but the experience of these wee birds landing on your hand and searching through the seeds in search of black sunflowers (the only food any of thenm took) is one I will long remember!

Coal Tit Christmas Tree decorations!

Dave the Human Bird Table.
All in all 2012 was a highly successful birding year, Birding Ecosse is growing at a nice pace and I am now getting regular bookings from returning customers,  my diary is filling up with new bookings and people are being referred to me, so I must be doing something right!  However I have many new ideas, and exciting new places to visit lined up for 2013 so keep watching this blog and my web page at
Thank you to every single person that took part in Birding Ecosse in 2012 and looking forward to seeing you all again at some point in 2013.