Mallards, nr Slains Pool, Ythan area (28/8)
This Osprey flew high over our heads! (28/8)
So overall the Ythan was rather disappointing, and we ended up going to Strathbeg in the hope that it would be more productive and that I'd be able to catch up on Green Sandpiper for the year. It was more lively than the Ythan, but still wasn't that impressive in terms of passage wader counts - 8 Ruffs, 5 Greenshanks, 1 Black-tailed Godwits and 80 Golden Plovers, but no Green Sandpipers. Quite a few birds of prey were present on the reserve, each causing havoc amongst the waders. These included 2 Peregrines, a Marsh Harrier, and a Buzzard. I wasn't able to photograph the Marsh Harrier unfortunately, but I managed to capture the other two species - the Buzzard rather well, and the Peregrine rather poorly due to the speed which it was flying. On the way back from a check of Tower Pool Hide, I spotted a couple of rather obliging mig juvenile Whitethroats in a bush too....
Peregrine, Loch of Strathbeg (28/8)
Whitethroat, Loch of Strathbeg (28/8)
A Barred Warbler was present at Rattray Head last week, and we decided that we might as well go and have a look for it and anything else in the bushes down there, although we knew it was very likely to have gone. We did indeed and not surprisingly fail to find it, so we decided to have another check off the sea. We didn't have any success here either, with no skuas or shearwaters passing whatsoever. However about 10 of these lovely little birds were scuttling along the shoreline....
Sanderling, Rattray Head (28/8)
It was only at the end of the day that things started getting better for us. Now, I have a very bad history with Surf Scoters off Blackdog, an area of beach just 2 or so miles north of Aberdeen that annually holds 1-2 of this species. Put it this way, in the last 2 years I reckon I have tried upwards of 15 times to see these birds and I have failed every time! They are such a bugger to see, as they hang around with many hundreds of Common and Velvet Scoters, and whenever I have gone the Scoter flocks have always been very distant, scattered, and are often a mile down the coast at Murcar GC, where they are also seen (often I don't have time to go here as I visit in the evening). Having seen the conditions of the sea at Rattray, it seemed like a good idea to go to Blackdog and have another try for them, and with Andrew with us there was an extra pair of eyes. Arriving at Blackdog we found the sea completely still, the light reasonable, and the Scoter flock unusally close in. We went down to the dunes and duly started searching them, and I was over the moon when I heard Andrew say after a minute or so: I've got a Surfie in this closest flock'. My Dad caught onto it too, When he moved away from his scope to show me, I was immediately on to, after hundreds and hundreds of times trying to look for one, a drake Surf Scoter! Finally, I had seen one! After about 2 minutes of watching it I managed to lose it (probably because it had dived), but very soon afterwards Andrew called out again saying 'I've got another two'. He told us where they were, and indeed there was two others. These birds were far more distant, but were undoubtedly Surfies. It was fantastic, I had managed to get lucky with the closeness of the main flock, and I had been rewarded with 3 Surf Scoters. The most memorable views however were of the closest bird, which I managed to get facing towards the scope lens when a bit of sunshine broke through, illuminating the bird's weird but fantastic features brilliantly. It was a fantastic end to the day, and essentially the ideal birthday treat. Of course they were too far out to have any chance of photographing!
Thanks for reading, any comments or feedback is greatly welcomed!