Friday, 28 March 2014


Yet again I've left it far too long to update the blog with what's happening, bird wise around Nairn!  So here's just a quick one regarding the three large ducks hanging around the river north of the Merryton Bridge over the past couple of weeks, as well as a little bit on the nearl;y ever present Turnstones.

Note their wonderful bright eyes - hence their name: Goldeneye.  The black and white ones are male  They rest on the bank when the tide is out and every now and then fly out to the firth to feed.

Have you ever walked along the river path near the harbour and wondered what the clicking noise is? Probably the Turnstones busily turning stones looking for food (suitable name!)  

These are incredibly hard birds to photograph - they move their heads so quickly that it is nearly impossible to get a none blurred photo.  Here's what they look like when they are sitting still - and below are some blurred pictures of one with it's prey - as well as one being chased for it's prey!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Winter Thrushes and the Brents

Just a few pics from my latest potter around the golf course car park and then out on a short drive around the country lanes to look for more winter visitors.

I have looked long and hard all winter for the 'Winter Thrushes'.  These are Fieldfare and Redwings that usually visit us in their thousands at winter, time before heading north again to breed in the spring.  Monday was my first sight of a medium sized flock (approx. 30) of the season.

They are both related to our own Thrushes (Song, Mistle and Blackbird), with the Fieldfare comparing well with the Mistle Thrush in size a habit; both feeding on the grass in numbers and flying with a laboured bounding flight, often accompanied by a rattling call.
Note the grey shawl effect on the head and shoulders.
And there's the Redwing, with a more slight build, and a distinct red mark under the wing and a vibrant bright yellow eye stripe.  The picture below is rubbish (on the other side of the field, as usual!), but it shows what I mean, just.

The Redwing is at the top of the picture.
So, the next time you see a flock of birds walking around a field - usually all facing in the same direction - take a closer look as they could well be Fieldfare and Redwing.

Whilst on the road, I popped over to the golf course car park for a quick look at the Brent Geese.  These photos illustrate their habits well: waling along the shore edge, feeding in the rockpools down by the golf course.  Very easy to see and photograph.

Very close to the shore.

Nibbling at the edges of the rockpool.
And enjoying a drink.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Divers and Ducks

I popped over to Burghead in the dim light of Friday and managed to see loads of Common Eider and four Long Tail Duck, as well as a couple of seals basking in the cold..  A lucky spot was this Great Northern Diver which had found its way into the relative calm of the harbour, to give great views to anyone hoping for a close-up.  But the light was so bad I still struggled to get a decent picture (which this one isn't!).

 This Long Tailed Duck was showing just why it has that name!

And I've just got back from Nairn Harbour where the high tide left its mark on the car-park!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

King Eider photo

Thanks to Zimmie for the comment on my previous post, it reminded me of just how good Lossie, Burghead and the coastline east of Nairn is for bird watching and photography.  So I was prompted to talk to other photographers who concentrate their time out that way, to see if they have managed to photograph the King Eider and if so, to ask for their permission to show their photos.

This one was taken this morning at Hopeman east beach by Allan Adam, an excellent photographer from Elgin.  Alan specialises in birds in flight, and here he captured two King Eiders as they were put to flight by the close proximity of a dog walker.

Notice the red bill and golden yellow base, as well as the buff breast.  Compare this to Common Eiders below to see the difference.

I agree with Zimmie when he says how good Burghead harbour is for close ups of Common Eiders (and on some occasions, the King).  Here are a couple of my pics from Burghead from previous visit: the first a male, included here just for comparison with the above (not a great a photo!), and the second a female having a tasty looking snack!

You will see both male and female fairly close in off the harbour wall and promenade toward the golf course at this time of the year.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

King Eider

Lots of excitement over the past few weeks as a King Eider has settled in the firth between the harbour and Whiteness head.  It differs from the Common Eider, but is often sitting among them. The King has pinkish breast and a very colourful head, dominated by a prominent orange bump art the base of its bill.

Sadly I haven't been able to get a photo worthy of the name!

The Brent Geese are here in great numbers and as usual they are nice and close along the western shoreline from Whiteness to the harbour.

Feeding in the rock pools with them today were a small number of Purple Sandpipers - another bird that is a regular winter visitor to Nairn.  Not a great pic below, but it'll give you an idea of what to look for.
So when you are looking at the Brent, keep a look out for a plumpish wader.  You may have seen it and thought it was a Turnstone (who also feed in the same area).  The Turnstone is overall a little larger has darker redder legs and a whiter belly, with a prominent dark breast and shorter bill.  The Purple Sandpiper has a orange tinge to the base of its bill.


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Flocks at the harbour

I took the opportunity to get down to the harbour while the weather permitted this morning, and the Knot are still here, and giving great views.  At lunchtime they were sitting on the sandbar on the east Beach, trying to keep their distance from the dogs and walkers.  The sun was low and the views were excellent.

I've tried counting the birds - well over 2,500!  As the tide comes in the space for them to huddle together reduces and they fly in search of a new sandbar - and that is when they give a spectacular show to anyone lucky enough to experience it.  I couldn't wait too much longer as the wind was penetrating!  So I'll be back over the next few days hoping to time it right.

Also on this side of the beach were six Sanderling.  These little waders are noticeable by the way they run along the shoreline back and forward and at some speed!  And the lone Bar Tailed Godwit was feeding again in the sunshine.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Activity at the harbour

Christmas Eve: what a windy day at the harbour!  But it's a great time to see Knot and Dunlin in flocks of thousands perform a fantastic flying display within touching distance!  Every year I see them here around this time.

As the tide comes in the birds sit on sand bars in massive flocks and as the bar begins to be inundated with the tide, they take flight and perform a starling like dance in the sky, illuminated by the low sun and flashing dark and light as they turn as one, before settling down on a higher sand bar until the next time!

When sitting on the bar the size of the flock can be deceptive - in fact you could miss them completely and mistake them for a rocky beach.  But closer inspection shows well over 2,000 of them!

But when in the air you can start to appreciate just how many there are, and they make a fantastic whooshing noise as they fly overhead.

Trying to focus in on a few birds can be a bit hit and miss, but it is possible....

Other things to keep an eye out for at this time of year are Purple Sandpipers, Red Breasted Mergansers, a solitary Bar Tailed Godwit feeding on the West beach next to the harbour wall (see my previous post) and Snow Buntings.  Daily visitors at the moment are Widgeon (they are small ducks and sit on the water in flocks of around 30 to 40), Eider Ducks (anything up to 30) Scoters (a bit further out at sea) and of course Nairns's own Brent Geese - which feed on the rockpools in flocks from 30 to 80.

Happy Christmas - and a healthy 2014 to you all.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Hungry birds at the harbour

The beautiful late afternoon sunshine on Sunday gave me a chance to take a few photos from the harbour pier.  I know Black Headed Gulls aren't the most popular birds in Nairn (especially when you're trying to enjoy a fish supper!), but they can give some lovely photo opportunities.

'Right time, right place' rings true with the photo below. I was concentrating on the Widgeon at the edge of the low tide when I glanced down and noticed this Black Headed Gull paddling its feet in the mud at the edge of the recently dredged mouth of the river.  It was attempting to disturb whatever delights were hiding below.  And down he went, to come up with this tasty morsel!

I was also on the lookout for wintering waders and found this solitary Bar Tailed Godwit wandering around the sandbar near the harbour wall.  I was fascinated at just how fast it vibrated its head as it pierced it into the sand, and look how deep it penetrates! and, as you can see in the last photo, it walked away happy!

See you next time!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Waxwings - already!

Yet again it's been ages since I posted. Most folk have stopped bothering to visit the blog.....well, here's hoping some have you have hung in there!  I take the time to take get some of my pics back onto the blog so I can talk about the birds.

Back in April I posted to say that the Waxwings are still hanging around the area.  Well, the last I saw and heard of them was in the 2nd week of May - and now they're back already!  They were spotted in Elgin earlier this month, and they are now being seen there every day - so keep a look out for them and please let me know if you see them, if you can.

Here's one I captured on camera on a tree at the 1st Tee of the Dunbar on New Year's Eve.  It's been on the blog before, but it's worth looking at again because they are lovely birds and a real treat if you get them in your garden.

You're very likely to see them on any tree / bush boasting lots of berries, such as the Rowen Trees below.  Some of you will already have had your trees stripped by the Thrushes - including the Redwings and Fieldfares that winter with us in Nairn.  Waxwings also love rotting apples left on the grass, or stuck on the end of a stick for them to perch on.  I've even known of them eating apples from your hand!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Bird Watching is Back!

Two months on since my previous post and lots has gone on in and around Nairn. A couple of visits to the harbour in the past two days, in the balmy early autumn warmth and sunshine, illustrates it well.

Yesterday I was treated to a show where an Artic Skua (one of three spotted in the past couple off weeks) harassed a Black Headed Gull, who eventually gave in and dropped its food for the Skua to grab and fly off victorious - and all this right at the mouth of the river! I was too consumed watching the battle through my binoculars to take a photo! I called down  again tonight as the sun was setting and a loan Brent Goose was feeding on the small bar my the entrance to the harbour and about 500 Pinkfoot Geese flew overhead in the pink glowing sunset. Talking about the geese – haven’t they been noisy already?! I've heard the Pinkfoot over my house all September, and the Brents were first spotted on 4th September.

You may have noticed that gardens go very quiet around the end of July. This is mainly due to the birds recovering from the breeding season and starting to moult and improve their feathers ready for the winter or the journey south. However, one bird has found its voice with gusto - waking us up every morning as soon as the dawn breaks. In my experience the first bird to really start singing as summer turns to autumn is the Great Tit, but this year the Robin has stolen its thunder.

Out at sea the Gannets and Terns are still feeding in the firth and the Redshanks and Turnstones are back in the harbour in good numbers. So too are the Brent Geese that choose the Moray Firth as their home for the winter. And where gardens are just starting to wake up, the waders, passing through the area on their way south for the winter, have kept ardent bird watchers very busy! Along the firth from Nairn to Buckie there have been all kinds of exciting visitors, including Pectoral Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Black Tailed Godwits, Sanderling and Little Stint.

Some Ospreys are still about - there were four at Findhorn earlier today. Other birds are flocking together and preparing for the journey south, or to head out to sea: Wheatears and Terns (particularly the Sandwich Terns that have been very numerous this year), and as many as 650 Gannets along with nearly 2,000 Fulmars were spotted east along the firth a few days ago.

Regular wintering birds that stay around the firth are also showing up: Purple Sandpiper, King Eider and Widgeon are just three of the regulars that have already appeared.  And we have the ducks that stay on the river - I've spotted many female Goosanders on the river already.  These are really elegant birds; look out for them - see the photo below.

So, even though plenty of birds are leaving our shores, or just visiting them on their way through to other pastures, there will be plenty to get excited about over the coming months.  Keep your eyes open for the 70 to 80 Brent Geese in particular – they love it here in Nairn and choose to winter here every year! 

You are more likely to see the Brent feeding in the rock pools on the east beach, as below.

And the Knot and Dunlin will be here in their thousands in the next few months, and they will give you great flying displays around the sandbars on the beach.  And of course we will have the three very local regulars: Redshanks, Turnstones, and the hardy Oyster Catchers.

Fnally, after a beautiful sunny, still and balmy warm day like today, it’s hard to imagine that winter is not far away.  But don’t let the upcoming cold get you down – get out there with your binoculars and soak up the wildlife that is going on around you every day.

Cheers, and happy birding!