Thursday, 1 April 2010

Windy days, songs and courting Goosander!

The last few days have seen some spectacular waves along the beach walk from The Harbour to The Golf Club. It has washed up a load of debris washed onto the paths and road. The path by the tea rooms is nearly impassable! Rough weather like this on the one hand makes it very difficult to identify the birds as they bob up and down on the rough sea, or in the blowing trees, as well as providing the inherent difficulties in keeping the binoculars steady! But on the other hand, it often blows in interesting birds.

Over the past few days I have been about town, along the beach and down the A96, (where the flocks of Pinkfoot (and some Greylag) have been vast). On the rocks by the Golf Club, a flock of Turnstones swooped in and I was pleased to see a group of five Purple Sandpipers among them. In the distance a lone Bar Tailed Godwit on the sand and a number of Curlews beyond it and two Shelducks on the rocks.

In town today, walking through the park around The Museum, I heard all the resident song birds singing their hearts out; they ranged from Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Robin and one Goldfinch! I actually didn’t see any of them! The wind and increasing Spring growth results in the need to listen that bit harder. Some of them are migrants from further afield, but I can’t tell the difference between a resident and a migrant Robin I’m afraid!

Having said this, it won’t be long until these birds are joined by the obvious migrants that fill the air with sounds of summer: the Chiff-Chaff’s easily distinguishable ‘chiff-chaff-chiff-chiff-chaff’. (I wish all birds sang their name like this!) The Willow Warbler should follow with it’s cascading watery song. This is a really exciting sound and makes you feel really summery. They seem to go quiet by the end of May – which is good really because it can be a bit annoying! Listen also for the Blackcap – or is it the Garden Warbler. Another one I always get confused with is the Whitethroat – it takes a few sighting of it singing before I can confidently claim the Whitethroat without having to strain my binoculars through the blossom of the tree to see it More on bird song when the visitors arrive.

Once through the park I headed for the pool and along the wall to the golf club. Very, very windy – head on! The Goosanders were active; I’m wondering if all four are going to remain this year. There was obvious courting activity as the males competed with each other for the attention of the two females; ‘standing’ high in the water, stretching their necks skywards, showing their colours well. Later on in the walk all four were up river by the foot bridge. It was very hard to make anything out on the waves, so I headed back and over to the harbour.

The debris strewn path was proving difficult, but I made it. I had a quick chat with a couple of men enjoying the bracing breeze and discussing the Goosander. The chap from Nairn agreed with me that we normally have one that remains all year, but maybe this year… The other chap was a visitor from the central belt who was forced to stay in the region one more day as the rail track south was blocked. He was pleased as it gave him to opportunity to experience the wonderfull views from the harbour wall. As we talked, about 40 Redshanks swarmed about us and settled on the opposite wall. I suppose these are the same birds that rest up on the central harbour wall. As usual the Turnstones were not far away.

On the way home I met up with Kate and we walked up river to the footbridge and we saw our first Grey Wagtails of spring. Three in total – I guess another one wasn’t far away. These are beautiful birds – and their flight call is really distinctive which always make them easy to spot. The yellow and grey really make this striking bird; always found bobbing up and down on the rocks close to, or in the river. Welcome back.


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