Friday, 18 June 2010

Life on the River Nairn

Where has time gone? It’s been ages since I’ve written on this blog; so much going on! The birds are well into their second broods; the head of the river is full of Mallard ducklings and the Nairn Swan brood, as well as plenty of Sparrows and Finches chicks bathing in puddles on the embankments. Tens of Sand Martin skimmed the top of the water catching flies for their young, born in the side walls of the river.

Talking of the river, I walked up river yesterday as far as I could go without too much difficulty; this place full of life! A real array of sounds, and when foliage allowed, great sights too. I was hoping to see the Dipper family from a few weeks ago, but they’ve fledged and have gone further afield. And I am still to see the paid of Goosander this spring despite the fact that at least six were here late winter. The Swan mannie tells me he has seen them; but I don’t know where they are when I’m looking for them!

There are so many places to walk around Nairn that I am spoilt for choice, and so this was my first walk up river this spring, and judging by the activity yesterday it won’t be my last! It was a humid, still day as I made my way along the path (dodging all the dog poo!). Every now and then I encountered walkers enjoying the setting and chatting as we passed. The peat brown water of the river rushed past in places and strolled in others sections. Mt attention was taken by the sound of a family of Blue Tits feeding in the branches above my head. My first instinct on hearing the high pitched calls of the young Blue Tits is to look up expecting to see a passing group of Long Railed Tits. A really distinctive sound and unique to Long Tailed Tits at all other times of the year, except now! There must have been about six Blue Titsl chasing their parents demanding their food.

A bit further up river a caught a glimpse of a bird heading to the bottom of a tree. Every time I am in a wooded area and see a bird flying diagonally downwards toward a tree trunk I suspect a Tree Creeper. They flydown to the bottom of the trunk and then walk up and around the tree trunk looking for grubs for as far as they can go, then fly down to the bottom of the next tree! A really consistent behaviour which lets you know what they are without the need to inspect through the binoculars; although it is well worth doing as you’ll see their articulately patterned back and lovely little down turned bill, specially designed to dig into the bark.

A bird with a very similar action to th Tree Creeper is the Nuthatch, which would be an extremely rare sight in The Highlands; well, north of Hadrian’s Wall actually. The Nuthatch runs around the trunk of trees feeding on grubs in the bark, but where the Tree Creeper runs up the trunk, the Nuthatch runs down the trunk, without fail! It’s flight path is diagonally upward!

Anyway, what else was around yesterday? I spotted 26 different species in about a two hour walk. Along with the Gulls, crows and Pigeons there was loads of Song Thrushes singing high up in the trees and Chaffinches making a racquet in pretty much every tree! I heard what I hoped was a Whitethroat, but was probably a Dunnock (I’m easily confused!). I did hear the beautiful resonant song of a Blackcap though and then followed the moving branches and leaves to find him flitting among the leaves. A similar ‘jiz’ to this, I spotted a Willow Warbler, strangely silent, but flitting among the leaves to find food. The song of the Willow Warblers still fill the air at this time of year, but it won’t be long until they are all silent, like the one I spotted yesterday. This is the most exciting sound in April as it signals the start of the influx of Warblers for Spring, but it is also an early bird to go silent.

Talking of signs of summer, a solitary cuckoo sang from beyond the river yesterday. A few weeks ago their song was everywhere, now just a few. Further down river a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew through the trees and bounded to the other side (a very distinctive bounding, up and down in a shallow ‘U-shape’ flight path). On my way back toward town (but not a circular walk as the Firhall Bridge is a barrier), I heard the call of a Yellowhammer and then spotted him at the top of a fir tree! I heard many of them singing in the farmers fields too. Then I heard a fracas above my head and looked up to see a jackdaw harrassign a low flying Heron as they twisted their way through the tops of the trees.

I could go on and on (I won’t!), but the river area is alive with wildlife and a must for everyone who can get down there to open your ears and eyes to the wonders around us.


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