Goosanders are back. We had up to eight Goosanders winter in and around the mouth of The River Nairn last winter, but all went further afield for the summer. I seem to recall that a couple stayed in the summer of 2009, but I have not seen any this summer. So, to see a female feeding under the footbridge in town was great news for me. I find it difficult to get out to the remoter areas around Nairn, including off shore, so it’s great when the birds come in to see me!
A friend was telling me how, when he was out in his boat last week, he watched a Skua being harassed by Terns off the Old Bar. This reminded me of a really exciting sighting last year from the car park down at the harbour. I was having a great time watching large flocks of Terns and Gannets diving for food just to the west of the harbour wall, when an Arctic Skua appeared out of the sun to the west and darted aggressively among them. It gave a fantastic display of its flying abilities as it chased the Terns and Gannets, forcing them to drop their catch so it could grab it and fly away to feed. These are very strong and ruthless birds, and they make a great spectacle to watch.
So much goes on just off our shores that is the envy of birders from all over the country. But then, everywhere in Scotland has its special places. We were down a few miles south of Dumfries at the weekend on the mouth of the Nith, on The Solway Firth. What a fantastic spot this is for waders and ducks! We observed hundreds of Redshanks and Lapwings moving up river as the tide was coming in. There were Shelducks sitting on the water and Curlew and Godwits feeding in the mudflats. In the distance (too far away to accurately identify), hundreds of smaller waders; likely to be Sandpipers and / or Dunlins (with I suspect even more exciting rarities among them), were standing on the shoreline, whilst small flocks of dabbling ducks were flying around in circles (as ever at this time of year they were very hard to identify!). They were all feeding on what they could, in the knowledge that the numbers would soon run into thousands as the tide turns and leaves behind its bounty for them all to feast on.
This is a spot I will probably go back to in the a few months as it is famous for the multiple thousands of Barnacle Geese that winter in and around the Merse, at the mouth of The Nith. The weekend gave me a real buzz for visiting all the usual spots around The Moray Firth Coast line to catch sight of our own wintering birds finding solace from the hard winters further north. Here’s to many more happy days of frustratingly trying to identify what I am spotting!