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!

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