Sunday, 30 April 2017

Strathbeg - The Hot Spot

Nearly all the birding activity in the NE of Scotland has centred around the Loch of Strathbeg.
On 25th it was reported that a female American Wigeon had been at the Loch for a week and its identity had just been confirmed.  It is very similar 'our' resident Wigeon.  The two differences are that the American one has a wider wing bat seen in flight and it has a whiter 'armpit' or Axiliaries.  I have yet to see the bird or have it pointed out to me.  Needless to say every time I have been to Strathbeg in the last few days many birdwatchers have been closely examining the armpits of female Wigeon.

On 26th a report came in that three Cranes had just landed into Strathbeg.  Despite it being 20.43 I went to see them.  Strathbeg is only minutes away from home.  I met the volunteer warden who had reported them and he showed me where they were.  It was 21.00 and getting dark.  I could just make out the three grey shapes of the roosting Cranes in the distance.

A much enhanced photo of the roosting Cranes

James the volunteer warden left me to it as he thought he has seen a Glossy Ibis come in to land near the Tower Pool hide.

Earlier in the day I made a quick visit to Cairnbulg Harbour.  You may recall that on the 11th April I saw my first Wheatear of the year but could not get a decent photo.  At Cairnbulg I saw my first Wheatear on that site and got a photo'

Wheatear with White Wagtail in the background

On 27th It was reported that the Cranes had left the reserve in the morning going North.  In the afternoon reports came in of the Great White Egret being seen on the Reserve again.

On 28th the Bonaparte's Gull that I saw on the Sunday was back, the Glossy Ibis had been located and that the three Cranes were still around and a Yellow-legged Gull was seen.

On 29th I went to Strathbeg rare birds were reported but I did get two new birds for the list..  I did have a good morning there.  I saw, and was able to photograph, Bearded Tit, Grey Heron, Little Gull, Common Tern, Marsh Harrier and a pair of Otters.

Female Bearded Tit

Grey Heron

Very Distant Marsh Harrier

Common Tern

On 30th I went to Strathbeg again.  This time I went to meet Brian.  The day before I thought I heard a Grasshopper Warbler.  Now my hearing is not a good as it used to be.  On of the effects of the deterioration is an inability to hear birds like the Grasshopper Warbler that is high pitched.  Brian was going to listen to locate the bird so that I could try to see it.  Before Brian arrived at Fen Hide I had a good look round.  The three Cranes were in a field on the opposite side of the Loch so I was able to get a slightly better photo than the one I took in the murk and gloom a couple of days before

No its not much better at all is it.

The two Otters (I am assuming they are the same ones) came closer for a photo

And a Grey Heron came and posed for the camera.

Grey Heron

Then we went tramping though the bog and marsh that is the path between the Fen Hide and the Visitors Centre.  Wellington boots were the order of the day.  Brian kept on saying 'There I can here one' can you'  and I would reply 'No'.  The birds Brian was hearing were not coming out of the rushes or bushes to be seen.  Then, as we were making our way back to the car park Brian said 'Surely you can hear that it is so close'.  And I could.  This was a short burst of its reeling call, it was loud and obviously lower in pitch.  The bird in question then launched out of one low willow bush and dived into the next one.  So we saw as well as heard a Grasshopper Warbler.  Neither of us was able to react quickly enough to get a photo though.  The bird, Brian said started calling again.  This time a much longer reeling and clearly higher pitched as I could not hear it at all.  Later this month I am going to collect some hearing aids.  Hopefully I will be able to hear high pitched birds again and won't have to rely on someone else's ears.
Mission accomplished, I went home to sort out the mornings photos and catch up with writing this blog but not before a couple of other pictures

Roe Buck



Just after lunch Alex phoned.  He was at Strathbeg and was looking at a Green-winged Teal and a Garganey.  He also told me that there was a Glossy Ibis around as well as the Cranes and a Ruff.  So I went back to Strathbeg.  At the Visitors Centre I was told that the Ruff had not been seen for sometime.  So I went off to the Tower Pool Hide where Alex was watching the two ducks.

I found the Green-winged Teal quite quickly. It was telescope distance away so the photo isn't great.

Green-winged Teal

The Garganey could not be found until a mixed flock of ducks, mostly Teal and Wigeon flew in.  The flock contained the male Garganey.  This time it was too far for even a bad photo.  I think it is somewhere in this cropped photo.

Alex and I went back to the Visitor centre which by now was filling up with both birders and casual visitors.  The Cranes, now at least four in number, were much closer than they were at fen hide but in reality still too far for my 400mm lens


 I tried to get a 'closer' shot using a 2x converter but either they aren't very good or I cannot use them very well.  The photos were all totally 'unsharp'

Cranes taken with a 400mm lens and 2x converter

The Bonaparte's Gull came to the front of the Visitors Centre so I called Brain knowing that he wanted it for his year list.  He came and got it ticked.  Birders were looking at Female Wigeon armpits to try and find the American it was seen early on in the day but not by me, Brian or Alex.  Two Marsh harriers were quartering the reed beds, two Great White Egrets were seen, a Glaucous Gull was on the reserve and later on in the afternoon when I had gone home a Little Ringed Plover was discovered.

All in all a fantastic day to be at Strathbeg.

Total on list 159

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