BIRDING TRIP & PHOTO REPORT:
ABERDEENSHIRE & SPEYSIDE,
Stephen Burch, England
This is a short
trip report, covering a few days birding and dragonfly
hunting on Speyside and the Aberdeenshire coast in June
2010. My general intention was to follow-up my only
previous early summer visit to this region in 2006, and
cover the breeding seabird colony at Fowlsheugh, and to
then head inland to the Speyside region for northern bird
specialities. If the weather was fine I was also hoping
to find and photograph some early rare dragonflies and
damselflies around Loch Garten.
event, the weather on the first two days was good, but
the less said about the conditions on my final day the
photographs shown below were taken with my Canon EOS 50D
camera and EF400mmf4 DO lens, usually with a x1.4
extender. See this page on equipment for more details.
I last visited
this low key RSRB reserve briefly one evening back in 2006, right at the start of my DSLR 'era' and
I had been hoping for an opportunity for a longer follow-up
visit ever since.
Having stayed overnight
in the Ship Inn in Stonehaven, as I feared from the
forecast, the splendid sun of the previous evening had
vanished and the morning dawned dull and grey, with a
thin har hanging over the cliffs visible from the harbour.
The conditions improved a little as time went on, but
there was still some mist around and the light was very
soft for virtually all morning.
The reserve is only a
few miles down the coast road from Stonehaven, and a good
coastal path gives easy access along the cliff tops back
towards Stonehaven. Various points gave quite good access
to the masses of assembled auks and other breeding sea
birds, some of which were very close indeed. Not
surprisingly perhaps, there were two other photographers
wandering around with long lenses with similar objectives!
I took masses of
photographs, and below is a selection, covering virtually
all the species present. The Puffins were present in
small numbers right at the end of the RSPB path.
Click on any pic to
and Razorbill in discussion!
entirely convinced that the RSPB hide at Loch Garten
would be worth a visit at this time of year, but I
decided to give it a go on the warm afternoon of my first
full day in the Speyside area. To my amazement, I was
told on arrival at the hide that a male Capercaillie
was showing! Indeed it was, but only in the extreme
distance. Nevertheless this was a better view than the
one I'd had from the forward hide very early on a
dismally murky and wet morning in 2006. But too far away for any sort of
photograph, unfortunately. There was also an Osprey's
head and upper neck visible on its nest.
Unlike my visit in 2006,
there was no sign of Crested Tit on the approach path,
and the walk down to Loch Mallachie was exceedingly quiet
in the afternoon. Not even any notable dragonflies.
This loch is
somewhere I found in 2006 as a good photographic site, as
the road runs right along the southern shoreline. Waders
seem accustomed to the passing traffic, and provided you
stay in the car, they can be approached quite close.
An early visit before
breakfast on my second day was quite productive. There
was a nice Short Eared Owl by the A939
on the way north from the Nethybridge Hotel, and also a Red
Grouse or two. The highlight of the loch itself
was a distant pair of Black-throated Divers. Much
closer on along the shore were some common waders, and
also a pair of Red-brested Merganser. A
little further on, near the western end of the loch, I
came across a delightful and approachable family of Red
Grouse - the male was ringed which seemed a bit
surprising. After a couple of hours here, I returned to
the hotel for breakfast.
|Female Red brested
In the good weather of
my first two days of this trip, most of the rest of my
time in the Speyside area was spent searching for rare
dragonflies - see below.
Unfortunately on the
morning of my third and final day, the weather was really
awful, with low cloud and heavy rain. Even Lochindorb
from the car was a complete waste of time, so I decided
to cut my losses and head back east towards the Aberdeen
area, to try for the King Eider which had been seen
recently on the Ythan Estuary.
With heavy rain
nearly all the way, I was not in an optimistic frame of
mind when I arrived about two hours later at the
specified spot - at the end of the Inch Road which
overlooks part of the Ythan Estuary. However by the time
I arrived the rain had more or less stopped and a couple
of birders were on hand to point out the King
Eider immediately on arrival, in amongst the
thousands of ordinary Eider. To my
surprise the bird was not asleep on the far side, nor
feeding in the distance. It was in fact quite close
offshore, so I headed cautiously down to the water's edge.
Spending some time here, the bird eventually came even
closer to allow some almost frame filling shots. The only
downside was the dismal lighting conditions, in
continuing murk and drizzle. Nevertheless the shot below
compares well with my previous distant digiscope effort
of this species, from Irvine back in April 2006.
King Eider on the Ythan
relatively early season, in the good weather of my first
two days, the Abernethy Forest area around Loch Garten
proved quite productive, and I managed to find and
photograph my two target species. My main source of
information was the book by Dudley et al, "Watching
British Dragonflies" that has quite good details and
a map - better than most of its descriptions of English
sites. My comments on the various pools mentioned in this
book may be helpful to others:
Nothing very interesting here - just a few Four-spotted
Chasers and Large Red Damsels.
Maybe it is better later in the season.
This is just beside the minor road to the east of Loch
Garten, about half way to the B970. There is now a
boardwalk which allows some good viewing of the pool side
vegetation. Highlight here was Northern
Damselflies, which I found quite difficult to
distinguish from the more numerous Common Blues.
Checking my photos afterwards was necessary to confirm
the ID. Also plenty of Large red Damsels
and Four-spotted Chasers.
Reputedly close to Loch Mallachie, but there was no sign
Tiny pool near the junction between the roads to Nethy
Bridge and Loch Garten. Only Large red Damsels
and Four-spotted Chasers.
Not looked for.
Large pool near to the minor road that crosses Tulloch
Moor. Park at the green lay-by opposite the farm track
about half way across the moor and head north. The pool
is surrounded by trees and bushes and is not visible from
the road. Highlight of the pool and surrounding area was White-faced
Darters. There were plenty of immatures resting
on bushes between the pool and the road, and on the other
side of the road where there was another small pool.
There were also one or two mature males over the main
pool, but these were totally inaccessible for the camera,
Also over the pool were
masses of Four-spotted Chasers. There
was briefly a Golden-ringed Dragonfly
between the pool and the road. Plenty of Common
Blue Damsels as well, but none that I could turn
Darter (click to enlarge)
© All pictures
copyright Stephen Burch