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Joseph's Blog of Birding: The Bash Report, Part I

Posted Monday 14th September 2009 at 19:57 by Joseph N
Updated Monday 14th September 2009 at 20:34 by Joseph N
As a special birding weekend passes, two hopefully special blog entries follow it. This weekend, as any reader of this blog will know, it was the Scottish Birdforum Bash. As far as I am aware, I will be the only person that will blog the occasion. As there is a limit to how much I can post in a blog entry, there will be two blog entries, this one charting the first day and the next charting the second. Most of you that will probably read this (although not all) will know what was seen by either having been at the Bash yourself or having read it in the Scottish Bash thread, but nonetheless, I hope to make it enjoyable and entertaining. So without further ado, I shall start the first part of the Bash Report (photos included)!

12 September, Day one of the Bash:

It's early Saturday morning. The sun is shining brightly and there is not a cloud in the sky; it's a beautiful day. Perhaps to good for birds, but that wasn't going to spoil the enjoyment of what this lovely day would hold; the first day of the Scottish Birdforum Bash was taking place, and around 6 people (including us) were expected to turn up.

Our meeting point was to be at Greyhope Bay car park, Girdlness at 10am.

- A view from Girdlness

- Looking towards the Lighthouse

As we arrived there, we saw a line of cars and 3birders watching the sea, all of which we would be spending the coming two days with. To list them: Delia, Andrew and Mark. They stopped sea-watching as they noticed us arrive. We were greeted warmly.

" You must be Joseph," said Delia. And then turning to my Dad, "You must be his father. Its a pleasure to have both you with us, as its always nice to see new faces at our Bashes."

" And its nice to meet you all too," I replied, "Hows it going out at sea?"

" Well we've only just arrived, but by the looks of it there isn't much passage going on out there; the weather is slightly to good for that. But there are quite a lot of Gannet fishing on the horizon. explained Andrew.

" I see," I said.

My Dad and I joined Andrew, Delia and Mark in watching the seabirds, and as Andrew had rightly pointed out, there were a lot of Gannet fishing on the horizon, and no huge signs of passage. My Dad and I took in turns to use the scope; whoever wasn't using it getting to know everyone else. We watched the sea from Greyhope Bay for around 25 minutes, during which two Arctic Skua were seen (one pale phase, one dark), one having a go at attacking a gull. On the rocks by the shore meanwhile around 10 or so Knot lingered, some Turnstone and a few Ringed Plover.

We then decided to walk to the nearby Torry Battery in search of any 'migrants on the move', leaving Delia to continue sea-watching from the car park. The Battery also turned out to be quiet, despite Andrew doing his wonderfully accurate bird call imitations to see if he would get a response. A Robin and a party of Goldfinch was the most we saw there. So we went back to Delia at the car park and headed up to the sycamore, which turned out to be even quieter. But despite the quietude of the Ness, it was lovely to be out. Just as we were about to leave Ken arrived, and there were now 6 of us.

" Are you thinking about the Loch of Skene as our next location?" he asked as heard us discussing where to go next.

"Yes," replied Andrew, "But none of us are quite sure how to get there. We want to see if we can see the Red Kites. I take it you know more?"

Ken then showed us on a map exactly where to go, and we set off, Mark leaving his car and hopping into ours. It just so happened that we were the first to arrive at the Loch of Skene, and as soon as we got out my Dad spotted a bird of prey in the distance.

" Mark," he said, "I am right in thinking I have a Red Kite here?"

" Yes, that's a Red Kite," Mark confirmed, "It isn't flying like a buzzard, and has all the characteristics of a Kite."

This moment was satisfying; as we had found a Red Kite virtually as soon as we had arrived. Mark, my Dad and I watched the Kite for a minute or so, watching it gliding on the heat waves and its fork tail every apparent. It then went out of sight. As the others arrived we told them of the news.

"That's great news, if there's one bird, there should be a few others around too, as its perfect day to see them," said Andrew.

The Loch was convieniently close to where we had parked the cars, and we were down there in seconds. My Dad and I hadn't been to the Loch of Skene for many years, and it was nice to re-discover its beauty. It was a vast loch, with pine forest by the water's edge from which we bird-watched.

Various duck species were on the loch, including Goldeneye, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Teal and Wigeon. Meanwhile, Treecreeper and Jay occasionally called and amongst quite a lot of Buzzards in the fields beyond the Loch another two or three Red Kites were spotted. The highlight of our visit to the Loch came when a very close Red Kite flew majestically right above our heads for around 30 seconds. Such a beautiful bird it was, with its wine-red plumage and grey white head. Prior to Saturday, I had only ever seen Red Kite once in the Black Isle, so it was lovely to see them again. After some lunch, we all left towards the Ythan Estuary with a sense of satisfaction and pride. It must be said that Red Kites are very nice birds to see!

We met at Meickle Loch at around 2:00pm, which was surprisingly lively considering how quiet it normally is. Lots of Tufted Duck were around, and near the back of the Loch there were around 20 Greylag Geese. A party of 30 or so Pinkfeets also passed over at one point; a definite sign of the coming months. Whilst we stayed here Delia also very kindly showed me how to digiscope (thanks!). It clouded over slightly as we watched Meickle Loch, so we thought it appropriate to go to Collieston for some more sea-watching. On our way we stopped at Coathill Loch, in which we saw quite a few interesting things, including a slightly drab looking Pintail spotted by Andrew, a Shoveler and a Little Grebe. Sea-watching at Collieston unfortunately was not much different from at Girdlness, although a few Red-throated Diver went south, a Wheatear was seen briefly by Ken and I, and a distant Great Skua was seen by Andrew.

- Collieston birding

Waulkmill Hide was the next location, and we arrived there to find the tide pretty low, but starting to come in. To our surprise, there was a distinct lack of small waders here, although the commoner, slightly bigger waders were in abundance, with many hundreds of Lapwing and Golden Plover present, and up to 10 Bar-tailed Godwit.

" I guess the thought is that the passage waders have gone south due to the good weather there has been today," mentioned Delia.

" Yes, it seems surprisingly quiet wader-wise on the estuary. Perhaps the best thing now is to go up to the mouth of Estuary and check the Foveran Bushes and the beach?" Andrew suggested.

Happy with Andrew's plan, we headed up to the Mouth of the Estuary, Andrew and Mark leaving for there slightly before us. When we arrived there Mark said to me.

" Have a nice bird for the day here, but we're not going to tell you what it is. We'll see if you can find it."

Unfortunately my Dad didn't here Mark saying this to me, and gave away what this bird that Mark and Andrew had seen was. It was a Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Just as my Dad saw it then dipped out of view, so we had to walk a bit further to see it, but eventually we re-found it, although it was quite far away. Brent Geese aren't very common birds up here, so it was quite a surprise to see one there. It was quite a small goose, very dark and with a distinct white ring round its neck. It was my second ever, so this was a lovely bird to see. As we headed up to another view of the Mouth of the Estuary from Insch's Road in Newburgh, we got even better views, as it appeared to have flown up from there. To finish the day off, we had a look at the Estuary from the second car park. Here an Osprey flew over the Estuary, landing for a few minutes on the mud. A Peregrine was doing the same, although that was more towards the South of the Estuary.

And so a lovely but not a particularly fruitiful days birding ended as we 'Bashers' dispatched gradually; Delia setting off to her nearby accomadation in Newburgh, Ken going home, and we took Andrew and Mark back to Aberdeen. The next day we would meet again, this time starting at Rattray Head. In Part II of the Bash Report (which I'll post tomorrow), you can read about the second day. Thanks for reading!
Total Comments 3


I enjoyed hearing you guys planning the Bash, and it's great to see how it came together. Nicely written!
Posted Tuesday 15th September 2009 at 04:44 by Gretchen Gretchen is offline
markgrubb's Avatar
Beautifully written report Joseph-though we didn't see any rares we saw a good variety of decent birds-vereywhere we went we saw something new-and aren't those ducks testing to id in their eclipse plumage!
Posted Tuesday 15th September 2009 at 19:50 by markgrubb markgrubb is offline
Joseph N's Avatar
Thanks very much both of you! I am just about to write part 2 of the Bash report, if you want to comment, I don't mind whether you do it in here or in the second one, its up to you lot.

And you're right Mark, despite it being overall quiet in terms of rarer species, we saw a very nice amount of birds from different habitats. Overall I was satisfied with what we saw. And yes, the ducks were hard to tell in their eclipse plumage. It was nice to meet you there by the way.
Posted Tuesday 15th September 2009 at 20:01 by Joseph N Joseph N is offline
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