Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Autumn Birding so far in Aberdeenshire

If I had to be frank with you all, birding hasn't been at its best up here in Aberdeenshire, and anyone that lives in Aberdeenshire will know that from the distinct lack of rarer birds that have turned up in the county in comparison to other counties in the UK. And that's not just because the birders in this county aren't trying. I guess you could leave it down to the fact that there aren't enough of us in the county, but that's not completely justifiable. In my opinion the reason this autumn hasn't been so good bird-wise is because of the wind. This autumn so far the winds have either been very light, or they have been westerly or South-westerly, which is not the best for birds. However, I am fairly positive that could change in the remaining few weeks we have of autumn, and that everything could improve.

Anyway, in the second half of September I found myself very busy with school work, and was thus unavailable to go out on a full days birding for a couple of weeks. However, I have been able to pop down to Girdleness after school a couple of times a week, which is basically the closest place to where I live in Aberdeen. Its a headland, and sticks out a long way. It is known to have held all sorts of rarities in the past, and is a good place to both sea-watch and have a look for passerines. I go and birding with my Dad, and he and I usually sea-watch off by a foghorn just round the corner from the lighthouse you can see in the first of the two pictures of Girdlness below.

I have done 'after school' birding down at Girdlness approximately 4 times. The first time I did this happened to be the best day of the lot, although it wasn't great in terms of others day I have had in the past. The date of this day was the 17th September, and a north-westerly wind was present, and having heard of this wind, my Dad and I were eager to get down to Girdlness to see if there was anything out at sea. Within half an hour of returning from school I was out there with my Dad, sea-watching from what is known as 'The Coo' (but is the foghorn I mentioned earlier). I unfortunately don't have my own scope, but I will be getting one in the next few months with a bit of luck, and because I don't have one, my Dad and I have to share his scope. But it isn't too much of hassle, when he is looking through the scope I just concentrate my bins on an area of the sea, et voila, I'm able to sea-watch!

As we weren't going elsewhere and the chances of 'migs' were fairly low, we spent around an hour and a half to two hours watching from the Coo that day. There was certainly more activity out at sea then there had been for a while before that. There was an almost constant flow of Gannets, with an estimate of up to 400 birds seen within the time estimate I gave. These were the first apparent birds to us as we started sea-watching, and are hopes were fairly high of something slighlty more interesting, as with a big passage of commoner birds such as Gannet, there are slightly less common birds. Around 10 minutes into the sea-watch, with me now on the scope, I spotted two pale-phase Arctic Skua, attacking some gulls furiously together before flying rapidly north again. This brought even more hope into our hearts, and we hoped that more Arctic Skua would pass, along with another couple of species of Skua. Soon after this 15 Pink-footed Geese went north, along with 3 Tufted Duck, and 3 flocks, around 10 birds in each, and within a few minutes of one another, wader sp. went past, although it was very hard to tell what they were as they were a long way out. As I was the only one that could really see them properly, I presumed they were Redshank, as they seemed bigger and not as fat as Knot, which I originally suspected when I see the first flock About 45 minutes through the sea-watch, a group of 4 Manx Shearwater passed, flying closely and quickly together, moving their wings from side to side in unison. From this moment onwards, there was a passage of Manxies. They appeared amongst the Gannets every 5 minutes or so, normally in groups of just two birds. As we watched them pass, we were joined by Mark Lewis (Fat Paul Scholes on Birdforum), who would be pleasant company until we left. With Mark in our company, we continued to find little groups of Manx Shearwater, with one biggish group of up to 12 birds passing towards the end of the sea-watch. Also, Mark managed to spot a fine, very close, pale-bellied Brent Goose going southwards, another pale phase Arctic Skua passed, and a couple of Red-throated Diver went north close in too. By the time we had to leave, we had seen, in all a total passage of: 35 Manx Shearwater within an hour (it was around 45 mins into the sea-watch that we first saw them), 400+ Gannet, 15 Pinkfeets, 3 Arctic Skua, 1 Red-breasted Merganser north, 3 Tufted Duck, 35 wader sp (presumed Redshank), 3 Common Scoter south, 1 Palle-bellied Brent Goose and a 2 Red-throated Diver north.

On the other occasions I went down to Girdlness after school it wasn't as lively as this, sea-watching from that day onwards has been generally poor, although last week 22 Pale-bellied Brent Geese did go north, and in a quick bird-watch last weekend 6 Arctic Skuas passed. Apart from that though, that is your lot in the last few weeks. An improvement is indeed needed!

Thanks for reading my first entry,



  1. Wow you made a Blogspot blog m8, nice work! i will try and follow you (if i can figure out how! lol). Keep up the good work Joseph:)

  2. Thansk TJ for your kind words. Good luck on figuring out how to follow my blog. When I next post I will have spent a day birding in Norfolk and around a week in Corsica, so I'll have a lot to report!