Archives for May 2015

Ranging quite widely in North Highlands

Globe was mainly in an area SE of Elphin early in the month, then also visiting a variety of areas including Kylesku 4th – 7th May, Loch Fannich 17th and west end of Affric on 19th and then staying in the Monar area to 24th.

May 2nd to 25th

May 2nd to 25th

Probably breeding

Roxy’s data suggests that she is breeding so we hope she will have young this summer

Settled in Monadhliaths

Brodie spent most of May in the upper Dulnan river valley with occasional visits north to Coignafearn and a longer return journey to Lochaber and back on 15th – 16th May

May 4th to 24th

May 4th to 24th

Mainly in Wester Ross

Hope, sibling of Loyal, remained in coastal areas of Wester Ross between Torridon and Loch Ewe, except on 9th when she flew to the Alladale area, then NW to the Elphin area before returning to coastal areas on 13th May

May 3rd to 25th

May 3rd to 25th

In the Flow Country

Loyal was just NW of Kinbrace at the beginning of May and then moved to the Morven area on 4th May and remained in the Flow Country to the SW and north of Morven in south Caithness through the month.

May 2nd to 24th

May 2nd to 24th

Ranging in usual areas NW Sutherland

Canisp has remained in favourite haunts in NW Sutherland – being mainly in Cape Wrath to Kinlochbervie with a brief trip down to Achfary area and back on 14th – 17th May

May 4th to 25th

May 4th to 25th

Non-breeding

I went to Green J’s eyrie on Thursday 21st May and confirmed that Green J has not laid eggs this summer. She is now 24 years old and bred at this nest site for 21 years; she has been a very productive bird over the years. She and her mate are still defending the nest which has been well prepared and continuously used by them since their arrival in April. It’s an interesting part of osprey life to be able to learn how individually identifiable ospreys age and what happens to them in their last years. She is now roosting at night about 300 metres from the eyrie but spending all day near the eyrie, while the male hunts and returns with fish.

Incubation progressing

Beatrice still incubating but getting close to hatch dates – in the past three weeks the furthest tag reading was just 100 metres from nest. She has the same mate as last year and he’s been bringing in flounders from Findhorn Bay

Nature’s lives – how to connect ospreys to polar wolves

Yesterday we had one of those most beautiful spring evenings in the Scottish Highlands. I had to work at home most of the day but in the evening I went to my local patch – Findhorn Bay – on a special search. As I crossed the saltmarsh, recently grazed by thousands of pinkfeet, I walked through a dense white carpet of scurvy grass flowers, like walking through snow though not so cold and instead beautifully scented. The first osprey hung in the sky over the bay and a scan with binoculars showed three male ospreys hovering a few hundred feet above the incoming tide. They were finding it hard to spot a flounder moving in the choppy water. Then there were four and one of them caught a fish and set off inland to its mate, waiting on her nest of eggs for the evening meal.

But for once I was not here to watch ospreys, which I often do, but to look at one of the spring wonders of FindhornBay, on the Moray coast. It’s a regular staging post for the spring migration of Arctic ringed plovers, on their way from Africa to the high Arctic. They are always with northern dunlin so I made my way over to sit on a big trunk embedded in the mud. This great tree had been washed down the river in last August’s huge flood and is now a favourite perch for ospreys. On the edge of the tide I found a larger flock of waders than I expected – with my scope I estimated 900 ringed plover and 600 dunlins, with three summer plumage sanderlings. The sun was behind me so the birds were in full sunlight. There was a strong and surprisingly cold wind blowing from the north and I was so glad I had put on my thickest fleece and a wool hat.

The waders came closer and closer as the tide pushed them towards me; the dunlins were mostly in beautiful summer plumage, reddish-brown backs and jet black bellies, and they were as busy as sewing machines stabbing the mud with their bills catching food. The Arctic race of the ringed plover is smaller than our local breeding ringed plovers. They were looking gorgeous in their smart black and white stripes, running back and for and feeding from the surface. But what I really love about these spring gatherings of ringed plovers is their busyness and exuberance. They run at each other and then individuals jump in the air and flick their feathers – a continuous sense of excitement. It’s like watching the start of a kids’ race at school, everyone eager to get going. These waders want to get to Greenland but who within the flock is saying ‘This north wind is too strong and its cold, we need to wait’. Are the flighty ones youngsters? Or is it that the weather suddenly changes and the whole flock know this is now the time to make the next stage of that great migration.

Many summers ago I saw these waders breeding in north-east Greenland and it’s, even now, fresh in my memory, seeing them running around on the breeding grounds, scuttling over stones and moss among the beautiful blossoms of the Arctic flowers. But my memory is more vivid when I think of their summer neighbours – musk ox and polar wolves. So when I see ospreys hovering above a flock of Arctic ringed plovers in FindhornBay I think of those iconic white wolves in that far country. And as I sat on my log last evening I knew that a thousand years ago ospreys hunting this same bay would have had every chance of seeing grey wolves in Scotland. I would love that to be a possibility again and the sooner we restore wildness, the better. At 9pm, I walked back to my car the golden sun still hanging above CulbinForest; nature at its very best.

Red 8T breeding again

Red 8T is back with his usual mate and they have eggs – although their nest was much damaged by winter gales and both had a lot of nest building to do. Mike Crutch got this lovely photo of Red 8T at Aviemore this week.

Red 8T fishing at Aviemore - photo by Mike Crutch

Red 8T fishing at Aviemore – photo by Mike Crutch