Aberdeen and district RSPB Group outing to Forfar Loch and Monikie CP

Bullfinch pair Alan Maikin

Despite losing 1 hour’s sleep due to the clocks changing, 26 members turned up at various car parks across the park! Once everyone was rounded up, Mark explained the aims of the outing. These were to see Great Crested Grebes (a species now almost gone from Aberdeenshire), and hopefully manage to connect with an early Spring migrant such as Chiffchaff, Sand Martin and an outside chance of Osprey.

On reaching the loch shore we were faced with a wide variety of waterfowl – with a pair of Shoveler and a good number of Goosander, with males resplendent in their breeding plumage. Two pairs of Great crested Grebes were seen, along with a couple of distant Little Grebes. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was probably a recent arrival, moving north to breed. Spring was in evidence as Moorhens battled for territory and to protect females, and spectacular breeding-plumaged Cormorants showed on the water.

Entering the wooded northern shore we began to find a whole range of woodland birds, with Greenfinches and Long-tailed Tits collecting nesting material. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were in evidence, and a pair of Treecreepers showed well. Edgar tried to get a Robin to eat out of his hand – the bird came close but did not take the final step! The highlight of this section was the good numbers (possibly as many as 10) of Bullfinches feeding quietly on willow catkins just over our heads.

Reaching the yacht club we scoured the western end of the loch, without finding anything new. Although some heard what was possibly a Chiffchaff in some willow bushes we failed to in it down. We wandered back towards the car park, adding a Redwing which sat quietly in a bush while we got great views of it, where we stopped for lunch. Some hardy souls watched over the loch, but migrants refused to show. A very respectable 44 species were seen by the group on and around the Loch. It was decided that after lunch we would visit Monikie CP, about 12 miles away. About half of us set off, with others returning home (and one couple opting to go to RSPB Loch of Kinnordy).

Arriving at Monikie CP our first objective was to find Little Gulls which can often be found here in spring. We scoured the north western part of the series of reservoirs without luck, but did have a few Reed Buntings along with a flock of 26 Pied Wagtails accompanied by a Grey Wagtail and a Meadow Pipit. It had started to get a bit windy and cold, and we sheltered from a hail shower while scanning the main reservoir. Finally we found our target, a first winter Little Gull “dancing” on the water as it dip fed. We were lucky enough to see an adult winter later. Target in the bag, we headed down to the nature reserve part of the complex, where shallow vegetated water held displaying Great crested Grebes, and the first Wigeons of the day. A shout of “Osprey” went up, as a large raptor carrying a big fish flew overhead – a bonus migrant. Finally a Chiffchaff began singing and showed well to everyone from a stand of willow bushes. In the short time we were here we had seen 37 species, with the total for the day rising to 51 species – a very good return for a nice spring day!

Many thanks to all who attended, particularly to those who helped point things out to the group.

Mark Sullivan