Group Outing – Fetternear

An excellent turnout of 25 members in near galeforce conditions for the groups last outing of the year and first-ever visit to Fetternear Woodlands, Kemnay. The habitats covered today during our 3-mile walk included the River Don, a mixture of broadleaf and pine woodland and some mixed farmland in the hope of seeing a good variety of species.

We started our day at the Fetternear Woods car park, and it was no surprise to see the River Don flowing faster than usual. Overhead a few skeins of Pink-footed Geese passed noisily through and although the birding was initially slow to start due to challenging conditions, we were still able to spot a few species such as JackdawCoal Tit, Blue Tit, Robin and Chaffinch. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any Dippers today, which are usually found in the area. However, we did spot a female Goosander in the midstream of the Don, which seemed to be quite at home in the fast-running current.

Beech Tree avenue (c/o Keith Yates)

Things suddenly improved just as we were about to move a little further away from the river when a Kingfisher took flight from a nearby burn and flashed noisily past right in front of the group before taking a sharp left along the river. A Treecreeper was also noted here and the unmistakable silhouette of a Buzzard could be seen perched in nearby trees. 

It is fair to say that the Kingfisher was a catalyst for the birding to improve and as we crossed the metal bridge over the burn and walked along a beautiful beech tree avenue a few more species began to appear. A few Blackbirds were searching the leaf litter and then suddenly as were neared two of the few houses on the estate a Brambling appeared on a nearby fence. As we paused a second Brambling appeared along with a few Chaffinch and Coal Tits. Just opposite the houses is a small copse and here a Red Squirrel was noted before Rob somewhat sheepishly reported a Hawfinch! I say sheepishly as he was probably in disbelief as there were actually four high in the canopy. A somewhat frantic five minutes ensued as we tried to get all members onto the birds and indeed succeeded before they flew out past the houses. A wonderful find by Rob and a real treat for the group to see this rare winter visitor. 

Walking on we stopped briefly for a look around the now derelict Fetternear Home Farm Stables and shortly after came across an oasis of birds in a small section of gnarled and broken woodland. Here Redwings and Blackbirds were searching the ground and species noted included more Brambling, Chaffinch, Treecreeper, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Bullfinch, including a couple of stunning males. 

Bullfinch (c/o Keith Yates)

From here we took a shortcut through Fountain Wood before emerging to cross farmland and onto the Netherton Business Centre car park. As we crossed the open space of the farmland a large movement of Woodpigeon was noted, along with a single Pheasant as the wind continued to gust. Pausing at the car park a large contingent of Pink-footed Geese were feeding but too distant and in direct sunlight to scan. A couple of Curlews were also seen, their heads occasionally popping up above the stubble.  

A pause at Fetternear House, the old site of the Bishop’s Palace before backtracking to our starting point at Fetternear Woods car park produced some additional species for the day list. These included GoldcrestMistle Thrush, Jay, Long-tailed Tits, Siskin, Wren, Starling and Goldfinch.

Today’s mantra has to be quality over quantity in what could be described as challenging conditions but a thoroughly enjoyable one for all and we ended this year’s outings with another Red Squirrel in the car park grounds. 

Greenland White-fronted Goose (c/o Keith Yates)

After lunch, five hardy souls headed over to the nearby Dalmadilly Ponds where we were rewarded with a Greenland White-fronted Goose, which I believe could be the same bird returning to winter with us for its third consecutive year. 

Thanks to Keith for leading the outing, and for the photos. Also thanks to Rob, Mark and David for their assistance.