Local Group Ugie Estuary Trip Report

14th February 2024

Ugie Estuary Gulls c/o Jayne Simmons

A calm, clear day greeted the 18 local group members who assembled at the Ugie carpark for a Valentine’s Day birdwatch. The aim was to try and find “white-winged” Gulls (Glaucous, Iceland or Mediterranean) on the corner of North-east Scotland.

The tide was low, and waders were busy feeding on the exposed mud and sand. Before leaving the carpark we watched small flocks of Dunlin scurrying about, along with Turnstone, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Redshank. Gulls were loafing on the rocks and sandy islands, with Black-headed, Common, Herring and Greater Black-backed all present.

Dunlin – c/o Jayne Simmons
Turnstone c/o Jayne Simmons
Little Grebe c/o Jayne Simmons

In the river, Goldeneye were displaying – the males getting very excited by the spring weather.

Goldeneye getting jiggy with it – c/o Mark Sullivan
Goldeneye in Flight c/o Jayne Simmons

Red-breasted Mergansers fished close to the shore and Mallard were everywhere. A “farmyard” drake Mallard, pointed out by Rob, gave pause for thought as it was accompanied by a female Teal-type duck, which has caused some head scratching. This did not look like a normal female Teal, and there was a discussion as to whether it was a hybrid, or something “exotic”. Photos suggest that this might be a female Mallard / Teal hybrid, but see for yourselves below!

Mallard Teal Hybrid c/o Keith Yates

We walked upstream towards an area where gulls often bathe, passing Dunlin and Turnstones which continued feeding at close range. Unfortunately no “white-wingers” were present at the bathing spot, but two Snipe were flushed and Herons stalked the shoreline. Little Grebes, looking like floating powder-puffs, ducked and dived in the river.

We headed back downstream, adding Rock Pipit and Song Thrush feeding along the hightide line. We crossed the bridge and walked onto the beach. Disturbance by dogs meant that there were no waders on the shore, but out on the flat, glassy, sea Red-throated Divers, Guillemots, Eiders and a few Long-tailed Ducks were picked out – with a lot of adjustment of telescopes to allow the whole range of height of the participants to be accommodated! Rob picked out a couple of Gannets, a long way offshore, and a Purple Sandpiper on the rocks at the north end of the beach.

Song Thrush c/o Keith Yates

Back to the cars for lunch, spotting a pair of Stonechats, Wren and a Pied Wagtail on the way.

Beach in Febuary c/o Belinda Miller
3 people birdwatching on a beach
Look out for divers c/o Belinda Miller

After lunch we walked southwards along the shore path towards Buchanhaven, as the tide began to rush in. Here waders were again in evidence, with Ringed Plover, Redshank, Curlew, a small group of flyover Golden Plovers and then, finally, Purple Sandpipers. These were watched at close range and appreciated by everyone, as they fed from weed covered rocks. House Sparrows lined the roof-tops of the old cottages, and Starlings fed among the seaweed.

Let’s look for Purple Sandpipers c/oBelinda Miller
Purple Sandpiper c/o Jayne Simmons

To the south, a couple of Shags and a single Cormorant were on rocks in the bay. Shags here in the NE suffered very badly from Storm Babette back in October 2023. Over 350 rings from dead Shags have been received by the local Ringing Group. Given that up to 10% of all the Shags here have been ringed this implies that as many as 3500 of these birds may have died of starvation due to the bad weather.

Very few gulls were seen, with none of the target species. We returned to the cars, a few of us headed to Peterhead Harbour as a last throw of the dice (without success), with a least 3 heading for tea and cake to round off the day.

Many thanks to all who attended, for your company, and to Rob for helping to lead.

Thanks to Mark Sullivan for leading and the trip report