Local Birding 

Field Trip: Saturday January 27th, 2024 

Six of us travelled through from Inverness (and points north), on a day of blustery winds, to meet two other members at Kingsteps. The plan was to start in the east and work our way back along the coast towards Inverness. 

At the Kingsteps car park we were greeted by six Magpies in a tree and on the ground beneath it. Six magpies promise gold, so we hoped it was a good omen for the day’s birdwatching. Also in the field were Blackbird and Redwing; in other trees there were Greenfinch and Goldfinch. Six Pink-footed Geese flew over, and later a Sparrowhawk. 

On the Minister’s Pool, there were Black-headed Gull, Teal and Mallard. We cut through the dunes to the sand. Out on the spit were masses of gulls, and interspersed among them, a few Cormorants. 

We walked eastward, fortunately with the sun and wind behind us. Out at sea we saw two Long-tailed Ducks. Ahead of us we could see a massive murmuration of waders. When they settled on a sandbar on the opposite side of the creek, we were able to tell that they were Knot, but there were also some Dunlin in amongst them. There was also a couple of much smaller, whiter-looking birds which a camera zoom showed to be Sanderling. 

We thought the Sparrowhawk had made another appearance as we walked around the path, but it turned out to be a Kestrel. 

After a late “mid-morning” coffee break, we drove into Nairn and parked at the harbour for lunch. A Red-breasted Merganser flew up-river from the sea. Redshanks, and a single Oystercatcher were perched on the embankment wall of the river.  

We then did a circuit of the riverbank. There was a Moorhen hiding in a clump of reeds in the middle of the river. We could hear House Sparrows and Goldfinches in the trees on the other side of the river, but they were hard to see. At the footbridge just below the main road bridge, we saw small birds flitting down to the water’s edge and back to the shelter of the trees and bushes lining the bank – these turned out to be Chaffinches. A flock of Jackdaws flew over as we made our way back down river.  

Once we had recrossed the river by the bottom footbridge, we saw a great crowd of Redshanks sheltering from the wind on the stones of the harbour embankment. Two Turnstones were poking about on the level ground just above them  

In the harbour itself, something that looked like “a small duck, which dived” teased us by staying underwater for a very long time, until it eventually surfaced and we saw it was a Little Grebe. Back at the car park we had a great view of a drake Goldeneye. 

Next we drove to Alturlie. There was a pair of Stonechats on the fence of the field opposite where we parked, and a flock of winter thrushes (Fieldfare and Redwing) flew up from the field. Out at sea were flocks of Wigeon and Scaup, and, among the Scaup, a single Great Crested Grebe. We also had a fine view, through the ’scope, of a drake Long-tailed Duck, to complement the pair of females we’d seen at Culbin. A Common Gull flew past.