Some Favourite Places

Field Trip Report : 12th October 2023

Three of us set off from Inverness (claiming the first bird of the trip, a Pied Wagtail, in the Retail Park car park) to join five others in Dingwall for a day of birdwatching around the Beauly and Cromarty Firths, led by Fiona Reid.

Our first stop was at Ferry Point in Dingwall. The tide was rather higher than Fiona had hoped it would be, so our attention was focussed on the trees and bushes along the banks of the old canal, rather than out towards the sea (although Goldeneye, Wigeon and Red-breasted Merganser were there, out on the water).

The notoriously elusive Dingwall Kingfisher was there, flashing on sorties along the line of the canal, though not all of us managed to see it. Two Dunnocks were seen on a patch of mud below the far bank, and a Robin was flitting around; as we walked back to the parking area, in the trees along the path were Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, and, back at the parking space, a Treecreeper.

We then drove on to the rear of the distillery at Dalmore, where we parked and took the footpath towards the shore. On the shoreline were Cormorants, a Great Black-backed Gull, Curlew, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Lapwing. A Greenshank was heard calling, but not seen. A Buzzard and a Grey Heron flew over, and Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were flying over, too. In the bushes along the path were Linnet and a Yellowhammer. Looking west up the firth, we could see rain showers heading our way, so we headed back to our cars.

Back at the parking space, as we had coffee, there was a Siskin in the trees; but the highlight for some of us was two pairs of Bullfinches, one of which stayed in full view for us. The female stayed close to the trunk of the beech tree they were in, but the male was perched on the end of a branch in full sunshine, with his red chest well lit. He was feeding on catkins, and the view through binoculars was so clear that we could see the seeds falling from the side of his beak as he ate!

We then drove back across the Cromarty Bridge to the south side of the firth. We went first to Jemimaville, where there was a flock of about 350 Scaup out on the water, a little way to the east of us. Mute Swan, and Mallard were also present, but further out to sea we could make out, through ‘scopes, bobbing up and down in the waves, three Eider drakes,

two drake Long-tailed Ducks, and another pair of ducks which we decided were Common Scoter.

Our final stop was at the hide at Udale Bay, where the tide seemed quite a bit further out than it had at Jemimaville, less than a mile away! Nevertheless, the mudflats were still full of birds. The geese present were mainly Pink-footed Geese, but there were a few Greylag Geese and Canada Geese. Among the wigeon was a single Teal, and as well as the Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls there were a few Common Gulls. As for the waders, notable sightings included Turnstone, Little Ringed Plover, and good views of a Bar-tailed Godwit just in front of the hide.

When big numbers of Pink-footed Geese flew in from behind us we looked up to see whether there were any raptors visible which might have scared them, but the only raptor we could see was a Red Kite flying in from the opposite direction.

The tide was going further out and the light was beginning to fail, so we decided to head home. Many thanks to Fiona for organising a great start to our season of field trips, on which, between us, we saw a grand total of 62 species.