A Day at the Seaside 4 January 2023

This wonderful Black Redstart showed off beautifully for us today

With a slow thaw finally arriving in the Highlands of Scotland, we decided to risk another trip to the coast. Thankfully the roads were clear and we made good time. Our first stop was at Findhorn Bay but the star birds were not waders or ducks as you might expect, but two Grey Partridge in farm fields on the south side of the bay. A real treat for us to see these declining farmland birds, sadly gone from North Wales. Of course there was lots more to see here and other highlights included Twite, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Black-tailed Godwit and Red-breasted Mergansers.

At Roseisle we walked from the car park through the trees to view the bay. The light was overcast and grey and the water was choppy so tricky to pick out birds. However with some careful scanning we managed to spot a Great Northern Diver feasting on a large crab, Velvet and Common Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks and Common Eider, though the views were hampered by rough seas.

On the east side of Burghead headland we enjoyed close views of four Purple Sandpipers as they fed amongst the rocks exposed by the receding tide. Gangs of Turnstones were busy bulldozering their way through the seaweed here and a single Ringed Plover stood motionless nearby. Offshore were more Long-tailed Ducks, Common Eider and Common Scoter.

Incredibly confiding Black Redstart landing on the fence next to our car

As we approached the coastal town of Lossiemouth we noticed large numbers of gulls in the fields on the south side of the road. Luckily there was a convenient safe spot to park and view these birds. While looking at the gulls we noticed a large flock of Skylarks at the near edge of the field, a real thrill to see such a big flock of these declining farmland birds, and it got better. As we enjoyed the larks we noticed a Corn Bunting feeding amongst them, and then another and another, with at least four of these chunky buntings present. Another great bird for us as they are sadly almost extinct in Wales. These same fields held a flock of Greylag Geese and as always we checked carefully through the flock for any other species. For once the search was rewarded with a Russian White-fronted Goose feeding amongst the Greylags, yet another great bird for our 2023 list.

We had a quick look at Lossiemouth estuary where we added Bar-tailed Godwit to our impressive daylist but careful scanning through the gulls here only produced the usual suspects so we headed on further east. At Buckie, where we had heard news of a Black Redstart recently, we drove along the coast road looking for a suitable spot where the Black Redstart might be. Spotting a small harbour we thought that might be a good spot and turned down a narrow side street and parked. Amazingly Ruth immediately spotted the Black Redstart on the seaside railings even before we'd stepped from the car, how incredibly lucky! The Black Redstart was extremely confiding and we watched it feeding along the seawall, landing on washing lines and garden fences and even the wing mirror of a parked car before it actually hopped down between the legs of our telescope tripods! What a wonderful encounter with such a beautiful bird and so far north in Scotland in January. Offshore here we watched another Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Divers, Long-tailed Ducks and Common Eider before heading back to Grantown on Spey.

Even Black Redstarts like to check their look in a mirror!

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