Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wildlife of the Moray Coast

Findhorn, Moray Coast
A visit to Findhorn on the 22nd January meant I had an excuse to go wildlife spotting and the main delights were coastal birds. It was a lovely frosty morning and the first bird I spotted was a grey heron in the bay. I love the fact that there was snow on the beach!
Ardea cinerea, Grey Heron - Findhorn
Ardea cinerea, Grey Heron - Findhorn
Also on the beach in the early morning sun was a curlew, Numenius arquata. It was busy poking around in the sand probably looking for worms, molluscs or marine crustaceans. Not a great photo as I was quite a distance away but good enough for my blog. Oh and the orange blob is a buoy - the curlew is to the left of that!
Numenius arquata, Curlew- Findhorn
We headed around the coast to Burghead where there was plenty more to be seen. The first thing I spotted was a young Herring Gull, Larus argentatus. The young of this species have brown blotchy feathers with black tail feathers unlike the mature adults which have a pure white head, a grey body and black and white tail feathers. The adults also have a bright yellow bill with a red spot. I spotted this gull near some lobster pots and fishing nets and it was pecking at a crab shell. It was fun to watch the gull trying to hold the crab shell it in its beak as it kept pinging across the harbour.
Fishing nets, Burghead

Immature Larus argentatus, Herring Gull - Burghead
Immature Larus argentatus, Herring Gull - Burghead
And below is a picture of the mature Herring Gull which I took a couple of years ago in Ullapool - quite a difference in the plumage!
Mature Larus argentatus, Herring Gull -Ullapool
Walking further around the harbour I came across two lovely little birds and I had to identify these when I got home. They reminded me of a ringed plover but they did not have the ring around the neck. They are Turnstones, Arenaria interpres and this is them in their winter plumage.
Arenaria interpres, Turnstone - Burghead
Two little birds sitting on the wall.....

I was happily snapping away trying to get some close ups of the Turnstones and I unfortunately missed the Eider, Somateria mollissimia that was on the other side of the wall! Steve, however did see it and here is his photo below of this stunning bird.
Somateria mollissimia, Eider - Burghead
Having missed the Eider I turned my attention to a hooded crow, Corvus cornix that was walking along the wall. Well actually it was more like swaggering - a charming, bold and inquisitive bird.
Corvus cornix, Hooded Crow - Burghead
Corvus cornix, Hooded Crow - Burghead
Next stop was Cummingston and the first bird I saw there was an oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralgus.I have seen quite a few of these birds but I have never managed to get a close up photo as they seem quite shy. However, if they do fly off you do get to see their beautiful black and white wing pattern. As we continued around the coast I saw quite a number of them on the beach near Lossiemouth.

Haematopus ostralgus, Oystercatcher - Cummingston

Haematopus ostralgus, Oystercatcher -Lossiemouth

The other interesting find on the frosty grass at Cummingston was four snails all snuggled up together. I hope they managed to survive the cold. 

Next stop was Spey Bay, where the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society are based. I spotted a grey seal but it was too far away to photograph. The volunteers / staff at WDCS had spotted 15 bottlenose dolphins earlier in the morning. It was a great day for whale and dolphin watching with a fairly flat calm sea state. Spey Bay is an amazing place with lots of driftwood on the beach washed down from the river and amazing water flows where the freshwater mixes with the salt water.
Driftwood - Spey Bay
Tree on the beach! - Spey Bay
Looking up the river - Spey Bay
All in all a lot to see on a beautiful stretch of coast. Next it was on to Cairngorm - where there is always loads to see.

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