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MAY 2007

By Stephen Burch, England

This is a short photo based trip report, covering a day and a half's birding on the Aberdeenshire coast, on 4 and 5th May 2007. A business trip to Aberdeen provided this opportunity for some birding afterwards. Last year I had 'done' Speyside and Fowlsheugh to the south of Aberdeen, so this time I tried coastal sites north of Aberdeen, with the main aim of finding photo opportunities.

As last year, however, the weather was not particularly good. Although there was some sun on the afternoon of the 4th, the 5th was uniformly dull and grey with a cold easterly wind for good measure, with temperatures as low as 10C - quite a contrast from the 20+C temperatures recently in southern England.

All pics were taken with a Canon EOS350D & EF400mmf5.6 (prime) lens. See page on equipment for more details.

Bullers of Buchan
These splendidly named cliffs don't seem to be widely known, but they are easily accessible from the road just north of Cruden Bay, and contain most of the usual cliff breeding sea birds, including Puffin in reasonable numbers. I took the southerly path from the houses close to the car park, towards Cruden Bay. This provided a few opportunities to get close enough to the birds for photography, but did require some rather risky short descents in places! I had read of Puffins easily accessible on the cliff tops in the evening, but of these there was no sign whatsoever. In fact the only photo-able Puffin was on a ledge, which needed the hairiest slide down to get reasonably close. There was some sun while I was here, but as it was afternoon/evening it wasn't shining on the birds - morning must be better from that point of view. The only mild surprise here was a Peregrine flushed off the cliffs.

The only accessible Puffin

A group of four Guillemots, including one of the bridled form

A reasonably close Razorbill

A pair of Razorbill getting in the mood for the breeding season!

One of many Fulmar flying along the cliff tops

Kittiwake cruising past

Ythan Estuary
Estuary mouth
There are various easily accessible places worth visiting on this estuary. Probably the best was the estuary mouth, reached by a short walk from the car park at the end of the beach road from the Ythan Hotel. Here there were masses of Eider resting on the shore opposite, and good numbers of both Sandwich and Little Terns, sometimes coming close enough for flight photography, which would have been so much better with a blue sky. I kept on having to retreat in the face of the incoming tide!

Sandwich Terns fishing in the Ythan estuary mouth

Little Terns fishing in the Ythan estuary mouth

Waulkmill Hide
This hide overlooks the upper park of the estuary, and is reached along the minor road opposite the Collieston turn. This road had an obliging Oystercatcher perched on a road-side fence post, which allowed a close approach using the car as a hide.

An obliging Oystercatcher by the road

There wasn't a great deal around at the hide itself, only some distant Curlew over the far side. However, all this changed when an Osprey suddenly appeared, caught a (huge) fish and then flew off. Only rather distant views for photography:

Distant Osprey with huge fish!

Oystercatchers in a yellow light caused by the field of oil seed rape behind

The main road bridge over the estuary near Newburgh produced more fishing Sandwich Terns and some Red Breasted Mergansers.

This was a surprisingly good site, where I spent some time. The road to the left at the start of the village ends in a car park right by some rocks overlooking the sea. There was a small breeding sea bird colony just to the north, and all three auks (including Puffin) could be seen offshore. Also, there were some fairly distant Red throated Divers, some in summer plumage, as well as a couple of passing flocks of Common Scoter further out. Also well out to sea were Gannets. The nearby rocks had the odd Turnstone. Plenty of Eider and fly by Sandwich Terns as well.

Fly past Eider

All pictures copyright Stephen Burch

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