Here in Strathspey, it has been noticeable quieter the last couple weeks. Warblers and Swallows left us to head for warmer climates for the Winter. The Curlews and noisy Oystercatchers have moved to the coast, away from the fields in which they were breeding. The Birch leaves are all turning a tint of yellow, mushrooms are decorating the forest floors and there is a slight chill in the air. Autumn has arrived. It feels bittersweet, the sounds of Willow Warbler and Spotted Flycatchers have disappeared and have been replaced with winter flocks of Redpolls and Siskins. The Robins are filling the gap with their winter song and boisterous nature, defending their territories and Starlings form noisy flocks; I have really taken the time to admire their mimicry and shiny plumage this past week.
With the arrival of Autumn, we also have the arrival of our first migrants who choose to spend the winter months in Scotland. The excitement has already started with that familiar ‘wink wink’ being heard in the evenings and the wonderful V formation filling the skies. Pink-footed Geese! Notable one of the first arrivals, and they are filling up the fields which have been vacated by the ground nesting birds such as Lapwings and Skylarks, which breed in Speyside during the summer months.
The Rowan trees are bursting with berries now and the blackbirds are taking advantage of them. Fallen apples are providing a treat for any luck thrush that happens to find them. There is great anticipation of seeing our first Redwings and Fieldfares. Fieldfares have to be one of my favourites, such beautiful markings and very charismatic!
Another wonderful addition to the area, is the family groups of Whooper Swans that enjoy our wetland reserves and lochs. The juveniles who have made their first trip will stay with their parents over the winter, and you can recognise them with their grey plumage.
During our Guided Day’s Out, we have a couple itinerary’s that involve visiting the coast. It’s such an exciting time to visit the coast with huge flocks of geese arriving on estuaries, waders such as Redshank and Dunlin grouping together in such vast numbers. Having missed the familiar call of Curlews and Lapwings is reason enough to go to the coast for birding. Another wonderful migrant that blends into small flocks is Purple Sandpiper, mixed in with Turnstones, these delightful little birds arrive early in the Autumn.