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September 2010 - Well the over-wintering pinkfoots have started arriving slightly earlier than expected. They usually number from 40 to 60 thousand and create such a magnificent sight at dawn and dusk when they are flying in giant 'V' formations.

August 2010 - House martins now have 3 nests around the hostel windows, the first time in at least 20 years. Some chicks have already fledged, and others can be watched without being disturbed from only a couple of feet away inside the hostel.

We are always surrounded by hundreds of oystercatchers, lapwings, curlews, starlings, eider ducks. Less frequent smaller flocks include goldfinches, greenfinches, ringed plovers numbering a few dozen, and of course the tens of thousands of pink footed geese.

A side benefit of using waste wooden pallets for our environmentally-friendly central heating system, is that we have hundreds stacked neatly alongside the fence. They make a perfect protected environment for nesting birds, providing shelter from the wind and rain in an area devoid of trees and hedges.

Here are some notes courtesy of Tim Marshall, the font of all birding knowledge regarding Rattray Head.

In the winter (Sept to April) the main attractions are the Geese, mainly Pinkfeet regularly joined by Barnacles, Whitefronts and Greylags in small numbers. Bean Geese, Brent Geese and Snow Geese turn up occasionally. On the sea, Rattray is very good for Great Northern Divers with numbers peaking from late Feb to early May (12+ regularly present). Red throated Divers are common and an occasional Black throated Diver may be found. Little Auks are seen annually sometimes in large numbers.
Passerine migration can be variable, for example 5 Black Redstarts turned up on 29th March 2001. Generally the best period is the middle two weeks of May when Bluethroat, Wryneck and Red-backed Shrikes are regular.

Between late April and mid June there is always the chance of a rarity, for example Subalpine Warbler, Little Bunting, Greenish Warbler, Short-toed Lark and Rustic Bunting have all been found in the spring. A White-winged Black Tern also spent a few hours here in May 1997. Rattray is also good for waders in the spring: Temminck's Stints occasionally appear, also Spotted Redshank, Ruff, and Black-tailed Godwits. Up to 100 Sanderling are present on the beach during May.

The summer (June to August ) can be quiet, but there are Corn Buntings and Tree Sparrows nearby in good numbers, while at the Loch of Strathbeg just up the road, Spoonbills are annual and there is usually a lingering Whooper Swan.

Autumn provides both passerines and seabirds. Offshore, Bonxies and Arctic Skuas can be seen in good numbers (Aug and Sept are best) with a good chance of Pomarine Skua and Long-tailed Skua. Great and Cory's Shearwater have also been seen. Of the small migrants, Yellow-browed and Barred Warbler are regular. Other birds include Dusky Warbler, Siberian Stonechat, Scarlet Rosefinch, Arctic Redpoll and Pallas's Warbler.

What must be remembered is that the birding coverage at Rattray is minimal, maybe just 30 minutes per day at peak migration time. The chances of somebody on site finding a BBRC rarity are excellent in the spring and autumn.

BirdGuides Online - Quality Bird Information and Products
Loch of Strathbeg (Eurobirding)
Loch of Strathbeg (Hester Lyons)
Wildlife Web
British Ornithologists Union (BOU)
British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)
BTO - Observatories
Fair Isle Bird Observatory
North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory

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Lighthouse Cottages, Rattray Head, Rattray, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. AB42 3HA
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