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
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.
Online - Quality Bird Information and Products
of Strathbeg (Eurobirding)
of Strathbeg (Hester Lyons)
Ornithologists Union (BOU)
Trust for Ornithology (BTO)
Isle Bird Observatory
Ronaldsay Bird Observatory