Trip reports

Portsoy and Spey Bay

Portsoy and Spey Bay
Bob Shannon

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Scopes were initially set up on a low cliff to the west of the harbour which afforded fine views over the sea and along the cliffed coastline towards Redhythe Point. At the base of the cliff a few turnstone rummaged and on the sea were small groups of guillemot and razorbill plus larger groups of various gulls with the odd gannet dropping in for a rest from their seemingly endless toing and froing from the nearby Troup Head colony.
A great-northern diver was spotted briefly by some but of the white-billed diver there was not a sign so the group set up a new position in the shelter of the harbour wall where it was much warmer. At last there was a possible sighting in the middle distance in line with a yacht on the horizon. Sea conditions were such that only intermittent sightings were possible and apparently it frustratingly kept diving! I didn't spot it but a few of the group were confident that our target bird had been seen
Lunch was taken at Cullen Bay where excellent views were gained of quite a number of long-tailed ducks in full summer plumage cavorting close to the shore. Another great-northern diver was spotted by a few and then, at last I picked up a diver in the scope which Keith confirmed was a red-throated diver still in winter plumage.
After lunch our destination was Spey Bay which on arrival was very busy with the excellent weather bringing out walkers and cyclists as well as birders. Looking out over the estuary we could see good numbers of goosander and red-breasted merganser giving us an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast.Common sandpipers and ringed-plover were spotted and a group of seven curlew like birds rose into the air and promptly announced that they were whimbrel.
Everyone then participated in a very pleasant circular walk initially following the Spey upstream and then taking a link path to the main road. A skylark was singing it's heart out and we had terrific views of yellowhammer. On the walk back along the road we were hoping for corn bunting but to no avail, however we were able to add goldfinch, linnet and willow warbler to the list.
Gathering at the car park Keith revealed we had seen 53 species during the day plus the sighting of the white-billed diver which he had put a question mark against. When challenged as to how likely the sighting was the responses ranged from"probable" through"possible"to "maybe"! Everybody agreed that it had been a smashing day, particularly the weather. For those who lingered on in the warm sunshine to do a bit more bird watching a further 7 species were added,including dunlin and common tern.
When I got home I was still thinking about the white-billed diver( also known as yellow-billed loon) and over a glass of wine read a few of the blogs about sightings at Portsoy in recent years. I examined the various sketches made at the time of the sightings and photographs taken and do you know by the time I had finished my second glass I was almost persuaded that even I had seen one earlier in the day!. Let's amend the bird count to 61.
Bob Shannon