Thrushes have arrived

Published: 31st October 2012

Autumn leaves reflected in Loch Oich

Rich autumn colours reflected in the calm waters of Loch Oich

As we approach bonfire night here at Glenloy it is looking particularly autumnal. There has been a spectacular display of colour this year, together with a few rare and precious days in which the changing trees have been reflected back from limpid lochs – a geat opportunity for photography. On one such day we circumnavigated Loch Oich, and were particularly delighted with the views from the eastern path up the side of the loch along the old Pudsey Line. There was little on the water apart from a few Mallards and a pair of Mute Swans, buit plenty of small birds were making use of the trees and bushes along the bank. The rowans, which are still going strong, brought us the first of the season’s Fieldfares, amidst a flock of Redwing and many migrant Blackbirds. Winter thrushes appear to be everywhere now – with a bumper rowan crop there is plenty for them to feed on, and many rowans are still as yet untouched. It will be interesting to see how long our Scandinavian visitors linger. Our local Mistle Thrushes may well feel their beaks out of joint for a while yet, but there is plenty to go round, at least at the moment. We also came across several tit flocks, family groups of Long-tailed Tit, a pair of Bullfinch and small flocks of Goldcrest – also  in good numbers at the moment. The highlight of the day, however, was a lovely grey-backed male Hen Harrier, hunting over a patch of clear-fell  in the forests above Invergarry.

Another bird that we saw that day, and which can be seen everywhere at the moment, is the Jay. These handsome crows are flying around in noisy family groups moving amongst the oak trees. There has also been a good crop of acorns, which they are busy caching for leaner times ahead. Long-tailed tits are also flitting around the garden, best seen when they visit the birch trees outside my office space. They do not use the bird feeders in the garden, which is a pity, although these have been full of other birds. At the moment the little blighters are selectively searching through the mixed seed in the long feeder and rejecting the coarser grains, now piling up underneath. Where are the pheasants when we need them? The Chaffinch numbers have been depleted somewhat since we were away for a long weekend, and despite warnings of an invasion, I have yet to see Bramblings this autumn. One bird that we are seeing regulalrly is the Crossbill. As the local sitka cones have ripened these are flocking to the trees around the drive, and on a still clear day, little showers of discarded scales float down to the ground.

Out at the coast the divers are now back in numbers, and we have seen Great Northerns in several coastal locations, including Loch Linnhe. Some are still pretty much in breeding plumage and well worth a look for. Another bird we spotted at Sallachan at the weekend was a Slavonian Grebe, this time in winter plumage. We were close enough so that the black ‘cap’ to the head and red eyes were clearly visible. The edges of the lochs also sem to be full of young Herons. Their survival very much depends on what the weather is going to do this winter. It has already been below -5C on several nights. This has no doubt stimulated the autumn colours, put has put paid to fungi rather early. We found the usual displays of waxcaps locally, but even in September many were melting away.

We have also had plenty of rain recently, but even then there is always something to see. A dreich day ‘s shopping in Oban is always likely to be rewarded with the sight of Turnstones, huddling in groups along the water’s edge. This is a pretty little bird, and rather unrepresented in the area. Although we have not seen them, there have been reports of rarities in the area, including a Cattle Egret at Corpach and Little Auks at the coast. It is always worth keeping an eye on what is coming and going, and who knows what the recent hurricanes on the western side of the Atlantic might bring in