News from the field from Holly Page - January 2024
This week we caught up with Heatherlea Guide Holly Page to hear how the start of her year list is going here in Scotland...
"I’ve had a pretty good start to the year, especially considering I didn’t really start my year list until the 6th January! But when I did start, it was with a bang! A small team from Heatherlea took part in the annual SOC Highland Annual Bird Race – the aim is to see as many species as possible between midnight and 5pm within the Highland Recording area. We began before sunrise with modern technology allowing us to get a head start by using a thermal imager to bag 9 species in the first hour! We saw Dipper roosting under a bridge, Woodcock getting breakfast in a field and a few Black Grouse arriving on a lek.
The rest of the day was spent at mainly coastal sites where the number of species available are higher and we racked up an incredible 95 species by 2pm including Velvet Scoter, Water Rail, Greenshank and Great Crested Grebe. This had already beaten the record set the previous year by 2! In the last couple of hours of winter daylight it became harder to add new species but we succeeded in adding another 10 with Jack Snipe being the last one. With an incredible 105 species our team won the race by a considerable margin and had immense fun throughout the day (which was, of course, the most important thing!).
This was followed by guiding the Birdwatching magazine reader holiday of New Year Birdlist Booster where, as a group, we notched up 125 species in 6 days. Highlights from the group included an incredible sighting of a Golden Eagle chasing Greylag Geese right next to the minibus, confiding Snow Bunting at Cairngorm Mountain and an impressive 40-strong flock of Hawfinch in Aberdeenshire.
Non-avian highlights were a Humpback Whale off Chanonry Point (my personal favourite moment) and a couple of Otter off the west coast which almost swam right up to us. At the time of writing this my year list is a healthy 133 – making a really good inroad into #my200year!"