Scandinavian visitors

The weather was still blustery and rainy today, but we ventured out north to the coast. Our first stop was Buckie where there had been reports of a flock of waxwings. These lovely little birds breed in Scandinavia and if they’ve had a good year there is sometimes not enough food (berries) to sustain the population and so they cross to the UK in search of sustenance. 2023 looks like being a very good year for waxwing sightings as there are a lot being reported already.

One of the waxwings at Buckie today

We arrived at the location, a housing estate on the edge of the town, and found that there were quite a few rowan trees with berries on: Sometimes the waxwings, or other winter visitors such as redwings, will strip the trees and then move on, and so finding trees that still had fruit boded well. And then Brenda spotted a single bird perched at the top of a tree. We drove nearer to it and parked, and suddenly there was a flock of at least 50 waxwings circling right over our heads. We watched them for about 20 minutes – luckily in a bit of a lull in the rain! – and they would often perch within a few feet of us. The light wasn’t great but I still got some nice photos, and this was the largest number of waxwings I’ve ever seen.

This photo shows the amazing red feathers on the wings and also that, despite being colourful, the waxwing is also remarkable camouflaged!

We then went on to Cullen and sat in the camper van in the rain watching the sea before taking a walk along the bay when the rain stopped for a while. There were eider duck out to sea, and a few gannets flew past. On the shore there were redshank, oystercatchers and a curlew, plus a rock pipit. Two other birds of note flew past – a black guillemot and a long-tailed duck.

I then spotted a new species for the year that I had been hoping to see up here, a great northern diver. Not the best views given the weather and the height of the waves, but always a good bird to see.

Brenda writes: “Another rainy night produced very soggy egg boxes, a dozen moths and flies of all shapes and sizes. I continue to be confused about carpets, apart from the one we’re laying in what will be the library, which is definitely brown. I sent a picture of a moth to James which turned out to be a spruce carpet, another new moth for this year.

spruce carpet

Even though it was raining we decided to go out anyway to our favourite seaside spot, Cullen. At the very least we could do some armchair sea-watching from the van. On the way we took a detour because some waxwings had been reported at Buckie. We found them by a roundabout on the edge of a housing estate wheeling around and enjoying the berries on the rowan trees. I have never seen them so well and really appreciated the yellow edge to their tail when they fly.

We managed a walk at Cullen, watching the magnificent breakers.

A blustery day at Cullen

There are very few flowers around now but I did spy some late flowering thrift.


As we were about to leave the icing on the cake was a great northern diver.

New species for October 26th:
Birds: great northern diver, waxwing
Moths: spruce carpet

Birds = 226
Moths = 254
Wildflowers = 289