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Birdwatching

Birds of the Brora Area.

Almost two hundred and forty different species of bird have been recorded in the Brora area, although many of these are migrants passing through in spring and autumn on their travels to and from their breeding grounds. At least ninety five species have bred in recent years.

The wide range of habitats in a relatively small area is another reason for this rich diversity. The coast changes from sandy to rocky either side of the Brora rivermouth. Agricultural areas on the coastal plain are flanked by heather moorland. Clynelish Moss offers an unusual tundra-like habitat, with extensive peat bog and basin mires. Loch Brora, and Strath Brora beyond it, provide food and breeding grounds for freshwater species. The woodland varies from deciduous (mainly birch and alder) to plantations of pine, with a mini-Caledonian 'forest' of Scots Pine developing on the drained section of Clynelish Moss.

Typical birds of the coast include Cormorant, Shag, Eider, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and, in summer, Sandwich and Arctic Tern. There is usually a colony of the latter by the ninth hole of the golf course and the bird is the emblem of the Golf Club. Many seabirds, including Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Kittiwake and shearwaters and skuas of several species occur offshore, particularly during onshore winds in summer and autumn. The only breeding seabird, apart from gulls, is the Fulmar, which nests on cliffs at Strathsteven, by the Brora river and, most notably, on Carrol Rock overlooking Loch Brora - the largest inland colony in Britain.

Many of the resident waders (shore birds), such as Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher, move inland to agricultural areas and the Strath to nest. Here they are joined by returning Snipe, Lapwings and a few Greenshanks - one of Sutherland's specialities. Another county speciality, Black-throated Diver, can often be seen on Loch Brora in the spring, although it doesn't stay to nest there. Greylag Geese breed in the Strath and the resident birds are joined by immigrants from Iceland in late autumn.

Small numbers of Red Grouse and Golden Plover are still to be found on the hills, where Meadow Pipits are abundant and Wheatears common. The few pairs of Twite are less easy to find. Dippers and Grey Wagtails occur along the rivers and burns. Pied Wagtails are more widespread in summer. The 'Hoodie' has been all but usurped on the lower ground by the all-black Carrion Crow. There are healthy Rookeries in and around Brora and Ravens sometimes nest on Carrol Rock. But you're very unlikely to see a Magpie!

Most visitors to the north of Scotland are struck by the numbers of birds of prey. Buzzards are the most numerous and the most obvious. Ospreys are occasional visitors to the loch in summer. Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk can occur anywhere in the area. Hen Harriers pass through, mainly in autumn, and the odd pair has bred. With luck, a Golden Eagle might also stray into the Strath, although this is most likely in winter and early spring.

Alas, Brora is too far north for two Caledonian specialities: Crested Tit and Capercaillie. The former is slowly spreading its range and has been seen twice. Some of the southern warblers don't reach us either, but the woods hold many Willow Warblers and there is a good population of Sedge Warblers on Clynelish Moss. Both Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat have been proved to breed in recent years.

Spotted Flycatchers are still quite common and several pairs of Redstart nest in the Strath. Scottish Crossbills visit Scots Pines irregularly (when the cones are ripe). Early spring and late summer are probably the best times to see them. Woodcocks 'rode' over the woodlands on summer evenings, when both Tawny and Long-eared Owls might be encountered. The few local Barn Owls are the most northerly in the world.

Recent studies have shown that Brora lies on an important migration flyway. This is most obvious in autumn when, in certain weather conditions, large numbers of northern thrushes and finches, like Redwing, Fieldfare and Brambling, move south-west down the east coast of Sutherland, cutting off the 'Brora bump' by flying through the Clynelish valley towards Ben Bhraggie. On 30 October 1995 a British record count of over 125,000 Redwings passed through. Spectacular movements of seabirds can also occur at this season, with thousands of Gannets, auks and Kittiwakes and smaller numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, Pomarine Skuas and other scarcer seabirds battling their way out of the Moray Firth during onshore gales. These movements are best witnessed from the Lower Brora shore car park.

In winter, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers feed offshore. Sea duck numbers have declined in recent years but Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck and Common Scoter are often present, together with Goldeneye, which also remain on Loch Brora as long as it stays ice free. Little, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls are occasional visitors to the rivermouth, whilst parties of Snow Buntings may occur on the beach, agricultural land or the hills in hard weather. Flocks of Twite, Mealy Redpolls and other finches favour weedy turnip (swede) fields at this season.

Red-throated Diver*
Black-throated Diver
Great Northern DiverWhite-billed Diver #
Little Grebe Great
Crested Grebe #
Red-necked Grebe
Slavonian Grebe
Black-necked Grebe#
Fulmar*
Cory's Shearwater #
Great Shearwater #
Sooty Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater
Little Shearwater #
Storm Petrel
Leach's Petrel
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Grey Heron
White Stork #
Mute Swan*
Bewick's Swan #
Whooper Swan
Taiga Bean Goose #
Pink-footed Goose
White-fronted Goose #
Greylag Goose*
Hoopoe #
Wryneck #
Great Spotted Woodpecker*
Skylark*
Shorelark #
Sand Martin*
Swallow*
House Martin*
Richard's Pipit #
Olive-backed Pipit #
Tree Pipit*
Meadow Pipit*
Water Pipit #
Rock Pipit*
Yellow Wagtail #
Grey Wagtail*
Pied Wagtail*
WaxwingDipper*
Wren*
Dunnock*
Robin*
Black Redstart #
Redstart*
Whinchat*
Stonechat*
Northern Wheatear*
Common Swift*





Barnacle Goose BrentGoose
ShelduckWigeon*
Teal*
Mallard*
PintailShoveler #
Pochard Tufted Duck
ScaupEider*
King Eider #
Long-tailed Duck
Common Scoter
Velvet Scoter
Surf Scoter #
Goldeneye
Smew #
Red-breasted Merganser*
Goosander
Honey Buzzard #
Black Kite #
Red Kite (re-introduction)
White-tailed Eagle # (ditto)
Marsh Harrier #
Hen Harrier*
Montagu's Harrier #
Goshawk
Sparrowhawk*
Common Buzzard*
Rough-legged Buzzard #
Golden Eagle
Osprey
Kestrel*
Red-footed Falcon #
MerlinHobby #
Gyr Falcon #
Peregrine*
Red Grouse*
Black Grouse*
Grey Partridge*
Pheasant*
Corncrake (former breeder) Moorhen*
Common Crane #
Oystercatcher*
Black-winged Stilt #
Ringed Plover*
Kentish Plover #
Dotterel #
American Golden Plover #
Golden Plover*
Grey Plover
Lapwing*
Knot Sanderling
Little Stint
Curlew
Sandpiper
White's Thrush #
Ring Ouzel
Blackbird*
Kingfisher #
Purple Sandpiper
Dunlin*
RuffJack Snipe
Common Snipe*
Woodcock*
Black-tailed Godwit #
Bar-tailed Godwit
WhimbrelCurlew*
Spotted Redshank #
Greenshank*
Green Sandpiper #
Wood Sandpiper #
Common Sandpiper*
Turnstone
Grey Phalarope
Pomarine
SkuaArctic
SkuaLong-tailed
SkuaGreat
Skua Mediterranean Gull #
Little Gull
Sabine's Gull #
Bonaparte's Gull #
Black-headed Gull*
Common Gull*
Lesser Black-backed Gull*
Herring Gull*
Iceland Gull
Glaucous Gull
Great Black-backed Gull*
Ross's Gull #
Kittiwake
Ivory Gull #
Sandwich Tern
Roseate Tern #
Common Tern*
Arctic Tern*
Little Tern*
Black Tern #
Guillemot Brunnich's Guillemot #
Razorbill
Black Guillemot
Little Auk
Crested Auklet #
Puffin
Rock Dove/ Feral Pigeon*
Stock Dove #
Woodpigeon*
Collared Dove*
Turtle Dove #
Cuckoo*
Barn Owl*
Tawny Owl*
Long-eared Owl*
Short-eared Owl*

 
 
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