Su­perb sea pas­sage with en­joy­able for­est bird­ing, too

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding -

CULBIN SANDS IS an RSPB re­serve known for its win­ter sea ducks, but in April we went to look at pas­sage along the Mo­ray Firth. The re­serve cov­ers more than 3.5 square miles. The part near­est the car park is pop­u­lar with dog walk­ers and peo­ple en­joy­ing a quick walk along the beach. To get to the re­serve’s qui­eter and more re­mote parts you need to walk at least a fur­ther 1.5 miles east along the beach. You have watch the tide ta­bles as not to get cut off but you can al­ways carry on your walk in the Culbin For­est, where a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing birds are found. Win­ter counts of sea ducks can be very im­pres­sive with counts up to 10,000 Com­mon Scot­ers, 600 Vel­vets and five drake Surf Scot­ers, not to men­tion Long-tailed Ducks, Scaup and Gold­en­eye. Red-throated Divers are com­mon with odd Great North­ern and Black-throated worth look­ing for. Lit­tle Auks have passed in num­bers and it al­ways worth look­ing through the gulls with the odd Ice­land Gull, in win­ter. Snow Buntings and Twite of­ten use the beach while La­p­land Bunting has also been found. Win­ter also sees a small gath­er­ing of pale-bel­lied Brent Geese. Sum­mer has plenty of terns fish­ing around the firth, with loaf­ing tak­ing place on Culbin Bar so look out for Arctic, Com­mon and Sand­wich Terns. Waders are here all year round, with win­ter Bar-tailed God­wits, Turn­stone, Knot and Dun­lin, while Oys­ter­catch­ers and Ringed Plover are the breed­ing birds. One sea duck that sum­mers is the Eider, with breed­ing in the dunes (see page 75 of this is­sue for more on Eider). Os­preys nest in the for­est along with Shel­duck but the bird to look out for is the Crested Tit, of­ten eas­ier in win­ter in mixed tit flocks. JOHN MILES

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