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Richard Somerscocks moved to Findhorn in the north of Scotland in the summer of 2012. Richard was an important contributor to local wildlife news when he lived in Emsworth and we miss his beautiful photos. However, he has been sending us regular reports and photos from his new home and this fully justifies a special web page on our local web site.
Entries are in reversed chronological order

12 MAY 2015
Richard Somerscocks sends his greetings from Findhorn in Northern Scotland where he now lives. Richard says he looks at this Emsworth wildlife site from time to time just to see what is happening in his old town. Richard of course was a major contributor to the wildlife diary until his move to Scotland in 2012. He was particularly pleased to see the Spotted Redshank had returned to Nore Barn for the 11th year running.
He thought we might be interested to hear that they currently have a Spotted Redshank that has stopped off on Findhorn Bay, presumably on its way back to its breeding grounds in northern Scandinavia or Arctic Russia. He does not think it is ours as it is rather camera shy and is quite happy to mix with the local Redshank! However, as shown in Richard's photo it is quite a striking bird in its summer breeding plumage. You can see why it is called a Spotted Redshank - we never see them like that down here.


Richard Somerscocks reports on the latest news from his home in Findhorn, Northern Scotland

"It's some while since I last wrote so I thought I would give you an update on some news from the north. Winter has dragged its heels up here in Findhorn although it is starting to warm up as the days get longer. This has also marked quite a change in the birds in the bay as many of our winter migrants have moved on and those that are left have started to develop their summer plumage. We have also started to see summer migrants appear.

It is amazing how things survive in this harsh environment. I attach a picture of a view of the western Cairngorms - Braeriach and Cairn Toul - taken from Ben Macdui. Yes, that was taken yesterday and it has probably had that sort of snow cover for about 5 months now!

Having said all that I went up onto the Cairngorm plateau yesterday in search of a Snowy Owl that had been reported in a fairly remote area near the summit of Ben Macdui (2nd highest hill in UK). I didn't have any luck finding it - it may have moved on - but I had a very enjoyable high level walk looking at the Ptarmigan and Snow Buntings which were plentiful. These birds are resident all year round and the high plateau is their breeding area.

Back at Findhorn Bay there are still plenty of Red-breasted Mergansers around as well as Goldeneye. The Grey Herons can regularly be seen catching Sea Trout along the shore and the Ringed Plovers are getting ready to start breeding. The Osprey arrived back earlier this month but they are always a bit scarce at the start of the season - presumably busy nesting and since they don't yet have young to feed they are not fishing as regularly as they will be later. Seals are also plentiful at the entrance to the bay.

Grey Herons can regularly be seen catching Sea Trout

About 20 miles east along the coast I saw some Black Guillemot a couple of weeks ago. These are very much a bird of northern Britain so I don't expect you see them on the south coast.

Here is a Crested Tit I managed to see some in a local wood recently on a feeder that someone had put out.


We are having some nice settled weather at the moment, albeit with a rather cold wind so plenty of opportunity to get out birdwatching. Findhorn Bay has its usual assortment of waders at the moment: Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Knot and about 1300 Dunlin. Today I also saw a couple of Lapwing for the first time in ages.

Plenty of ducks at the moment including about 130 Pintail, 150 Mallard, 350 Wigeon and around 45 Shelduck as well as Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye. A few sea ducks are also present - mostly Long-tailed Ducks and Eider, but there was also a drake Common Scoter that came into the bay about 10 days ago. This is quite unusual as they normally stay well out to sea but it gave some good views.

This morning there was a Guillemot looking quite handsome in its summer plumage that came onto the beach at Findhorn. These also stay well out to sea usually and although it looked quite healthy it obviously wasn't as people and dogs were able to get quite close, and they don't normally come ashore. I called the Scottish SPCA and they came and rescued it. It was very thin and the SPCA commented that for some reason there is a tendency for this species to come ashore and die in late winter - they don't quite know why. Hopefully this bird will recover.

Elsewhere in the area I still haven't managed to get a decent sighting of a Crested Tit but I will keep looking. We do however get a few Tree Sparrows in the area.

While in Culbin Forest recently I took a few pictures of the Lichen which is quite prolific in places. Hopefully my identification is correct. Here is just one of them.


Richard Somerscocks sends his latest missive from his new home in the frozen north of Scotland.

"Plenty of birds still around at Findhorn at the moment. Pintails are present in quite large numbers with 146 showing this morning. The picture attached shows about 60 of them.

Roosting with the Pintail were also quite a lot of Bar-tailed Godwits. No sign of the Black-tailed Godwits at the moment. They should start to pass through this area in a couple of months.

The Red-breasted Mergansers are still with us - this male ate 2 of these fish within about 5 minutes. These flat fish (Flounder?) don't look easy to swallow but they always seem to catch them so they must like them. Just along the coast this afternoon I also saw a group of 15 Snow Bunting.

Shags as well as Cormorant are still present in the bay and I spotted some resting up on the jetty recently enabling me to get some close up shots of their heads. At this range you can see the difference between these 2 birds that at a distance can look similar. Elsewhere in the bay there are the usual selection of waders including Redshank."


 Richard Somerscocks sent an up date on a few of his Findhorn sightings since the last report on Jan 13.

"Just opposite Findhorn Bay there is a large area of forrestry - Culbin Forest. A couple of days ago I took a walk through it to the coast, which is a fairly remote spot. Plenty of waders around including quite a number of Knot including some that were feeding quite close to where I was.

A flock of around 20 Bar-tailed Godwit were also visible. We also have around 50 in Findhorn Bay although there are no Black-tailed Godwits at the moment.

On the walk back through the forest Scottish Crossbills and Crested Tits were feeding in the tree tops. They are difficult to see and even more difficult to photograph!

Today was sunny and I took a walk to the end of the bay to look at the seals in the early morning sun. The picture attached shows a group a Grey Seals with the male sitting behind the females watching over them. We also get Common or Harbour Seals but there weren't many around this morning.

In the bay there are still a few Long-tailed Ducks around. This male was photographed late yesterday afternoon. It appeared to have something stuck in its throat as it was trying to cough something up. The photo seems confirm this as there is a definite bump in the neck. There was no sign of it this morning so hopefully it is alright."


Richard Somerscocks reports from his new home in Findhorn in Northern Scotland.

"I have only been back a couple of days having spent New Year away and on the whole it is fairly quiet up here. The most interesting sighting has been a Great Northern Diver that has been coming into the bay and it was present again this morning.

There have also been up to 4 Shags in the bay, as well as the usual Cormorants. Ducks include the Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye and Long-tailed Ducks. Most of the Wigeon we had last month seem to have moved on somewhere.

Shag (with distinctive steep forehead) with Long-tailed Duck swimming by

At home I had a sighting yesterday lunchtime of 18 Waxwings that landed in bushes just in front of my house. They then moved up to the top of a fir tree in my garden and 3 landed on the wind-vane on top of a dinghy's mast which was quite a comical sight."


Richard Somerscocks went out with his camera today in Findhorn in Northern Scotland and got these two beautiful photos to cheer us up during this miserable spell of weather.

Harbour Seals

The first photo is of about 80 Common (or Harbour) Seals basking in the early morning sunlight. The picture shows the seals in the foreground and looks out across the Moray Firth towards the Cromarty Firth with the snow draped hills of the Northern Highlands in the background.

Scotland as a whole is home to around 90 per cent of Britain's seal population, many of which can be seen at Moray Firth. The Common Seal, a member of the pinniped family, is often nicknamed a Harbour Seal as it is frequently found in shallow inland waters and does not usually venture more than 20km from the shore.

Bottlenose Dolphins

Richard also spotted a group of around 35 Dolphins making their way eastwards along the coast. Most were just on or near the surface but a few were putting on a spectacular show leaping out of the water, like this acrobatic fellow.

Bottlenose Dolphins are cetaceans, or small-toothed whales, with rounded heads and long snouts, sickle-shaped dorsal fins, broad flippers, blowholes and rows of short, sharp teeth. One of the most intelligent and sociable marine mammals, Dolphins are often seen swimming alongside boats at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, jumping as high as six metres out of the water in a dramatic display. Bottlenose Dolphins tend to live in small groups of up to 12 others, called pods, which are mainly made up of females and their young. Sometimes a number of pods will join together to make congregations of hundreds, where a kind of hierarchy has often been noted, although the male of the species prefers to live alone or in a smaller pod of just two or three. 


Richard Somerscocks sent me a report about the waders currently in the Findhorn area in Northern Scotland. As this will probably be his last update for a while, Richard wishes all his friends in Emsworth a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

The waders of Findhorn bay

"I mentioned last time that I would give you a summary of the waders and so this report is a quick run through of what is around at the moment. Black-tailed Godwits really just pass through in Autumn and Spring. They disappeared by mid November and I had assumed that they had all moved south. However on 5 Dec I saw another two which was a bit unexpected so perhaps there are a few that will try and survive the winter, but this would be quite unusual. The Bar-tailed Godwits on the other hand are here in quite reasonable numbers - anything up to 90. These are expected to stay the winter.

Redshank are common. I saw a flock of 130 a couple of days ago in one area of Findhorn bay and there are probably at least 200 elsewhere. A small group of around 30 Turnstones are a regular sight on the shoreline by the village. Other small waders include Dunlin and there were at least 250 roosting on the shoreline at high tide today along with 25 Knot. I suspect this is only a small proportion of the total population in the bay at the moment. Curlew are scattered around the bay and I saw a group of 115 on one of the fields by the bay a couple of days ago. Oystercatchers are also widely scattered around the bay but will gather in large flocks to roost at high water - typically over 400.

There is also a group of around 100 Golden Plover on the bay. Lastly, on the beach we are seeing a few Sanderling and also Ringed Plover. I have only seen a few Ringed Plover although their numbers are likely to rise again later in the winter as they are resident breeders over the summer months. The Ringed Plover photo was taken in August but the rest were all taken this month.


Richard Somerscocks sent the following report from his new home in the dark and frozen north of Scotland. I have included only a small selection of the photos Richard sent.

"Its wet, dark and cold here and in fact there has been quite a bit of snow just inland, so not much birdwatching today. I have been going through and updating some of my photos and I thought I would send you an update, and today I will concentrate on the ducks seen at Findhorn. There is quite a good selection of species to be seen, both in the bay and the sea ducks just offshore.

In the bay the Wigeon are the most numerous with several hundred in the bay at any given time. Most tend to stay on the opposite side and are difficult to get very close to, but a few will come across to this side of the bay. Teal are only seen in very small numbers and keep themselves fairly well concealed. Mallard are a common sight but not in any great numbers.

Other bay ducks include Pintail and on occasions recently we have seen 50+. A few Goldeneye are usually showing quite well on this side, but again there are quite a lot more further away on the other side of the bay. The Red-breasted Mergansers I mentioned in my last update and there are usually about 12 of these to be seen at the moment. The Goosanders which were around a few weeks ago seem to have moved on, although a few drakes are still around. When you see them with the Mergansers it is quite noticeable how much bigger they are.

The Long-tailed Ducks are really sea ducks but quite a few, mostly juveniles and females, are regularly seen on the bay. The males generally stay out at sea, although a few have been on the bay recently. There is quite a wide variation in the plumages when you see the flocks of juveniles and females.

Eiders are a common sight along the coastline and they tend to gather in large rafts on the sea although their numbers have dropped a bit in the last few weeks. A lone King Eider is also with the Eiders just along the coast from here.

The other sea ducks seen off the coast are Scoters, both Common and Velvet. These tend to gather in small groups of 4-10 and are often quite a bit off shore, so are not easy to photo. Lastly, we also get quite a lot of Grebes. The Little Grebes are seen feeding in the shallow water along the shore of the bay and there are usually about 4-6 just by Findhorn. Offshore we also get Slavonian Grebes and these are frequently feeding with the Velvet Scoters - again not very close to the shore and being fairly small birds they are also difficult to photograph.

I will try and give an update on the waders sometime, but this is probably more than enough information for the time being. A selection of photos attached which illustrate most of the ducks mentioned."



Red-breasted Mergansers

Richard Somerscocks has had some splendid Red-breasted Mergansers in the Findhorn bay in Northern Scotland. Richard said there were 13 this morning, most of which were females. There were 5 others just offshore although these were mainly males. He sees the ones in the bay catching fish quite regularly.

Here is a female Red-breasted Merganser with a small flounder .

Richard also gets good views of the males offshore displaying.


Richard Somerscocks has sent a news up date of yet more sightings of Waxwings from his home town in northern Scotland. He saw another flock of 10 this morning in Forres which is a town neighbouring Findhorn. Here is Richard's photo of one of them to whet our appetites for their arrival down south.

Richard found a flock of 32 Fieldfares feeding in the same Rowan trees, with rapidly disappearing berries. Large flocks have been seen around the north of Scotland in the last few weeks: 350 in Lerwick, 250 in Ullapool, 420 in Aberdeen, and the largest flock at the Kyle of Lochalsh on the west coast which numbered some 1200.

NOVEMBER 16 2012

Richard Somerscocks managed to spot some Waxwings today and as promised he sent some pictures - just to make us feel really envious! Richard had a very large flock in the country about 10 miles south of Findhorn. When he got home he counted 122 on his photos. Here are a good few of them in this shot. They are getting a lot of reports at the moment so it looks like a good year. But will they get down here - 600 miles to go!

Back at Findhorn Bay the numbers of Geese are an impressive sight. They roost on the bay overnight and depart at first light to feed on the nearby fields before returning just before dusk. Richard witnessed the spectacle yesterday when a huge flock of around 4000 Pink-footed Geese returned to the bay mid-afternoon. Richard says it is difficult to capture the spectacle from photos and you certainly cannot get an impression of the noise they make, but he sent the following image of a small proportion of the flock about to land on the bay.

Offshore they are getting quite a few sightings of Divers and there is a juvenile Red-throated Diver which is currently coming in very close and giving excellent views. This picture was taken this morning.

Most of the Divers, particularly the Black-throated Divers, stay further offshore. There were also a number of Slavonian Grebes feeding with the Velvet Scoters.

NOVEMBER 14 2012

At my request, Richard Somerscocks sent me this fine image of two Twite. Richard tells me they were seen on 1 Nov at Burghead, a small fishing village about 7 miles east of Findhorn. The local bird recorder says they are relatively uncommon in Moray and apparently most of the sightings are in the Findhorn area. Although he suspects there may be more among the flocks of Linnets, but they simply don't get looked at.

The Birds in Moray and Nairn web site has a number of Richard's photos. See . . . There are also many sightings of Waxwings on the web site, though Richard has yet to see one. If he does he promises to send us a photo to savour! Maybe, we shall get some down here this year?

The last Twite I saw locally were two on the shore at Langstone near the entrance to the Langbrook Stream on 14 January 2003. I think there were three sighted, but I only saw two. Here is my photo from the time.

NOVEMBER 11 2012

As a supplement to yesterday's news, Richard Somerscocks says they never get Spotted Redshank up in Scotland, but make up for this with masses of Common Redshank.

Here is Richard's shot of a roosting flock of Common Redshank in Findhorn bay.

NOVEMBER 10 2012

Richard Somerscocks provided the following news up date from his new home in Findhorn in Northern Scotland

"Black-tailed Godwits are still present in Findhorn Bay. I counted 6 today and that included WN+OY flag which has now been with us for about 2 weeks.

It has been fairly windy here for the last few days which has made birdwatching more challenging. Quite a lot of ducks are in the bay though at the moment, including both Red-breasted Mergansers and Goosanders. These birds, particularly the females, can look fairly similar at a distance but when seen close up the differences become apparent. The Mergansers tend to favour the more open sea, whereas the Goosanders stay almost exclusively in the bay. This behaviour was also apparent in the sightings I got when I was at Emsworth. The Mergansers were often seen off Thorney Island and the few sightings I had of Goosanders tended to be on Great Deep.

I notice that you are getting Pintails at Emsworth and we also have around 50 in Findhorn Bay at the moment.

Another bird I saw yesterday were a number of Sanderlings. They tend to favour long sandy beaches where they can rush around endlessly feeding by the water's edge. It does make photographing them difficult! I cannot recall seeing them at Emsworth but I expect somewhere like the Witterings may have some. The ones I saw were on the beach at Lossiemouth which is just along the coast.

Finally, on the shore I have also seen a few Snow Bunting here at Findhorn.