rspblogo.jpg (2777 bytes) INSH MARSHES Nature Reserve
Insh Marshes Bird Report 1998

Compiled by Tom Prescott                    



Introduction

This short report is a review of all the bird records for 1998 and is presented as a series of short summaries for each species in turn. The raw data has been collected from many sources from intensive species-specific surveys, to casual observations and has been collected by reserve staff and volunteers, local people and visitors alike.

Only sightings within our recording area are included in this report, the perimeter of which is the B9152, (old A9), between Kingussie and Kincraig, and the B970 from Kingussie to Kincraig via Insh. This is shown on the map at the end of this document along with the locations of the more commonly referred to places in the text.

In recording any bird data there will always be a bias towards certain species to the detriment of others and this year is no exception. More time, resources and effort is put into obtaining comparable data on key species which can leave the non-key species under-recorded. Breeding surveys in 1998 concentrated on the floodplain, with a full survey of all the wetland areas within the recording area. Thus in 1998 our knowledge and data on species breeding on the floodplain is good for wildfowl and waders but woodland species received less attention and hence their populations are either estimated, under-recorded or insufficient data has been collected to ascertain. In the winter monthly wildfowl counts are undertaken throughout the recording area. Many records, however, come from casual counts and observations made throughout the year.

Summary

One hundred and seventeen different species were seen within the recording area this year. This total is slightly down on that for previous year’s which ranged from 126 to 129. Several unusual species were seen this year, including the first little egret for Badenoch and Strathspey which graced the shores of Loch Insh in May. The day before the egret was first seen an icterine warbler was located singing in bushes also along the shores of Loch Insh whilst in June the reserve’s first fulmar was also found on Loch Insh. An albino swallow was present in Insh for around ten days in September and the first shoveler for several years was seen on the marsh below the village in October.

In general it was a good breeding season particularly for goldeneye with 52 known nesting attempts, a record figure. Other duck species recovered from the low breeding populations recorded last year. Breeding waders also faired better than last year with most species showing increases in their populations. Four pairs of ospreys nested in the area fledging six young in total. In the winter a joint record number of hen harriers were counted with sixteen birds at the roost.

Acknowledgements

This report would not be possible without the many volunteers, local people and visitors whom kindly gave us their bird news. These included one-off sightings of scarce birds, the first arrival of summer or winter visitors, numbers of certain species or regular records throughout the year. Without their co-operation and contributions this document would be very incomplete and much thinner.

We are always keen to hear of your sightings, so please pass them on to Pete Moore at Ivy Cottage, Insh, on 661518. Also if you would like further copies of this report, or know of someone whom would be interested in seeing a copy, please let us know and we will send one on.

Systematic List

Red-throated Diver

A single bird in summer plumage was seen on Loch Insh on 27th April.

Cormorant

Recorded regularly mostly on Loch Insh and to a lesser extent on the Spey up to 14th April and from 25th August. The highest counts were all from Loch Insh with nine on 16th and 30th March and seven on 12th October and 6 on 2nd October.

Fulmar

A bird was seen on Loch Insh on 4th June. It was caught and released in the Moray Firth the following day. This is the first record for the reserve.

Little Egret

A single bird seen on the shores of Loch Insh on 16th May was the first record of this elegant species for the reserve as well as being the first for Badenoch and Strathspey. It stayed for at least twelve days remaining fairly faithful to the shallows on the eastern shores of Tom Dubh island but also venturing to the outflows of both the Dunachton and the Raitts Burns.

Grey Heron

One to three birds recorded regularly throughout the year with a maximum count of eight on 15th February and five on the 14th August, both maxima being seen on Gordonhall Fen.

Mute Swan

Only one pair was present during the breeding season and for at least the fourth successive year no young were seen. The immature bird first recorded in November last year remained until 21st May. One to three birds were present throughout the year with a maximum of four on both 12th July and 13th September.

Whooper Swan

In the first part of the year the maximum count was 125 birds on 16th March and the last spring birds were seen on 11th April. Two birds stayed on into the spring and possibly attempted to breed and were last recorded on 12th June. The first returning birds were noted on the 12th October and the maximum count for the latter part of the year was just 42 on 10th November. The two adult yellow neck-collared birds, (2J40 and 2J06), seen last year stayed through until at least 22nd March and returned in the autumn, both staying to the end of the year. 2J40 was first seen on 16th October and 2J06 on 15th November. Both these birds were ringed in Iceland in August 1994 by a team of Danish ornithologists. Neither bird had been recorded away from Insh in the interim period.

Pink-footed Goose

There was only one spring record on 2nd April when 45 birds were present on the Dell of Killiehuntly. In the autumn several skeins were noted with peak activity between 29th September and 3rd October. Several skeins over 100 were recorded, the largest being 365 on 2nd. In late October through until November up to 14 birds were present with the greylag flock feeding on the Dell of Killiehuntly.

White-fronted Goose

There were two records this year with a group of 14 birds on fields at Invertromie on 11th October and two below Insh village the following day.

Greylag Goose

Winter maxima up on previous years with winter peaks of 333 on 11th January and 285 on 22nd October, with a staggering 768 on 30th October. Ten pairs were found breeding in the recording area, six of which were on the reserve. The silver/blue neck collared bird with the code C61, first recorded on the reserve in spring 1997 was seen below Insh village on 6th January. It had been caught and ringed at Loch Loyal, Sutherland, on 6th July 1996 and seen on two dates the following October near Dounreay. C61 was also seen a number of times in the spring from the hides suggesting that it may have bred. Hence our breeding birds may not necessarily be of feral origin. Further sightings of neck-collared birds are required before any firm conclusions can be made.

 Barnacle Goose

One to two birds recorded quite regularly between 13th February and 21st May and one autumn record of a single bird on 3rd October. Maximum count was of seven birds on Dunachton on 24th January.

Wigeon

Winter maxima down on previous years with peaks of just 91, on 13th February in the first quarter of the year, and 70 on 2nd December in the latter. The breeding population increased to 46 pairs which probably represents the highest recorded breeding population.

Teal

The two winter maxima figures were 229 on 16th March and 112 on 12th October. As for the previous species breeding numbers were up on previous years with 71 pairs in the recording area.

Mallard

Two hundred and twenty-one pairs bred within the recording area which is the highest figure since 1995 and represents a two fold increase on last year’s population of just 108 pairs. In the winter months maximum counts were 420 on 13th February and 210 on 7th December.

Pintail

Up to two birds were present from 16th March to 15th May. Most sightings were from Insh and Balavil. Though not proven, breeding is suspected.

Shoveler

A female or immature bird was seen in the main drain west of Insh on 1st October. This represents the first shoveler record on the reserve for several years.

Tufted Duck

Ten pairs bred within the recording area compared with twelve last year. Monthly maxima winter counts were 30 on 13th February and 48 on 2nd.

Goldeneye

A record year with 52 known nesting attempts, the highest total ever. Forty-seven of these were in nest-boxes the remaining five in natural holes. Thirty of the attempts (57.7%) were successful in hatching at least one young. In total at least 515 eggs were laid in 1998 of which 394 were incubated and of these 240 were known to hatch, thus 60.9% of the incubated eggs hatched. The average size of all clutches was 10.5 eggs (range 1 to 17), whilst the average size of those incubated was almost identical at 10.4 eggs (range 4 to 17). An average of 8.9 (range 1-13) young left each successful nest. This dramatic increase in the goldeneye population this year from 35 to 52 breeding attempts is presumably due to an influx of new birds coming into the population. Maximum winter counts were 66 on 16th March and 37 on 7th December.

Red-breasted Merganser

Seven pairs were recorded breeding within the recording area which is slightly higher than in previous years. Only recorded between 24th March and 11th July.

Goosander

Recorded throughout the year with maximum counts of seven on 24th March and six on 7th December. Only one breeding pair was noted within the recording area, down on the two of last year and the previous year’s totals of 7-8 pairs.

Hen Harrier

In the first three months of the year the monthly maximum roost counts were ten, four and two and for the last three months fifteen, fourteen and sixteen birds. The sixteen birds recorded in December equals the maximum roost count recorded in 1991. Two wing-tagged birds were present at the roost, both bearing a yellow tag on the left wing and a blue tag on the right. The letters on both birds were read showing both to have originated from Langholm.

Sparrowhawk

1-2 birds recorded regularly throughout the year. No positive evidence of breeding on the reserve this year.

Buzzard

Seen commonly throughout the recording area with maximum counts of 13 on both the 1st March and 29th September. Little breeding information collected.

Osprey

The first returning bird was seen on 2nd April and lastly on the late date of 1st October. The pair at Loch Insh bred successfully again this year fledging two young with both the same male and female as last year. At the other two regular sites in the locality one failed whilst the other successfully fledged three young. The frustration eyrie built last year in August was reoccupied early in the season. The pair rebuilt the nest and successfully fledged one young.

Kestrel

Seen far more regularly than in previous years with almost weekly sightings. One pair bred successfully on Balavil whilst another was suspected of breeding just outside the recording area on the outskirts of Insh. One to two birds recorded regularly throughout the year with a maximum of four together on 13th August.

Merlin

Four sightings of single birds during the course of the year, three were in August and one in November.

Peregrine

Single birds seen monthly from February to September and then on a more regular basis in October and November, with two birds being seen together on 15th November.

Red Grouse

The only records were from Gordonhall Hill where there was a maximum of two on 20th April.

Black Grouse

Only records are from dawn lek counts on Gordonhall Hill in April. The highest count was four males and a single female on 20th April.

Grey Partridge

only recorded in the south-west half of the recording area around Ruthven, Gordonhall, Torcroy and the Dell of Killiehuntly. Maximum count was of five on both the 3rd and 25th January. Otherwise up to three seen on five dates from April through to August.

Pheasant

Seen throughout the year particularly at Invertromie and the Dell of Killiehuntly and probably under recorded. Maximum counts were 31 on 24th January and 23 on 7th March on the fields at Invertromie.

Water Rail

An excellent year for calling males with sixteen territories noted within the recording area. Only noted in the spring and summer between 15th April and 24th September.

Spotted Crake

Three calling birds were heard this year, though none of them called regularly throughout the breeding season possibly suggesting that they paired up.

Moorhen

At least four pairs were suspected of breeding this year. Sightings were more regular than usual particularly in the latter half of the year with up to five birds present beside the Spey adjacent to Kingussie in November and December.

 Oystercatcher

First returning birds were seen on 20th January and lastly on 12th October. Maximum count was 159 16th March. Fifty-seven pairs were found breeding within the recording area which represents a slight increase on the 53 pairs last year.

Ringed Plover

Only one sighting this year of two birds on the Spey near Lynchat on 16th March. No evidence of breeding this year.

Golden Plover

Up to 50 birds were recorded in the spring between 17th February and 25th April all bar one of these sightings were from fields at Invertromie. There were no autumn records this year.

Lapwing

The first returning birds were seen on 4th January with numbers building up to 115 by 13th February. Maximum count was of 335 on 26th February. After the breeding season the largest flock was 35 on Insh Fen on 8th August and then only recorded occasionally through until 11th December. One hundred and sixty-two breeding territories were noted which is a large increase on the 110 noted last year.

Snipe

Extreme dates were 13th February and 28th December. The breeding population was estimated at 471 pairs which represents an increase to former levels following last years low of just 198 pairs.

Woodcock

Seven roding birds were heard from around the recording area with displaying first noted on 25th March. No summer records and just one recorded in autumn on 28th October and three records of single birds in December.

Whimbrel

Only one record of single bird flying over Insh Fen on 30th August.

Curlew

The first returning bird was noted on 15th February and last one on 27th November, though there were few records from 27th August. Maximum count was 65 on 16th March. 123 pairs were recorded breeding in the recording area which is slightly down on last year’s total of 135 pairs.

Redshank

First returning birds noted on 16th March and not recorded after 11th August. At least 131 pairs bred within the recording area which represents an increase on last year’s low figure of 93 pairs and more in line with the 143 pairs noted in 1995.

Greenshank

Two spring records comprising of two birds on 25th April and a single bird on 15th May.

Wood Sandpiper

The only record was of a single bird displaying very high in the sky on 16th May. Yet again breeding is not suspected as there was no further sightings and hence evidence of breeding.

Common Sandpiper

The first birds returned on 21st April and the last departed on 24th September. Thirty-two pairs were recorded breeding in the recording area which is slightly up on the 29 recorded last year.

Black-headed Gull

Extreme dates for this species were 11th January and 17th August. Three main colonies were occupied, Gordonhall, Invertromie and Lynchat Village Marsh, these held 550, 860 and 110 pairs respectively. The highest single count was of 1000 birds roosting at dusk on Loch Insh on 24th March.

Common Gull

One and two birds recorded from 24th March until 2nd September, with a maximum of 30 birds roosting on Loch Insh on the evening of 24th March. One pair possibly held territory within the black-headed gull colony at Gordonhall.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Up to five birds recorded between 24th March and 2nd October averaging just one record a month.

Herring Gull

Up to five birds seen occasionally throughout the year, with a maximum of 25 roosting on Loch Insh on 24th March and twelve below Insh on 12th December.

Great Black-backed Gull

One to four birds recorded between 2nd January and 2nd April and then again from 13th September and 7th December. Maximum count just seven birds 24th March and 2nd April.

Woodpigeon

No breeding data and generally under-recorded throughout the year. Not recorded in January, February, September or November. Largest flocks 18 Loch Insh Wood on 8th May, 21 on 3rd June and 17 on 12th December.

Collared Dove

Few records, which reflects under-recording. Pairs present in Insh, Lynchat, Kingussie and Kincraig but little other data collected.

Cuckoo

First bird recorded on 28th April and last on 4th July. Six birds seen on 2nd June was the most recorded on any one day.

Tawny Owl

Three pairs were found occupying goldeneye boxes this year whilst at least five other birds also held territories. Recorded every month of the year.

Long-eared Owl

On 16th February an adult with a broken wing was picked up beside the B970 just to the south of Insh. The bird was taken to the vet the following day but sadly had to be put down as the wing was too badly broken. Single birds were also seen at dusk on the 17th May on the A9152 near the entrance to the Highland Wildlife Park and near the turn off to Inveruglas on the B970 on the 21st and 26th September.

Short-eared Owl

A single bird was seen regularly from 28th July through until 20th December mostly near the Ox-bow and on the Dell of Killiehuntly. On two occasions two birds were seen together on 2nd and 15th October.

Swift

Recorded regularly between 11th May and 29th August with one late record of 15 birds over Loch Insh on 12th October. Highest counts were all from Loch Insh with 50 birds there on 28th May. No breeding data but known to have bred in Insh, Kingussie and Kincraig.

Kingfisher

There were two sightings of single birds seen from Kincraig Bridge on 6th February and 15th April. In addition two birds were seen together on the Spey near the A9 road bridge on 5th May and 1st June. Breeding however was not proven. Outwith the recording area there were regular sightings downstream at Dalnavert in the first three months of the year and upstream at Newtonmore in April. It is highly likely that there was a breeding attempt somewhere along the Spey.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Drumming birds were noted on Tom Dubh island, Lynachlaggan, Old Milton, Kincraig and Invertromie. Outside the breeding season one to three birds were recorded regularly throughout the year.

Skylark

First recorded on 16th March and lastly on 25th September. Fifty-five territories were noted within the recording area. A flock of 19 on Insh Fen on 16th March was the largest seen.

Sand Martin

The first returning bird was seen on 2nd April and the last one was recorded on 30th August. The colony on the Spey, between the B970 and A9 bridges, held 72 occupied burrows. Surveys of the several smaller colonies downstream were not undertaken this year. The largest number seen together was 147 over Loch Insh on 12th July.

Swallow

Recorded regularly between 23rd April and 14th October. At least seven pairs bred around the steadings at Invertromie Farm. Two hundred feeding over Loch Insh on 20th May was the largest gathering noted. An albino bird was seen in Insh village for at least ten days from 17th September.

House Martin

Another poor year for this species with few records and no breeding data. The first record was on the late date of 30th May and the last on 28th September, up to five birds were recorded between these extreme dates.

Tree Pipit

Recorded between 26th April and 11th August. At least twelve territories were noted within the recording area.

Meadow Pipit

Little breeding data and probably under-recorded throughout the year. First noted on 6th April and then seen regularly until 26th December but less frequently in the last quarter of the year.

Grey Wagtail

Recorded from the 2nd April until the end of the year though all the sightings from September onwards are of a single bird at the waste water treatment plant in Kingussie. Maximum count was five on the shores of Loch Insh on 18th April. At least two pairs bred, one at Loch Insh, the other along the Tromie.

Pied Wagtail

Recorded regularly from 11th February to the end of the year, all the sightings from November onwards are of a single bird at the waste water treatment plant in Kingussie. The largest flocks were 16 at Loch Insh on 25th September and 12 on 2nd May. Little breeding data.

White Wagtail

A single bird was seen on the shores of Loch Insh on 18th April in the company of up to ten pied wagtails.

Waxwing

The only record was on 20th February when three birds were seen in Insh village.

Dipper

Recorded regularly throughout the year. Territories were noted in the following locations, along the Gynack and the Tromie, and on the Spey at the B970 bridge, near the A9 bridge the confluence of Raitts Burn and in the vicinity of Kincraig bridge.

Wren

Insufficient breeding data to estimate population. Seen and heard throughout the year. 

Dunnock

Recorded throughout the year. Insufficient data to estimate breeding population. First song heard on 20th February.

Robin

Insufficient breeding data to estimate population. Seen and heard throughout the year.

Redstart

Recorded between 25th April and 14th July. Breeding population estimated at twelve pairs with territories noted at the following locations, four Lynachlaggan, one Loch Insh Wood, six Invertromie, one Loch Insh Wood and one near Old Milton.

Stonechat

The only sighting within the recording area was of a male on the B970 near the entrance to Invertromie Farm.

Wheatear

All bar one record were in April with one on Tromiemoor on the 11th and four sightings of single birds below Insh village between 16th and 24th. The remaining sighting was on the late date of 31st October when a single bird was seen near Gow’s Bank.

Blackbird

Insufficient breeding data to estimate population. Recorded regularly throughout the year.

Fieldfare

The last of the spring departures were seen on 2nd April and the first of the winter arrivals on 23rd October. Seen quite regularly in the first quarter of the year with a maximum count of 60 on 27th February. More plentiful in the final quarter of the year particularly around mid-November with 500 around the reserve car park on the 6th.

Song Thrush

Only recorded between 4th March and 12th October. The breeding population was estimated at 25 pairs with territories spread fairly evenly around the recording area.

Redwing

Not recorded between 15th April and 3rd October and thus yet again no evidence of breeding or over-summering birds this year. Seen more regularly than last year with maximum winter counts of 80 birds on 5th January and around 1000 in mid-October.

Mistle Thrush

At least eight breeding territories were located within the recording area. Seen throughout the year, largest number eight on both 15th March and 23rd September.

Grasshopper Warbler

Recorded between 4th May and 8th August. At least twenty territories were found in the recording area.

Sedge Warbler

Recorded between 28th April and 4th August. A minimum of 107 territories were noted in the breeding season within the recording area.

Icterine Warbler

On the 15th May a singing bird was located in trees near to Loch Insh. Despite several visits over the next few days and weeks it was not relocated.. When not singing/displaying the bird was very difficult to observe and even in song was difficult to re-find when moving from tree to tree, the quiet song not carrying very far. This is the first record of this species in the recording area. In 1992 a pair bred at Creag Meagaidh, for the first time in Britain.

Whitethroat

A male sang in Insh near Ivy Cottage from 23rd May to 4th June. Breeding was not suspected.

Garden Warbler

Another good year for this species with at least 12 territories found in the recording area. Again the core area was the old A9 between Balavil and Dunachton where six territories were established. Others were noted in Loch Insh Wood, Lynachlaggan, Kingussie and Kincraig. Recorded between 2nd May and 14th August.

Blackcap

Three singing birds were heard. One on the old A9 on 3rd May and two on the 11th June, one at the reserve car park, the other on the outskirts of Kingussie.

Wood Warbler

Nine territories were recorded, eight in Loch Insh Wood and one in Lynachlaggan.

Chiffchaff

The only record was of a singing bird in bushes in the north-west corner of Loch Insh on 20th May.

Willow Warbler

Recorded from 24th April to 29th September. No breeding data available.

Goldcrest

Recorded in small numbers throughout the year. Eight in Insh on the 20th September was the highest number seen together. No breeding data available.

Spotted Flycatcher

Recorded between 15th May and 3rd August. Seven territories were noted in the recording area, this however probably under-estimates the population as a full woodland survey was not undertaken.

Pied Flycatcher

Three birds seen in Lynachlagggan on 2nd September was the only record.

Long-tailed Tit

Insufficient breeding data to estimate the population but recorded regularly throughout the year. Largest winter flock was 70 in Insh village on 13th September.

Crested Tit

A pair nested in an old stump adjacent to the B970 near the turn off to Drumguish. They were seen feeding young in mid-May. One to three birds were also seen near the nest site during August and September. One to two birds became regularly visitors at bird tables in Insh from January to March and again in November and December.

Coal Tit

Insufficient breeding data to estimate population but recorded regularly throughout the year. First heard in song on 11th January. At least fifteen different individuals were thought to be visiting one bird table in Insh in December.

Blue Tit

Recorded regularly throughout the year but with insufficient breeding data to meaningfully assess the population.

Great Tit

Recorded regularly throughout the year though insufficient breeding data to meaningfully assess the population. First song heard on 10th February.

Treecreeper

Recorded throughout the recording area all year. Difficult to estimate population due to insufficient breeding data on this easily overlooked species. Four together in a mixed tit flock near Tromie Bridge was the highest number seen together.

Jay

Following the two records last year a single bird was seen on 4th May near Tromie Bridge. This probably represents just the tenth Jay record for Badenoch and Strathspey.

Jackdaw

No breeding data was collected this year. Highest flock count was 100 around Ruthven Barracks on 6th February.

Rook

No breeding data was collected this year. Highest flock count was 80 on the Dell of Killiehuntly on 13th February.

Carrion Crow

Little breeding data collected but recorded regularly throughout the year. On 23rd November around 60 were seen in the evening near Tromiemoor, they were probably a pre-roosting flock. No pure hooded crows were seen this year though one or two hybrids were reported.

Raven

Seen more regularly than in previous years. Reported from the beginning of the year until 3rd March and then again from 27th September until the end of the year. Up to four birds seen in the first period and up to six birds in the latter with highest counts being in December with 16 on 4th, 14 on 24th and 25 on 26th.

Starling

Recorded regularly throughout the year but little breeding data. The largest flocks encountered were 200 on 2nd April and 300 on 23rd September.

House Sparrow

Little data collected.

Chaffinch

No breeding data available Recorded regularly throughout the year, the largest flocks being just 71 on 5th November.

Brambling

Just two records this year. A single bird at Invertromie on 4th January and two birds on 3rd April.

Greenfinch

Recorded in small numbers throughout the year but with insufficient breeding data to estimate their population. Highest number recorded together was eight on 31st March.

Goldfinch

Recorded much more regularly than in previous years and in most months. Most sightings involved up to six birds but flocks of greater than ten were encountered on 29th October, 7th, 11th and 22nd December all on the outskirts of Kingussie. The largest flock contained sixteen birds.

Siskin

Seen and heard throughout the recording area all year round, but insufficient breeding data to estimate population. No large winter flocks were recorded this year the biggest being just 18 birds.

Linnet

There were two sightings this year, four at Invertromie Farm on 25th April and two opposite Gordonhall Farm on 30th July.

Twite

As for the previous species there were just two sightings this year. One at Invertromie on 5th January and thirteen at the old dump Kingussie on 7th December.

Redpoll

Very little breeding data gathered to estimate the population. Outside the breeding season recorded fairly regularly with 150 near Insh village on 20th September being the largest flock.

Bullfinch

Insufficient breeding data to estimate population. Up to six recorded sporadically throughout the year with 21 near Tromie Bridge on 19th December being the largest flock by far.

Snow Bunting

Up to four birds were seen beside the B970 between Gordonhall Farm and the entrance to the reserve from 28th February and the 7th March.

Reed Bunting

An estimated fifty territories were noted in the recording area. Outwith the breeding season up to five birds recorded sporadically.


A BOUND, HARD COPY OF THE ABOVE REPORT, COMPLETE WITH IMAGES, CAN BE OBTAINED BY CONTACTING:

TOM PRESCOTT
RSPB, Ivy Cottage, Insh, By Kingussie, Inverness-shire, PH21 1NT