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26 December 2014
Boxing Day birdwatching diary

Cromarty’s shore echoes regularly with the cries of skittish oystercatchers. Often, oystercatcher flocks have a solitary brown curlew in their midst. This Christmas Day brought a more unusual sight: a flock of ten curlews circling slowly over the foreshore at high tide — with odd flashes of black, white and orange oystercatchers among them.

On Boxing Day, the air was brisker than the day before, and the thermometer hovered at zero. Wrens bobbed and weaved around the boulders on Shore Street and hopped over seaweed that was stiff with ice crystals. There were no signs of redwings, Cromarty’s sometime winter visitors from Scandinavia; but a first-winter dunnock, streaked dark brown, explored the grassy verge.

In the Firth in front of the town, a group of three long-tailed ducks glided towards the Sutors, making a raucous chorus. Their white and black plumage was showy, their splendid long tails distinctive even at a far distance. A male goldeneye with dark, domed head dived frequently under the glassy surface in search of food.

Beside the Reeds Path, a cluster of knots alit on rock pools, scuttled and took off again. As the path climbed into woodland, a buzzard wheeled overhead. The trees reverberated with the chirruping  sound of flocks of tits — until far up the headland, where the path broke cover, affording a view over the serene waters of the Cromarty Firth. From this vantage point, the woods and sea seemed entirely quiet and still.         Text and photo by Mairi Dupar