Spoonbill, Cresswell Pond, 16th May
Thursday 15th May 6pm. Tents -check, food-check, optics-check, moth-trap - check. Good enough! Off we go. The plan was to head straight to Blyth, Northumberland, to spend the night at my parents before moving to Aviemore. That lasted about 30 minutes when I took a sharp left and headed to see the two Black-winged Stilts near Spalding. A nice start to the trip. Got to Blyth around 10:30pm and saw the local Tawny Owl in the garden.
An early start the next morning as I wanted to visit my old patch at Cresswell. I wasn't disappointed. Lots of Tree Sparrows feeding young, Reed & Sedge warblers singing and an adult Spoonbill (Dutch ringed) in front of the hide.
Tree Sparrow, Cresswell Pond
Spoonbill, adult, Cresswell Pond
I was after the Wood Sandpiper and a short drive to the "small car park" proved profitable. The sandpiper showed well and a drake Garganey was also present along with Whimbrel. There was a surprise for the small collection of birders when a Bittern was heard "Booming" from the direction of Bells Pond. A rare sound in Northumberland.
Wood Sandpiper, Cresswell Pond
Time to start moving again. I made it all the way to the River Tay before diverting again, this time to see my sister and her husband between Dundee and Arbroath. From there I travelled via Blairgowrie and Dunkeld seeing my first Osprey on her nest at the very top of an electricity pylon. Not uncommon apparently.
A long trip up the A9 to Aviemore did not produce anything except a recently dead Arctic Hare (my first - live or dead) at Drumochter Summit. I didn't think they were seen this low down. I eventually made it to the Rothiemurchus Camping & Caravan park where I pitched my tent amongst the trees.
Straight out birding but it was hard work, the birds being very shy. An Osprey on her nest at Loch Morlich was nice to see. Went to the Cairngorm car park where the Ring Ouzels and Wheatears showed well. A short walk gave me lots of Red Grouse and an unexpected male Snow Bunting singing its heart out in the wind and rain. I then went back to the tent and prepared for a moth trapping evening. It was very good with Edinburgh Pug, Ruddy Highflyer, scotica Broom-tip and Least Black Arches. I trapped 17 species which I thought was pretty good for a cold damp night.
Ruddy Highflyer, Rothiemurchus
Least Black Arches
Broom-tip f. scotica
?? Beech Green Carpet
Birdwatching remained difficult the next day. A trip to Loch Garten produced the Osprey (with impending hatch!) and a pair of Redstarts. Tulloch Moor gave up a female Black Grouse and a fine male Whinchat. My only view of Crested Tit was a two second view of various body parts before it vanished. I had a few other decent birds but then it was time to start packing for the trip to Uig.
A planned early start dematerialised when my car failed to start. I was hoping to get to Loch Ruthven early. As it turned out it worked out well. I had a distant Red Kite at the loch and also a hunting Osprey. The star birds were the Slavonian Grebes. I saw four during my visit but my photography peaked too soon. less than a second after I took my pic the pair of Slavonian Grebes were "dancing" chest to chest but only for a second. Too soon I was back on the road. Up to Inverness and on the Ullapool road. I turned south for the road to Achnasheen and Strath Carron with yet another Red Kite and Ospreys for company. I planned to go to the top of Baleach Na Ba (Pass of the Cattle). You know it's a scary road when the sign at the bottom tells you it's not for nervous drivers! Still raining! but I made it up to see the only Ptarmigan of the trip.
Slavonian Grebes, Loch Ruthven RSPB
I was soon on Skye and I saw my first pure Hooded Crow. I headed straight for the Orasay B&B at Uig harbour. After I had settled in I visited the pier where I could see several Black Guillemots, Great Northern Divers and Arctic Terns as well as various other species. Then it was bed and preparing for PART II...coming soon!
The only Capercaillie of the trip
Black Guillemot, Uig
Ringed Plover, Uig