First of all, if I promised you photographs from a very snowy Cairngorm then please get in touch as I have misplaced the email addresses. I know, I know...what a pillock!
Saturday May 16th- Today I was travelling to my sisters house near Carmyllie, Arbroath before heading up the East coast of Scotland then Aviemore on the Sunday.
I headed for my old stomping grounds from Cresswell to Hauxley early on Saturday morning, stopping first at the cliff top car park south of Cresswell which produced the first sea birds of the trip. Sandwich, Common & Arctic Terns were fishing and a lone Arctic Skua, along with a few Kittiwakes and Razorbills, moved North. Passerines were represented by Common Whitethroat and Rock Pipit.
Cresswell Pond was quite poor, probably due to the low tide, but did have 14 Avocet, singing Reed & Sedge Warblers, and the usual Tree Sparrows, Stock Dove & Stonechat. A pair of Yellow Wagtails were at Bells Farm. Druridge Pools produced Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Barn Owl and a sleepy pair of Garganey amongst a wide range of waterfowl.
Stock Dove, Cresswell
Tree Sparrow, Cresswell
Yellow Wagtails, Bells Farm
Barn Owl, Druridge
After a brief call at East Chevington I stopped at Hadston to see the tiny Sand Martin colony. A large group of Terns on the rocks opposite Coquet Island drew my attention and I could see Sandwich, Arctic & Common Terns and amongst them a single, very smart, Roseate Tern.
Sand Martins, Hadston
My last English port of call was Stag Rock, North of Bamburgh. I scanned the waves from Lindisfarne to Inner Farne picking up more auks in the form of Guillemots and Puffins. A female Long-tailed Duck was present with the large numbers of Eider. Mammalian interest was piqued by Atlantic Grey Seals and several Harbour Porpoise.
Stag Rock, Northumberland
I decided to make at least one stop in East Lothian before heading up to my sisters place near Arbroath. Fingers crossed that the SNP hadn't "beefed up" passport control on the A1 north of Berwick, I drove to Skate Raw, a place held dear since I saw my first Arctic Warbler there in the far and distant past. This quiet little place, despite the imposing Torness nuclear power station close by, has always been a favourite. It didn't disappoint and gave me my only Pomarine Skua, a nice dark phase bird, of the trip. Exceptional views of Gannets fishing and Whimbrel on the shore were also had.
At my sisters house I made myself comfortable while awaiting their return from the isle of Lewis. I must have fallen asleep in front of the telly because the next thing I knew I had two Springer Spaniels standing on my chest giving me a wash and brush up. It was nice to see Christine, her husband Steve and the dogs after so long. The views from their house are amazing.
My canine protagonists: Ed (left) and Hubble: Mad as a bag of cats!
Front view from Traigh Mhor
Sunday 17th: Another early start with some exciting birds in my sights. First order of business though was to find my trainer which Ed, the little turd, had secreted somewhere in the back garden. I got it back after 10 minutes of chasing, swearing and bribery with copious amounts of dog biscuit. Trainer was unharmed but a bit soggy. Cheers Ed.
Off I go then, heading for Aberdeen. Want to guess which bird I was after? what's the point? of course it was Harlequin, a life tick for me. I expected a long search. I stood on the pedestrian bridge looking at the female Goosander and was about to move off after 5 minutes when I noticed some white flashing on rocks just south of the single track road bridge. I just stood with my mouth open (quite a common occurrence apparently) as I brought the HARLEQUIN into view. Awesome!
I did some manoeuvring and reeled off a few poor pics and a bit of video.
Goosander, female, Bridge of Don
Harlequin, River Don, Bridge of Don
Next stop? you guessed it. Newburgh for the long staying drake King Eider. The duck was sat on the far side of the estuary and was not coming to bread, as some photographs on Surfbirds may suggest. There was also a very large, mixed Tern colony there including Little Tern, new to the trip list as was a single, summer plumaged Knot. A nice Red-necked Grebe was noted at the mouth of the estuary.
King Eider, Ythan Estuary
Mixed Terns fishing, Ythan Estuary
House Martins collecting nesting material, Ythan Estuary
Time now to head up to Portsoy to look for Divers. I checked the coast from Portsoy to Cullen only finding one Great Northern Diver and a flyby Black Guillemot. Thousands of Auks, Gulls other sea birds though.
It was now time to head to the Rothiemurchus camp site and my only other stop was at Lochindorb where I spent ages looking through the Common Gull colony. The biggest surprise of the day was at the campsite in Coylumbridge. I was chilling after putting the tent up when a huge noise exploded behind me and approached very quickly. I looked up and saw a large black and white basketball flying at break neck speed through the pines. Capercaillie! A great way to end the day.