Suilven (Scottish Gaelic: Sula Bheinn)-Probably one of the most dramatic mountains in the British Isles
I left Aviemore early on the 20th and headed for the well known RSPB reserve at Loch Ruthven. There were several birds along this route including Ring Ouzel, Red Kite, an amazing male Hen Harrier and the only Red-legged Partridge of the trip. Loch Ruthven, itself, had two distant but very smart Slavonian Grebes. There were also Dabchicks, Stonechat, Osprey, Sedge Warbler, Cuckoo and Tree Pipits. An Otter was also seen.
Osprey, Loch Ruthven. Probably the survivor of ack-ack over Southern Europe!
Cuckoo, Loch Ruthven
From there to Inverness and followed the road north to Bonar Bridge and then followed the single lane track known as the A837 up Strath Oykel to Ledmore, under the shadows of Ben More Assynt (Gaelic: Beinn Mhòr Asaint) and Conival in the North-west Highlands. Awesome scenery but few birds noted except Meadow Pipits, Wheatears, Buzzards and Red Grouse. This area is also Scotland's first GEOPARK where some of the rocks are amongst the oldest in Britain at 3,000 MILLION YEARS OLD!
Suilven and Canisp, North-west Highland
Red Deer, Ben More Assynt
Not far now to Scourie where I planned to camp for the next few nights. Scourie camp site is on the edge of Scourie Bay and has lovely views. It has a lot of good, clean amenities but don't expect luxury. The site is terraced and this is useful during stormy conditions. Very worthwhile at £7 night.
View from the tent entrance at Scourie. Handa Island lies just beyond the ridge.
At Scourie there is a new bird hide that looks over the bay. Birds from here on the first evening included Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel and Little Stint. A Corncrake was heard and seen briefly from fields on the south shore.
Thursday 21st May was abysmal. Horizontal rain and storm force winds meant it was difficult to even take a photograph from the car because it would shake so much.
I drove north to Riconich and looked out across Loch Inchard (I was really looking for somewhere to find a bacon sarnie & a coffee). There were a few small waders on the shore below me and a few hundred metres away. They were mainly Dunlin and Ringed Plover but a flash of red drew me to a fantastic, female, Red-necked Phalarope feeding amongst the small group. I watched it for about 10 minutes before the group flew west towards the sea.
I found a bacon sandwich and a fine coffee at the Old School Rooms near Kinlochbervie. Refreshed, I continued north to Durness looking for somewhere sheltered. I ended up at Balnakiel, about a mile from Durness. There is a fine, empty beach, a lovely walk (in good weather) to Faraid Head and great views out to the North Atlantic. Cape Wrath is seen to the west. The only shelter was on the rocks below the road to the golf course. Still buffeted, I scanned out into the bay. A wind blown 2nd winter Glaucous gull sped east past the bay along with Gannets, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas and a multitude of Terns and Auks. A Great Northern Diver in summer garb put on a good display. Five Long-tailed Ducks should not have been a surprise but a second diver with them was. This one had a huge, grey / white appendage sticking out from its face! White-billed Diver, my first for many a year. The bird, in non-breeding plumage, showed quite well until swimming out of sight.
What appeared to be a miserable day at the start ended with a bang! No photographs but I'm not too disappointed.
Ringed Plover. The only photograph of the day.
Last full day tomorrow and the weather is good. Handa beckons.