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Monday, 30 May 2016

Lost Geordie On Tour - Scotland - May 2016 (4)

Slavonian Grebe, Loch Ruthven
Day 4 of my trip covers the journey from Aviemore to Uig, Skye. Planned stops at Findhorn Valley, Loch Farr, Loch Ruthven and Kylerhea before catching the ferry to Lochmaddy.
I struck camp early to the sound of Siskins and Crossbills, gently moving the Early Thorn which found a home inside the fly sheet.
Early Thorn, Rothiemurchus Campsite.
I had the only Osprey of the journey while fuelling the car in Aviemore.
I drove up the A9 and turned off into Strathdearn, better known as the Findhorn Valley. My first real stop was at Findhorn Bridge to check for Dipper but I was the only dipper there. There were a few Oystercatchers and Common Sandpipers plus a pair of Goosander. The Findhorn was the only place where I saw Red-legged Partridge.
I drove half way along the valley to the forestry road that connects Findhorn with Strathnairn via Glen Kyllachy. Another look at the river gave away territorial Dunlin, Common Sandpipers, Curlew, Spotted Flycatcher and Dipper.
Dipper, River Findhorn. I must have been too close to the nest because it gave me hell.
I followed the road through Glen Kyllachy to Loch Farr. The Glen gave lots of Red Grouse and little else whilst Loch Farr produced the only Highland Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps of the trip. It also gave me my only Red Squirrel.

Looking West from Glen Kyllachy
Red Grouse, Glen Kyllachy
Coal Tit, Loch Farr
The drive from Loch Farr to Loch Ruthven gave Common Buzzard, Red Kite and female Hen Harrier. Loch Ruthven itself seemed devoid of small birds but did give Great Tit, very tame Willow Warblers, Stonechat and Cuckoo. The Slavonian Grebes performed to perfection. Red-throated Divers were also on the loch with a family of Little Grebes and a Raven flew over.

Daft Willow Warblers landed on me several times while they were courting.

Slavonian Grebes, Loch Ruthven
Not 2 Nessies but dancing Slavonian Grebes.
I decided to take some scenic pics at the last main stop, the Suidhe (soo-je) (Seat or sitting) Viewpoint.
Looking West - South-west over the Great Glen

Loch Knockie. The valley beyond is the Great Glen with Loch Ness at its bottom.

North-east along Stratherrick to Loch Mhòr
No stopping now. Fort Augustus to Road to the Isles then Kylerhea (Kyle-ray) on Skye to look at the Otter and Sea Eagle watch points. Didn't see either but the drive from Broadford to Kylerhea, along Glen Arroch, was very dramatic.

Kyle Rhea and Glen More from the top of Glen Arroch
I decided to make a rush for the ferry at Uig and got there with time to spare. Tried to book in only to find that it wasn't my ferry. I had got my times wrong and mine wasn't until 9:40 the next morning. Consoled myself with watching Razorbills, Black Guillemot and Great Northern Diver in the bay and Golden Eagle over the cliffs.

This Black Guillemot caught a fair sized Gurnard and spent 45 minutes biting off the spines before swallowing it. Uig
Razorbills, Uig

Rock Pipit, Uig
I decided to wild camp at the Quiraing, that weird collection of rock formations on Northern Skye. Not many species but the biggest Parliament of Ravens I've ever seen with in excess of 200 birds roosting.
2am at The Quiraing.
Episode 5 will be the ferry journey and North Uist. Coming soon.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Lost Geordie On Tour - Scotland May 2016 (3)

Ring Ouzels, Coire na Ciste, Cairngorm
Welcome to my third installment of this years Scottish (mainly) tour. I say mainly because from King's Lynn, Norfolk I stopped at Saltholme, Cresswell, Druridge Bay, Skateraw, Cairngorms, Skye and North Uist (pre Black-billed Cuckoo! don't get me started). Then I did the same in reverse, minus the Cairngorms but adding Amble Links and Frampton on the way home.
This episode. May 13th, is focused on the area from Loch Garten to Cairngorm Summit. I cleaned up with the exception of Capercaillie.
I awoke at some stupid, ungodly, hour and decided I would head up to Coire na Ciste (this means "Blame the Chest" in Gaelic...don't know why they called it that though) to look for Black Grouse from the Grouse watch point. On the way I stopped at the, now blocked up, Moormore picnic site. There is an Osprey nest on the moor there and I decided to give it a look. The female could clearly be seen sitting on the nest. A pair of Spotted Flycatchers were also present. There was no sign of Capercaillie although I have had them here several times along with Crested Tit.
As I was looking at the Osprey a minibus full of mad birders stopped. They had driven through the night from Derbyshire and looked positively knackered. They had been to Coire na Ciste beforehand and saw no Grouse. I could see some specks moving around the moor between the Osprey and the Sled Dog Station. Black Grouse lekking with fluffy, white, backsides in the air! There were lots of males and some females present giving between 15 and 20 birds. Amazing, I know, but it got better. Siskins were very common but then a flock of Crossbills could be heard flying about and they landed pretty close. One of the Derbyshire birders said "That's a strange one". I looked at this brute of a male Crossbill. Head too big for its body, bill like an industrial can opener; too big for its head and absolutely no forehead. An obvious male Parrot Crossbill and a female nearby. Not even 8am yet.
I waved goodbye to some of Derbyshire's finest and headed for Loch Garten to look at the Crested Tit stake out. I stopped at Loch Pityoulish on the way and saw another 2 Ospreys and a pair of Red-throated Divers.
The Crested Tit site didn't pan out though there were more Spotted Flycatchers, Crossbills, Tree Pipit and Common Redstart. On the way back to the car a familiar call made me look up to see a Brambling flying overhead. Plenty of Cuckoos.

Spotted Flycatcher, Loch Garten
By this time I was flagging and I drove up to the Cairngorm car park and had a kip.
Afterwards I went for a stroll on the mountain and saw Red Grouse, Ptarmigan, Merlin and Ring Ouzel amongst others.
Further down at Coire na Ciste again I photographed a very obliging pair of Ring Ouzels, clearly nesting nearby alongside Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Robin and Dunnock. I had just finished when I sensed something behind me. I don't know who was more surprised, me or the Reindeer.

Ring Ouzels, Coire na Ciste
Meadow Pipit

Time marches on and it was getting late so I had a walk along the riverside at Allt Ban. Willow Warblers and Siskins were abundant and Spotted Flycatchers were only just, less common. No Dippers or Grey Wagtails but good views of a pair of Siskins collecting nesting material. A Common Redstart showed well and an elusive Crested Tit was found high in a pine tree. There were several Tree Pipits in adjacent trees. Nearby birders had also nailed down a large flock of Crossbills and the guys were kind enough to point out a few Scottish Crossbill. Bonus.

Industrious female Siskin
Not so industrious male Siskin
Long-tailed Tit
Willow Warbler

Spotted flycatcher
Tree Pipit

That's it for May 13th. The next blog is Aviemore to Uig, via Findhorn, Ruthven and Kylerhea. It will be here ASAP.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Lost Geordie On Tour - Scotland May 2016 (2)

Barn Owl, Cresswell Pond
After an overnight stay at my parents in Blyth, I pressed on toward the Cairngorms. I had stops planned at Cresswell, Skateraw and a few others but today was mainly travelling.
I did look for the female Red-backed Shrike at Woodhorn but it had vanished overnight. Lynemouth Flash had 2 or 3 White Wagtails and little else.
White Wagtail, Lynemouth Flash

Cresswell pond has a locally famous pair of Barn Owls which attracts the attention of local "paparazzi". So much so that the police have become involved. I hasten to add that my photographs were taken from the carpark, from inside my car.
Aside from the Barn Owl, Cresswell also gave up a 1st Summer Little Gull,  Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Avocet.
Undisturbed Barn Owl, Cresswell Pond
A flooded field North of Hemscott Hill had a pair of Little Ringed Plovers. The Budge screen at Druridge Pools offered Garganey, Stonechat and great views of the Heron / Egret roost.
The stop at Skateraw, by Torness power station, didn't give any of the expected migrants, just Gannet, Kittiwake, and a Swallow  with a death wish!

Sparrowhawk and Swallow
I arrived at the Rothiemurchus camp site, situated inside the forest, in the late afternoon. I put the tent up to the sound of Common Crossbills, Siskins and Treecreepers. Afterwards I reacquainted myself with Loch Morlich and Cairngorm. The Osprey nest at Moormore was occupied again and the Loch held several pairs of Goldeneye. The top carpark on Cairngorm produced Ring Ouzel, Northern Wheatear and Red Grouse.
I put out the moth trap at the campsite but only got 6 moths of  3 species. I caught 5 of the moths with the net! The result was 2 Early Thorn, 3 Streamers and a Hebrew Character.

Treecreeper, Rothiemurchus campsite
 Carn Eilrig