Tuesday, 28 May 2013


We made the planned trip to Scotland over the weekend and here's the trip report.

Friday: Flew out of Stansted at 8am landing in Glasgow at 9.10am and we've picked up the hire car to make the road before 10am driving up the west coast along the banks of Loch Lomond before making our way out to Oban where we picked up five Black Guillemot in the harbour managing to grab a couple of shots of the birds resting on the water before finding Hooded Crow on the tide line.

Black Guillemot Oban Harbour
Hooded Crow
Corrieour Chalets
From Oban we moved on through Fort William and took the scenic journey across Cairngorms national park stopping to enjoy many of the vistas along the route. We then drove the Whiskey trail to our accommodation in Dufftown near Keith.
Our chalet was clean and comfortable and well placed for our birding trips over the weekend.

A full moon meant that it didn't want to get dark and at 11pm it was still quite bright but we eventually took the opportunity to grab a shot of it.
Full Moon
Saturday: We woke early on Saturday and made the 30 mile trip to Loch Garten and had a little drive around Nethy Bridge and Abernethy Forest hoping we might spot a Capercaillie but if any were about we missed them. We did find lot's of Roe Deer around though. We drove down to Forest Lodge in Abernethy Forest and had a short walk ensuring we didn't stray from the footpath. Forest Lodge is an RSPB reserve and can be found by taking a gravel track from the road that leads from Nethy Bridge to Tulloch. We heard Crested Tit but failed to see any here. By 9am we had driven back to Loch Garten and after checking the Loch for Divers we were back at the ticket office watching the feeders when a Red Squirrel came in to feed.

Red Squirrel at Loch Garten
 As we stood enjoying the Coal Tits and Siskins waiting for the centre to open I heard another Crested Tit calling and we were all delighted when it landed on the feeder giving us the opportunity to grab a photograph.

Crested Tit with Siskins

Ospreys at the nest (Loch Garten)
The reserve opened at 10am (opens at 5am when the Capercailie are lekking ) and we made our way to the Osprey viewing hide enjoying a few more Red Squirrel along the way. As we entered the hide we quickly spotted the female Osprey sitting on the nest before seeing two  other birds in flight prompting the female to leave her nest to see off the third bird. As she left the cameras revealed that one of her eggs was hatching which was nice to witness on the trip.

The weather was great with clear blue skies so we decided today was the day to try Cairngorm for Ptarmigan. We drove to the platform which is a terrific drive up the mountain and decided to walk a way up without committing to going all the way. Jimmy had what he thought was a Dotterel but his view was short as he moved from his binoculars to his scope the bird had moved out of site and we failed to find it so he remained unsure of his find. We heard two Ptarmigan calling on the way down but again just could not locate any in the scopes. The walk was pleasant but after an hour we decided to return and take the train to the top. For ten pounds the train takes you to the summit in eight minutes and on our arrival at the viewing platform we were delighted to see the local ranger had a female Ptarmigan in his scope and he was kind enough to put us onto it.

Cairngorm.     There is a female Ptarmigan in the centre of the photograph.
Delighted with the lifer we celebrated with a pint and a rather odd "smoked" haddock in batter meal which I won't be rushing back for. From here we set off for Lochindorb which is a fantastic moorland habitat with the Loch itself having a very picturesque castle on an island where we located breeding Black throated diver. Four Osprey flew over together while we visited proving the success of the RSPB project in Scotland.

Osprey at Lochindorb
The moor was alive with Red Grouse and held breeding Curlew and Lapwing.

Red Grouse
I think Golden Plover and Red Throated Diver are often encountered here but we failed to see them. We did see Cuckoo but left before the Short Eared Owl and Hen Harriers made an appearance as we'd planned to look for Black Grouse back in Tulloch. We arrived in Tulloch at 7pm and made our way down to Tulloch Moor were we eventually located the Black Grouse viewing hide and quickly found a single male bird displaying and calling so we gave it a few minutes and left him to it as we went in search of supper.

Sunday: Today we were heading north in search of Eagles and made the short trip up the A9 stopping at layby 151 to enjoy a pair of Ring Ouzel and several Mountain Hare before moving on across the Findhorn bridge where Dipper obliged and then down the Farr road to Loch Ruthven to connect with summer plumage Slavonian Grebe. After Ruthven we returned to the Findhorn Valley where we parked in the car park eleven miles down the single track road and walked a distance further down the track. Here we located a female Ring Ouzel and enjoyed good views of up to nine Buzzard, two Peregrines and a possible Merlin before a large BOP came up which we identified as a juvenile Golden Eagle. Shortly after two more Golden Eagles were spotted and we managed good scope views for ten minutes or so before they drifted off and so did we after about four hours in the valley. We popped back top Loch Garten more in search of dinner than birds but did locate another Crested Tit which gave the opportunity for a photograph.

Crested Tit
Monday: The last day of our four day whirlwind trip and we're up early and leave after I've made breakfast, loaded the car and had a quick tidy of the chalet. Our target bird today is Capercaillie and we're heading for Loch Garten again more in hope than expectation. We drive through Nethy Bridge and the Abernethy forest with no sighting so decide we'll try Forest Lodge then park up and see if we can hear anything. With no luck at the lodge we head back towards Nethy Bridge and strike gold as Mike Doughty is parked up and has a male Capercaillie in view some way in the forest and he kindly puts us on it.
Male Capercaillie
From our car we managed to see the bird before leaving it alone to continue to feed. We did witness a brief display and even heard it pop a few times which was a real pleasure. Capercaillie numbers are falling in Scotland and it's feared they now number less than 2000 birds. This was a fantastic encounter and the first time we've managed to see one. Whilst there we had a few Scottish Crossbill fly through.

We left delighted  and made our way south to the airport stopping at Corran for more Black Guillemot and several vistas and waterfalls down the road giving us good views of Spotted Flycatcher, Eider, Goosander and Red Breasted Merganser. We boarded the plane and made the journey home in under two hours from Glasgow to my front door in Essex.

Easy Jet looked after us again

A really enjoyable and  rewarding trip
The life list boosted by three and the year list nine ticks better off too.

If you haven't visited the area I'd recommend you do, if not for the birds do it for the scenery alone.

You might also like to see the 2014 trip report : http://briansbirding.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/scotland-day-four.html


  1. Oh my.. With just looking at the pictures.. I'm really amazed by the beauty of Oban. I also heard that they have oban wildlife trips as tourist attraction. Must be a really diverse place to explore.

  2. I've been playing with the idea of a long weekend in search of all the species you highlighted, thanks for the useful info. It would be April 29 to may 1, i work in S London.

  3. go for it, you won't regret it