Saturday 30 April 2016

Getting back on the bike

The drive home today was interupted by breaking news of a White crowned Sparrow at Woolston Eye NR in Cheshire. A quick check on the sat nav and it's a very short five mile diversion from my route home down the M6 so it had to be done. Sadly the bird had decided to go missing and didn't show while I was on site or indeed for the rest of the day.

I did grad a distant shot of one of eight Black-necked Grebes on site and found a Common Whitethroat for a year tick too.  A nice permit only reserve with good facilities.

Black-necked Grebe
Now when you dip there's nothing better than your next tick so I made the 60 mile drive down to Telford and after a few false alarms with the local Chiffies and Willow Warblers I managed to find the consolation prize of the Iberian Chiffchaff thanks to some local help . It's no White crowned Sparrow but at least it's got me straight "back on the bike".

Year list now 217
Life list now 369

Friday 29 April 2016

Final day and finally a Caper shows

This morning I returned to Loch Garten for the Caperwatch arriving at 5.30am to find the volunteers already had a Caper in the scope much to my delight having not seen one last year at all but another guy had spend five days on the spin getting up at silly oclock to get his first ever so he was doubly delighted. By 5.45am the snow started falling heavily again and any view of the bird was quickly lost which disappointed the late comers.

I left satisfied with the year tick and sat in the car park for a while to enjoy the birds at the feeders which included Crested Tit, Treecreeper, Great spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit and Siskin. Crossbill were in the car park but I couldn't tell if they were Scottish or not. One guys logic was that if they're in Scotland they must be Scottish until I reminded him we were in Scotland but it didn't make us Scottish!

Coal Tit
Crested Tit
Crested Tit
Great spotted Woodpecker
Great spotted Woodpecker
Following my early success I moved north to Burghead where I scanned the coast for the reported White-billed Diver to no avail. I later found out I was looking in the wrong place. With Portsoy now only twenty miles away I headed across passing through Elgin and then Cullen which is the nicest town I've encountered here so I'll be returning for a better look in the future.

At Portsoy conditions were really bad with big waves and a strong wind coming straight in off the sea so I used the car as some kind of shelter at the top of Marine Terrace to give a higher point of view to scan. There were lot's of Gannet, Fulmar and Auks about along with a few Shags. I found a couple of Great northern Divers and then after nearly an hour of scanning I had a White billed Diver in the scope. I returned to the harbour were a few Eider posed for the camera and then set off for home via Lochindord which ended my annual Scotland trip.

Red Grouse
In summary I collected 15 year ticks picking up most of the Scottish specialities and a lifer with the Black Duck.

Year list now 215
Life list now 368

Thursday 28 April 2016


We set off early this morning intending to visit Skye for the first time. Two male Black Grouse in a field and two females in a tree further down the road gave us a good start on a very frosty morning.
Half an hour in and the snow started to fall and it fell hard all day spoiling most of the special vistas along our route but also adding something to the trip with it's own magic.

On Skye Suzanne found an Otter (She's a top Otter spotter) and it sat long enough for the camera to catch a couple of images before slowly drifting along the shore.
Mountain Goats and Roe Deer were the other highlights of a difficult day which ended with a trip to Applecross where we enjoyed knee deep snow for a while and another eight Black Grouse before heading home for a much needed curry night by the fire.

Black Grouse in the frost

It snowed all day!

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Black Duck Strontian

After three years trying I finally found the legendary Black Duck of Strontian.
Driving down to Ardnamurchan this morning I thought it would be worth the very short diversion around Strontian and I scanned the bay without any joy so headed on up into the village passing the infamous pond where the bird showed so well a couple of years ago. Further on and I checked the river area hearing my first Cuckoo of the year as I did. Thinking the mission was destined to fail I drove back down the road only to find the target sitting on the lawn of "the house with the pond".

Black Duck at Strontian
Moving on and after watching the Red Deer and an Otter I made my way down to Kilchoan.
Twite, Wheatear and Meadow Pipits were everywhere and a smart Great-northern Diver in the harbour feasting on flat fish made the trip rewarding before I moved on down the road to Ardnamurchan point (The most westerly point of the mainland UK) where a quick scan found hundreds of Manx Shearwater moving north scattered with the odd Auk and Gannet.

Red Deer Strontian
Great-northern Diver at Kilchoan 
So I'm thinking I'd had a good day so far and parked up for a spot of lunch whilst watching the mountains in front for any possible Eagle activity. Half way through my sandwich and a pair of Golden Eagles rise up over the mountain and I get great scope views of the adult pair before they drift higher into the clouds and are lost to view. A dark cloud drifted over from Mull bringing hail and strong winds but also bringing a young Sea Eagle with it which sat up on the rocky top and tried to see out the storm despite the attention of Buzzard, Hooded Crow and Raven.
As the storm cleared the bird circled over me before it drifted off high back in the direction of Mull but not before giving me my best Eagle experience to date and another year tick.

Sea Eagle and Hooded Crow (Heavily cropped)
Sea Eagle
Sea Eagle (The flying barn door)

A cracking day on the Ardnamurchan peninsular and the year list now sits at 213
Life list now 368

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Scotland 2016 day four

It snowed all day today but we still got out and managed to not see any Capers.

Findhorn Valley
The view this morning 
We did find a Redstart and Ring Ouzel in a couple of hours this morning before heading home for a lazy day at the cottage. With the snow falling all day the birds have been busy feeding in the garden with Siskin and Chaffinch in large numbers. Meadow Pipits have been feeding in the garden too and I counted 42 at one point. A Sparrowhawk flew over the garden today and a Merlin was seen at Findhorn too adding to a growing raptor list consisting of  Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Rough-legged Buzzard, Peregrine, Osprey, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Sprawk and Merlin

View from the cottage this evening.....amazing how quick the snow melted away!

Ring Ouzel
Meadow Pipit 
no year ticks today!

Monday 25 April 2016

Scotland 2016 day three

Snowing on and off all day with strong northerly winds but bright blue skies in between the snow showers.....only in Scotland.

We birded around Laggan early this morning finding Redwing, Fieldfares and Mistle Thrush locally before eventually finding Black Grouse. At Loch Garten we failed to find Caper again but had another Crested Tit high up in the trees in the car park area. As we moved on to Cairngorm I wasn't too hopeful as the cloud was quite low and the snow still falling but being close enough we gave it a go and luckily the skies brightened as I made my way up. A Ring Ouzel buzzed over the old ski lift before I found a single Ptarmigan that gave itself up with a short flight. A small flock of Snow Bunting had been reported but didn't show whilst we were there. The Temperature was minus six and minus 19 allowing for the windchill putting off all but the hardiest souls.

Coal Tit

Year list now at 209

Sunday 24 April 2016

Scotland 2016 day two

We woke this morning to find a carpet of snow on the ground with the white stuff still falling as we left home heading for Loch Garten.

Blue Tit
We arrived early in the hope of catching site of a Caper at the so called RSPB Caperwatch which indicates that you can watch Capers. Unfortunately somebody has fogotten to tell the Capers they should be being watched so the small gathered crowd on site this morning left disappointed.

Great Tit
Crested Tit
The Osprey came in with an early catch and Redstart showed well before a Crested Tit put in a brief appearance on the feeders along with the usual Siskin, Chaffinch, Brambling, Coal, Blue and Great Tit. A Treecreeper and Great-spotted Woodpecker also showed here. On the Loch Red-throated Diver and Goldeneye added to the days haul.

A quick look in at Tulloch Moor failed to deliver the desired Black Grouse on this occasion.

Our next stop was Lochindorb where a pair of Common Sandpipers gave another year tick before adding a third when the Black-throated Divers were located at the far end of the loch. Red Grouse and Red Squirrel entertained us our drive through the valley and Suzanne picked out the Rough-legged Buzzard before we left too.

Red Grouse
Common Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Leaving Lochindorb we headed up the A9 and down the Findhorn Valley where we found lot's of Wheatear and eventually a raptor tally of Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Peregrine, Goshawk and four Golden Eagles. The Eagles showed well as they played in the air and occasionally landed on the mountain side giving great scope views. The Goshawk was put down by a Raven but gave my best ever views before it gave in to the Ravens attentions allowing me to follow it in the scope for a few minutes.

Mountain Goat
Red-throated Diver
At Loch Ruthven another pair of Red-throated Diver and three Slavonian Grebe presented themselves in the distance before I left for the thirty mile journey home.

A cracking day in the Highlands and the year list is now 206

Saturday 23 April 2016

Scotland 2016 day one

I drove up to Cumbria yesterday staying at Tebay services last night in order to get a shorter run this morning as I made my way up through the Highlands to Laggan where I'm staying with my good lady for a week. The dog had a good run on the shore of Loch Lomond before we made our way up to Oban for lunch stopping to enjoy fifteen Black Guillemot in the harbour and sharing a sandwich with the local Hoodies. Eider were seen here too for my second year tick of the first day.

Black Guillemot
Black Guillemots at Oban

The drive from Oban to Laggan was uneventful but arriving at the cottage we were stunned by the beauty of both the cottage and the view from it over the snow covered mountains.

The garden feeder has upwards of twenty Chaffinch and Siskin with Coal, Great and Blue Tit also feeding. Pheasants are using the garden to feed and at least three Willow Warbler are flitting about in the bushes from the kitchen window along with Robin and Wren. A Raven keeps flying over from the hills behind and Oystercatchers are calling from the fields in front. You could say it's a good spot!

The Cottage

The View

Year list now 202