Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Highland Fling act 2



On we go with the tale, Friday went like this. The hotel is wildlife orientated with the Bird Watching & Wildlife Club (BWWC) based on site we gleaned as much info as possible from Kirsty. She told us about the sites, weather forecast, which roads were open - everything that you want, really. The offer of organised trips or free guided walks in the local woods - it's all there. We opted for a Capercaillie hunt in the local forest in the snow. We were warned to stick to the paths as stepping off might result in disappearing (well, up to your knees). We found three Red Squirrels at the feeders and then nothing, except a Buzzard, for three hours tramping through the snow.

It wasn't too late to save the day so we headed North to look for sea ducks and the like. Burghead was the place we aimed for and it came up trumps. A group of 20 Eider rolling about in the waves as we arrived and then another duck bouncing about in the other direction......

....digiscoping in dull conditions is never good and the choppy water didn't help. After finding a bit of shelter the results were a bit better.....

....a cracking drake King Eider - what a bird!! About six Long-tailed Duck flew past while we were viewing this bird and also a couple of Common Scoter. We checked the harbour for any extra birds but there were just a few Common Eider....

...and a Grey Seal.

We headed along the coast towards Nairn calling in at a few locations to see if we could find any Velvet Scoter but the sea seemed to be very quite. I've been here in the past and it's usually heaving with birds - wonder where they are! The fields that we drove past were mostly frozen over so there weren't any geese to speak of other than a Greylag here and there. We decided to head back to the hotel via some of the higher ground and scored for the first Red Grouse of the trip. This bird was sporting a 'tache - smart!

We'd heard there were some Whooper Swan on the Spey just South of the hotel so took those in....

....and the Mallard....

...before we retired for the night.
Saturday arrived and we were hoping to get to the high ground somewhere. Lecht seemed the most likely but we didn't have the info to say if the road was open or not and there was snow forecast for the morning. We just went for it hoping we could get up there. There was a good bit of thawing going on and as we got to the junction we could see the sign had changed - the road was open! There were Mountain Hares aplenty along the road but we needed a close one for photos in poor light - this'll do.

The weather closed in as we arrived at the ski centre but there was Red Grouse all over the place, including the car park, to keep us happy for now. Check out the snow blasting past this bird...

Time for a cuppa and see what the conditions were like for finding Ptarmigan or Snow Bunting. Walking into the biting wind and snow wasn't the best but the cafe was a welcome shelter and there were birds flitting past the windows as we settled down with hot drinks. The Snow Buntings were feeding in the teeth of the wind just outside the cafe so it was a case of braving the elements to get some shots.


Not too bad an effort for starters. We got back on the road to check the hillsides but we didn't have any luck with Ptarmigan - white birds in white stuff was never going to be easy. We did get some Red Grouse in slightly better light....

...and another...

...and one last try of the Snobs before we decided to leave, the now packed, ski centre.

We took in the views of the weather clearing on the way back down the road and headed for Garten again.



As we approached the feeders we could hear the Crested Tits calling again but the feeders were surprisingly quiet. The birds seemed to come in bursts. You would get the odd Coal Tit paying a visit before a mass of birds turned up but they weren't hanging about. The Crested Tit did come in and performed well enough but again the light wasn't good enough for decent shots.

The sun was starting to drop towards the horizon so we moved on in search of anything that moved. Loch Garten was showing signs of the thaw when we got out of the woods.

A couple of Roe Deer were spotted along the riverside along with plenty of Pheasants. Very few birds in Nethy Bridge in the Alders was disappointing so we headed for a bridge over the Spey. A quick check about for Dippers didn't reveal much more than 3 Goldeneye and a few Mallard. We all spotted what looked like a couple of Otters up the river but it was quickly figured out that what we were looking at was a couple of branches - mother and club?! Just as we were leaving a Dipper was seen by f-stop flying across the river and it was a stunning view from the bridge as the sun dropped behind the mountains.


4 comments:

Phil said...

Nice birds, great scenes. Like the light in the last pic.

Stuart said...

Know the area well, am envious and wish I was up there. The Findhorn valley has always been a good location for me in that area. Good photos by the way

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian, great blog & nice pics. Wish I could get up there.
Glynis

Newton Stringer said...

That King Eider is a total SPUD !!

Excellent !!