|Scotland 2007 Tour Report 12th- 16th April|
Our group met and we headed north in our comfy people carrier, via the A1 and the A66, where a roadside pool produced Shelduck, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck & Coot. As we went further north Curlew, Oystercatcher and Buzzard were seen frequently. Making good time we made several stops Including Pitlochery, where Goosander and Osprey were seen by the river. Arriving at Aviemore, our base for the next 4 nights, we gathered our bins for a short drive to local site as we were keen to find birds after our long drive. The group quickly ticked off another Osprey, as well as the star bird Slavonian Grebe, and our first Goldeneye, Siskin & Wigeon. After a brief but successful trip we returned to Aviemore and a meal in a local restaurant.
An early start was needed as we endeavoured to track down Capercaillie- a visit to Loch Garten and the Caper, which didn't disappoint with 3m and 1 f Capercaillie on show this morning, an excellent start to the tour. We also saw the famous Ospreys here, plus Sand Martin, Tawny Owl and lotsmore Siskin. Returning for a hearty breakfast we departed north for the rest of the day, down the Findhorn Valley, as the weather conditions were ideal for soaring raptors. Driving down the single track road plenty of Buzzard were noted, as well as countless Curlew and Common Gull, which are common up here. Dipper was also recorded along the course of the River Findhorn. At the valley end car park we set up our scopes, and enjoyed the warm sunshine, drinking chocolate, tea and coffee courtesy of Gone Birding. Soon we racked up 3 Golden Eagles, an ad. and 2 imm. birds. Also eagle eyed members spotted a Goshawk. Geese were also on the move, with 32 Greylag overand 200 Pink-footed Geese. Peregrine was also seen several times calling & flying over the large crag. Also visible were upto 5 Raven gronking away. A walk down the valley produced up to 6 Ring Ouzel, singing and on show in the rocky stunted trees on the valley side. Although the valey Wheatears could be seen and heard. At Farr, the moors yielded plenty of Red Grouse,as well as another Goshawk and numerous Meadow Pipit and several Stonechat. After another excellent day in the field, we wearily returned to our comfy b+b for a wash & brush up, before eating in another of Aviemore's eateries- along day, but worth the effort.
An early start, but this time to the woodlands of Garten Woods. Typical woodland birds were found, such as Treecreeper, Song Thrush etc... and 1000's of Chaffinch. Returning via a known Black Grouse lek 4 m Black Grouse were still present, producing all their wooshing and bubbling fanfare. Following our much needed breakfast we climbed the slopes of Cairngorm, which was hard work in the unseasonably warm and sunny weather. The gentle climb was punctuated with lots of Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Red Grouse and the occasional Ring Ouzel. Reaching the spot, we heard Ptarmigan, but they were just out of view, then behind and below us we saw 3 fly across the valley, which landed on the valley side enabling scope views. With 2 more in front of us- the climb well worth it, with 5 Ptarmigan in total is the glorious sunshine. After our decent and lunch by Loch Morlich where Common Sandpiper, Goosander a pair of Red-throated Diver and 25 Goldeneye were found, we headed to Forest Lodge and more woodland specialities that included lots more Chaffinch & Siskin. Returning to Aviemore we treated ourselves to meal in the excellent Indian restaurant in Aviemore- yum! From our restaurant we could see Ospreys fishing over the River Spey- an extra bonus.
Another early start into Garten Woods to track down the elusiveCrested Tit paid dividends, with 5 seen and heard in total, amid the 1000's of Chaffinches and Coal Tit, much to the delight of all. At the far end of Garten Woods more Black Grouse could be heard, with at least 10 birds estimated. Following another delicious and substantial breakfast we headed north to the coast near Lossiemouth for a change of scenery. On the way at least 3 Black-throated Diver were seen by the group, plus at least 50 Red Grouse. On the outskirts of Lossiemouth a Goshawk flew in front of the vehicle plus 100's of Black-headed Gulls feeding by the roadside as well as 1000 Pink-footed Geese, but the harbour was our destination, from here we saw 1000+ Eider, amongst a myriad of seabirds, that included 75 Goldeneye, 200 Gannet, 2500 Long-tailed Duck, 20 Red-breasted Merganser and Sandwich Tern, On the harbour wall were c50 Purple Sandpiper awaiting the tide to fall so they could continue feeding, plus Rock Pipit. Moving along the coast to the enormous Spey Bay we saw 1500 Common Scoter, 20 Red-throated Diver 2 Slavonian Grebe and bird of the day, c1000 VelvetScoter. An amazing day.
Sadly our last day, but not without some birding as we made our way south. An early morning hunt for Capercaillie & Black Grouse was successful for those who didn't goon the previous visit, with 6 m Black Grouse and 2 m Capercaillie at nearby Loch Garten today. Returning via Boat of Garten we found a Slavonian Grebe on a roadside pool- so far so good. We began our journey south, but a long staying Barrow's Goldeneye was too much of temptation at Loch Venachar- arriving we were met by a huge body of water- where to look?, incredibly the fine male Barrow's Goldeneye was in slack water about 10m from our van- amazing, an easy tick! Stopping near Stirling we saw 6 Red Kites from a feeding centre, much to the delight of all. Continuing our journey south produced at least 20 more Buzzard and 100's of Oystercatcher. Several stops and 400 miles later the group arrived back in Sheffield, and remarked what excellent tour it had been- all the target species had been found and seen well- another successful tour!(All images © Phil Ridsdale & Andy Hirst)