|Scotland 2008 Tour Report 10th- 14th April|
The group gathered in the centre of Sheffield just past 9am and were duly picked up. We headed N via the A1 & A66, a new bypass had deprived us of a lay-by near a large pond, but parking down a farm track we could just see into it revealing Shelduck & Tufted Duck. We continued further N and into Scotland, with regular comfort stops to stretch our legs. Typically lots of Black-headed Gulls, Buzzard, Common Gull, Greylag Goose, loads of Oystercatcher & Corvids includingRaven. We arrived in good time in Aviemore, our base for the duration of our stay. Quickly checking into our comfy b+b's we made the most of the daylight and went to a nearby loch, although our journey north had produced 48 species. At the Loch we saw several Goosander, 10 Goldeneye & 3 Red-throated Diver. Returning to our lodging we enjoyed a leisurely meal at the refurbished, reopened, and appropriately named 'Winking Owl' and an early night for the mornings Capercaillie hunt.
It was a very early start (05:00) to get to the Capercaillie watch at Loch Garten, and be there in good time. Driving there the conditions deteriorated into blizzard conditions. Loch Garten was eerily lit by the dim light reflecting off the blanket of snow with Woodcock roding overhead. Much searching was eventually rewarded with a single m Capercaillie, plus a brief m Scottish Crossbill for some, as well as the usual pair of Ospreys. Returning to the car park 3 Crested Tit showed well on the feeders, with the woods alive with Chaffinch and Siskin. After breakfast we headed for the Findhorn Valley, as the best of the weather forecast would hopefully entice raptors up. The sun shone, but was cool, but much better than the blizzard of the early morning. Driving down produced lots of Curlew, Black-headed & Common Gulls, as well as Dipper & Redshank along the river. Arriving at the car park we scanned the valley, which produced several Buzzard & Raven . The snow capped valley sides silhouetted an imm Golden Eagle, which bizarrely landed on the valley side and proceeded to walk up the side to the summit, constantly mobbed by Raven, before disappearing from view over the summit. We also had Golden Plover, 3 Peregrines, 150 Pink-footed Geese >N. A walk down the valley produced a m Merlin sat on the valley side, as well as Ring Ouzel & Wheatear. Returning to Aviemore we made several detours which produced Sand Martin & Swallow, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Wigeon & Little Grebe. We returned for a welcome cuppa, shower and evening meal in one of Aviemore's many eateries.
A slight change this morning as we briefly went to Loch Garten, where Osprey, Raven & Tawny Owl were seen. However we concentrated on a moorland site for Black Grouse, where we were rewarded with 11 birds, mostly m displaying. After breakfast we decided to head for the hills, but heavy snowfall and terrible blizzard conditions meant we couldn't go into the hills, however we found 8 Ptarmigan from the ski centre, on the hill side by the railway- this was the easiest we had ever seen them, albeit the coldest, as they disappeared in and out of the low cloud. 10 Snow Bunting were feeding in the car park. We had lunch here and headed back to Loch Morlich where Goosander were seen, lots of Goldeneye as well as brief, distant views of along-staying f Ring-necked Duck. A return visit to an area of water did eventually produce a single summer plumaged Slavonian Grebe, they must have only just returned due to the grim weather. This area also produced more Swallow and Sand Martin. We headed back into the Abernethy Forest, where 5 more Crested Tit were easily seen, as were a party of 4 Scottish Crossbill. Not to mention the myriad of Chaffinch &Siskin. One member of the party found a Kingfisher on the stream behind the main road in Aviemore. Returning from to Aviemore we called off at Boat of Garten, where Hooded Crow, Pink-footed Goose, Redshank, many Teal & Wigeon were seen. A warm shower and fresh clothes were donned as we headed into Aviemore and to the Indian restaurant there, much to the delight of all.
A change of scenery today as we headed north to the coast. not before a pre-breakfast trip to Loch Garten where another m Capercaillie was seen by all, which meant we could head into the woods where the 100's of Siskin were supplemented by 5 Crested Tit. After breakfast we headed N to the coast, calling off at a Black-throated Diver site we were rewarded 4 in stunning summer plumage. We moved onto Lossiemouth. Here from the harbour area we had 30+ Eider, Guillemot, Gannet, 30+ Kittiwake, but more spectacularly 300+ Long-tailed Duck, 2 Red-throated Diver, 6 Sandwich Tern, with just 3 Purple Sandpiper on the harbour wall. Moving to Findhorn Bay and a rising tide produced 80 Bar-tailed Godwit, 100+ Knot, Osprey, lots of Redshank & Oystercatcher. Offshore were just 10 Common Scoter and 8 Velvet Scoter, but 40 Goldeneye. A quick visit toAviemore on the way back produced 4 Ospreys fishing. As we made our way to the restaurant in the evening a party of 8 Whooper Swans went N in the gloom of Aviemore. Another excellent day in the field.
Our final day, and the journey south, but not without it's birds! After a stop at the local brewery we headed south on the A9, on the outskirts of Aviemore a field contained at least 10 Whooper Swan. Other notables on the journey through Scotland were Curlew (lots) and Osprey from the car, Stopping near Stirling at a Kite Feeding Centre, our patience was rewarded with at least 6 Red Kite overhead, as well as Common Crossbill over. From here we continued south with several comfort stops, and lots of Buzzard & Oystercatcher, before arriving where we started from in the centre of Sheffield 5 days previously. Another resounding GB tour to Scotland.