Welcome to the new Birding Ecosse blog, if it is your first visit then thank you very much for dropping in, if you were a regular to my old blog then thank you for updating your bookmarks!
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Friday 18 April 2014

Birding Ecosse Mid Week Special – Part 1

The day started well with an absolutely cloudless blue sky and the distant Gairngorms looking pristine and crystal clear, it was going to be a good day!

Meeting today’s victims  clients Daryl and Eleanor, who had travelled all the way from Alberta, we were soon on the road and seeking our first birds of the day.

Stopping off at the usual Dipper spot, we were not to be disappointed as one bird perched on a rock right below the car park, a great start.  A quick jaunt “off piste” netted us Curlew, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and a breeding colony of Common Gulls.

Back on track we paid a visit to a local private lochan, and were able to see two Slavonian Grebes at Fairly close range, it must be stressed this is a very rare bird and any observations should be done at a very safe distance so as to minimise disturbance, especially at this delicate time of year.

Slavonian Grebe

Slavonian Grebe

Slavonian Grebe

Slavonian Grebe

Time was pushing on so next stop was Cairngorm, it was looking stunning as we drove up the approach road, but I was mightily surprised when I arrived at the top car park to find that the main car park was full and we were directed to the lower overflow car park!

A crowed ride in the funicular to the top station and out onto the viewing platform, and this is the view that greeted us:

View from Cairngorm

View from Cairngorm

I cannot remember the last time I stood on the viewing platform when it was flat calm! It was even warm in the sun!

Daryl and Eleanor at Ptarmigan viewpoint

Daryl and Eleanor at Ptarmigan viewpoint

There was a few walkers in the area and a very low flying helicopter buzzing around, so prospects of Ptarmigan was not looking good, however a slow scan of the ridge to the right of the viewpoint soon produced a single male outlined against the blue sky! Bingo!! The bird stayed in view for a good 10 minutes before being lost in the scree slope.

Back down to the even more packed out car park,and as we were having a nice coffee Daryl  spotted a small black and white bird sitting on a sign, as we went to explore a Pied Wagtail flew up and made itself known! However as we were watching this, he also picked out another Black and White Bird, this time in the shape of Ring Ouzel!! And not just one, but two males where at very close range.

Ring Ouzel (male)

Ring Ouzel (male)

Ring Ouzel (male)

Ring Ouzel (male)

So with that the tour was over, a great morning out showing some lovely Canadians the beautiful Scottish Birds, Scenery and weather (who said it always rains in Scotland?)

And best of all?  I’m back out with Daryl and Eleanor tomorrow morning……… Black Grouse and Eagles await!

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Sacré bleu!

A trip to Loch Flemington without seeing the American Coot!!  Reading through the literature though this seems to be following the pattern of the last sightings where the birds disappear April/May time only to reappear the following winter, if it has finally departed then here is hoping it returns at Christmas….. it was a nice bird to have in the area.

At least 35 Scaup and three full plumaged Slavonian Grebe at Alturlie.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Birding Ecosse Mid Week Special – Part 2

“She was only the Vicars wife but………”

The day dawned early and overcast, Nigel was present, standing smartly to attention outside the hotel on my arrival, Jackie (the confirmed birdy non birdwatcher was MIA!) so the two “proper birders” headed out to a local Black Grouse Lek. It was nice to see nine male Black Grouse lekking away, still separated by the fence as they had been last week. What was not so nice to see was the heavy  rain showers approaching from the Southwest!

Having filled out binos and scopes with stunning views of the Grouse it was time to head back to the hotel and fill our stomachs with a glorious breakfast at the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey (home of the BWWC)

It was nice to find Jackie already downstairs and awaiting our arrival and I think that look in her eye showed we wished she had come out for the Grouse (or maybe not)

Next stop was Avielochan, where the comment of the weekend happened.  Sitting scanning out over the lochan Nigel and Myself were bemoaning the lack of Slavonian Grebes, putting it down to being too early in the season, when birdy “non-birder” Jackie called out  ”there is one!” our reply “one what? where?”  Jackie (pointing one hand at the poster in the hide, and one hand in the direction of the water directly below the hide ) One of THEM, THERE!!

I must admit to expecting to see a Dabchick surface in the designated area, but no! A full plumaged Slavonian Grebe bobbed into view no more than 30 feet in  front (edit: Olga please note!) So a big well done to the now becoming very birdy non-birder!

Now on a roll it was onwards and upwards to the Cairngorm.  The snow had melted substantially since last weeks visit and the viewing platform was nearly all clear, but good grief it was cold!!  One male Ptarmigan was seen very briefly before disappearing behind the snow fences, and then it started snowing, so a visit to the other Ptarmigan (the coffee shop) was undertaken.  Just as we were thinking of heading out again, Nigel Picked up two birds flying down the slope.

Returning to the car park it was amazing the difference in temperature and now buoyed by our success it was off Eagle watching!

Arriving at the Findhorn valley we bumped into a couple we had met yesterday at Burghead, they had been in the valley all morning and not had a snifter of any raptors.  Not to worry though I said it was a perfect Eagle day so we would push on regardless, and boy are we glad we did!

Arriving at the top car park we stood and talked to a couple of people that had been waiting a while, then something caught my eye, right above our heads, looking up, a magnificent juvenile White Tailed Eagle soared past, once again getting mobbed by a Peregrine. The Eagle would roll 180 degrees onto its back with talons outstretched towards the Perg, it would then roll over back to level flight, completing a full 360 turn! A truly fantastic sight!  Just as this bird disappeared from view I picked up two large raptors heading from the top of the valley………. 2 Golden Eagles passed right in front of us!! One bird disappeared across the mountain, but one bird tracked down the whole length of the valley, absolutely brilliant and just proving the Birding Ecosse motto “There is no dross with Birding Ecosse”

A scenic drive over the Farr Road held the usual Red Grouse, not so numerous or close to the road as last week, but then our third Golden Eagle for the day appeared and tracked parallel to the car for a few minutes.

Last stop of the day was Loch Ruthven, this is a beautiful little reserve and gave the three of us a promising start when Nigel picked up an Osprey hanging on the wind just preparing to dive, what a brilliant bird they are!

At the hide a pair of Slavonian Grebes where doing a magical disappearing act right in front, before finally submerging never to be seen again.  A great way to end a great couple of days birding with Nigel and Jackie!

It was now time to head back to the hotel, a Gala Meal was planned for the evening so sparkly frocks had to be ironed and stilettos polished, so that was Nigel set, I have no idea what Jackie was wearing!

Thanks to the both of you for a “lively”couple of days birding, look forwards to your next visit North.

Wednesday 09 April 2014

Birding Ecosse Mid Week Special – Part 1

Well today was a first for Birding Ecosse, a non-birder on a birding tour……..however said non-birder knew an AWFUL lot about birds as she was to reveal throughout the day! (not to mention being caught  1. Reading through the Crossley field guide comparing divers 2. Saying she was looking forward to writing the  end of day list ( perhaps a slight exaggeration) 3. Admiring the Swarovski binoculars and hinting heavily that they would make a nice Christmas present (once again perhaps a slight exaggeration)

However all this was unknown to myself as I picked Nigel and Jackie up at the Grant Arms Hotel at just before 0800.

First stop of the day was for the Dippers at the local nesting site, the bird was showing well along with local Oystercatchers and Pied Wagtails.  First nice birds under our belts next stop was a local grouse moor and inland Loch.  The Red Grouse were showing off right beside the road, the males in absolutely stunning condition.  The newly returned Black Throated Divers glided serenely at the far side of the loch, showing well through the Swarovski Scope. More Red Grouse called noisily all around us, and Mistle Thrush and Siskin fed in the nearby heather.

At the top end of the Loch we stopped for a brief scan and were pleased to pick up a single Red Throated Diver. Excuse the quality of pic wind/light/exposure gave very poor condition for digiscoping.

Red Throated Diver

Red Throated Diver

It was nice to the Common Gulls back on their breeding colony, and unusually there were no Black Headed Gulls present.

Next was a nice scenic drive to Loch Flemington, taking in some outstanding Scottish landscapes and giving Jackie a break from solely birding, Red Legged Partridge were added on this leg as was a huge female goshawk.

Nigel and non birder (yeah right) Jackie

Nigel and non birder (yeah right) Jackie

The American Coot played hard to get today, it was in fact to the bushes and reeds to the right of the parking space, Nigel picked it up as I was making the coffee.  Thankfully it showed well and ultimately swam across the Loch right in front of us.

 Wednesday 02 April 2014

Brilliant views of a redhead Smew on a small lochan on Dava Moor, grid ref  NH990393.

Birding Ecosse  - Long Weekend Special

Friday 28 March to Monday 31 March 2014

Part 2

Monday 31

Well today was the last trip of the weekend, and thankfully the cloud base had lifted and it was onwards and upwards to the Cairngorm, and what a way to end the weekend!

The Funicular was nice and quiet and arriving at the top station the view point was completely empty. Looking out with my naked eye I could make out the distinctive white blob of a Ptarmigan, perched on the skyline. Fantastic!!

Getting the scope set up it was absolutely classic Ptarmigan time,a male and three females all came into view and then one by one approached the viewing platform! Frame filing views through the scope! It doesn’t matter how many time I see these birds I always find them captivating!

Ptarmigan (male left female right)

Ptarmigan (male left female right)

Ptarmigan Females

Ptarmigan Females

Ptarmigan Male

Ptarmigan Male

Ans so that ended the Birding Ecosse Long weekend special, Thanks go to Pandora and Laurie for making it a great success and very enjoyable weekend. Totals species list for the weekend was 81.

Sunday 30 March 2014

A beautiful morning in the Highlands greeted us today, and first stop was to the feeders in Anagach woods behind the Grant Arms Hotel, target birds for this sortie was Crossbill, a lifer for both Pandora and Laurie.

Arriving at the feeders it wasn’t long before I heard the first “tchuup tchuup” of Crossbill, searching the high tops nothing was visible of the calling bird, until it flew off, circled the area, then landed, Crossbill style right at the top of a distant pine, in full scoping view ( thank you Mr Swarovski for making excellent optics!)

Heading off bouyed by the lifer we now made off for yet another, in the shape of an American! Yes it was time for star billing “The American Coot”

Arriving at Loch Flemington, the bird was visible even before I had stopped the car, and now because it is considered “old hat” the car park was deserted, we had the bird all to ourselves!

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

The bird was by itself, obviously the recent match made in heaven with a local Moorhen had fizzled out and the bird had returned to single life!

An immature Cormorant was very confiding and gave some great up close shots as it tried to preen “those hard to reach” places!



Then disaster struck! It was now we realised we had failed to pick up Laurie and Pandoras packed lunches, however it also gave me the excuse to visit a very nice local cafe at Nairn.

Out on the Moray Firth we had Black and Red Throated Divers, Common Scoter and Long Tailed Ducks and two close in Red Breasted Mergansers, when these birds are seen close up they really are beautifully marked.

Red Breasted Mergansers

Red Breasted Mergansers

Heading along the coast to Burghead we had good views of Velvet Scoter, Razorbill, Lesser Black Backed Gulls (these are summer migrants to the area, and my first of the year) Gannet, Curlew and Knot.

Stopping off en -route at a local pine wood, we were delighted to find the second male Crossbill of the weekend, this one was closer to us and posed for a considerable time to allow some records shots.



Crossbill showing the amazing colour to its rump.

Crossbill showing the amazing colour to its rump.

Heading back to the hotel we drove past a fantastic Scottish lost, complete with ruined castle in the middle, it was here we picked up both Red and Black Throated Divers, all in full breeding plumage!  What a top way to finish todays tour!

Saturday 29 March 2014

It was an early rise as we headed off for a local Black Grouse Lek, a new site for me very greatfully received from John Poyner of Highland Nature. A nice gesture and shows the camaraderie between some local guides.

At least 8 males where on lek and showing very well, and what is superb about about this location is that you are a safe distance from the birds but still get amazing views. No females were noted on this occasion though.  Curlews where in full song display, their bubbling calls filling the air the nearby hunting kestrel and the tseeepining Meadow Pipits completed the “moorland in Spring” feeling.

It was then back to the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown for a fantastic cooked breakfast before setting out once again.

A quick stop off at the Hotels bespoke hide at a local fishing loch it was soon obvious that the Slavonians had not yet returned, the water in their breeding area was also fairly high. We did get some stunning views of male Goldeneye and Little Grebes in full breeding plumage, they are cracking wee birds!

Next stop on todays tour was the beautiful Strathdearn Valley in search of Raptors, first surprise of the day was a very very probable White Tailed Eagle adult, fairly near to the valley entrance, much lower down that I have experienced before.  I have said probable as it was a very quick view, of a massive raptor being mobbed by buzzard, very broad wings, but the key factor was it looked to have no tail. But an adults white tail would have blended perfectly with the light grey sky behind. I will however put it down as a probable!

Arriving at the top car park, as we stopped for a coffee, a had a casual scan towards the top of the valley, three birds appeared from behind one of the crags, two Buzzards and….. one Golden Eagle! All three birds were heading straight for us, the Buzzards drop off and returned to the crags but the Eagle kept approaching, and kept approaching, and kept approaching, right over the top of the car park! Absolutely stunning views and a great way to finish this part of the tour. Next stop Farr and Loch Ruthven.

The Farr Road didn’t disappoint with the birds, some great views of Red Grouse  gave Laurie some great photo opps.

Arriving at Loch Ruthven we were greeted with the saying that all birders dread “oh you’ve just missed…….” in this case it was “oh you’ve just missed two displaying Goshawks at the far side of the loch” grrrrr! The Slavonians where however were a nice consolation and the actual reason we had visited this reserve!

The day ended with a nice scenic drive back across the Farr road, back to the hotel and once again a few libations and run down of the birds we had seen today.

Birding Ecosse – Long Weekend Special

Friday 28 March to Monday 31 March 2014

Friday 28 March 2014

Today was bright but hazy, with the Mountain tops shrouded in clouds I decided today we would head North, so at 0800 on the dot we headed for Portmahomack and Tarbat Ness.

Stopping off at a local Highland river we quickly connected with Grey Wagtail and Dipper, the day had started well.

Arriving at Portmahomack the weather was ideal for scanning the bay, a male Velvet Scoter was showing well not far off the harbour wall, Long Tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe, Common Eider, Red Throated Divers and Cormorants were all also showing well in the area.

Scanning over the rocks, a small movement caught my eye, quickly turning the scope to this point we were soon looking at a flock of about 20 Purple Sandpipers along with a nearby group of Bar Tailed Godwits and Knots, after a coffee and biscuits  it was time to leave this idyllic spot and head for Tarbat Ness Lighthouse

Arriving at the lighthouse car park we noticed two things: one was the amount of Yellowhammers at the feeder and two the large grey cloud that was heading straight for us, the heavens opened and we remained in the car for twenty minutes until the shower had passed, and luckily this was to be the last rain we were to encounter, however the weather had not finished with us for the weekend!

Walking to the point Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Razorbill were all quickly notched up,a nice bonus was two Black Guillemots in winter plumage and a Red Throated Diver swam not too far offshore.

Red Throated Diver in Winter Plumage

Red Throated Diver in Winter Plumage

A quick stop off at RSPB Nigg Bay produced Shelduck and Pintail, the latter being quite a scarcity in the area and Nigg Being being one of their strongholds.

Heading South we had a stop at Udale Bay, the tide was very far out, but a few birds were still showing very well, Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing and Dunlin all fed busily on the mud flats and a few Pink Footed Geese lounged around in front of the hide.

Pink Footed Goose

Pink Footed Goose

Heading back south we were surprised by a huge gaggle on Pink Footed Geese in a field, stopping the car to scan through the flock, Pandora had an excellent find with a single Barnacle Goose feeding with Pinkers, a great find and a great way to end day one.

Over a small libation back at the hotel, we celebrated a great day in the field and looked forward to whatever tomorrow would bring.

To be continued……….

Thursday 27 March 2014

The weekend started on Thursday night in the comfortable “Capercaillie Bar” in the Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown on Spey. Laurie and Pandora had already started their weekend with a productive walk around Anagach woods just behind the hotel.

Catching up on all that had happened since last we met in January 2013 I gave a quick run down on what I had planned for the coming days, explaining that I would keep things flexible to allow for weather.  I bade both of them farewell until the morning and headed home looking forward to what the weekend would bring.

Monday 31 March 2014

Just finished Birding Ecosses  first long weekend special break of the season, and what a great weekend it was in the company of Pandora and Laurie.

Highlights were great views of Crossbill, Red and Black Grouse, Red and Black Throated Divers, American Coot, Slavonian Grebe, Golden Eagle and Ptarmigan.

Full report will be posted in the next few days, but to keep you going here are the Ptarmigan from today.

Ptarmigan (male left, female right)

Ptarmigan (male left, female right)

Monday 24 march 2014

Brilliant news from RSPB Loch Garten with the return of EJ their female Osprey, good luck to all involved in the forthcoming season.

Please check out the live web cam and give your support to the RSPB.


Sunday 09 March 2014

0830, Sunny and Mild (still need a fleece though!)

On the way to the reserve, Spotless Starling calling from the roof tops, nice call a piping “huueeeeet” call.

Spotless Starling, typical pose on top of the red tiled roofs.

Spotless Starling, typical pose on top of the red tiled roofs.

Collard Doves, 15 x Monk Parakeets, Gannets, 15 Mediterranean Gulls flushed from the canal by a fishermen, there are a lot of fisherman! White Wagtail, Black Redstart, many Serins, male and female Kestrel, Sardinian Warbler.

Black Redstart (female)

Black Redstart (female)

0904 At Bridge leading to reserve, met up with local birder and expat Ted Lord (Tedo to give him his Spanish name) Ted had been my birding buddy for the last two days after a chance encounter on my first recce trip on Friday afternoon, great company and a veritable fountain of knowledge for Guadalhorce.

The Guadalhorce Canal.

The Guadalhorce Canal.

Guadalhorce Reserve

Guadalhorce Reserve

Guadalhorce Reserve

Guadalhorce Reserve


Arriving at the Laguna de la Casilla hide, birds present: 9 male 1 female and 1 Imm Male White headed Ducks, Moorhen, Coot, 1 Flamingo imm roosting.  I then met another local birder and ex pat Andy Paterson, he runs the blog  ”birding the Costa” excellent resource for anyone thinking of visiting the area.

One of Andy’s friends pointed out two female Black Headed Weavers across the far side of the lagoon, I would definitely have overlooked these birds, and then another incredible bit of birding when the Spanish Chap pinged a Bluethroat call, and lo and behold I spotted the Bluethroat at the bottom of the reeds. Two great birds in the space of two minutes!

1011 Rio Viejo Hide. Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Little Ringed Plover, 2 Black Tailed Godwits, 2 Greenshank, Cettis Warbler  (calling) then another highlight was next when two Hoopoes flew in a landed right in front of the hide!  Then a Crested Lark scuttled out of the reeds and burst into full song!  I love birding in Spain!

A Booted Eagle took off from nearby dead tree.

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle

Laguna Escondida: White Headed Duck,Crag Martin, Sand Martin, Pochard

1430 Back to my favourite hide, the Laguna Grande.

Immediately a top notch bird for me, a Cattle Egret.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

2 x Flamingos, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Black Necked Grebe, Common Sandpiper.

Common sandpiper was “seen off” by Kentish Plover that look like they are nest prospecting on the small island in front of the hide. 2 x Avocets.

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

And that ended another brilliant day at the Rio Guadalhorce, and my last day on the reserve.  However I am already planning my next trip next year, perhaps two or three weeks later to catch more of the summer migrants.

Adios Amigos!



Saturday 08 March 2014

Today started off very well, with a mini sea watch off the hotel balcony, Gannets, Lesser Black Backed Gulls, Yellow Legged Gulls, 3 Med Gulls and a Cormorant started the day list off well!

A lovely walk along to the reserve from the hotel netted Spotless Starling, Kestrel, Sardinian Warbler, Serins by the bucket load (I love seeing and listening to their song and display flight) Pochard, Shoveler, Cormorant, Grey Heron and Little Egret.

Entrance to the Rio Guadalhorce

Entrance to the Rio Guadalhorce

Map of hides on Reserve

Map of hides on Reserve

0950 Rio Viejo

Birds Present: Black Winged Stilt, Redshank, Little Egret, Teal, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Greenshank, Swallow, Crag Martin, Crested Lark, Serin, Pochard, White Headed Duck, Booted Eagle, Moorhen, Black Tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Sanderling, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Common Snipe.

At seawatch point: Yellow Legged Gulls, Mediterranean Gull x 3, Cormorant, Avocet.

Black Winged Stilt

Black Winged Stilt

1400 Escondida Hide:  Sardinian Warbler, 12 White Headed Duck, Pochard, Meadow Pipit, Swallow, Crag Martin, Serin and Coot

1421 Laguna Grande: What a fantastic bird hide, with plenty of action going on right in front.  Birds present: 2x Greater Flamingo immature’s, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Black Winged Stilt, Dabchick, Black Necked Grebe, 2x Avocet.

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo

Black Necked Grebe

Black Necked Grebe

1413 Laguna Grande: Cattle Egret (one of my target birds and a lifer!) gave a flypast, yellow bill and small size. Black Headed Gulls.

Heading back to the hotel I noticed a gull sitting on the river bank, getting the scope on it it turned out to be lifer number 2 for the day, an adult Audouin’s Gull, a really smart “clean” looking gull Red Bill and dark legs. In flight the white wing mirrors where restricted to the trailing edge of the wings, giving the wing tip a very dark appearance.

Audouin's Gull

Audouin’s Gull

Final treat for the day was a Kingfisher perched on the rocks at the river mouth, a great end to a fantastic days birding.



Friday 07 March 2014


This weekend was a small gift to myself. I decided to take off for a few days for some sun, swamp and birds! A very indulgent three days were in front.

Flying out from Glasgow on a cold wet morning I landed at a sunny and warm Malaga, and a short taxi journey saw me at my hotel in Gaudalmar just a stonethrow away for my weekend destination, the Rio Guadalhorce bird reserve. So within four hours I swapped our UK Starling for Spotless Starlings and Feral Pigeons for Monk Parakeets!  Roll on the weekend.

After the painless checking in process I headed out for a small recce walk to the reserve. It really is a fantastic place, a ten minute walk from the hotel sees you on the edge of the reserve, the Canal had breached through to the sea so to gain access it would mean a walk along the canal to the main footbridge onto the reserve, no problem with that though as there was plenty of birds to keep me entertained.

It was a great initial visit and what was planned as a short walk turned into a four our birding afternoon. Serins were absolutely everywhere, the males in display flight, sitting singing on small bushes and flashing their bright yellow rumps.



Goldfinches where also seen in very good numbers, the birds here seem to show a lot more yellow on the wings than UK birds, Monk Parakeet buzzed about the whole area, their call were to be a continual pleasant background noise throughout my visit.

I had target birds I wanted to connect with, White Headed Duck, Purple Swamphen and Audouin’s Gulls. So I found myself at the hide we had visited last year, with Josse Yague from Park Nature and was very pleased to connect with some White headed Ducks straight away.

Sleeping White Headed Ducks

Sleeping White Headed Ducks

Tired, thirsty but extremely happy I returned to the hotel, looking forward to heading out in the morning for a full day, with full birding kit, on this fantastic reserve.

Thursday 27 February 2014

The day started very early on a very chilly Tulloch Moor, once again the weather beat us in the Black Grouse lek with the lower temperatures stopping the males displaying, every now and then a faint bubbling call could be heard but remained stubbornly out of sight, maintaining Birding Ecosse’s ethical approach we did not attempt any further searching and left the birds to carry on their display undisturbed.

Heading towards a local Capercaillie sight we had superb views of Crossbill  feeding at the top of some larch tree’s, the grouse were not on our side at all today as the Horse of the forest didn’t make an appearance either!

Cutting our losses we headed up to the Findhorn Valley in search of big birds!  And here our luck changed! Raprtors were all over the place!  Red Kite at the beginning of the valley closely followed by a male and female Kestrel.

At the top of the valley, and just when Olga was slipping into “Slavonian Grebe” mode, I noticed a large raptor break the skyline, as it approached it became clear we had a Golden Eagle and it was heading straight towards us.  It gave stunning views as it flew down the side of the valley, keeping close to the hillside.  David managed to get the following stunning shots.


Golden Eagle by David Burleigh

Golden Eagle by David Burleigh

Golden Eagle by David Burleigh

As the bird glided overhead it was immediately set upon by a Peregrine, it buzzed it incessantly until the Eagle had left the area and headed back down the valley, where it was then set upon by a Buzzard and two Ravens!  Then the surprise of the day, the Eagle then turned around and came back for seconds!  Once again it gave stunning views as it glided back up the valley side before finally disappearing over the ridge for the last time.

A trip over the Farr Road (or Slavonian  Road as it had been christened by Olga) produced very close views of Red Grouse, one male in particular was in supreme form and was actively courting a nearby female, his red eye wattle appearing almost luminous in the in the dark heather and yet another surprise raptor as a female Hen Harrier circled over the moors, gained height and disappeared North, a nice bird to get for the day list.

Loch Ruthven was being whipped up by the gale force winds and looked more like the Moray Firth than an inland Loch! The recently seen Slavonian Grebes had either left for a more sheltered lochan or were seeking refuge in the reeds.  A few brave Goldeneye tried to put on a show, but they to were defeated by the wind and waves!

Returning to the hotel for an “apres bird” drink,  we tallied up our totals for the two days and came to the toal of 76 species seen and two heard, not a bad haul especially with the windy conditions.  It was a great way to get the 2014 all inclusive holiday season started!

If this had whetted you appetite why don’t you check out our all inclusive mid week and long weekend specials, something to suit all tastes and pockets.

Wednesday 26 February 2014 – Part 2

Arriving at Roseisle and taking up my usual birding position overlooking Burghead bay it was obvious that the sea had become somewhat choppy and that spotting the ducks may be  slightly more difficult than normal.  After a brief search we managed to pick out some male Velvet Scoters, initially these were at distance but during our time here they drifted closer to us, allowing Olga and David to pick out the I.D features of the white wing panel and the white “coma” under the eye, a beautiful duck close up.  We also managed fantastic views of a Slavonian Grebe ( to be honest it was a small black and white dot on the Horizon, but never the less a Slavonian and my target species for this area, on a more important note it gave Olga the fuel to slander me mercilessly for the remainder of their trip!)  We also picked up Common Scoter and Long Tailed Duck.

Whilst we were leaving the main car park David put up a shout to “stop” and we were treated to brilliant views of a male Crossbill feeding at the top of some pines right beside the road.

Male Crossbill, picture by David Burliegh

Male Crossbill, picture by David Burleigh

Making our way along the coast the conversation changed to the usual topic of Giraffes, and on our arrival at Burghead I proudly announced that I was 100% certain we would see none of the aforementioned beasts at this location, how wrong could I be?!  And anyway who would have a Giraffe statue in their window, I ask you!! (more fuel to Olga’s already inferno like fire)

Sadly the Long Tailed Ducks had left the harbour itself, but were loafing around just outside the harbour wall, still giving excellent views  alongside Common Eider.  We had a quick flyby of the local Rock Pipit, however the cooler weather today meant he was not wanting to show us his display flight.

Onwards to the east we set up the ‘scope at a local eastuary, where the new birds for the day came flooding in, Bar Tailed Godwits, Teal, Wigeon a host of Gulls including Herring, Great Black Backed, Black Headed and Common, but the highlight was a group of 15 Snow Buntings feeding on the far bank of the river, one male in particular looking very dapper in near full summer plumage.

As they daylight began to fade we headed to Loch Spynie, a great place to add a mixture of farmland and freshwater birds. Long Tailed, Great and Blue Tits entertained us on the feeders, Treeceeper allowed us some great views and a single Water Rail calling from the reeds stubbornly would not show itself so went on the “heard only” list.

So that was day one finished, a soft drink at the bar in the hotel finished off a great day, roll on day two….. Would Olga take pity on the poor guide? (I think we can guess the answer to that one) Would David come onside with me? (and that one!) and would we connect with our target species?     Keep tuned for the final installment!


Tuesday 11 March 2014

Apologies for lack of post over the last few days, I have been birding in Spain! +20 Blue skies and sunshine all day long, plus some amazing birds as well!  Will be catching up with all my admin and posting new blogs and pictures in the very near future…. stay tuned folks!


Wednesday 26 February 2014 – Part 1

Today saw the start of the busy season for Birding Ecosse and was also the first in the new season of mid week and long weekend specials.

My clients for the next two days were to be David and Olga from Northumberland, it proved to be a highly entertaining and informative couple of days, with lively chats on a whole host of subjects and me getting gently bullied at every opportunity.

The day started well with Dipper at the usual spot at Dulnain bridge and the local moors proved a success with Red Grouse up close, and a couple of Ravens chasing some Lapwings.

Heading towards Loch Flemington for the American Coot, it proved to be very very elusive and took nearly 20 seconds to find this time!  It flew out across the reeds to the willow scrub to the right of the car park area.

Olga and David at Loch Flemington

Olga and David at Loch Flemington

American Coot

American Coot

Having collected the Coot we set off to Nairn, to see the Brent Geese and hopefully connect with the recent King Eider.

The Moray Firth looked beautiful, with Long Tailed Duck and Common Scoter showing well, however no sign of the King Eider. In way of consolation the regular Brent Geese put on a great show and a couple of Purple Sandpipers were a nice addition to the day list.

Brent Geese, Photo by David Burliegh

Brent Geese, Photo by David Burleigh

Next port of call was to be Roseisle, call back to see how we got on there!

Monday 24 February 2014

Today was a lovely spring morning again, there really is a change in the ambiance, heading towards proper spring time weather, happy days.

Today’s guided walk was around the beautiful Burghead, and was in company of a Birding Ecosse stalwart Robert from Nethybridge, it always proves to be an entertaining day out with him.

One of the first birds to be seen was the usual Rock pipit, right beside the car park and giving great views as it fed on the wall and beach area.  This was later seen in display flight again and hopefully it will nest in the area.

The harbour was quieter for ducks, with just a couple on Eiders feeding, no sign of the recent show off Long Tailed Ducks or Great Northern Diver, but with the sea being flat calm there was no real need for them to be taking shelter.

Cormorants, Herring Gull and Great Black Backed Gulls were all in evidence along the harbour wall, the much overlooked Herring Gulls looking splendid in their full summer plumage (they have brown streaks on the head and darker streaks around the eyes in winter plumage giving them a “dirty appearance” I think)

Herring Gulls

Herring Gulls

Out to sea, well out to the Moray Firth, plenty of Long Tailed Ducks and Common Scoter were to be seen just offshore, and a single Great Northern Diver loafed around.

Making our way to the upper viewpoint many Red Throated Diver were off the point, some in full summer plumage, whilst some still retained full winter plumage, a vast difference but really good for comparing. A single female Velvet Scoter kept her distance from the nearby  raft of Common Scoter.  Shag and Razorbill, both in full plumage showed very well just offshore.

The Beautiful Burghead Harbour.

The Beautiful Burghead Harbour.

 Turnstones, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Curlew all fed on the rock and a flock of 6 skylarks “churrupped” over head, heading out towards the black isle.

The now set ritual of having a Birthday treat (it was my turn to be birthday boy for the second time this year) at the superb “Bothie” cafe rounded off a brilliant mornings walk, great birds and great company.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Today started bright, sunny and mild the exact opposite to the weather forecast! So at 0745 I picked up today’s willing birders Pam and Helen from the magnificent Grant Arms Hotel, home of the BWWC.

On this half day tour we were concentrating on the coast, in particular Ducks and Waders, first port of call then just had to be Burghead. We were not to be disappointed!

The usual suspects were loafing around, the Long Tailed Ducks looking simply stunning in there fine winter plumage, the male Eiders “making eye’s” at the lovely female Eiders, and luckily the Great Northern Diver was feeding at very close range, giving some fantastic photo opportunities.

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver

A more unusual pose for the Great Northern Diver

A more unusual pose for the Great Northern Diver

Spring was most definitely in the air, with the cooing of the Eiders, House Sparrows nest prospecting, Shags sporting their full summer crests and best of all Rock Pipits in display flight, roll on the summer!

Other birds in the area, Bar Tailed Godwits, Black Headed Gull, Great Black Backed and Herring Gulls, Turnstones, Common Scoter, Redshank and Oystercatcher.

Heading to the High viewpoint we noted that the wind had started to increase substantially but it was still bright sunny and mild. Nice views of Red Throated Divers and Common Scoter were had, but a smaller duck has given me a furrowed brow and has sent me to my reference books to no avail, even Bob Proctor my local BTO rep drew a blank (thanks for your input Bob, it was appreciated) So if anyone has any suggestions please feel free to get in touch!

The mystery Duck

The mystery Duck

Answers on a postcard please!

Answers on a postcard please!

After Burghead it was off to Hopeman, the weather was still with us, but the wind was even stronger.  Burghead held it’s own smaller flock of Long Tailed Duck, these birds seemed to be feeding more than the Burghead birds, Redshank and Turnstones were also feeding on the beach and harbour walls. Over a coffee we watched a Razorbill fairly close in, however we missed out on the Purple Sandpipers, surely they have not headed North already?

Last port of call was Roseisle, by this time the wind was at gale force and the water was now decidedly choppy, Common Scoters were bobbing around like corks and the target bird Velvet Scoter was playing hard to get, until thankfully two males popped up over the Surf (no not Surf Scoter) and gave distant but distinct views.

A very successful morning in lovely company, Helen proving that not all Physics Teachers are dragons!

Helen and Pam at Burghead

Helen and Pam at Burghead

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Today was to have one recurring theme, lets see if you spot what it was!

The day dawned in a Dark and wet car park in Beauly in the beautiful Scottish highlands, the low cloud and heavy drizzle only adding to the atmosphere. I was here to pick up Karle a returning client who was up on holiday with his family (Hello Sarah and Orson) and was out to get his Highland Bird Fix.

The birding day started at Loch Flemington,( it was dark and wet) with the ever elusive American Coot (probably one of the easiest rarities you will ever hope to see!) it took an agonising 5 seconds to pick the bird out in it’s usual place.  Please note I still have not seen this bird in sunshine so the pictures are still of poor quality!

American Coot Showing the white undertail coverts

American Coot Showing the white undertail coverts

American Coot, Loch Flemington, Highalnds of Scotland

American Coot, Loch Flemington, Highlands of Scotland

Having his lifer in the bag, we headed off to Nairn, when we arrived it was dark and wet and the Moray Firth was surprising rough, however it soon provided us with some nice birds, Pale Bellied Brent Geese, Long Tailed Duck and Common Scoter, there were some Common Eider further out but unfortunately no sign of the recently reported King Eider. However a winter plumaged Tystie (Black Guillemot) proved a nice added bonus.

Heading to a dark and wet Burghead, the first birds to be seen were a Great Northern Diver sailing around in the inner Harbour surrounded by Long Tailed Ducks and Common Eiders, it provided fantastic views as it swan in front of the car and out into the Moray firth, at it’s closest a mere 20 feet away.  I would have loved to have some digiscoped shots however other people where watching and taking pics from their car and I would have undoubtedly spoiled their enjoyment of this stunning bird, so I waited until it was out to sea before setting up my kit.

Distant great Northern Diver

Distant great Northern Diver

The Long Tailed Ducks once again stole the show, and is a highlight for anyone visiting the area.

Sleeping Long Tailed Duck (Male)

Sleeping Long Tailed Duck (Male)

Long Tailed Duck (female)

Long Tailed Duck (female)

And as an added bonus, today we had a couple of Female Red Breasted Mergansers lounging around.

Red Breasted Merganser (female)

Red Breasted Merganser (female)

Red Throated Divers and a nice flypast of five male Velvet Scoter rounded off a successful visit to Burghead

Next stop was a dark and wet Lossiemouth, the tide was ideal and scanning across the far side of estuary produced Bar Tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and a nice sighting of two Snow Buntings.  There was not the usual amount of Gulls in the area so we didn’t pick up the target bird of little gull that had been reported on Birdguides recently.

A quick dash to Loch Spynie gave us Water Rail and Long Tailed Tit, it was nice to see the Herons had returned to the Heronry behind the hide, was it me or did the trees look sparser this year? You don’t usually get such a good view of the nests. It was of course dark and wet, but the hide provided a nice respite from the elements.

Heading Back towards Inverness we stopped off at a dark and wet Roseisle, where we connected albeit very briefly with the target bird for this location, Slavonian Grebe. One bird was present and seen just prior to it diving, it was never relocated! More good views of common and Velvet Scoter was nice.

Finaly we headed inland, where we did have a change in weather (hurrah) it was dark, wet and misty! (booooo)  On this section of the trip we added Red Legged Partridge and Red Grouse (heard) but  by this time light was fading and the rain and mist were both increasing!

The "atmospheric"  Highlands (aka driech)

The “atmospheric” Highlands (aka driech)

Final stop was back at Alturlie, where as the last glimmer of daylight faded into a dark and wet night, we saw hundreds of Pink Footed Geese lift from their feeding fields and stream low over head to their roosts on the Black Isle, a beautiful sight and a great way to end a brilliant days birding in fine company with Karl.

Totals for the day were 67 Species seen and 2 heard.  Not bad at all for a dark and wet day of birding!

Thursday 13 February 2014

When is a Hoodie not a Hoodie?

When it is on the Moray Firth Coastline! Many clients of Birding Ecosse get quite excited when they first see a Hooded Crow in the local area, it makes it even harder to explain that these handsome creatures would not make it through the vetting process and allow them to be accepted as true Hooded, they are unfortunately destined to be Hooded x Carrion Hybrids.

Must admit though some look pretty darn convincing and none the less smart looking birds!

Hooded Crow  Hybrid- Alturlie Inverness

Hooded/Carrion Crow- Alturlie  Inverness

Make believe hoodie

Make believe hoodie

Not a hoodie craw!

Not a hoodie craw!

Saturday 08 February 2014

Had a quick stop off at Loch Flemington today to have a look see at the long staying American Coot, true to form it was still present and showing well, and for a second time the bird was flushed by impatient photographers, blooming annoying, wish they would just let the bird be!

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot



Thursday 06 February 2014

Blue Tit

Blue Tit

A very pleasant morning with a lot of birds visiting the feeders in the garden. Put a net up for a couple of hours to try and get some of the Long Tailed Tits that have become regulars visitors to the feeders, no luck unfortunately!

Another nice retrap today, yet again a Blue Tit, ringed as a youngster way back in August 2010.

Next week see’s the start of a very busy period of tour guiding in the Beautiful Scottish Highlands and the equally stunning Moray Firth, so please call back to see what fantastic birds the area has on offer, and what you could be seeing on trips provided by Birding Ecosse.


Monday 27 January 2014

Well today was a very birdy day indeed!  When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, flat calm and overcast perfect for putting up a mist net and getting the 2014 ringing campaign under way! A really nice mix of birds were caught in the two hours before rain stopped play.

Ringing totals: 1 x Great Tit, 1 x Robin, 4 x Blue Tit, 1 x Chaffinch, 1 x Dunnock, 1 x Coal Tit, 2 x House Sparrow.

Two great retraps as well, V332834 Blue Tit originally ringed 18/02/2008 and V332890 Dunnock originally ringed 29/10/09

Just as I was packing up the net I noticed a flock of Long Tailed Tits heading towards the feeders in front of the house, and that was a the beginning of a feeding frenzy!

Long Tailed Tit x 3, Collard Dove x 2, Goldfinches x 3, Dunnock x 2, Great Spotted Woodpecker x 2 (male and female) Tree Sparrow x 1, House Sparrow x 2, Greenfinchs x 3, Great Tit x 2, Blackbird x 2.

Lynda's favourite bird Long Tailed Tit (also Lynda's picture!)

Lynda’s favourite bird Long Tailed Tit (also Lynda’s picture!)

Coal Tit

Coal Tit (also Lynda’s pic)

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow

Lynda's idea of heaven, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Long Tailed Tit together!

Lynda’s idea of heaven, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Long Tailed Tit together!

The day ended with a look around the Roseisle area for two reported Common Cranes, however these proved to be a no-show!

All in all a top day with our feathered friends.


Sunday 26 January 2014

Grey Herons are a common species around the coastline and inland waters, they do however become overlooked because of this, so next time you see “The patient killer” give it some time.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Saturday 25 January 2014

Honking weather and Honking Ducks

Well today the winter weather really bared it’s teeth with absolutely torrential rain and strong Southerly wind.  Not very pleasant birding weather, however every rain cloud and all that…… the stormy weather had brought the Eiders and Long Tailed Ducks into the safety of the inner harbour.

Sitting in the comfort of the car with the window down, sheltering from the extreme weather, whilst watching these beautiful ducks right below me really was  special, the male Eiders giving their Frankie Howerd  ”aaa ooo aaa” calls trying to woo the females and the musical trumpeting call of the Long Tailed Duck (reminding me for some reason of the “Kitti’ waaake” call of the Kittiwake.)

Unfortunately the lighting was so poor that pictures were absolutely impossible, so I have reverted to last years pictures of Long Tailed Duck.  Interested in seeing these birds first hand? Then why not get in touch with Birding Ecosse a join us for a guided walk?

Other birds present: Eider Duck, Long Tailed Duck, Guillemot, Red Throated Diver, Shag, Cormorant, Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Shag, Cormorant, Turnstone, Curlew, Black Guillemot.

Long Tailed Duck

Long Tailed Duck

Long Tailed Duck

Long Tailed Duck

Long Tailed Duck

Long Tailed Duck

Friday 24 January 2014

A little bit of Naked Birding

Yes today I undertook some naked birding.  No not walking around unclothed, but a way of birding that just proves the point you don’t need a lot of expensive kit to enjoy the hobby of birding.

In essence it is bird watching with the naked eye, no binos, scope or camera.  All birds must be identified by sight or sound, (you can, according to the rules use binos to confirm ID once you have done the initial ID, although we didn’t)

So in a brief walk through the woods near to my house this is what we saw: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Coal Tit, Collard Dove, Pheasant, Greenfinch, Jay, Buzzard, Treecreeper, Woodpigeon, Rook, Blackbird, Robin.

A really enjoyable, and to be honest eye opening little walk, and something I am keen to introduce to beginners when they are out on a guided walk.  Best get the basics in place then think about your kit.  I will however not be dispensing of the Swaros in the near future :-)

Monday 20 January 2014

Today I am taking a different approach, with the use of different framing of the birds in picture, The first shows a close framed Turnstone, the reason I chose this picture is that it shows the beautiful slight “upturn” to the bill, a feature the birds uses to “Turn over stones” whilst feeding hence the name.

Turnstone showing the slight upturn to the bill.

Turnstone showing the slight upturn to the bill.

The next two picture are more to give the impression of the birds habitat, once again the Turnstone perched typically on the harbour wall and the Eider Male contrasting to the beautiful green backdrop water, sometimes closer isn’t necessarily better.

Turnstone in typical Habitat

Turnstone in typical Habitat

Eider with beautiful sunlit sea.

Eider with beautiful sunlit sea.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Spot the difference!

Nice little comparison today between the Eurasian Coot and the American Coot, the American is still being reported at Loch Flemington today (per bird guides)

American Coot

American Coot

Eurasian Coot

Eurasian Coot


Friday 17 January 2014

Today I am reminiscing on long hot summer days at a fantastic seabird colony on the East Coast of Scotland, not only a feast to the eyes and ears, but also the sense of smell.  I personally love the musty fishy ambiance however it is not to everyone taste.

To sit and be surrounded but thousands upon thousands of birds, all going about their daily business really is a magical moment, keep your eyes on the “planned trips” page nearer the breeding season for trips to our local seabird city at Troop head.



Who you looking at?

Who you looking at?



Thursday 16 January 2014 Part 2

Just getting ready to retire for the evening when the bright glow of the moon caught my eye, ideal digiscoping night.  Got a couple of shots before the cold air started a coughing fit and I retreated to the warmth of the house.

Quite interesting when you look at the impact marks, and the “fallout” marks from these impacts, they must cover thousands of miles.

The moon

The moon

Moon showing impact marks

Moon showing impact marks

Thursday 16 January 2014

We are back in Canada for today’s pictures.  The Western Kingbird along with Eastern Kingbird are probably high on my favourite bird lists.  This particular bird was standing guard at it’s nest site giving some brilliant prolonged views.

The Blue Winged Teal was pictured at the Kerry Wood Nature Reserve in Red Deer Alberta, it was a fantastic reserve giving stunning views of many species, more pictures to follow.

Western Kingbird. Grassylake, Alberta.

Western Kingbird.
Grassylake, Alberta.

Blue-winged Teal Kerry Wood Reserve, Red Deer, Alberta.

Blue-winged Teal
Kerry Wood Reserve,
Red Deer, Alberta.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Still suffering from a chest infection (how long will this last!) and the torn muscle makes driving fairly uncomfortable, so still on couch trawling through my digiscoping pictures and deleting the many many ones that don’t come up to scratch.

Here is a very quick selection of some that made it through!



Immature Grey Heron

Immature Grey Heron
Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper

Bar Tailed Godwit

Bar Tailed Godwit

Monday 13 January 2014

So it’s a beautiful sunny day, very light winds and the ideal conditions for digiscoping the American Coot, that is still reported at Flemington (via birdguides) and here am I reduced to being curled up on the sofa with a torn rib muscle!  Ho Hum!

For those readers who call in here frequently can I just say thank you very much for your interest and also point you toward the Birding Ecosse Facebook page at  or even follow me on twitter @birdingecosse

In the meantime I will cheer myself up by looking at some of the Hummingbird pictures taken this summer in Alberta Canada, a big thank you goes to Chris Brown who let me turn her lounge and deck into a digiscoping platform :-)

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Ruby Throated Hummingbird


Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Ruby Throated Hummingbird


Thursday 09 January 2014

Well today’s visit to Mr Coot was a tad different than yesterday!  Car park and passing places were full and two photographers were right down at the waters edge keeping the bird at a safe distance across on the reeds, if only they had kept back at their car the bird would have undoubtedly swam closer and gave them better photo ops, at one point the bird flushed right across to the opposite side of the Loch (South side) and into a flock of Whooper Swans, after about 5 minutes of unsettled feeding (no floating reeds at that side) it flew back to North side before swimming in front of the cars back to it’s normal feeding location Ho Hum.  My efforts for today are shown below, managed to get a hint of the red at the top of the shield. Don’t know why but I really like this bird!

American Coot, Loch Flemington

American Coot, Loch Flemington

American Coot

American Coot

Wednesday 08 January 2014

Had another drop in at Loch Flemington to see if American Coot was still present, good news it was! What was also nice is that I had the place and the bird to myself, really nice.

I spent some time just watching the bird, it was feeding very well on aquatic plants, sometimes it would pick stuff off the surface, or from the matted reeds at the edge of the Loch, sometimes it dived to collect fresh green plants from underwater.  Whichever way it certainly was eating loads, which could be a good sign for the bird staying in the area.

Got some better shots today, however need some sunshine to get the ISO down a bit!

American Coot feeding

American Coot feeding

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

Moorhen immature

Moorhen immature

Moorhen Adult

Moorhen Adult

Tuesday 07 January 2014

The Yanks are here!

So I am week willed! An American Coot has turned up at Loch Flemington (and before the great and good of birdwatchers in the area get their frillies in a knot once again the bird was found by a chap called Simon Eaves, a big well done to him, I am only reporting on the trip I had to see the bird he found… okay?)

I really should have gone out in the better weather yesterday but a number of factors where against me going, but today after a night of “will I go/wont I go” I decided to drag my still man flu filled body of to see the bird. And boy I am I glad I did!

Arriving before first light the car park only had one other car, even in the near pitch black, one bird was feeding on the floating reeds, white billed with Moorhen like undertail flashes….. the American Coot was still present!

The light was really poor, hence the record shots only, however hopefully the bird will linger in the area allowing me to head through for some better shots at the weekend when the weather calms down a bit!  One thing that was very obvious was just how high the bird leaped out the water when diving.  Nice bird and looks like its feeding well and settled!

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

Saturday 04 January 2014

So what does a birding tour guide do on his day off with family?  He takes them birding!! (as many of you will know I am a kind hearted Scotsman and do not charge them (the full price) for a day tour :-)

Today was down to the “failsafe” Crested Tit haunt, and the little beauties didn’t disappoint! The pictures below are courtesy of Lynda. However I must admit I was mildly surprised when she charged me to use them :-)

crested tit 2

Crested Tit

crested tit1

Crested Tit

The Crested Tit cult, typical praying pose giving food offerings!

The Crested Tit cult, typical praying pose giving food offerings!

Wednesday 01 January 2014

Happy New Year!

As is now the tradition for Lynda and Myself we headed out for a quick jaunt to get the 2014 list started.  This year we stayed fairly local as both of us are suffering a bit of the cold (of course mine is worse being proper man flu, whilst Lynda is just a sniffle :-)  )

It was a beautiful day weather wise and turned out to be a Red Grouse photo day! And Lochindorb was a perfect place to start the New Birding year.


Red Grouse

Red Grouse


Red Grouse thinking it's a Ptarmigan, (leucistic face)

Red Grouse thinking it’s a Ptarmigan, (leucistic face)

Grouse on the beach

Grouse on the beach

The Grouse were out in force today, must have been the sunny weather and calm winds, the white faced bird was unusual as was seeing the one walking along the small sandy beach right at the waters edge.

Other birds that were good to get on the list were, Fieldfare, Redwing, Long Tailed Tit, Bullfinch and Jay.

So just a couple of hours in the field, but a great way to start the new year.


Tuesday 31 December 2013

A great day out with Denise and Chris and a brilliant way to end the year.

Starting off at the Grant Arms Hotel we headed straight for the coast and in particular Roseisle. The tide was perfect for sea watching, and I was mildly surprised to see just how calm the waters surface was  First birds in the Scope were a group of stunning male Velvet Scoters, panning over the Moray Firth soon revealed Long Tailed Duck, Common Scoter and two winter plumaged Slavonian  Grebes, a good start to the day.

Next stop Lossiemouth, this time for the flock of Snow Buntings that usually frequent the dune system, today however they were sadly absent, the strong winds that had now whipped up probably keeping them low in the marram grass. We did have nice views of Adult Shag, complete with full breeding Crest and a female Goosander.

Purple Sandpiper was the next species sought after so off to beautiful fishing village on the Moray Coast, which is proving the most reliable location for these birds this season.  We were not to be disappointed and Denise got some great views as two birds paddled and fed in a small rock pool near to the beaches edge. Also present were Oystercatchers, Turnstones and a lone Rock Pipit.


Oystercatcher (Turnstones in Background)

The historic village of Burghead was next on the itinerary and the main target bird for Denise, Eider Duck and boy did they perform well.  The usual small group of both Male and Female drifted around in the inner harbour giving absolutely stunning views, the males in particular looking fantastic.  To top it all Denise had said she would love to hear then calling, and as if on cue the males all started “chatting up the ladies”






Final stop of the day was a local grouse moor and  the Red Grouse where showing very well and proving ideal digiscoping opportunities,  a great way to round off a great day!

Red Grouse

Red Grouse


Thursday 26 December 2013

The day dawned early, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, Lynda started off slight more jaded (quote “I have never drunk so much Champagne!) however after another fantastic feed for breakfast we both perked up and were raring for the day in front, guiding John and Nicola.

First stop off was at Milton of Culloden, nice flocks of Wigeon feeding on the waters edge, Curlew, Bar Tailed Godwits, but highlight for this spot was a winter plumaged Great Crested Grebe, a definite scarcity in this area

Although not planned we ended up back at Portmahomak. Once again the Purple Sandpipers were in the area, Red Breasted Mergansers, Common Eider and Slavonian Grebes where all present however Mr Otter was nowhere to be seen today.

Tarbat Ness was quieter wind wise today and a nice selection of birds were to be seen, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Robin and Dunnock at the car park feeders. Plenty of Red Throated Divers buzzed low over the water and a single Black Guillimot cruised past the point. A male and female Stonechat was a nice addition to the day, not a common bird in this region in winter time.

Last call for the day was Chanonry Point in search of the Dolphins, luckily Nicola spotted three just off the point as the surfaced just twice, giving great views (Lynda was convinced one of them smiled and winked at her… still too much Champagne in her system from yesterday?) before diving below the surface never to be seen again !

A fantastic end to a simply brilliant festive season!


Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas to all!  A relatively long lie this morning prior to the opening of presents with Lynda and Cheryl, before heading out to Revack Estate for a short walk with John and Nicola, Duncan and Pieter, and Liz and Keith.  Once again the wind was howling through the trees, but it still did not stop us having brilliant views of 35 Common Crossbills feeding high in some larch trees. Goldcrest, Coal Blue and Great Tit were also in the area and as a recce for Birding Ecosse it shows great potential for some short walks from the Hotel….. to be coninued!

Christmas lunch was an absolute blast of a time! Fantastic company, outstanding food and a great relaxed atmosphere, definitely one of the best Christmas days I have had in a long time.  Thank you for the invitation John and Nicola and thank you also to the manager David Duncan and all the staff at the Grant Arms Hotel for making the day so special, it really was appreciated.

Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 December 2013

A cracking couple of days birding in the Scottish Highlands with a long standing Birding Ecosse stalwart Peter Hearn.  The weather was atrcocious with strong winds and squally showers, but that did not deter us in our search for birds.

The first morning saw us starting the day with a coffee at Portmahomack harbour. The wind was a southerly so the bay off Portmahomack was relatively sheltered.  Long Tailed Duck and Common Eider were loafing just offshore and a nice tight little flock of Purple Sandpipers fed on the rocks just below the Harbour wall.  All of a sudden all birds took to flight, something had flushed them, but what……….?  All of a sudden an Otters heads popped up out of the water not 30ft away!  Sad that the birds were flushed but a great start to the day nonetheless.

Making our way to Tarbat Ness we were subjected to the full fury of the gales.  Finding a sheltered spot the birds were soon spilling past and giving some excellent views. Red Throated and Black Throated Divers, Large flock of Razorbills just offshore and good numbers of Kittiwakes.  Birds also in the area included Twite and Linnet, Cormorant, Shag and a female Kestrel right beside the lighthouse.

Nigg bay gave some welcome respite to the gales and we had judged the tide perfectly as the rising waters pushed the huge migrant roost closer and closer to us, Bar Tailed Godwits, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank and Lapwing all jostled for dry spots on the rapidly disappearing sand!  One Dunlin still retaining a surprising amount of Black on it’s belly.

Final stop was Udale bay, with tide fully in most birds were at roost giving brilliant views of Wigeon, Redshank, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Shelduck and Teal.  A fitting end to the day.

Day two started on the beautiful Lossiemouth estuary, all the usual suspects were in the area, Black Headed, Common, Herring and Great Black Backed Gulls. Bar tailed Godwits showing well across on the far bank of the river Lossie, Wigeon whistled through out the visit and handsome male Teals shuttled to and from one side of the river to the other.

Loch Spynie was interesting, firstly for the female Scaup that was present, it is a fairly reliable location for this species and gives a great opportunity to get great views of them.

Next to grip our interest was this very strange hybrid:

pintail bill2

Hybrid showing classic Pintail Bill colouration (2nd bird from Right)

hybrid pintail1

Pintail x Mallard hybrid (top bird in image)

This bird showed characteristics of both Male Mallard and Male Pintail, the head plumage was Pintail but in bottle green! The breat and body Mallard and finally to the tail, once again that of Pintail.

water rail

Water Rail

A movement outside the hide caught my eye, two Water Rails crept out of the reeds onto the small feeding platform, giving excellent views.  (Excuse the poor quality of the picture but it was taken through glass)

Owing to the almost impossible conditions it was decided to call in a day and head back to the Grant Arms hotel in Grantown on Spey.  Driving back via Lochindorb the Red Grouse put on a great display for us and so ended day two.

Now the difference with today was that instead of saying farewell to Peter, I was to be staying as a guest in this fantastic, wildlife specific , hotel.  Let the festivities begin!




Tuesday 17 December 2013

Netherlands April 2013

A great visit across to Denekamp right on the German border, visiting long long time friends and fellow birders Wildred and Gusta.

We visited some old haunts, and some new ones and got some great birds.  The highlight for me (sorry the pictures aren’t better) was the Middle Spotted Woodpecker, a cracking wee bird and a lifer!

middle spotted woodpecker

middle spotted woodpecker



white stork

white stork



yellow wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Sunday 15 December 2013

Spain September 2013

So as I sit here on a storm lashed Sunday afternoon what better way to cheer myself up than by looking at some pictures from Sunny Spain.  For some reason even though I have taken hundreds of pictures, very few come up to the mark.  Luckily Im going back to the Rio Guadalhorce in March on a birding and Digiscoping long weekend, cannot wait!

black winged stilt

Black Winged stilt

spotless starling

Spotless Starling


white headed duck imm male

White Headed Duck (imm male)

white headed duck

White Headed Duck (non-breeding male)

Saturday 14 December 2013

Some highlights of 2013 – Canada June 2013

This year I  have been lucky enough to travel to a fair few places in the world, accompanied with my wonderful and ever suffering partner Lynda (thank goodness she  is a birder as well!)

Trawling through my pictures I decided to put up some of my most memorable birds, first up Alberta Canada, a fantastic country to visit, brilliant people, fantastic food and absolutely stunning birds.


wilsons phalarope

Wilson’s Phalarope (female)

wilsons phalarope male

Wilson’s Phalarope (male)


blue winged teal

Blue Winged Teal (with Wilson’s Phalarope in the background)


brown thrasher

Brown Thrasher


spotted towhee

Spotted Towhee

black necked stilt

Black Necked Stilt


yellow headed blackbird

Yellow Headed Blackbird

Thursday 12 December 2013

The return of “what am I?”


What am I?

Whilst sorting out my digiscoping images,  I do come across the occasional shot that does not come up to scratch (now THERE is an understatement!)

So just for fun what are the birds taking flight in the picture? Use the contact us link to let me know your answers.

All will be revealed next week

Good luck!


Thursday 05 December 2013

The North Wind Doth Blow!


Burghead Dec 13

With my interest peaked, and a rare day off I headed down to Burghead to see what this winter storm had brought in.  What little birds were about were either hiding from the awful weather or were heading past at Mach 3, some of the Herring Gulls almost cartwheeling past!  The only exception was one brave male long tailed duck, flying into the wind and was almost hovering it was that strong!

Retreated home for a cup of tea!

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Well it wasn’t exactly the same as yesterday, I opened my house door to be greeted with heavy rain and a fierce NW wind!  Not ideal Eagle weather!

Making my way to Forres I picked up Jean, a new client for Birding Ecosse and explained that the forecast was for it to brighten up early morning.  So we decided to head on up the valley.

First stop was at Lochindorb, all was quiet to begin with however it was not long before we heard the distinctive “Go Back! Go Back! Go Back!” call of Red Grouse and before long a stunning male and female appeared right beside the car.  They gave Jean brilliant views before skulking back into the heather.

On the water 2 Whooper Swans were a nice find and also in the area Tufted Duck and Goldeneyes, males and females of both species.

On the entry to the valley at the garden feeding station, Pheasants, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and two Goldfinches were present and a single Dunnock fed below the feeders.

In the valley proper the weather had abated slightly, Red Legged Partidge and Jackdaws were the first birds to be spotted. The weather then closed in again however every cloud etc etc.

At the top car park three Buzzards put on an impressive display of “wind chuting” where they half close their wings and hang in the up current from the hill.  Fantastic spectacle to watch.

jean r findhorn valley

Jean watching Feral Goats in Findhorn Valley

snow on hills find valley

Snow level coming lower in the valleys!

Birds as seen on day: Pheasant, Common Buzzard, Red Grouse, Whooper Swan, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Collard Dove, Curlew (calling) Red Legged Partridge, Coal Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch,Goldfinch, Dunnock, Woodpigeon, Mallard, Wren.

Monday 25 November 2013

It was a beautiful morning to be out on today’s guided walk around the historic village of Burghead.  A nice little flock of 75 Knot were the first birds of the day, with some Bar Tailed Godwits mixed through for good measure.

The sunlight was perfect for digiscoping and the roosting Cormorants and Shags gave the ideal subjects to photograph.


Cormorant in typical wing drying posture

cormorant and shag

Good comparison shot with Shag (left) and Cormorant (Right)

The Common Eider were close to shore, with a few individuals venturing into the harbour itself. When the winter weather gets colder more and more birds will come into the sheltered water with perhaps of some Long Tailed Ducks.  Two North Atlantic Grey Seals kept a very wary eye on us a did a Rock Pipit perched on the one of the fisherman’s sheds.

eider 2

Eider male


eider male

Eider Male

eider female 1

Eider female

From the viewpoint rafts of Common Scoter were seen to the east of the point with a single Velvet Scoter. Long Tailed Ducks a few immature Gannets and a Red Throated Diver were all also in the area.

Oystercatcher and Turnstones were feeding on the rocks along with a lone Curlew and two Grey Herons.

oyk adult

Adult Oystercatcher

The walk ended with a coffee in “The Bothy” coffee shop, an excellent way to round off the morning.

Birds as seen on day: Knot, Bar Tailed Godwit, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Cormorant, Shag, Long Tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Rock Pipit, Red Breasted Gull, Red Throated Diver, Velvet Scoter, Gannet, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Grey Heron.

Monday 18 November 2013

With colder weather forecast for later this week, the first real good flocks of Pink Footed Geese were in the Inverness Airport Area plus a nice flock of Fieldfares were waiting for me in my garden trees when I got home today.






Wednesday 13 November 2013

I spent this afternoon in the very pleasant company of Shelley from California, and showed her around the  Moray coastline taking in some cultural venues as well as birding hotspots.

It was  breezy and quite chilly  but that did not detract from the day and when the sun came out it really did show our visitor from across the pond just how beautiful the area can be.


Shelly at Lossiemouth

The thing that is really great about guiding people from different shores (and I feel the same when I am birding abroad) is that nearly every bird for them is a “lifer” so even the more common birds such as Herring and Black Headed Gulls take on a whole new meaning.

oyk lossie

Winter plumaged Oystercatcher at Lossie Estuary


Male and female wigeon roosting on the Lossiemouth Estuary (male RH bird)

Hopeman provided brief views of my target bird – Purple Sandpiper, and a male Long Tailed Duck had drifted close to shore allowing Shelley to see the long tail feathers flexing and bending in the wind, a stunning wee bird.

After a quick, freshly brewed coffee at Hopeman we headed off to Burghead, by this time the wind was almost storm force and the light was beginning to fade, however this just enriched the colours of the male Common Eiders, the green on the side of the head and pink blush on the breast showing off brilliantly.

With the light now gone it was time to drop my guest back her base and bid her bon voyage as she heads for home at the weekend, hope you get home safe and sound Shelley.

 Birds as seen on the day: Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Common Curlew, Bar tailed Godwit, Redshank, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Black Headed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, Long Tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Greenfinch, Great Cormorant, Shag, Purple Sandpiper, Carrion Crow, Rook, Hooded Crow (hybrid) Collard Dove, Jackdaw, Common Eider Duck, Northern Gannet, Magpie, Buzzard, Ringed Plover.

Sunday 10 November 2013

 Today I was helping out with the Birdwatching and Wildlife Club (BWWC)  located in the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey, it really was a beautiful morning here in the Highlands.

Two guests took up the offer (or should that be challenge!) of a free guided walk through Anagach woods behind Grantown with Birding Ecosse.


Graham and Judy on Wade Bridge over the Spey

First stop was the hotel feeding station, plenty of birds coming and going, including Coal and Great Tit, Robins and Blackbirds.  Two Crested Tit were calling nearby but proved elusive on the day.

Chaffinches, as is the norm, where calling from nearly every tree and bush with the occasional Dunnock and Wren adding their voices for some good bird call tuition.

Down an the river two redhead Goosanders where in the usual location of the long concrete pontoon in the river, and a Dipper was dipping on a rock over the far side of the river Spey.

Heading towards the Wade bridge a nice little mixed flock flew past including Long Tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Great Tit, and a single Goldcrest.

Completing the loop heading back towards the car some of the more common birds  were picked up. House Sparrow, Dunnock single Siskin and Collards Doves.

A cracking walk in stunning weather, thank you Graham and Judy for a very informative and entertaining morning!

Birds as seen on Day: Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Treecreeper, Robin, Goosander, Dipper, Long Tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Rook, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Collard Dove,  Blackbird, Greenfinch, Jackdaw.



Wednesday 06 November 2013

This is a rather belated trip report from Monday when I had the true pleasure of guiding one of my regular customers Richard “God bless ya Maray Poppins” Cockerill, it is always a day filled with laughter, stories, politics, advice and most of all fantastic birds.

Picking Richard up from the magnificent Grant Arms Hotels in Grantown on Spey (home of the BWWC) we headed off for a day on the Moray Firth coastline looking for Seaducks and Waders.  First port of call was Kingston and Garmouth on the scenic River Spey.

The first thing that was apparent on arrival was the tide, it was mega high!  It should have been on the turn and exposing some of the mud, however the mud flats were deep under water and the breakers out on the Moray Firth looked in danger of breaching over the high shingle bank! (in fact we later found out from a local that it had indeed breached the shingle  bank the day before!)

A large amount of gulls were feeding along the strand line of the waves and included Common, Black Headed, Great Black Backed and Herring Gulls. Wigeon were whistling behind us and Teal and Mallard showed off well just in the reeds near where we were standing.

Onto Loch Spynie, where it was great to get out of the biting North Westerly wind, a nice group of 14 Whooper Swans welcomed us to this beautiful wee reserve and the supporting cast of Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Mute Swans, Cormorants and Grey Lag Geese all added to the days total, however star performer was a female Marsh Harrier seen hunting over the reeds just across from the hide, briefly hanging in the wind before plunging out of sight never to re-appear!


Lossiemouth Breakwater, ideal for Purple Sandpipers when not under water!!


Lossiemouth estuary was suffering the same problem as Kingston and Garmouth with the very high tide, it was coming through the dunes system at the far side of the river, something that only happens once or twice a year.  But looking through the gaps in the dunes we could see Gannets were feeding very close to shore.

Onto Hopeman where thankfully the tide had dropped enough to expose some sand and rocks, Rock Pipit and Redshank were busily feeding whilst a lone roosting Turnstone sat huddled and fed up looking on the harbour wall.  A Red Throated Diver was close to shore allowing superb views of its winter plumage, delicate neck and lovely uptilted bill.

Burghead was next on the itinerary and Common Scoter, Long Tailed Duck and Rock Pipit were soon on the list along with one, perhaps two Slavonian Grebes just off the harbour wall, these birds are always a pleasure to see, regardless of being in winter plumage. Strangest sighting of the day was a single Arctic Tern feeding out in Burghead bay heading towards Findhorn!

As light was fading we paid a visit to Findhorn Sand dune system where here we picked up our last target bird for the day two rafts of Velvet Scoter that showed well between the now massive waves crashing into shore.

It was a brilliant days birding and as the winter progresses and the number of birds increase it can only get better!  So check out our Planned trips” page and book yourself a day on the Moray Firth with Birding Ecosse.

Birds list as seen on the day: Common Gull, Black Headed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Yellowhammer, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Gannet, Eider, Collard Dove, Starling, Teal, Dabchick, Grey Heron, Shag, Pink Footed Goose,Whooper Swan, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Marsh Harrier (fem), Grey Lag Goose, Blue Tit, Redwing, Fieldfare, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Buzzard, Redshank, Goosander, Red Breasted Merganser, Arctic Tern, Long Tailed Duck, Rock Pipit, Cormorant, Robin, Red Throated Diver, Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Greenfinch, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Kittiwake, Turnstone, House Sparrow, Goldfinch.



Richard “apples and pears” out to sea looking for Scoter!





Tuesday 05 November 2013

Crossley blog tour logo 250px (srgb)

The Crossley ID Guide to Britain and Ireland By Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens


Living up in the Highlands of Scotland and in particular the spectacular Moray Firth lets me indulge in my passion of Seawatching, and having the privileged position of being a birding tour guide it allows me to share my passion with others.

The area is a birding paradise in any season, from spring and summer with its Ospreys and Slavonian Grebes, breeding colonies of Auks, Kittiwakes and Fulmars, Black and Red Throated Divers on remote Scottish Lochans and not to mention all our famous Grouse, but autumn and Winter is, for me, the seasons when the Moray Firth comes into its own.

Many participants on Birding Ecosse workshops and tours are taking their first steps into the world of Birding, and as with any new hobby or venture they can find the array of optics, cameras, tripods, clothes and in particular field guides and reference books daunting.  What is the best……?  Which…….. Should I buy?  What…….. Do you use? are all frequent and pertinent questions.

With the publication of the new Crossley ID Guide to Britain and Ireland I will hopefully be able to at least give some guidance to the reference book question!

Even with best intentions, sometimes birds and weather will conspire against you, and they decide they will not put on the usual “lets swim close to shore” routine and stubbornly remain distant spots on a vast seascape.


Common Scoter

Real life Common Scoter watching!


This is where the Crossley guide comes into its own


Scoters double page

As a training guide the book is absolutely top notch, comparing the real life birds and the excellent plates from the Crossley Guide you can see the direct comparisons.  Does the bird have any white on the face or wings?  No? Then it cannot be a Velvet.  Does it have White on the head or nape? No? Then it cannot be the Surf Scoter.  So using process of elimination, which in essence what identification is (albeit done in fractions of seconds) the bird you are now looking at is the Common Scoter.

Likewise with another bird that people will flock (pardon the pun) to see, the beautiful Long Tailed Duck



Long Tailed Duck on the Moray Firth


Long tailed ducks arrive in their thousands to spend the winter in the relatively calm and warm waters of the Moray Firth from October onwards. On first inspection they appear to be all the same, however look more closely ( this is the benefits of booking a tour with Birding Ecosse as you get to use our first class optical equipment to do this!) and you will see some subtle differences, The males in their fine winter plumage, the more subdued females and the immature.  All beautifully depicted in the Crossley ID Guide.


Long-tailed Duck

The plates are clear, and unlike most guides or reference books they show birds in various postures and also with the background of real locations it (in fact this is a pleasant aside for myself, trying to figure out where the backgrounds are!)  The other real benefit or beginners and intermediates (the audiences this book is aimed at) are that you are not overwhelmed by exotic, but similar looking species.  I have on occasions had flocks of Sinai Rosefinches and Crab Plover in the Highlands of Scotland, and although I would dearly love to encounter this I had to point out that they were actually looking at Linnets and Oystercatchers.


Slavonian Grebe

Finally a little bit of a quiz for yourself to try, study the picture below and then see if you can work out what birds are in view…….


mixed flock

So in summary, if you are just a beginner or wanting to expand your skills then the Crossley ID Guide to birds of Britain and Ireland is a “must buy book” and even if you are experienced birder then it is a highly engrossing book looking at the scenery of the plates and the postures of the birds making a great browse through.

This review is part of the Crossley Blog Tour, to find more reviews and articles please follow the links to other bloggers starting with tomorrows guest blog

For a chance to win a signed copy of this fantastic book please visit

If you wish to see a list of contributing bloggers please visit

Finally if you have any questions for either Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens then they are holding a live video call on November 21st on

Many thanks and I hope you have enjoyed this review, if you fancy putting the book to the test then why don’t you book a day trip with Birding Ecosse, we look forward to meeting you.



Lynda getting to grips with Scoters using the new Crossley ID Guide.



Tuesday 29 October 2013

Well the weather has definitely taken a turn cooler this last few days, and the Southerly wind that had been blowing started to get a Northerly component, so with that in mind I had a quick stop in at Nairn on the way home from Inverness today.

Birds as seen: Herring Gull, Common Gull, Gannet, Red Breasted Merganser, Guillemot, Long Tailed Duck, Red Throated Diver, Gannet, Turnstone, 2 Arctic Tern, 1 small Unid Tern, Common Scoter, Cormorant, Rock Pipit, Redshank, Carrion Crow, Black Headed Gull, Common Eider, Mute Swan.


Crossley blog tour logo 250px (srgb)

The new Crossley Guide

I am really looking forward to reviewing this completely new approach to bird books.

Full review will be posted on this very blog on 05 November 2013 so please call back and take part in this “Blog Tour”


Thursday 24 October 2013

“The tale of Swollen Knee”

Yesterday, as reported was an outstanding day of birding and company, what I failed to add is that Derek had soldiered on with a very sore knee after having had’ a fall outside the station at Aviemore.

When I arrived at the hotel this morning, and Derek wasn’t waiting expectantly on the driveway I had a feeling things were not right.  At reception I was informed to visit Derek in his room where I found out he had paid a visit to Hospital last night and his leg was, to put it in birding terms “goosed”

Hope you get well soon Derek and I will call next week to see how you are, however every cloud has a silver lining (and I know Derek wont mind this being my silver lining) and as I waited for the chemist to open so I could purchase some pain killers for “Derek Swollen knee” I paid a visit to the BWWC feeders in Anagach woods to try and get some Crested Tit.  I wasn’t to be disappointed!


crested tit pair

Pair of Crested Tit

crested tit

Crested Tit

The birds showed brilliantly throughout the hour I spent watching them, it also became apparent the Cresties will come more readily to food on the ground than Coal, Great and Blue Tit.

However I must add that for ignorant dog walkers then I’m afraid that the Anagach wood dog walkers have stolen the long held title from the Lossiemouth Estuary Dog Walkers, all we need now is for windsurfers to start on the River Spey to see if they can compete with those ignorant folk at Findhorn Bay?! (please note: not all dog walkers are ignorant, only the ignorant ones!  I walked back to the car in the comopany of a man whose Jack Russel stayed at heel and behaved impeccably, likewise there are some fantastically trained dogs at Lossiemouth as well, unfortunately as in much of life “the few spoil it for the many”)

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Well where to start!?  A truly amazing day out birding with Derek staying with the BWWC at the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey.

With an 0800 pick up we were soon heading along the coast to Kingston and Garmouth near Spey Bay. A quick flyby of a Jay closely followed by a huge female Sparrowhawk got the day of to a great start.

Arriving at Kingston we scanned over the exposed mud flats and immediately noted good numbers of Teal and Wigeon, a single Black Tailed Godwit was a great spot by Derek. Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer were in nearby bushes.

The weather was flat calm with a bright but not glaring light, a cracking morning so far.

Over to Loch Oire, to try for the recently reported Shovelers (not an overly common bird in this neck of the woods), luckily we picked them up straight away, in fact two males and two females were present, also here were Dabchick, Moorhen, Wigeon and Teal.


Male and Female Shoveler

Next stop was Lossiemouth, by this time the weather had taken a turn for the worst, dark clouds were looming and the wind had increased.  The estuary was absolutely perfect for birding and excellent views were had of Bar Tailed Godwits, Goosanders and Redshanks.  Moving round to The Station car park it was here we had the surprise of the day, something made me look up and I was amazed to see a Swift zip by, as I called it to Derek and raised my binos to the bird a second bird appeared in my view, not only that, they were then joined by two House Martins!  All between squally rain showers and blustery gale force winds!  One of the birds was seriously pale with a defined white throat pouch, however I couldn’t make out its saddle colour or if it had a dark eye smudge so it will ever remain Common Swift!

Hopeman added Turnstone, Rock pipit and Pied Wagtail to the list but once again the weather closed in and we beat a hasty retreat to the car for shelter and lunch, we also took the chance of the weather to re-position to Burghead.

Derek Scoter watching

Derek Scoter watching

Burghead was now in the grips of a howling gale, and heavy rain showers, this however only helped to bring the birds in closer! Some crippling views of Immature and Sub adult Gannets as they came with a couple of hundred feet of the shore line, Common Scoter and Long Tailed Ducks were drifting along hugging the shoreline.  A  Red Throated Diver and Guillemot  added another two species to the ever increasing tally for the day.

Roseisle came up trumphs with the target species of Velvet Scoter, Derek had wanted to compare Common and Velvet and now he had the chance, more Long Tailed Ducks were scurrying to and fro along the Moray Firth.

Rainbow Lochindorb

Rainbow Lochindorb

And so to the final leg of today’s Grand Tour of Moray, Dava moor.  The rainbow that greeted us did not end in a pot of gold but something just as good, Kestrel, Red Grouse and a good sized mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwings.  All in all a fantastic days birding with over 60 species seen.

Bird list as they were seen: Teal, Wigeon, Grey Heron, Dabchick, Sparrowhawk, Mallard, Lapwing, Robin, Reed Bunting, Curlew, Yellowhammer, Great Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Black Tailed Godwit, Chaffinch, Whooper Swan, kittiwake, Herring Gull, Goldeneye,Red Breasted Merganser, Mute Swan, Red Throated Diver, Jay, Carrion Crow, Greenfinch, Collard Dove, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Common Gull, Pink footed goose, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Bar Tailed Godwit, Goosander, Cormorant, Common Swift, House martin, Sanderling, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Eider, Gannet, Shag, Rock Pipit, Starling, Razorbill, Dunnock, Common Scoter, Guillemot, Turnstone, Velvet Scoter, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Rook, Red Grouse, Kestrel, Buzzard, Fieldfare, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon.



Monday 21 October 2013

Yet another glorious day on the Moray Firth for weather, birds and company!

Meeting one of my longest serving clients Jackie (or repeat offender should that be?) at the usual car park near the harbour at Burghead the temperature was already approaching +14 the sun was shining and the birds were out in force:  Starling swirled around in there winter flocks, Linnets busily and noisily chirped over head, House Sparrows and Chaffinches hopped from bush to grass and back again.  The tseep tseep call alerted us to a Rock Pipit feeding down on the seaweed strewn rocks before flitting up to give brilliant views along the railings and path.


Rock Pipit

Looking across to a small patch of marram grass on nearby rock some movement caught my eye and using my binos, two imm Goldfinches where seen feeding on the wispy seed heads, then I noticed a reed Bunting crouched low at the base of the grass, quite an unusual sight down here at the harbour.  The Bunting then flew up onto the harbour wall giving great views through the scope.

The ever present cormorants were sitting like carved gargoyles at the end of the harbour wall drying their wings in typical fashion.

Cormorant, Great Black Backed Gull and Kittiwake

Cormorant, Great Black Backed Gull and Kittiwake

Common Scoter, Common Eider and  Long Tailed Duck scurried along in loose flocks over the calm surface of the Moray Firth whilst on the Beach Bar Tailed Godwit, Redshank and Curlew all made the most of the very low tide and fed hungrily on the newly exposed sand.

Walking towards the harbour entrance Turnstones were seen alongside flocks of House Sparrows and yet another Rock Pipit.

A lone Kittiwake seemed to be ignoring the rafts of its relatives floating just offshore as it sat on the harbour wall soaking up the sunshine, it was a great opportunity to talk Jackie through the relevant ID pointers.



Arriving at the viewpoint the views of the Firth today were just outstanding, however what was even more of a surprise was the three Magpies sitting on the flagpole of the viewpoint, not a common bird around here at all, and although very nice to see I hope we do not see a population explosion of this species in the area.

Birds drifting along out to sea included Long Tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Two Red Throated Divers and the incongruous sight of two Arctic Terns passing by, the plain unmarked upperparts showing no contrast on the primaries gave the bird a very pale apearance, (as an aside the fact you are guiding people makes you pay particular attention to details of plumage, and it helps both your ID skill and the people you are guiding)

The walk back to the car turned up a cracking Purple Sandpiper mixed in with a feeding flock of Turnstones and a Grey Heron posing motionless against the rock awaiting the first movement in the water below that would signal lunch was ready!

A brilliant morning birds with a varied and interesting haul of species, a great way to spend a few hours.

Birds list as they were seen on the day:  Kittiwake, Great Black Backed Gull, Bar Tailed Godwit, Black Headed Gull, Oystercatcher,Curlew, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Starling,Robin, Reed Bunting fem/imm. House Sparrow, Cormorant, Common Scoter, Turnstone, Feral Pigeon, Magpie, Dunnock, Linnet, Long Tailed Duck, Common Eider, Purple Sandpiper, Arctic Tern x 2, Common Gull, Guillemot, Razorbill, Red Throated Diver.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Dawn at Findhorn

First Light at Findhorn Bay

Once again an absolutely stunning morning on the Moray Firth, beautiful clear sky and not a breath of wind.

The forecast and weather charts were looking very promising, however it was apparent straight away that no mega fall had taken place, it looks better for later in the week…. and I have two full day tours booked for the coast, Happy Happy days :-)

Robins were the first birds to appear along with a couple of Dunnocks. On the beach it was almost devoid of birds, only a lone Oystercatcher and Common Gull were feeding on some of the pools.  Gannets were still feeding off shore but were a bit further out than yesterday.

Walking my usual circuit I came to the conclusion it would be better to walk in an clockwise direction, thus keeping the sun out my eyes!

Two Blackbirds flew out of cover followed by my first Fieldfare of the season, excuse the quality of the pic, it was barely daylight! A tight group of 40 Starlings were perched on the masts of the boats.


Two wrens, more Dunnocks and Robins and a flock of 25 Linnets (feeding on the roof of the Captains Table cafe)  were all picked up in quick succession, and a single Goldfinch chirrped overhead.

Up by the cottages with the feeders, usual suspects where hanging around, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Woodpigeon and Collards Dove

Back at the beach Velvets Scoter had moved in closer to shore and one Slavonian Grebe was still in the area.  Walking back to the car a nice wee group of three Blue Tit, one Great Tit,  two Robins and a single Goldcrest were all in the car par area.

great tit

Male Great Tit

Friday 18 October 2013

Today was a guided trip around the dune systems at Findhorn Bay. The weather was fair with a brisk S/W breeze.

Meeting at the hide (no druggies this time, but the door is now vandalised and open to all ) the first thing apparent was the amount of Pink Footed Geese. A good gaggle were on the mud flats with more skeins wiffling in.  Nice to see them back.

Birds in the area, as they were seen: Pink Footed Goose, Mallard, Shelduck, Wigeon, Redshank, Dunlin, Mute Swan, Curlew,Robin.

Common Scoter and Slavonian Gebe

Common Scoter and Slavonian Gebe

Heading down to the Dunes the first initial scan with the eye did not look promising, very quiet.  However when you put the scope on the area it came alive!  Imm Gannets were plunge diving offshore, flocks of Long Tailed Ducks buzzed across the waters surface and good flocks of both Common and Velvet Scoter where close enough to shore to give fantastic views and the opportunity to compare both species side by side.  At this time two smaller birds entered stage left and swam through the scoters….. two Slavonian grebes, nice birds in winter plumage and always a top bird to pick up.

Small birds came in the form of Yellowhammer, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits.  A few Robins were dotted around but not enough to hint at a fall, Robert had a quick glimpse of a Redwing as it disappeared into the gorse never to be seen again!

Robert the Redwing Finder

Robert – Todays Victim!

The Moray Firth

The Moray Firth

Findhorn Looking over to Culbin Forest

Findhorn Looking over to Culbin Forest









Birds seen: Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Gannet, Long Tailed Duck, Eider, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Yellowhammer, Robin, Starling, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue tit, Coal Tit, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Redwing, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Teal, Hodded/Carrion Crow Hybrids.



Wednesday 16 October 2013


The Grantown on Spey U3A

The Grantown on Spey U3A

It was a lovely start to the day, temperature was a nose nipping +1 not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind.  The day was set fair for a guided walk with the Grantown on Spey U3A group.

Walking around the harbour area the first birds to be picked up were the gulls, Herring and Black Headed, with a lone Great Black Backed Gull perched high on a street light, soup ducks (hybrid Mallards) and Mute Swans were seen further upstream.  A small high tide roost of Redshanks and Turnstones huddled together on an undisturbed bit of the jetty.

At the furthest part of the harbour wall the view over the Moray Firth was just outstanding, it was absolutely flat calm.  The birds unfortunately where quite widely dispersed over the surface.  Long Tailed Ducks, male an female, Common Eider, Cormorants and Shags where all present  A few common Gulls drifted by.

Frank picked up a rock Pipit feeding across the river from our location and gave good views, which in turn gave me the chance to go through the differences between the Rock and Meadow Pipits.  A couple of hybrid Hooded/Carrion crowns looked down on us from the marker light at the end of the Harbour wall.

Skylarks where heard “churrup churruping” high over head, continental birds arriving perhaps?

Leaving the harbour and walking along the seafront in a westerly direction, some normal, run of the mill House Sparrows were perched in the marram grass, and what was nice to see was people taking time to look and admire these very common, but always overlooked little birds, they really are a beautifully marked in subtle browns and greys.

Skylarks were still trickling through over head whilst Robins and Dunnocks both called from most bushed, however there was no sign of any Yellow Browed Warblers (I will find one this year!) However one lone Female Common Scoter was seen keeping company with the Long Tailed Ducks.  Two good sized skiens of Pink Footed Geese were seen heading North very high?! And a red head Red Breasted Merganser showed will out on the Firth.

It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, some stunning scenery and some entertaining conversations.

List of birds seen (order:- as seen on day)

Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Robin, Greenfinch, Starling, Blue Tit, Turnstone, Redshank, Mute Swan, Long Tailed Duck, Rock Pipit, Skylark, Cormorant, Shag, Pink Footed Geese, Red Breasted Merganser,Whooper Swan x2,


Tuesday 15 October 2013


A beautiful morning up here on the Moray Firth and although no rarities it was just one of those days it was great to be out in the Field birding.

Long Tailed Duck, numbers seem to be down on what I had on Friday, Common and Velvet scoter, Red Throated Divers dotted across the whole of the Firth and one Slavonian Grebe. Not many passerines although one Robin was getting run ragged by four or five “interlopers”

Grey Plover was still at Lossie Estuary yesterday.



Monday 14 October 2013

Today can only be described as driech!  Recent rain overnight and a strong N/E had the makings of a good migrant morning, so off to Findhorn Dunes I duly went.

Hundreds of Juvenile Gannets were plunge diving just offshore, and Velvet and Common Scoter zipped low over the waves, only three Long Tailed Duck seemed to be in the area, although there were plenty of wave troughs for them to hide in!

On the passerine front, many Grey Pate Goldfinches sat and fed on nearby seed heads, Robins, Dunnock and Blackbirds were all chipping and chacking in the gorse bushes, but alas nothing rare put in an appearance.

With the drizzle giving way to rain proper I retreated to the car then home for a warming coffee!


 Sunday 13 October 2013

Nice late afternoon walk up through the woods near to home, Great Spotted Woodpecker was noisily making its presence felt, Chaffinch, Robin and Wren also in the area, it was however the target bird for the walk that gave most pleasure… 30 Redwings flew over head heading East, part of a major influx of these Scandinavian winter visitors.


Friday 11 October 2013



 It was one of those mornings that made you glad to be out and about. Hardly a breath of air, bright but without any glare.  Perfect for birding!

Walking along the foreshore of Nairn is a brilliant mix of Grass football pitches, a strip of marram grass and buckthorn, loads of migrant attracting Sycamore trees and loads of elderberry bushes. The whole underwatched area has an air of expectancy about it…. I love it and the fact you very seldom see another pair of binos makes it even more appealing!

Today was a general walk around prepping for a guided walk here later on in the week, so what follows is a list of birds as they were seen on the day:

Oystercatcher, Goldfinch, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Common Gull, Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Eider, Pink Footed Goose (one lone bird heading West) Blue Tit, Long Tailed Duck (first of the season for me) Red Throated Diver, Goldeneye (one flock 8 birds heading west) Grrenfinch, Razorbill, Whooper Swan (once again a single bird heading West) Red Breasted Merganser, Mute Swan x 8, Cormorant, Shag, Treecreeper, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, House Sparrow, Starling.

Down at Nairn Harbour:

Mallard, Robin (there seems to be a few Robins in the area this morning, feeding on the rocks and the seaweed) Dunnock, Turnstone, Redshank, Skylark (constant low flying flocks heading West giving characteristic “churrup chuurrup” calls, Black headed Gulls, Carrion/Hooded Crow Hybrids, Bar Tailed Godwits 33, Knot 15, Sanderling 50+, Pale Bellied Brent Geese 4 at the River mouth, nice little flock of roosting gulls at river mouth.  Common, Black Headed and a few Kittiwakes thrown in.

All in all a nice little mixed bag of birds for a mornings walk.


Catch up so far!

Okay so I have admitted defeat, the amount of great birding trips I have undertaken since my return from Canada in June 2013 means I have sadly neglected this blog, however with the end of the year drawing ever closer, and a new regime of managing my time (the off button on the TV is a marvelous invention!) I find I can now afford the time to keep you all informed of my shenanigans!

As a way of a catch up I have selected a small sample of pictures of the last few months with a brief explanation with them, after this I will try (honest m’lud) to update each trip on the actual day!

So sit back and hopefully enjoy.

Crepuscular rays at Lossiemouth

Crepuscular rays at Lossiemouth

One of the many mongrel crows we have in Moray.

One of the many mongrel crows we have in Moray.

Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga September 2013

Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga September 2013

Lossiemouth estuary October 2013

Lossiemouth estuary October 2013

White Headed Duck At Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga September 2013

White Headed Duck
At Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga September 2013


Spotless Starling At Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga.  September 2013

Spotless Starling
At Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga. September 2013



Malaga, September 2013

Malaga, September 2013

Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga September 2013

Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga September 2013

Joose Yague from Park Nature and myself at Rio Guadalhorce. September 2013

Joose Yague from Park Nature and myself at Rio Guadalhorce. September 2013

Heaven on earth? The Raptor view point at Tarifa near to Gibralter

Heaven on earth? The Raptor view point at Tarifa near to Gibralter


Booted Eagles, Short Toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Black Stork in mass migration over Tarifa.

Booted Eagles, Short Toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Black Stork in mass migration over Tarifa.





Tuesday 02 September 2013

Another excellent morning spent in the company of the Oates family, this time searching for birds of valley and stream.

Heading across the Farr road the first birds to make a real impact were a good sized flock of Meadow Pipit with at least seven Stonechats added in for good measure, one of the Stonechats was showing some very immature plumage, with downy tufts still visible on its head and nape.

Red Grouse put on a good show, both male and females showing well, although the light could have been better for Dave to get some pictures.  A Red Kite in wing and tail moult circled the area holding prey in its talons.

C0ming down off the high road an adult Dipper, was doing what dippers do best…. dipping in and out of the small stream.

Arriving at Eagle Car park I noticed the wind had increased in strength and the usual passerines at this location were sheltering in the gorse, Blue and Coal tit were calling from the depths and a Dunnock made a quick appearance before taking for cover again!

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Sasha was promptly staked out as Eagle bait, sadly even this didn’t work!


Eagle Bait

Heading up to the top car park, the strong wind ever present, it was nice to see Ravens up at about, two buzzards provided an initial adrenalin rush but once again all was quite on the raptor front.. Even with the lack of birds it still was a beautiful day to be up the Valley.

Today's victims..... the Oates family!

Today’s victims….. the Oates family!

Once again, a great day in great company.



Friday 30 August 2013

Spent a fantastic morning in the company of the Oates family from the distant lands of Cambridgeshire.

Today we were heading off to Tarbat Ness and Portmahommack in search of seabirds and migrants, the weather was bright and breezy and although the heat of the summer is on the wane it still made for very pleasant birding conditions.

Portmahommock was first stop, Eiders drifted about in loose flocks, the brown females staying separated from the males, many now in their black and white eclipse plumage.  Gannets, mainly adults were feeding out to sea and Sandwich Terns made their presence known by flying overhead giving their raucous “kerrang” call, a real sound of summer.  A good flock of House Sparrows were hanging about in the nearby bushes whilst Jackdaws and Collard Doves fed on the sea weed strand line on the beach.

Heading up to Tarbat Ness good numbers of Starlings and Hirundines where perched on farm buildings and Telephone wires, looks like it has been a good breeding season for them.  Arriving at the car park the feeders where in high demand by yet another healthy population of House Sparrows, with the occasional Chaffinch and Hedge Sparrow thrown in for good measure.

Heading out through the gorse path to the lighthouse linnets perched on the telegraph wire, and House Martins Chirruped over head, on closer inspection we noticed the nest high up on the light house, just below the glass dome, the birds were continually flying up trying to coax the unfledged youngsters to take to the air!


House Martins were nesting under the yellow arched brickwork

Out to see a small raft of immature Shags lazed about on the water, Gannets, Fulmars and the ever present Sandwich Terns drifted by continually.  There was however no sign of yesterdays pod of Killer Whales.

Last stop was the RSPB hide at Nigg bay, although the tide was fully out we still have the fantastic sight of four Osprey in the area at the same time, along with Curlew, Shelduck, Grey Heron and a nice Autumn flock of 90 Lapwings.

A great morning, with highly entertaining company and a good handful on birds.  Look out for my next blog when we head out for Eagles and Ouzels!

The Oates family from deepest darkest Cambridgeshire.

The Oates family from deepest darkest Cambridgeshire.



Monday 12 August 2013

The group of people pictured below are the Grantown on Spey U3A and under the guidance of one Frank MacKay they booked me as a guide for the morning (for a second time!)
Meeting at the appointed hour we spend a pleasant 15 minutes scoping the Moray Firth just off Lossiemouth, plenty of action was going on just around the mouth of the River Lossie, Sandwich Terns, both adult and juveniles were feeding noisily just offshore, a smaller number of Common and Arctic terns were also in the same area.  Gannets passed by further out to sea, the adults snow white plumage contacting starkly with the dark grey, ominous looking clouds that seemed to be gathering just off shore! Then with no warning a female Sparrowhawk zipped onto the scene, landing briefly on the sea wall, the terns were not happy, and started mobbing said Sparrowhawk, that decided to exit stage left!

Moving onto Lossie Estuary the usual suspects were to be found, Herring, Lesser Black Backed, Greater black backed, and Black headed gulls were all loafing around in the water and exposed sand banks.  An Osprey was feeding just at the far side of the dunes, but headed off towards Spey Bay.  Oystercatchers, Redshank and Dunlin were also in the immediate area.

Crossing over the bridge Frank called out Bar Tailed Godwit, this superbly marked bird was feeding very successfully in the wet mud just to the left of the footbridge.  Walking out onto the fantastic East Beach I was slightly dismayed to see a surfing group just off shore but they didn’t disturb the few birds that were in the area.

A small group of Sanderling fed busily along the strand line, all these birds were in their winter dress, but nice to see nonetheless.  Also in the vicinity were Sandwich and Arctic Terns, a nice mixture of adult and juveniles.

Heading back to the cars a House Martin and  pair of swifts headed over the dunes heading East, and fittingly pone of the last birds of the day was once again a Feeding Osprey.

A great mornings birding with some great people, roll on October for my next outing with the Grantown on Spey U3A!


U3A at Lossiemouth

U3A at Lossiemouth