Blog – 2018

Birding Ecosse Blogspot

Welcome to the 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!

This blog will follow all my trips and tours, so if you have been out with me recently the chances are very high you will make an appearance! Most of the pictures on the blog are my own, however if I do use a third parties  pictures I will have obtained their permission and will give them full credit.

It is designed to be a light hearted read to show how and where Birding Ecosse operates, so if you are thinking of booking a tour check out the Blog and then read through the Testimonials and you should get a flavour of what to expect! Great Birds, Great Scenery with Coffee and biscuits thrown in!  Please note: All  birds will have been viewed in a safe and environmentally accepted way, that is to say by using public access at all times or by the use of hides specifically erected for the observation of this species and by keeping at a  safe distance and viewing through telescopes. Remember you can keep in touch via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dslaterbirdingecosse or twitter @birdingecosse Did you know Birding Ecosse produces a newsletter?  Get up to date news and offers first if you subscribe to http://mailchi.mp/d60dbe0ab85a/birding-ecosse-april-2017-newsletter-1103145    The newsletter is a lighthearted look at what has happened the previous months, full of Pictures and information (many  that are not published on this blog page) of places we have visited, our mid month “Planned trips” mailing gives an update of all remaing spaces available on tours. Call in and give it a glance, hopefully you will like it 🙂

Friday 02 November 2018

Over the last couple of weeks reports have flooded in about thousands of Redwing and Fieldfare flooding into the country, today some arrived very close to home! Taken in the garden.

 

Saturday 27 October 2018

Well after an enforced break, a couple of hospital trips some Intravenous infusions and being almost housebound for two months I finally have summonsed up enough energy and interest to do a blog!

Looking out the window the first winter weather has arrived, it has been an exceptional long hot summer, followed by a relatively mild Autumn, however today the temp has dwelt below 5 degrees and many parts of the UK have had the first snow falls, so to be sitting having a look through some photos taken earlier on in the season is a nice thing to do to pass the time!

Below is some of the highlights of those said photos 🙂

Common Buzzard

Eurasian Hoopoe

Red Grouse

The following series of pictures capture an amazing experience watching a White Tailed Eagle snatch a Fulmar off the water, something I have never seen before.

The encounter started with all the birds in the bay beside where we had stopped to have lunch taking to the air.  A good sign a predator is in the area, and sure enough before long a flying barn door appeared low above the water.

It casually flew along the beach occasionally looping around and surveying the water below.  Surprisingly a lone Fulmar had remained on the water, wither it was sick or just unaware of the danger it was in, it just sat tight.

The eagle locked onto the fulmar and commences a slow left hand turn.  What followed was almost in slow motion, no steep dive, no stoop, just a slow shallow dive

The moment of realisation, the Fulmar turns to face the WTE, wing raised and bill open.

Lining up, Fulmar still facing the WTE.

Ouch that’s got to hurt!

Lunch is served!

Saturday 25 August 2018.

Well as you can tell I have fallen somewhat behind with this blog, but I now have a little free time to play catch up!  It has been a manic time since the last entry, East and West coast of Scotland trips, a recce trip across to Sweden and many many local day trips.  In fact too many things to write about so I will take the easy route out and paste a collage of picture below.

Osprey at a new location for Birding Ecosse Autumn and Winter trips.

This Gannet Looks like it is going “wheeee”

Sandwich Tern on the river Ythan

Jackie, Sandra and Val enjoying the Terns at the Ythan

The Ythan

A stunning summer plumaged Turnstone at Burghead

Unbelievable views of Capercaillie – Sweden

Elk

Young Elk

Arctic Tern – Ythan

Tuesday 03 July 2018

Today dawned sunny, warm and calm and Robin, Dean, Jill and Terry had booked a day trip many months ago to fit with their Scottish Tour.  The only bird on the bucket list was Red Kite, so where else to head but for RSPB Tollie Red Kite feeding station….. it did not disappoint!

 

 

 Welcome to the Birding Ecosse July 2018 Newsletter

 

After the cull that was GDPR can I just take a moment to thank you all for re-signing for my newsletters, I know you were all bombarded with GDPR requests (as I myself was) so for you to take the time to actually respond is appreciated. This newsletter is a condensed review of May and June, I cannot believe how quickly time is passing this year, and just how quickly admin tasks build up when you are out and about 14 hours a day!  However today is day off and being written on 29 June it is really nice way to spend a few hours on my Birthday, reliving great memories, great birds and mediocre (at best) people ( :-)) I have said it before, but will say it again, you all really are great company and a pleasure to bird with.

New tour vehicle – 4 people max (3 on Skye and Uists trips)

So onto the matters in hand, as you may know I have changed my tour vehicle recently, I was hoping to increase the number per tour by using this vehicle, however after some trials I have decided to revert back to smaller groups again, with a maximum of four victims per trip (three victims for weekends away to Skye/Uist) with the huge space available in the second row of seats it is a very comfortable car, and with the two very rear seats folded away it provides a massive boot space! So hopefully I can sell my top box and free up some room in the shed!  May was once again a fully booked month, with some very mixed weather.  The Spring migration had started well, however the brief cold spell seems to have knocked things on the head, and reports being received at this time indicates that many of the common migrant numbers are well down on recent years, have any of you noticed this in your part of the world?

Summer dress in Scotland!

One of the highlights of early summer is our first trip to the fantastic Gannet colony at Troup head, we use a great boat out of MacDuff harbour now, “The Seacat” a super stable, twin hulled ex oil rig supply vessel and a perfect viewing platform for Birding.  This first trip had a bit of an usual twist as the only other passengers were two Tibetan monks!! Gannets, Razorbill, Guillemot both Black and Common, Puffins all performed really close to the boat and viewing the Gannet colony from the water is a fantastic experience. Mid month saw the arrival of a flock of “Finches” from Edinburgh, not the small passerines in this case but a group of Birders! Up for a three day tour, my brief was “short days and no long distance drives….. so local it was.”  The weather conspired to beat us in the first two days with low scudding clouds and frequent drizzle, this in turn kept the birds muted and skulky, not ideal, however the saviour was day three when a walk around Loch Mallachie netted us Crested Tit, Crossbill, Redstart, Tree Pipit and a wood ant nest! The last days of May were spent in the company of Marcia, Tricia, Dave and Liz and saw us one again out on the briny sea heading for Troup Head on the fantastic “Seacat” and once again it did not disappoint!   Fantastic views of the usual suspects (and an increase in the Puffin colony) were supplemented with just incredible close ups of two Bottle Nosed Dolphins, far too close to get any decent pictures I just stood and watched these fantastic animals cavort in front of the boat, simply stunning.

Dolphin right beside the boat.

June arrived with the promise of good weather and the world cup………. and the now annual Birding Ecosse trip to Skye.  It was a motley crew that assembled outside the Grant Arms on the Friday morning, the sort that make you wonder if being a tour guide is really what it is made out to be….. however Tony, Maggie and Peter were soon bundled on board and we were on our way…. Birding en-route was productive, picking up Slavonian grebe and Osprey on the nest, interestingly this bird had been seen building a new nest nearby, however it was now back on it’s original one.

                                                          Scurvy mutinous sea dogs – Tony Peter and Maggie

The Saturday morning dawned sunny and calm, a great day to be out on the water looking at Eagles.  Standing on the Quayside, wondering if it was safe to board the ship, my mutinous crew voted me to be the man to walk the plank and see if boarding was indeed taking place, it was also the time the said mutinous scurvy ridden crew christened me C’ptn Pugwash and my fine tour vehicle “The Flying Pig” slanderous in the extreme (but quite fitting) The boat trip was amazing! Male and female White Tailed eagle in the area, and a chick seen briefly on the nest, then to be surrounded by nearly 40 Common Dolphin was just great, it gave us all quite a buzz! It was nice to see they have added a parking shoulder to the road leading across the Quiraing, it has made such a difference to transiting this area.  It also produced two very fine Golden Eagle sightings (well done Peter) The Tuesday we bid farewell to Maggie but had her seat then occupied by Brenda, all the way from the US of A.  On the drive down from Inverness to Grantown, Brenda stated she really wanted to see Red Throated Loon in full plumage…… without saying anything, and having some spare time… I diverted to a small lochan where within minutes we had two full plumaged Red Throated Divers (loons) filling the view in the Swarovski scope…. As I say there is no dross with Birding Ecosse! All in all a great weekend, with many great birds, the Uig hotel was spot on as usual and The Grant Arms needs no writing up,  and some absolutely brilliant laugh out loud moments.

Tony, Tina, Graham and Judy at the Stack on Handa.

And so to the present, and I have recently finished a mid week tour with two very very long standing victims that were Judy and Graham and some fresh blood in the shape of Tony and Tina. They weather had been awful leading up to the break, and the fact that Cairngorm had taken the funicular “off line” for maintenance for a whole month knocking out the prospect of Ptarmigan and Dotterel it had not started well! However luck was on our side and a brief break in the gales allowed us to take the short boat ride across to the fantastic Island of Handa. Once on the island black clouds loomed ominously to the north, however by concentrating of the nearby Arctic Skuas and Bonxies I could ignore the impending down pours!  My impression was that the Arctic numbers were less than previous year, however speaking to the ranger the numbers seem to be up this year, only they are nesting further from the paths and walkways.  At the stack the numbers of Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbills seemed to be doing well and the huge female Peregrine seen cruising overhead didn’t look in bad shape! And so that was a brief summary of two excellent months, and now they have passed we can now look to the near future.

Ever wanted a slightly longer visit to the beautiful highlands of Scotland and the magnificent Grant Arms hotel?  Well now you can!  August 09 to Aug 15 a Six night /Five full birding days!  We only have two spaces left on this long weekend, see  http://birdingecosse.co.uk/august-2018-weekend/ for full details.

Thinking of the Autumn?  I am! We still, have 3 spaces available on our fantastic Migration Special, no hard and fast itinerary we will go where the birds are!  From the beautiful Moray coast, the mystical Black Isle or the stunning west coast get ready for a bird filled three days!  See http://birdingecosse.co.uk/october-2018-weekend/

So that’s it, have great July, hope the weather remains kind and Good Birding!

 

Interested in joining us? Then see http://birdingecosse.co.uk/ for full details So until next month “Good birding!” Dave

 

Advertising plug! Have you enjoyed your trips and tours with Birding Ecosse?  Do you use Trip Advisor? If yes to both would you please consider giving Birding Ecosse a review? https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g551767-d3258466-Reviews-Birding_Ecosse-Forres_Moray_Scotland.html Many thanks 🙂

Wednesday 30 May 2018

A grey and misty day on the Moray Firth did not detract from a great days Birding.  Displaying Rock Pipit, Full plumaged Eider, Black Guillemot, but Highlights had to be the Puffins and Gannets at Troup Head.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Well after much umming and ahhhing I have finally bit the bullet and invested in a new scope for Birding Ecosse, opting for my preferred Swaro make I have gone for the 30-70 x 95 ATX.  First outing with a group of 10 tomorrow, “The Finch Group” all the way from sunny Edinburgh!  Wonder what the first bird it will see?  I have a good idea….. any guesses?

Swarovski ATX 30-70×95

Welcome to the Birding Ecosse

May 2018 Newsletter 

One minute it is mid March, next thing I know it is into May!  What happened to April? Now the silver lining on this otherwise black administration cloud is that the reason I am so far behind with the paperwork is that I have been out and about seeing Birds, lots and lots of stunning Birds in beautiful local and distant foreign lands with a few new faces and even more returning victims. From the beautiful Moray firth, the High Cairngorms, and stunning Eagle filled Valleys, Misty High Top Limestones Massifs, Rice Paddies, River Deltas and open Steppe in Andalucia to the simply outrageously scenic Uists of Scotland, Birding Ecosse has been to them all.  It has been a fantastic few weeks. Allan, Lorna, Tony and Jeff were first up at the beginning of the month, and even though the weather was cool and windy it didn’t stop us notching up some very early Migrants, Osprey back on its nest, three early Ring Ouzels, Slavonian Grebes and a Single Swallow, it was nice to see signs of spring.

Black Vulture powering over the straits of Gibraltar

With that in mind, Spring was in full swing when Richard, Ellen, Feral Tony, Posh Tony, Judy, Lynda and myself found ourselves standing on the cliffs at Tarifa in Southern Spain, looking out towards the African Coastline just 10 miles away. The first Bird to come powering in off the sea was a magnificent Black Vulture, then wave upon wave of Black Kites interspersed with Booted Eagles.  Nightingales seemed to be singing in every bush, competing well against the harsh loud calls of nearby Cettis. A Black Eared Wheatear hopped around the short grass and a Whoodchat shrike hunted along the spiked bushed slopes doing what shrikes do best, but star bird was save until last when we visited a breeding colony of Bald Ibis, a bird looking like it had been created by the muppet maker Jim Henson, ugly but beautiful if that is possible!

The stunningly beautiful (!) Bald Ibis

The next three days we travelled to some of the most iconic areas in Andalucía, ably guided by Luis our local man in the field. Great and Little Bustards in full display mode, Collared Pratincoles, Rollers  Bee-Eaters and Azure Winged Magpies added a splash of colour. Bonnellis Warblers and Eagles made brief appearances.

Uncropped picture of European Roller

One of the main crowd pleasers in the area are the understated, quiet and un–assuming 5 ft high bright pink Greater Flamingos!  And these stars were a plenty at the Fuenta de Piedra and alongside these beauties glided Gull Billed and whiskered Terns, Red Crested Pochards whilst a Great Reed Warbler sang deep within the wind blown reed beds, unfortunately it remained hidden from view.

The Understated Greater Flamingo

Gull Billed Tern Whiskered Tern L-R – Richard, Me, Judy, Feral Tony, Posh Tony, Ellen, Lynda and Luis Iberian Shrike

Griffin Vulture

Booted Eagle And so to the end of April and  Fiona, Tony, Peter and myself were to be found standing on North Uist, at a raptor viewpoint watching Hen Harriers and Short Eared Owls.  This was a new location for a Birding Ecosse weekend trip…. And immediately it has placed itself very firmly into my programme of trips. The death stare!

Staying at the beautiful Templeview Hotel, were extremely well looked after by owners Harvey and June, the rooms are cosy and extremely clean and the food (including the packed lunches) is fantastic, I would highly recommend the Scallop and Black Pudding starter!

White Tailed Eagle Now I have to say this, yes it is a birding trip, but hot on the heels of the birds has to be the scenery, I have never ever seen the sea such  beautiful shades of blue, from the palest of sky blue to the deepest violets and greens. Crystal clear water, silver white sands means that everywhere you look you find yourself saying wow, and wow and wow!  From the North Island of Berneray to the Southern Island of Eriskay (Of Whiskey Galore fame) we covered the islands well.

The road bisecting North Uist is raptor heaven! A pre- breakfast jaunt proved very worthwhile, with three individual Short Eared Owls showing very well, a male and female Hen Harrier displaying, more Stonechats and Wheatears that I have seen in many a year and distant cuckoos calling, giving a haunting feeling as their “cuckoooooooo cuckoooooooo” was amplified and given an echo as it bounced off the surrounding hills.

The following two days were spent traversing the beautiful land scape and enjoying the fine summer weather on the Machair, Golden Plovers, Dunlin, Black and Bar Tailed Godwits, Turnstones, Twite, White Wagtail and Whimbrel were all seen, most in their breeding finery.  It is really great to see these normally drab winter visitors in their full plumage.

Being in the right place at the right time is always a nice bonus, and whilst on a loo run across to Berneray we stopped to watch a stunning Juvenile White Tailed Eagle hunt low over the sandy beaches, scattering all the other bird life as it flew overhead.   That was great we thought and continued on our way.  Stopping to take a few “holiday snaps” of more blue seascapes, two local girls came running up and asked if we had spotted the Sea Eagle on the beach?  And soon we were all enjoying crippling scope views of this magnificent beast, including a very cheeky Hooded Crow nipping the eagles tail feather, trying to distract it so it could nip in and steal its food!  Then just as thoughts turned to heading off a full adult White Tailed sailed right in front of us, closely followed on the return journey by an immature Golden Eagle!!  Fast and furious birding. All too soon it was time to return to the mainland, but as a final treat just as we approached Lochmaddy Ferry Terminal a lone Juvenile Golden Eagle circled high and bidding Birding Ecosse farewell from the Island.   Dates for a return visit to the Uists, including a day trip to Barra are Thursday 31 May to Monday 03 June 2019 once again interest has already been shown on this trip so if you are tempted please do get in touch And so that’s a very brief round up on a very hectic few weeks, thank you to all who took part, hopefully you all had as much fun as I did! So until next month take care and “Good Birding”   Dave

Friday 06 to Sunday 08 April 2018

Well this was most definitely a weekend of two halves! From Fridays storm lashed Coastal visit to Sundays flat calm mirror like lochs and firths it was truly a fantastic few days. Black Guillemots were target for Fridays trip, and standing in the wind and rain atop the cliffs at Portnockie we soon had a pair in our sights, Shags in full plumage huddled down against the elements whilst Fulmars seemed to revel in the conditions. 2 Great Northern Divers gave fantastic views loafing around on the sea just off Whitehaven and small groups of Common Scoter buzzed around on the Horizon. Highlight for me though had to be the arrival of some summer migrants!  My local Osprey was back on the nest, 7 Sand Martins joined us for lunch at Loch Oire, and 8 sandwich terns graced us with a flypast at Burghead Saturday saw a change of venue, and arriving at the Top Car Park at Cairngorm we were disappointed to see all lifts and funicular were on hold due to high winds, however the time  spent wandering around looking for Snow Buntings proved productive, not only did we connect with one single flyby Bunting but we also got the first Ring Ouzel of the year!  Closely followed by another two stunning males in the bottom car park.

Raptor valley turned up a single White Tailed Eagle,a single Swallow at Corrievorrie and at the local Dipper bridge, two birds were seen displaying to each other.  In the trees by the river a couple of Goldcrests fed high in the Alder trees, so in the space of 10 minutes had both the biggest UK and the smallest UK birds! Day of the week though had to be Sunday, and straight from the get go it was just superb! First up Red Grouse called ” Go Back Go Back Go Back” in the beautiful early morning sun, the loch we had arrived at was truly stunning, mirror like it was hard to separate the land from its own reflection.

The only ripples on the water were those left by a very close swim-by by this stunning Black Throated Diver, an absolutely jaw droppingly beautiful bird.

Next up was Raptor Valley, after an initially quiet drive up the Valley it all kicked off on the return journey.

About halfway down the valley I stopped to check out two small raptors, getting out the car I looked up and saw a huge bird drift across the road right above us, an immature White Tailed Eagle, then Lorna picked up another big bird to the right hand side of the valley, as it swooped up two small white wing patched flashed, and immature Golden Eagle, then another imm White Tailed joined the first and yet another Golden Eagle joined both these birds!  A breathless 15 minutes! Two Golden and Two White Tailed Eagles all soaring together.  Brilliant!

 One of the four Eagles!

Leaving the valley we headed up over the High tops, a large raptor caught my eye, but by the time I had found a safe place to pull off the road it has disappeared, going by shape and size all I could mark it down to was a harrier species, but we will never know! However this brief stop was to net us a male and female Goshawk!!  An unbelievable visit to the areas foremost raptor site. Kestrel, Peregrine, Buzzard, Goshawk, White tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Red Kite and a possible Harrier, not too shabby!

What Deer Fence!

A remote Scottish Lochan was next on the list, and it once again didn’t disappoint with two full plumaged Slavonian Grebes putting on a fine show, alongside a Canadian Goose (I have never had one of these at this location before)

Final call of the day was the stunning Black Isle, the weather was still absolutely brilliant, and a temp of +12 had all of us shedding layers, on the Cromarty Firth Summer Plumaged Long Tailed Ducks mingled with Red Breasted Mergansers and Eiders, and with a group of seven Slavonian Grebes adding to a tally of 20 plus birds it was nice to see these wee Grebes in such good numbers.

Scaups are still in the area, but in smaller numbers and the large rafts we see here in winter have mainly dispersed, but highlight for me, and a fantastic way to end the weekend was the huge female Peregrine perched on a wooden post right in front of the hide.

So in total 96 species seen over the three days, not a bad total, great birds, fantastic scenery and brilliant victims, what more could a guide want!

Thursday 29 March 2018

Summer plumaged Sweatshirt, Polo Shirt and New Checklist

An exciting day in Birding Ecosse HQ new Kit arrived along with the new updated Checklists for Spain. Not long to go now, places are confirmed and we have one space left to offer one lucky person, see http://birdingecosse.co.uk/spain-2018/ for full details.

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Well after seven years my flyers have finally had a face lift, and I’m very pleased with the results, great effort from Zoe at Smile Design, fast and efficient service.

Business cards only change was the Trip Advisor logo added, but once again a really nice design and proud to hand these out to potential victims!

Next arrivals over the next couple of days will be my new updated Andalucía Checklists and Split new merchandise for sale!  Yes for sale, so if you ever fancied owing a Birding Ecosse mug, polo shirt, fleece, Hoodie, Beanie Hat or Sweatshirt then stay tuned and watch this web page!

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Happy Valentines day! And what better way to treat my wife other than leaving her to have the house to herself and me to go birding! The weather forecast was extremely poor, so it was a pleasant surprise to be setting off in beautiful conditions.  However 25  minutes later and we were in whiteout conditions in the Findhorn Valley, the road was clear but the visibility was just shocking!  We did pick up a nice Dipper, perched on a large block of Ice. Beating a hasty retreat, we found ourselves at a very much Calmer site for Crested Tit, and thankfully the birds are still feeding actively and showing well, I think this cold snap has forced the birds back into “winter mode!”

Doing the Splits! Crested Tit

Heading over the moors the birds were huddled deep in the heather, however the white snow brought out the stunning colours of the Male Red Grouse.  The Loch was still partly frozen, however the cold was not putting off the Goldeneye males displaying to their partners.

Last stop off was at the local Park, which has been hosting a Kingfisher of late, it did not disappoint, although only a brief encounter I did manage a quick pic, not as sharp as I would have liked, but it shows what it is!  The female Goosander has also been a nice bird to see, and seems to be fairly settled.   A nice addition to the local area!

Sunday 04 and Monday 05 February 2018

Well what a cracking couple of days, a long weekend off with Lucky Lynda, a lovely relaxed time, nice walks, nice swim, a lovely early Valentines meal and some cracking Birds as well 🙂 Covesea just outside Lossiemouth was a place we had visited many years ago, and just never got the opportunity or time to revisit the area.  It was a beautiful calm mild day and we had the beach nearly to ourselves (to begin with) All seemed quiet until a movement higher up the dunes turned up a male and female Stonechat, closely followed by three linnets, then we noticed a roosting flock of Sanderling and Ringed Plover.

Sanderling Roost with Ringed Plover in Background.

And then the Dog Walkers arrived and Flushed the lot!

Ringed Plover

Ringed Plovers returning to the roost point.

Monday dawned bright, sunny and frosty.  I had domestics planned today but managed to squeeze in a quick wander in the local area, so glad I did!  Female Goosander, Goldeneye, great views of Grey Heron and star bird of the day Kingfisher (before it was flushed by, yes you have guessed it, a dog walker)

Female Goosander

Grey Heron

Male Kingfisher

So a brilliant couple of days, one day off left before 2018 kicks off in major style, and I cannot wait!

Monday 29 January 2018

A nice walk around a local park have a look at areas for my new/old venture “Beginners Guides to Bird Watching” which is quite strange as seven years ago next month is exactly how Birding Ecosse started! See the “beginners” tab A pair of Dippers showed very well indeed  flying and feeding beside the two weirs, a female Goldeneye came very close, obviously used to humans, Grey Wagtail, Long Tailed Tit, Mallard, Moorhen and Herring gull. Should be a fantastic location for lesson number 1!

 Dipper

Goldeneye

Long Tailed Tit

Thursday 25 January 2018

Well a far better day weatherwise, and the birds performed well in the beautiful sunshine and blue skies. First up was Black and Red Grouse, and we managed to connect with both on the very first stop!  The Black Grouse going through a very lethargic lek and the Red Grouse continually shouting “Go back, go back go back” Next stop was the obligatory Coal Tit feeding and Crested Tit location.  The birds were slower to come to the hand as the weather has heated up and natural food is becoming more abundant and I think time is drawing to a close for this particular location, next time will probably be for Osprey! However some cracking shots to end off the season.

Crested Tit

Cairngorm was simply stunning, still a fair amount of snow, and with that skiers and snowboarders still on the hill, and after a lengthy wait the Snow Bunting did show up, only for a fleeting visit though, as people walking close by flushed them off the usual area and they disappeared miles up the hill!  Luckily though “Billy no Mates” stayed behind and gave Andy great views.

Snow Bunting

And so ended a couple of great days with Andy and Grette, and what way to end the day?  The birthday of Scotland’s  National Bard?  Haggis Neeps and Tatties of course 🙂

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties nommm nommm nommmm!

Wednesday 24 January 2018

A very very windy trip out today with Andy and his daughter Grette, all the way from San Fransico, via most of Europe!  They are a long family vacation. The weather was absolutely horrendous with heavy squally showers and storm force winds, nonetheless we still had a great day, the Eiders were sheltering from the gales in Burghead harbour and showed brilliantly.

Eider Ducks

Redshank, Turnstone, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, lots of Oystercatchers, and Rock Pipit completed the list.

Just outside Elgin we stopped for lunch at a small loch, it was still half frozen, which had forced the Birds onto the open water, right in front of the car park.  30+ Whooper, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Mallard and a lone Male Gadwall.  A great little stop.

As we headed home we passed a lovely short grassed field, and just as I was explaining how perfect it was for Redwings and Fieldfares the said birds appeared over a small hill giving stunning views, and lifers for Andy to boot.

A highly enjoyable day in appalling weather, looking forward to tomorrow, the wind is due to drop, so it is Bunting, Crestie and Eagle day.

Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 January 2018

Had a really nice couple of morning birding the local area just Lynda and myself, we had planned a walk around a local loch that we have just recently rediscovered, however an RBA report of Waxwings in our own town was too tempting and soon we were heading out the door, cameras in hand in search of them. A brief drive around and nothing was to bee seen, then just as we had turned around for a final sweep of the area, there, right at the very top of quite a large tree, 4 Waxies 🙂  Lynda’s first of the year.

Very grainy pics of the Forres waxwings!

However after watching these birds feed on an apple tree Lynda remarked, “I thought I had a Blackcap there, but then a sparrow hopped out, must have mistaken it”  Then about 10 minutes later, guess what appeared?….

An even grainier Male Blackcap!

Next was our local loch, and an area we are just exploring, but looking very good for being put on the itinerary for a walk with Birding Ecosse. The wather was overcast, chilly with  strong southerly breeze whipping the top of the tree’s, and not surprisingly bird life was very quiet, it was amazing the effect weather has on the birds behaviour.  But nonetheless it really is a beautiful place to go for a wander.

A circular walk at a Local Loch –  great start to a Sunday

January 01 – 15 2018

When a booking request starts off with the statement  “I know we were forbidden to cross your path again but would really like to visit ………” you know you are in for a good weekend and so that what was to be with Serena and Richard. The weather had been forecast wild and wintry over the weekend, however we managed to “dodge the bullet” and had a relatively nice few days, albeit quite chilly! We ranged over most of the Highlands during the trip, the Findhorn valley, although devoid of eagles, was stunning nonetheless.

Coffee time in Strathdearn!

No trip at this time of year is complete without a visit to feed the Coal Tits and pick  one our speciality birds, the Crested tit. Their numbers seem to be doing very well and at one point we had three birds feeding together!

The lifers for Richard and Serena came in the form of Waxwing, it had been mentioned on previous days the these stunning birds had eluded them at various points, and so when I arrived home that night, and had an alert from RBA of two Waxies in a local town, I knew what format the next day would take! So just as dawn was breaking the next morning, the three of us were standing in the company of Four of the best birds you can see in the UK.  Waxwings and the bogey for Richard and Serena was broken  ….. there is no dross with Birding Ecosse 🙂

Bohemian Waxwing

Well 2018 has most definitely got off to a flying start!  From day one the birds have been performing well, and the first of the month saw Myself and Lucky Lynda exploring a new area, just 1 1/2 miles away from our front door. A beautiful serene Scottish loch surrounded by mature Scots pine and silver birch, Lynda was in her element as some of her favourite birds in the shape of Long Tailed Tit and Goldcrest approached to a few metres away.

Lynda in her happy place!

It was my favourite sort of morning crisp, frosty and bright a truly fantastic day to be out and about and thee perfect start for 2018!

Long Tailed Tit – one of Lyndas favourites.

And so the Birding Ecosse season sprung into life on the morning of January 03, when I met Richard, Evelyn and Margret in the reception of the Grant Arms Hotel.  The last time I was birding with Richard it was +40 in Southern Spain, so was glad to see he had dressed appropriately for the Scottish weather outside!

Over the next two days  we toured around the Highlands of Scotland, from the beautiful Moray coast, to the High tops of Cairngorm on the way picking up some brilliant birds and getting everyone’s year list off to a great start, sighting such as close up Whooper Swans in a small lochan just metres from the main Inverness-Aberdeen road, Purple Sandpipers huddled against the dap rocks trying to escape both the wind and sea spray.

Whooper Swan

Purple Sandpiper

It wasn’t only the birds that put on a great show, the Scottish scenery did as well!

Cairngorm was in full ski season mode with a good covering of snow, even down to carpark level, and what does snow at Cairngorm car park mean?  Yes, Snow Buntings!

Like a page out of a Crossley field guide! Snow Bunting action!

And although Eagless the stunning Strathdearn (Findhorn Valley) was just as beautiful as ever!

The beautiful lighting (albeit very short at the moment with daylight not coming in proper until 0900 and starts to darken around 1600!)  it made even the most common of species take on some fantastic colours and reflections.

Black Headed Gull in winter plumage and sunshine!