Blog – 2019

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 🙂

Wednesday 03 July 2019

Well back on the road today, and once again across to the West coast, this time with Fiona, Tony (with a ‘Y’) Bob and Toni (with an ‘I’) the weather was a bit grey and felt a lot colder than +13 the car display showed. However the weather did not detract from a great day with super  views of male Lesser Redpoll in full breeding regalia, Black, Red and Great Northern Divers, good comparison views of Arctic and Common Tern and an Otter feeding just offshore as we had a brew at Aultbea,  I highly enjoyable and successful day 🙂

Bob, Tony, Fiona and Toni watching real Hooded Crows at Aultbea

 

Male Reed Bunting.

Monday 01 July 2019

July Newsletter now online, see July Newsletter to read and subscribe, this months is a real belting read!

Thursday 20 June 2019

Dad and daughter day out and about in the Highlands, highlight for me was the local Black Throated Divers, down side was that both birds on the water spells failed breeding season.  Red Grouse escorting chicks, Ring Ouzel and Dipper both carrying food points to second broods being on the go, and displaying Golden Eagles gave the feeling that the breeding season is still far from over!

On the non birding front we can highly recommend the Winking Owl in Aviemore for a lovely bar lunch 🙂

 

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Well today was the day, that dreaded day, the day akin to a visit to the dentist, the accountant with your tax return, or sitting and exam, yes today was………. The Grant Arms staff outing……….

Pam and Marion were awaiting in the reception, and where as my victims usually look nervous and pensive, the look on these two faces sent shivers down my spine…. the tables had turned!

After missing the Puffins on last years expedition I have suffered twelve months of bleating about “when can we see Puffiinnnsssss” so today we were headed out with Harold and Sofia of Guided Charters on the good ship “Seacat” the weather at Grantown was windy in the extreme however here on the coast it had turned into a gentle breeze, the sea was flat calm and the sun was out, a good omen.

Marion and Pam after some “medicinal coffee”

As I have said before, this is a great trip and as we approached the Gannet colony birds started to appear thick and fast, Black Guillemot, Common Guillemot, Razorbill all mingled in the calm waters below the colony, Gannets circled overhead, some carrying clumps of nesting material, Kittiwakes “Kitty waaaaked” high above us, the sound was incredible as it echoed around the cliffs, but today was a special day, as the wind was light we had the full experience…… seabird colony smell, and I love it!

All birds performed as booked with some stunning views of Puffin (on two colonies, 1 colony around 20 birds on view the second around 50 birds on view.)

As the day ended we had the added bonus of approaching one of the huge oil tankers at anchor in the Moray Firth to retrieve a member of crew back to the mainland, lets just say that crewman on a tanker is another job (along with male model) that I shall not be applying for.

Below are some of the photographs, to remind myself when things are rough, that every day could be like today, and that makes me feel a whole lot better 🙂   Thank Marion and Pam for a tip top day!

Pufffiiinnnnsssss!!

Puffin take off!

Puffin “Lunch is ready!”

Razorbill

Guillemot (Bridled Form)

Bonxie

How very dare they look happy on a Birding Ecosse trip – I have a reputation to uphold!

The gangway and wooden ladder (yes that is right wooden ladder) the crew member climbed down to board the Seacat – well that just wouldn’t be happening.  Helicopter me off or I’m staying put!!

Sunday 16 June 2019

So what does a birding tour guide do on his days off?  How about some Bird Ringing (or Banding for those from across the pond)

It was a bit sunny to deploy the mist net so set up the potter trap instead, good decision as we ended up catching 7 Juvenile and 1 Adult Starling!  More to the point Lynda (the wife, said in a Les Dawson type voice) was keen to learn how to set up the traps, bonus!  Catching birds with no effort!  Married life is schweeet!

3J Starling

Adult Male Starling (4M)

Sunday 02 June 2019

Day2 started early (but not as early as planned owing to the torrential rain and gales outside, this morning Raptor drive had been shelved the night before!) we foiund ourself at Baleshare looking for a rfecently reported Garganey, no luck on that bird however loads of other exciting stuff!  Dunlins in full song flight above the car, redshanks flying around protecting their chicks, as were the Lapwings.

Dunlin in song flight.

Heading up to RSPB Balranald, the rain was absolutely teaming down, with a brisk wind it was difficult to find a dry spot to make the morning cuppa.  Just as I was pouring the teas Jackie caught the corner of my eye, flapping and waving, but strangley quiet….. wandering across to her she soon had pointed out a Corncrake wandering down the edge of the field!  Our target bird, brilliant!

The Ultra Elusive, usually seen and not heard Corncrake!

Driving out to the Island of Berneray as we crossed one of the causeways a movement in the water caught my eye, what unfolded was a truly enthralling wildlife encounter.  A Cormorant feeding on a still alive and kicking eel!

Cormorant fighting with lunch!

Then in the blink of any eye, the eel was gone, straight down the Cormorants throat, still wriggling as it disappeared, gruesome but captivating in equal measure!

Berneray as always was gorgeous, the Machair in full bloom and the whole area just teaming with birds, flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover circled continually, seemingly unwilling to land, a Common Tern colony in the dunes provided a busy back drop when all of a sudden a bird with a yellow bill and white forehead flew into view, then another and another, then one on the ground, Little Terns!  A first for Birding Ecosse life list.

Returning to North Uist and with a few hours in hand we headed to Benbecula, I had been to the Uists before and on each occasion had missed out on one very important bird, the Red Necked Phalarope.  As we drove up the road of the supposed location, stopping to scan the lochan, no sign, my heart sank…… still scanning, still nothing.

Driving off slightly dejected I drove past another really small lochan, and stopping for a last forlorn hope scan of the loch a small bird appeared from the reeds, swam out into full view, I could not believe my eyes, a Red Necked Phalarope right in front of the car! Calling to Jackie, Maureen and Peter we were all soon feasting our eyes on these stunning wee migrants.   What a great way to end the day, and it was back to the cosy and warm Templeview hotel to partake of a few other type of Corncrake!

Crex Crex to you all!

Friday 31 May to Tuesday 04 June 2019

The Uists – An Island adventure.

Friday 31 May and the motely crew of Jackie, Maureen and Peter waited impatiantely as I sorted the boot of the car out, it was raining (a term you will become familiar with on this blog!)  but soon we were off, and heading North then west through Skye to Uig then the Calmac Ferry  to Lochmaddy on North Uist.  Enthusiansm was high and soon we were shouting out the first birds for the weekend list, Blackbird!  Starling!  Jackdaw! all the common stuff got the day off to a great start.

Visiting a small lochan enroute I was surprised and a little disappointed to find there were no Slavonian Grebes present, hopefully theu were just hiding in the reeds and a future visit may reveal some birds and hopefully chicks.   The site did however give us our first Reed Bunting and a myriad of House Martins, Swallows, Sand Martins and a few swifts, so a worthwhile stop nonetheless.

A shdulled toilet stop was a very wet affair, however singing, somehwere in the damp misty driech murkiness there sang a Redwing!  Brief glimpses of the bird in flight were had but not the great views we had in this location last year.  But nice to see they are back in the area.  An Osprey sitting on the nest was also a nice addition at this point.

Soon we were Ferry bound and heading over the sea to Lochmaddy, the first day beckoned, who knows what it would bring!

Peter, Maureen and Jackie sense the excitement of the upcoming trip!

Saturday 01 June 2019 – Day One

Up early as today was Barra Day and we had the 1015 Ferry from Eriskay to Ardmor to catch.  The weather was akin to a monsoon and even with the winscreen wipers on full pelt it still wasnt clearing!  Hpwever this dint stop Maureen shouting “Hen Harrier” as the Grey Ghost Male glided across the moors, our first top notch bird of the day.

Eriskay Ferry Terminal.

A super smooth and relitavely dry crossing later and we cruising the stunning Isle of Barra.  Having a new app on my phone I decided to check its accuracy by driving up an unclassified road, I’m so glad we did as 1 the app is very accurate and 2 we stumbled across a Cuckoo and an Adult White Tailed Eagle.

White Tailed Sea Eagle in the murk

The Machair was looking absolutely stunning and in full bloom, even the driech damp conditions could not take away from the sheer beauty of the place, it smelled fragrant as well!

 The truly beautiful Machair

On the West side of the island is a large pull in car park, what a place to stop! A full plumaged Great Northern Diver cruised just offshore, whilst a flock of Common Gulls played in the strong westerly breeze, allowing themselves to be picked up and thrown backwards a good 20 feet, they kept repeating and repeating the process, strange to watch but highly entertaining and for no obvious purpose apart from it looked fun!

Sunday 21 April 2019

Well today can only really be described as a “twitch!”  with a beautiful drive in lovely weather (skirting around the dark rain clouds that is)

Stopping at Dundonnel for a coffee break a couple of Greenshanks were an expected addition or the days list and in the background Willow warbler were in full song in nearly every gorse bush.  Gruinard Bay supported two Great Northern Divers, one in almost full plumage, the other still retaining quite a lot of winter garb.  An immature White Tailed Eagle seemed to incur the wrath of the local Black Headed Gulls!

However todays target bird was the stunning, the unmistakable, the striking, and mesmerising Blue Winged Teal.  The bird was in full view when we arrived, and stayed in view for around 20 seconds before disappearing into the reeds where it remained well out of view!  It wasn’t until after lunch, when I took a second opportunity to have a scan where we found it sitting up on the bank, at least long enough for some record shots!

Saturday 20th April 2019

Today we found Jeff replaced by Peter as he joined us for the Saturday and Sunday.  Today was local Highland Birds and soon we found ourselves standing on a beautiful flat calm Scottish Loch and watching a stunning pair of Black throated Divers cruising past.

Another migrant made its first appearance for 2019 in the shape of a pair of Common Sandpipers.

Viewed form the safety of a public road, and then public hide, this pair of Slavonian Grebes are always a great bird to see, please note these birds are given the highest protection during breeding season and should not be approached or disturbed for any reason or at any time. All birding Ecosse sightings are made from public roads and pathways or from designated hides or viewpoints, all pictures are taken with a long lens and at distance.

The High tops once again turned up some nice birds, Highlaights being the long staying Snow Buntings and a new arrival of Two Male and One female Ring Ouzel, a lovely mixture of Winter and Summer birds1

Friday 19th April 2019

Easter weekend

And what a weekend it was!  Scorching sunny weather, brilliant company and great birds!

Friday started off well, Jeff, Cormac, Denise and Lorna were all returning victims and new to be turned out for first parade at 0800.  I’m glad to report all were present.

First stop of the weekend was a beautiful flat calm Moray Firth, rafts of summer plumaged Long Tailed Ducks showed well off Nairn Harbour and closer flocks of breeding plumaged Red Breasted Mergansers squabbled, displayed and did what Mergansers do at this time of year 🙂  however it did take a small amount of searching to get onto our target bird for this early start, the male King Eider.  It was located quite far out in the firth, loafing around with a group of Common Eider, but when it turned its head and the sunlight caught the bill shield there was no mistaking the bird.  It remained in full view for the whole visit and allowed everyone a reasonable sighting.

Next stop was Burghead, this time in an unsuccessful bid for the recently spotted White Billed Divers, non were seen but some very pale billed Great Northern Divers caused the heart to flutter a couple of time!  There was also a good showing of Red Throated Divers, all still in non breeding plumage

Lossiemouth was absolutely chock a block with sun seekers, raising the point that we should operate a loyalty card and to be allowed to sun bathe in the lovely hot summer weather you must put in at least 5 sub zero winter visits to the same beach, that would thin a lot of people out! It didn’t however deter the local Osprey giving a quick look at the river before deciding he would head up to the quieter upper reaches of the river.  Bar Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Teal and Wigeon are still in the area and gave some excellent views to the victims.

Today Victims foolishly thinking they were on holiday!

Next was onto Kingston and Garmouth, staying on the west side of the River Spey kept us away from what looked like a football size crowd on the East side of the river, highlight here was some male Shovelers, not a common birdup here at all.

Sadly no photo ops today, but tomorrow were head to the hills and who knows what we will see.

Wednesday 10 April 2019

The motely crew of Rae, Simon, Allan and Malcolm stood assembled ready to depart, slightly later than planned at 0810 with first port of call to be the beautiful Farr Road.

Weather was absolutely stunning with blue skies and full sunshine bringing out the best of the highland scenery. Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, close up Meadow Pipits and even closer Red Grouse started the day well.

A very showy Male Red Grouse

Dropping off the high tops we soon found ourselves back at sea level and enjoying a coffee break looking out over into the Moray Firth. An Otter bobbed about in the flat calm water and numerous Guillemots were dotted all over the place, a male Goosander was a nice addition to the day and Curlew, Redshanks and Oystercatchers provided some interest. A pair of Summer plumaged Slavonian Grebes rubbed shoulders with a strangely out of place Razorbill!

Small birds were well represented with a nice flock of Chaffinch with the odd Brambling adding to the days totals.

Brambling

It is always nice to see Red Kites, so a pair of birds circling near Redcastle was a bonus, plenty of Buzzards “meowed” at every stop and some stunning views of Shelduck rounded off the morning nicely.

Heading over to the Black Isle first stop was at Udale bay. Good numbers of Pink footed Geese were still on the reserve, Wigeon and Teal paddled around in the shallows and two nearly full plumaged Black Tailed Godwits dropped in and mingled with the roosting Redshanks.

The Scaup numbers have dropped off, however 100 plus still remained and showed extremely well in the bright sunshine. Another pair of Slavonian Grebes were seen giving their “penguin dance” display.

Last stop of the day was Munlochy bay, with the tide now fully in there was not much land available for the waders, Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatchers all roosted cheek by jowl.  A nice flight of Pink footed Geese arrived not long after our arrival, but the Highlight had to be a flock of around 300 Golden Plover flying overhead calling, a beautiful sound, these birds alighted in the field directly in front of us, giving a very brief chance to see their stunning summer garb, however they were very flighty and didn’t settle and soon were once again on the wing and headed off to the North.

So that was day one, tomorrow we deal with Highland Birds, on the menu Snow Bunting, Ring Ouzel, Slavonian Grebe, Golden and White Tailed Eagles….. how many will we get?  Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Tuesday 19 March 2019

As the song goes “I’m back in the saddle again” and its great to be back! Already been out with some brilliant people and seeing some great birds, below are just a few snaps of the highlights of yesterdays trips.  I have many pictures that will be put up over the next couple of weeks 🙂

 

Thursday 21 February 2019

Not exactly birding related, but a piece of history for the area and for the Royal Air Force, so worth a mention I think.

Today my daughter and myself took a poignant trip through to Lossiemouth to see the last ever fly past of the Tornado GR4 a true workhorse for the last 37 odd years it is now being replaced by the young pretender the Typhoon.

Sadly we did not get an airfield beat up, and the initial flypast was off  runway centreline and against the sun, the later  “against the stream ” approach gave better views and picture ops.

 IX Sqn Tornado Flanked by two Typhoons – the last Tonka to flypast RAF Lossiemouth

 

 Top, Tornado – Middle, Typoon – Bottom, Hawk

Monday 04 February 2019

Todays trip out was to Burghead, first time I have been here since October 2018.  With the stormy conditions we have had over the last couple of days I was hoping for some Long Tailed Ducks close in, sadly they remained stubbornly outside the harbour.  However the stunning male Eiders and cheeky wee Turnstones livened up a chilly winters day!

Friday 25 January 2019

Well as we said we have now gone live with our Birding Ecosse Merchandising! From Mugs to Fleeces why not check out our pages at Merchandising and treat yourself!

The much sought after Birding Ecosse Mugs!

 

 

Thursday 24 January 2019

The Birding Ecosse Merchandising page will be live within the next couple of day, but here is a sneak preview of our latest product –  The Birding Ecosse Baseball Cap!

Super value at just £15:00 (plus £2:85 P&P)