Blog – 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Good to Go!! 

Great news folks, Birding Ecosse is up and running, albeit a very modified programme, but a programme nonetheless.

 

Full details of our risk assessment, Covid 19 disclaimer, Wellness Questions, Contact and Trace forms can be seen at http://birdingecosse.co.uk/covid-19/ 
These forms and especially the disclaimer should be read prior to booking any trip or tour.

The major changes are :

 

1. A maximum of three clients, all of whom have to be from the same household, per tour (including day tours)

2.  Masks must be worn at all times whilst in the tour vehicle.

3. The front passenger seat of the tour vehicle will remain empty to allow social distancing.

4. The vehicles touch points with be sterilised each day prior to the tour starting and each day at the end of each tour,

5. Refreshments will be available as usual, however all snacks will be individually wrapped, so no more shortie or bourbons for now (Tunnocks are still on the menu though) All refreshments will be at clients own risk, so if you want to bring your own that’s fine.

6. We are unable to share optics, however I will have my phonescoping kit, so you will see the birds, albeit on my phone screen.

7. Wellness questions and contact and trace questions will be asked each morning prior to the tour commencing

With the new Scottish Government guidelines coming into force on Monday 14 September 2020, allowing only a maximum of six people from two households (and one of those households being myself!) to meet both inside and outside the home it has become imperative that if you want to join a Birding Ecosse outing that you need to book quickly, as it really has become a case of “first come, first served” and with it becoming likely that the 2021 tour spaces will be reduced to “same households” seats will be at a premium!

 

Birding Ecosse Blogspot

Welcome to the Birding Ecosse blog, if it is your first visit then thank you very much for dropping in!

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 third party  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 this Blog and my Blog Archives 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, check out “latest news” page for the most current publication then just select subscribe.   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, we also produce our mid month “Planned trips” mailing which gives an update of all remaining spaces available on tours.

Thursday 08 December 2020

Another lovely walk around our new “local patch” with Lucky Lynda, a lot cooler today with a slight SW breeze and sunsequently birds were a bit quieter, still a good total though, Best birds for the day were brilliant views of Common and Velvet Scoter, getting the birds side by side for comparison was a great learning curve for Lynda.

Stonechats were still showing in good numbers, Males, Females and Juveniles all present,

However bird of the day again has got to be the Drake King Eider, this time slightly closer, however still too far out for a decent picture.  These are the best of a bad bunch 🙂

Monday 05 October 2020

Another glorious day here on the Moray Firth and after nearly 48hrs of continual heavy rain it was nice to head out into the misty sunshine with Lucky Lynda, and once again we headed down to Findhorn Bay Dunes in search of autumn migrants.  It turned out to be a cracking morning with a total of 44 Species being seen in just three hours, highlights being a juvenile Pomarine Skua harrying a late staying Sandwich Tern (one of two, this one being an adult the other a juvenile) and a very hard to see King Eider male in eclipse plumage.  There were plenty of Robins in the area and a Goldcrest set my pulse racing for a few seconds, the local Stonechats once again came out to play in the sunshine.

A common wee bird and often over looked – The Hedge Sparrow

The warm weather encouraged birds to feed and the gorse and brambles buzzed with Dunnocks, Robins , Blackbirds with the occasional Blue and Great Tit.

Linnet

Smaller flocks of Linnets and Goldfinches flew overhead settling briefly on top of the gorse bushes, a single Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting, skulked around in the Marram Grass, 5 or 6 Meadow Pipits ran in front of us.

Late staying Sandwich Tern

Out on the Moray Firth a huge raft of Eiders was present just offshore, with a good number of Common Scoters nearby, small groups of Velvet Scoter buzzed low over the surface, their white wing patches gleaming in the now strong sunshine, only four Long Tailed Ducks were seen, but I expect their numbers to start increasing in the very near future, a partial summer plumaged Red Throated Diver kept company with a winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe.

Barnacle Geese

Two skeins of Barnacle Geese was a real Bonus for the morning, 1 skein of 120 birds the other with around 30 birds all flew to the east just offshore. And in the raft of Eiders a quick flash of Orange, on a large dark Eider, the male King at last! It was drifting further out when we picked it up, and we kept losing sight of it in the swell, however both Lucky Lynda and Myself got eyes on so the day was good!

And finally, as with the last day the local Stonechats put on a fantastic display.

02 and 03 October 2020

What a contrast in 24 Hrs, Friday 02 October was a beautiful sunny, calm autumnal day whereas today Saturday 03 October it is absolutely pouring with rain with flood warning issued!

Findhorn was the venue for a quick walk searching for some of the influx of Yellow Browed Warblers that have been seen all over Northern Scotland at the moment, however none had decided to grace us with its presence, As compensation though the local Stonechats put on a good performance! Two late Swallows low over the dunes was a brief reminder of the halcyon summer days.

Signs that the season is most definitely turning was the continual sound of Pink Footed Geese as they left the Bay heading our for their daytime feeding areas. Rafts of Eiders and Common Scoter loafed about just offshore in the gentle swell of the Moray Firth and a single Slavonian Grebe rounded off the hours walk. 

Saturday 03 October was a damp and driech day right from the start, and off both Lucky Lynda and myself went in search for again Yellow Browed Warbler, however the weather had most certainly curtailed their movements and once again we “dipped” never mind though off the Burghead Harbour to have a look see for anything in the harbour, we were not disappointed getting cracking views of Guillemot and Sammy the resident Grey Seal.  It was a great morning just to be out and about, regardless of the weather (infact it actually added to the fun!)

 

September 2020

Right at the of the month things stepped up at little with my first multi day trip, in the always entertaining company of Tony, or Feral Tony as we know him, Tony is a veteran of multiple UK and Spanish Birding Ecosse trips so was well aware of the operating pattern I operate 🙂

One of the recurring theme on many of Tonys previous trips with BE is the desire to see Ptarmigan, this High tops grouse that frequent the High tops of the Highlands, however bad weather or mechanical problems with the funicular railway always meant we never got anywhere near to seeing them.  So to be standing on top of the Bealach na Ba, the high top road between Strathcarron and Applecross in beautiful sunshine and not a breath of wind was a step nearer than we had ever been!

The best way to search for Ptarmigan is to be very methodical, pick an area to search, set the scope on an area then don’t move it! Check every rock and boulder, look for the slightest movement before moving one scope view width left or right, then stop the scope and repeat the last instruction,  It is amazing how cryptic they are.

Spot the Ptarmigan

However using this method, and a lot of perseverance sometimes you are lucky!

Well September was a milestone for Birding Ecosse in the fact we started back to tours!  The first since lockdown away back in March, and it was a nice gentle break in with two half day tours with Gaie and Eric.

Target species for the first half day was to be Crested Tit and Crossbill, the latter proved very elusive, however a new spot for the Crested Tit proved a great success!

The second half day our targets were to be Eagles, either/or Golden or White Tailed.

We had not long arrived in the Valley when Eric pointed out “that’s a big bird” and he was indeed correct, as a Juvenile White Tailed Eagle hove into view, a stunning start!

Horrible lighting for photography so this is the best I could rustle up, a fantastic encounter though.

Buzzards where absolutely everywhere today, but in the distance, in a cleft in the valley another silhouette appeared, long square wings, long dark tail, a Golden Eagle! It thermalled over the hill top only giving brief glimpses but the all dark plumage showed it to be full adult, it wasn’t until we moved further down the road it became apparent that he had been scouting out a large Herd of Deer! 

Cue another heap of Buzzards, plus two Kestrels, three Red Kites (Together) and Sparrowhawk up pops another Golden, this time a 2nd year bird, more distant but stayed in view longer as it transited low over the hillside, brilliant!

More Buzzards, another Kestrel and then yet again another Goldie!  A great way to end the morning, and a great way to start back to touring, especially with two new victims!

Big thank you goes to Gaie and Eric, was great birding with you both.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Well you would have thought with having so much “spare time” on my hands that I would have kept this blog up to date! However for some reason life in lockdown has passed in the blink of a birding, gardening, fence erecting, photography and planning next years tours, eye!

Following on from the 15 May 20 blog, my love for bird ringing (or banding depending on where in the world you are) has grown back to my time as a newly qualified ringer, and what is nice is that Lucky Lynda has gotten the ringing bug as well.

When I lived “down south” in Angus my pet project bird to ring was Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) however since moving to the Highlands I have only dabbled with a few  dune nesting birds, however this year is a Martin year!! We have a quarry within walking distance of my house, and we have permission for ringing!

The colony had four nesting faces, the two main faces are high and a tad precarious, so we have left them alone this year, but the remaining two smaller faces are spot on, and take a nice manageable 18ft net.

Our main ringing face, now having recced the site twice, once myself and once with Lucky Lynda, having briefed LL on how she would approach the colony, holding the net pole etc etc,  LL getting herself into position without a hitch, it was now down to me…. a few steps up, recompose position, another step….  foot starts to slips…… scramble to remain upright….. foot still slipping in the sand… then down like a sack of spuds!  Anyway regaining my footing (but not my dignity) we made a modest catch, and a lesson was learned! However is so nice being back in the company of these beautiful little birds.

Juvenile Sand Martin (not cinnamon tips to feathers)

Adult Sand Martin (note plain back, tail, and coverts)

Juvenile Sand Martin

Adult Sand Martin

A Big thank you goes to Limehillock Quarries of Spey bay for granting us permission and access to the Fairyhill Quarry in Forres.

Friday 15 May 2020

Just “Pottering” about

One good thing to come out of the Shielding lockdown is that I now have time to get some garden ringing done.  The weather has not been the best for getting the mist net out however my potter traps have been absolutely brilliant.

I have been using these traps for a few years now, with some good success, however the set up for the door release was becoming more and more hit and miss with the door jamming on the wire runners,

The old  setup with the bent wire being the”runner” that forms the door, this however has always been hit and miss, sometime “jamming” mid way and allowing the bird to escape. so having time on my hands I put some thought into making a more reliable runner, and the answer was easy!  Split rings.

So far, in four days usage going for Starlings, not one jam and not one bird escape! Why did I not think of this before, currently using 25mm rings but would probably be better with 15mm to reduce the “play” on the door.    

Monday 11 May 2020

Well quite a birdy weekend, Saturday 09 May 2020 saw us taking part in Worldwide Garden Birdwatch day, we ended up with 23 Species for the day and we are awaiting the results sometime towards the end of the week, I will post a link on this page for your perusal.

The weather has been bonkers!! roasting hot for the last three weeks, then Sunday 10 May 2020? Snow flurries and sub zero temps, just crazy!

Had a chance of yet more garden bird pictures, now experimenting with different crops on the pictures, making some looser to incorporate some of the habitat, some nice results hope you enjoy 🙂

Wednesday 06 May 2020

Another day in total lockdown, luckily the weather has been outstanding so spending a lot of time in the garden. All the usual suspect, the Male and Female Blackbird are now on chicks judging by the amount of time they spend in the garden collecting food. House Sparrows have found the new bird bath irresistible along side the Greenfinches, Siskins and Blue Tits.

A big metal whirlybird was a pleasant distraction mid afternoon, no idea what he was up to though.

Male Blackbird

  Preening Starling

Male House Sparrow

PDG Helicopter over the garden.

Lockdown list update:

28. Great Black Backed Gull

29. Swift

Sunday 03 May 2020

It is funny how life comes full circle sometimes.  One of my very earliest memories of taking bird pictures was when I was about 10 or 11 years old and living in Arbroath, I remember placing two old wooden fishing boxes together with a gap in the middle, I then placed a blanket over the top and crept into the covered space below.  Wielding my  parents 110 camera my target for the day was the local House Sparrows.

Roll on 46 years and I found myself today sitting comfortably (not lying between two fish boxes) with a cup of coffee, with slightly better equipment, but still photographing, and still thoroughly enjoying myself, taking pics of the humble House Sparrow, simple pleasures!

Saturday 02 May 2020

Great day in the garden, first off, on opening the lounge blinds a Coal Tit on the sunflower heart feeder, not seen one in the garden for a few weeks.

4 Male Siskin was the “Forres singlies branch” meeting, obviously non-breeders.

6 Greenfinch was one of my highest counts of this relatively new visitor to the garden.

Our resident Blackbird female in now up to four baths a day, at least, and holds the record for cleanest bird.

Highlight for the day was a very very high up Sparrowhawk getting beaten up by a local Carrion Crow.

No. 27 Sparrowhawk.

The hunter is hunted, Sparrowhawk getting attacked by Carrion Crow.

Friday 24 April 2020

19:00

26. House Martin 🙂

Today is a good day, first thing this morning whilst walking around the garden picked up a singing Blackcap and Song Thrush, however absolutely the best bird of lockdown so far was a very very distant Osprey, probably hunting over the river Findhorn. Happy days!

23. Swallow (22 April 2020)

24. Song Thrush

25. Osprey

(Blackcap, singing only, not seen)

Thursday 23 April 2020

End of week four total lockdown, still having fun with the Garden birds.  We are having some beautiful weather up here, four days and not a cloud in the sky.  It means I am now topping up the bird bath three times a day.  You don’t realise how important water is until you actually sit and watch at how many birds visit the water for a drink or bathe (Blackbirds are by far the cleanest bird in  my garden!)

Blue Tit

Goldfinch

Male Chaffinch

Our House reflected in a Chaffinches eye 🙂

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Well that is us into week four of my twelve week lockdown, Had fun watching the local Rooks trying to balance of the fence in the gusty wind, they are a smart looking bird and nearly always over looked.

Another highlight of the evening was introducing “the other arf” to  proper DSLR photography with some of my unused kit, I may have created a monster, as sitting here typing this all I can hear is shutter action in the garden!

Friday 17 April 2020

What to do in Lockdown? Well how about starting a Lockdown Bird List? And that is exactly what I have started to do, so any birds in or seen from my House/Garden, also trying to get some nice pictures of the birds that call into my feeders.  Surprisingly good fun!  So my list and pictures so far (in no particular order) Some images are better than others so the other challenge is improving the bad ones!

1, Woodpigeon


2, Chaffinch

3, Goldfinch

4. Blue Tit

5. Great Tit

6. Coal Tit

7. Siskin

8. Greenfinch

9. Pied Wagtail

10. Dunnock

11 House Sparrow (Male)

11 House Sparrow (Female)

12. Starling

13. Blackbird (Female)

14. Rook

15. Jackdaw

16. Herring Gull

17.Grey Heron

18. Pink Footed Goose

19. Black Headed Gull.

20. Oystercatcher.

21. Robin.

22 Carrion Crow.

Wednesday 15 April 2020.

So how are we all coping in these very strange times? Things here in the North are as well as can be expected, keeping busy studying my garden birds and awaiting the first Hirundines, cant be far off now.

Prior to having my wings clipped and being house/garden bound for 12 weeks (9 weeks to go!) I managed a an early Chiffchaff and great views of Bullfinch, however they were the “Good old days” and now resorted to pictures of Dunnocks, a surprisingly colourful wee bird!

Chiffchaff

Bullfinch

Dunnock

April 2020

 

Thu 09 – Mon 13 2 Spaces

May 2020

 

Tue 12 – Fri 15 2 Spaces

 

March 2020 Newsletter

Greetings from the far North, looking at the news and the flooding that is going on further south, it looks like we had a lucky escape, my thoughts go out to any readers of this newsletter that have been affected, hopefully you will get back on track in the very near future.

Well what a month February turned out to be, with a nice mix of returning victims and fresh blood it was a highly enjoyable and very productive month with some fantastic sightings.

First up was Val and Richard, with the weather forecast full of storm Dennis it was a pleasant surprise to find ourselves scanning over a flat calm Moray Firth, the mirror like water allowing great views of Common and Velvet Scoter, Long Tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebes and Red Breasted Mergansers, a brilliant start to the trip!

Following the Moray Coast we soon picked up some nice views of Purple Sandpiper, Sanderling, Redshanks, Oyks (oystercatchers)  and Red Throated Divers, however the beautiful sunshine and calm weather had left us and “Dennis” was beginning to make himself known!

Sanderling

Loch Spynie and Loch Oire provided the freshwater element for today with all the usual suspects turning up, the water at Spynie was covered with well over 70 Mute Swans, with a pair of slightly bemused looking Whoopers mingling in and thinking we have turned up to the wrong party!


Loved up Mute Swans

Bemused Whooper Swan
Day two and three threw some horrible weather at us, but it did liven up events and made the trip even more memorable!

 

Arriving at Nairn in search of the overwintering Brent Goose flock, it took a whole 10 seconds to locate the birds, and luckily the sun made a very brief appearance allowing both Val and Myself some pretty decent pictures.

However by the time we had ventured to Inverness seeking out a small flock of Waxwings the rain was at monsoon level!
Drookit Waxwings!
Day three was inland day and it started with a bang, driving over the local grouse moor, Val called “whats that in the heather” to my right a largish, grey bird sat tight, my initial thought was Hen Harrier, however when the bird turned head on it revealed pale eyebrows and barred underparts, a huge female Goshawk! Then it a blink of an eye it was gone.

 

Another Highlight of the day was the the beautiful snow Buntings on Cairngorm, if only it had been a tad warmer!


Levitating Snow Bunting!

 

Next up for some of the Birding Ecosse treatment was returning victims Glynis and David, and once again the weather was to prove a challenge over the two days.
As we headed across a local Grouse moor Glynis was just mentioning that she would like to see a Goshawk, and spookily enough we were not far from out last encounter, I was literally half way through telling Glynis this when from the right hand side of the road, a huge female Goshawk glided over the car!! You could not make it up! It went into a shallow slow dive towards the moors and then in a burst of speed it went down behind a small bank and we never saw it come again…. breakfast had been served.

 

The weather was stunning whilst we watched the waders feeding on the rocks and beach at Hopeman, even David using a Canon camera got some decent shots, that’s how good the views were!

 
                                                   Bar Tailed Godwit

Stretching Purple Sandpiper with Turnstone in Front

Oystercatcher

Sanderling
Day two was going to be “off piste” so first stop was for Snow Buntings, we were not disappointed!

Snow Buntings (Female Top – Male Lower)
Next stop was yet again down to Nairn for some photo ops of Brent Geese they showed well and the flock now numbered around 60 birds, absolutely beautiful birds.

Brent Geese
A visit to Tollie is always brilliant, and this time was no different even though the exact moment when the food for the Red Kites was put on the table, the heavens opened and we were soon in the middle of a snow storm, it did give the pictures a different element though!
And so that was February in a nutshell, great victims, brilliant birds some truly awesome weather and stunning scenery, what a great month!

 

Thanks once again to Victims Val, Richard, Glynis and David

2021 Tours “Early Bird Bookings”

Held at 2018 Prices!!

2021 Midweeks

19 Jan – 22 Jan 2021 – 4 Spaces
09 Feb – 12 Feb 2021 – 4 Spaces

2021 Weekends

07 Jan – 11 Jan 2021 – 4 Spaces
28 Jan – 01 Feb 2021 – 4 Spaces
18 Feb – 22 Feb 2021 – 4 Spaces

2020 – Midweeks 

All remaining Places

12 May – 15 May 2020 – 2 Spaces
14 July – 17 July 2020 – 4 Spaces
25 Aug – 28 Aug 2020 – 2 Spaces
15 Sep – 18 Sep 2020 – 1 Spaces
27 – 30 Oct 2020 – 2 Spaces
17 Nov – 20 Nov 2020 – 2 Spaces left
08 Dec – 11 Dec 2020 – 4 Spaces

2020 – Weekends 

All Remaining Places

19 Mar – 23 Mar 2020 – 2 Spaces left
09 Apr – 15 Apr 2020 -2 Spaces
30 April – 04 May 2020 – 4 Spaces
13 Aug – 19 Aug 2020 – 2 Spaces left
26 Nov – 30 Nov 2020 – 4 Spaces
17 Dec – 21 Dec 2020 – 2 Spaces

Focus On:

May in the Highlands

 
May is a beautiful month to visit the Highlands, the worst of the late winter weather has departed and spring is well under way, most of the summer migrants are well settled in and there is an sense of expectancy in the air.

 

See http://birdingecosse.co.uk/may-2020-weekend/ for full details and how to contact us.  Don’t delay, book today!

And so once again that brings you all up to date, hopefully something will take your fancy . I am sitting by my keyboard and phone waiting for your call!
 
So until my next newsletter Good Birding!
 
Dave

 

[email protected]
Mobile 07955336955
Landline 01309 676720

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Just a quick blog to say what a fantastic day I had with Glynis and Dave today on the Moray Firth. Lots and lots of birds but highlights had to be a female Goshawk, not far from the place we had the female a couple of weeks ago and the sheer amount of waders seen, more to come later, however these Bar Tailed Godwits in the morning sunshine stole the show for me!

Fri 07 to Sun 09 February 2020

Birding Ecosse Weekend v Storm Ciara!

Well where do we start, Storm Ciara had been announced, gale force winds, heavy rain and snow and major disruption imminent, this all seemed so far away as we stood looking over a flat calm sunny Moray Firth!  It was not to last…….

Richard and Val survey a flat calm Moray Firth

What followed was three days of wild weather, lots of laughs and some truly brilliant birds, highlight for me and mentioned at this point to protect the location was a huge female Goshawk, flushed from a heather covered moor.

Anyway the Moray coast was stunning in the pre-storm lull Eider and Long Tailed Ducks zipped about low over the water and rafts of Common Scoter, with the occasional flash of white wing patch of a Velvet Scoter drifted on the calm waters, Purple Sandpipers fed on weed strewn rocks alongside  Redshank, Purple Sandpiper and two Sanderling.

Loch Spynie was absolutely Choc a Bloc with Swans, all Mutes apart from two slightly bemused looking Whooper Swans.

The Mute Swans were getting romantic with each, the spring like weather that had started their amorous side would soon be gone and the winter blues would be back!

A Robin caught out by the sunshine, 24 hrs later it would be huddling deep in the undergrowth keeping out of the storm

Young Herring Gull grabbing a quick bite for lunch

Saturday dawned quite bright and a wee bit breezy, but a huge angry bank of cloud brooded out to the west, but it didn’t deter Birding Ecosse and out we set with high hopes.

Lochindorb resembled the North sea with white horses being whipped off the wave tops, good numbers of Goldeneyes were dotted across the surface with the occasional Tufted thrown in for good measure, the above picture of a female Goldeneye gives a more unusual view. Red Grouse were about but hunkered deep down in the heather, a nice flock of Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare and Redwing were seen on the roads leading to the moors.

Cairngorm was a tad breezy, but quite bright, and gave great views of the Snow Bunting, well over 60 birds in the flock today, the most I have seen in the past few years

Sunday saw us in the grip of Ciara, and as we headed towards the Black Isle with some trepidation, a quick detour into Inverness let us connect with a small flock of 40 Waxwings, the rain was monsoon heavy and the wind had increased to a howling gale, photography was a challenge trying to keep the kit dry!

The Black Isle was surprisingly calm and clear, the tides were epic, and looking out from the hide car park at Udale bay I have never seen the water so high. This picture below was taken 2 hours before high tide!

Hundred of Wigeon mingled with Teal, Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Dunlin and lone Black Tailed Godwit and Ruddy Shelduck!  The Shelduck adding a beautiful splash of colour.

The Scaup flock looked smaller than it has been and remained stubbornly far out in the Firth, however through our Swarovski scopes we still had lovely views, a nice winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe fed in the shallows near to shore, note the raindrops on the water….. yes the rain had found us!

The stormy seas did give some nice photo ops with the Wigeons though!

Calling time on the Black Isle it was back to the southern side of the firth and to Nairn in search of the Brent Goose flock, we didnt have to search too hard! 40 Birds were present at our very stop and we picked them up within 10 seconds of leaving the car!

Final stop was Burghead harbour to try and get Richard some decent views of Eider before he headed south, they didn’t disappoint.

And so that ended the weekend, given the weather an extremely successful three days, 87 species seen and I think 13 or 14 lifers for Richard and a couple for Val, great company all weekend so a big thank you to you both, and also thank you to Richard for providing Birding Ecosse with a new strapline, that all future victims should note:

‘It’s not all about you!’

Catchy, I think I will keep it 🙂

Wednesday 05 February 2020

Nestled in some stunning Scottish Pine Woodland lies the beautiful ‘Blairs Loch’ just 3 minutes 34 seconds drive from my front door. It really is a great place to have a walk and clear your head.  Add to this some brilliant birding it is a place I am lucky to have so close.

Flocks of Blue, Great and Coal Tit greet you as you get out of your car and head down a mixed woodland path, Goldcrest and Treecreeper are regular here, as you approach the Loch the tchurrup of Moorheen and the Whistle of Wigeon fills the air and today they were joined with the whinnying call of Little Grebe and the whooomph whooomph whooomph of Mute Swans wings as they circled the Loch before landing in their rather ungainly way.

Highlight for me though was the male and female Common Crossbill feeding High in a Pine tree, I was first attracted by the make being in full song!  A great way to spend a couple of hours!

Friday 31 January 2020

Sit down, grab a cuppy and nibble and enjoy the Birding Ecosse February 2020 Newsletter Viewable Here.  If you enjoy it why not subscribe?  Fancy joining a tour or trip?  Then just get in touch and we do the rest.

Monday 20 January 2020

Well today saw the first tour of 2020, and what a way to kick off the year than with long suffering victim Jackie, who was on my very very first ever Birding Ecosse workshop, nearly nine years ago!! How time flies!

Today was ” Coast to Mountain” and what a day it turned out to be.

First stop was the beautiful Burghead Harbour, target species here was Long Tailed Duck that had been reported near the harbour entrance, they didn’t disappoint.

Heading inland we encountered what for me was the bird of the day, this fine female Merlin.

Lochindorb was quiet, but this really confiding Goldeneye was an interesting bird, one side looking like a female, the other showing black feathering pointing to a 1st year male.

Speaking to Jackie about Bogie birds, she said hers were Crossbill and Treecreeper.  Well here at Birding Ecosse we aim to please 🙂

 

With the gales blowing at the time the trip up Cairngorm was shelved and we headed for the shelter of Loch Garten, and yes the Crested Tit did show well.

And one of the locals put in an appearance:

The tradition of feeding the birds was upheld, and Jackie even found her own second lifer and broke her second bogie bird in the shape of a Treecreeper!

And just to add the icing on top of the cake were there super close views of this male Goldcrest.

Final stop of the day was the beautiful Findhorn Valley,  it was very quite on the way up the valley, but boy did that change on the return journey, no fewer than 6 Golden Eagles, all separate birds, with at one point three birds ion view at once!

As we got nearly half way down the valley I made the comment “it would be nice to finish with a White Tailed Eagle, as it would mean we would have seen the smallest and largest breeding birds in the UK” and lo! from behjind the tree popped up an immature WTE, the hastily grabbed picture shows the bird had been feeding well with a very engorged crop! And then just as we drove off White Tailed Eagle Numero 2 glided into view! An incredible way to end an incredible day!

If this is the sign of things to come in 2020 the I really cannot wait, bring it on!

 
February 2020
Thu 06th – Mon 10th 2 Spaces
Tue 18th – Fri 21st 4 Spaces
 
Happy New Year

 

Well that’s the festivities over for another year, both Lynda and myself were lucky enough to see Christmas in at the magnificent Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey, and it was a truly fantastic time, brilliant food, outstanding service, cosy rooms, lots of brilliant talks and lots and lots of laughs!

For once I was the quiet, shy one of the group (consisting of Alan Davies, Lynda (at the front) and Ruth Miller 🙂
Now before any of you start accusing me of slacking off, no nanny ney! A full programme of Birding Ecosse Walks took place from Christmas eve right through to the 28th December!

 

Christmas eve saw us forming up at Merkinch LNR right on the outskirts of Inverness City, a very underwatched area, but one firmly on the Birding Ecosse itinerary. Arriving mid afternoon it was the perfect time to see the birds feeding prior to the long night ahead. Close views of cryptic Turnstones and Curlew (the Curlews were colour ringed showing they are of Icelandic origins) Grey Heron fed far out on the tideline and Wigeon and Teal added splashes of colour to proceedings, it was a beautiful flat calm afternoon and with the great company I was enjoying it was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

Now as a child and young adult I used to dream of Birding on Christmas day, but firstly parents and then my own family commitments always stymied me, until recently, where I now have the privilege of leading a walk from the Grant Arms Hotel on Christmas morning!  It really is a unique atmosphere being out in the woods with a group of like minded people! The route was quiet this year but we still picked up calling Crossbill and had great views of Treecreeper and Red Squirrel, then it was back to the Grant Arms for Christmas lunch!


Not often you see Santa being led by a Bag Pipe playing Rudolf! (and don’t think I have forgotten that I didn’t get a present Santa, revenge is a dish best served cold!)


An unconventional choice of Christmas lunch for me this year, Roast Monkfish with curried mussels, it was truly truly delicious, absolutely top notch!


A very slightly tiddly Birding Ecosse 🙂

Boxing day dawned calm, crisp and relatively mild, and Lynda and myself headed off on our annual jaunt with Nicola and John, always a great day out where many wrongs in the world are put to rights, and I take an annual verbal beating for always missing out on Dolphins (I check every year and there is never, ever any mention of “Dolphin Ecosse” on any uniform or publications…..)


Lynda, John and Nicola pointing out where Dolphins should be, but are not…


A mirror like Loch Garten

 

And so to the last victims of 2019 and indeed this decade, and it is fitting it included one of my first ever victims, Maureen and Peter are both multi multi trip victims, so a really nice way to see the year out.

Over the two days we picked up some first class birds, Crested Tit showed well alongside the more common Great and Coal Tit, plump Robins enhanced the Christmas ambiance, on Cairngorm Snow Bunting hunkered down behind any wall or stone to keep out the gale force winds, two Golden Eagles (1 adult 1 immature) and an Adult White Tailed Eagle taking turns to appear then disappear behind the hill tops,  Just the perfect way to end a truly outstanding year for Birding Ecosse!




And so all that remains is for me to thank each and every one of you for either booking a trip, reading this newsletter or indeed dropping a friendly text or email just to say “Hello” it really does mean a lot to me.
So everyone have a Happy, Healthy and Bird Filled 2020.

“Lang may yer lumbs reek”

This months featured break….
Easter

Easter 2020

April is a beautiful month to visit the wonderful Scottish Highlands, winter visitors may still be lingering and many of the Summer Migrants have already arrived, giving a crazy mixed up time of year when absolutely anything can turn up!  Why not check out our webpage and see what we have planned.
http://birdingecosse.co.uk/spring-tour-2020/

2020 – Midweeks

28 Jan – 31 Jan 2020 – 3 Spaces : Note change of date
18 Feb – 21 Feb 20202 – 4 Spaces
10 Mar – 13 Mar 2020 – 4 Spaces
21 Apr – 24 Apr 2020 – Full
12 May – 15 May 2020 – 4 Spaces
02 June – 05 June 2020 – Full
14 July – 17 July 2020 – 4 Spaces
25 Aug – 28 Aug 2020 – 4 Spaces
15 Sep – 18 Sep 2020 – 3 Spaces
27 – 30 Oct 2020 – 4 Spaces
17 Nov – 20 Nov 2020 – 2 Spaces left
08 Dec – 11 Dec 2020 – 4 Spaces

2020 – Weekends

16 Jan  – 20 Jan 2020 – 3 Space left
06 Feb  – 10 Feb 2020 – 2 Spaces
19 Mar – 23 Mar 2020 – 2 Spaces left
09 Apr – 15 Apr 2020 – 4 Spaces
30 April – 04 May 2020 – 4 Spaces
11 June- 15 June 2020 – Full
02 July – 08 July 2020 – Full
13 Aug – 19 Aug 2020 – 2 Spaces left
24 Sept – 30 Sep 2020 – Full
15 Oct – 21 Oct 2020 -Full
26 Nov – 30 Nov 2020 – 4 Spaces
17 Dec – 21 Dec 2020 – 4 Spaces

[email protected]
Mobile 07955336955
Landline 01309 676720

And so once again that brings you all up to date, hopefully something will take your fancy . I am sitting by my keyboard and phone waiting for your call!
 
So until my next newsletter Good Birding!
 
Dave