Blog – 2017

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 🙂

 

Hola! Well just back from an excellent holiday in Andalucía  in Southern Spain, and the exact location of our exciting tour in September (only one space remaining so see here for details if you are thinking about treating yourself to some sea, sun and birds!) Although this was a rest and relaxation holiday Lynda and myself still managed to get some decent Birding done.

 

The apartment we we staying in provided many opportunities to try and catch some Swift action, with both Common and Pallid being present,  Over the holiday not once did I get a decent shot, but below are some of the less burred versions!

 

Pallid Swifts (3 Pics Below)

Common swift

Wed 07 and Thu 08 June 2017

A highly enjoyable couple of days spent in the company of Marcia from Canada, the weather was very kind to us after a period of storms and torrential rain hit Scotland.

0800 Pick up at the beautiful Castle View B&B right on the River Ness we made our way through the busy commuter traffic and in less than 10 minutes we were standing watching an Otter feeding under the busy Kessock bridge, one of the benefits of living so far North it doesn’t take long to escape the “madding crowd”

Grey Heron, Curlew, House Martin and Swallow were soon on the list, a quick view of a Yellowhammer brought a wee ray of sunshine into an overcast day.

Udale bay was quiet but a flock of 35 Canada geese was my first of this species this year, and three Pink footed Geese were a reminder that winter is just around the corner!! Wonder if these were “winged” birds spending the summer, or if they just couldn’t be bothered with migration!

My usual stop off for Slavonian Grebes proves successful with a pair being seen well, however the fact that both birds were out on the water does not brook good for a successful breeding season. (please note Slavs viewed from a public viewing area) however the star of the show here was a stunning male Reed Bunting singing at the top of a birch tree!

A cracking first day and with the alert of a Woodchat Shrike in the area Thursday looked to be an exciting prospect.

So Thursday dawned fair and sunny and once again soon we were outwith the city of Inverness, this time heading South.

The Farr road was productive, turning up a few Red Grouse chicks, a very young Mistle Thrush and a single Wheatear, however it was at Strathdearn End that the day suddenly got a whole lot more exciting!

A Woodchat Shrike had been reported the day before and on arrival a small group of birders were searching for the bird.  Striking up a conversation with them they uttered the fateful words  “Yes it was sitting on that fence just as you arrived!” my heart sunk into my boots!!

So we Marcia and myself decided to wander down the road a wee bit to see if we could see anything of the bird… Marcie “Dave what is that birds on the post”  and there it was, Birding Ecosses first ever Woodchat Shrike, what a belter and a big well done to Marcia for getting the bird so quickly and allowing my stress levels to return to normal!  I got some record shots but not as good as what I would have hoped for, still a stunning wee bird and showed very well,

The Star Bird Woodchat Shrike.

Lochindorb and Dulsie bridge were beautiful as always, the Lapwings iridescence shimmering greens and purples in the weak sunshine, but the eye pattern and long crest blowing in the wind was a beautiful sight.

Lapwing

A departure from the normal tour Marcia had a visit to Cawdor Castle (keep an eye on this web site for  new and exciting “sightseeing” options on our tours) and then onto Fort George where we scanned the nearby beach and turned up a flock of over 40 Bar Tailed Godwits.

And so ended the tour with a credible 67 species, the highlight undoubtedly being the Woodchat Shrike.

After dropping Marcia off back at her B&B I drove through the nightmare Inverness evening rush hour traffic en-route to picking Lynda up from work, with roadwork’s just starting on the A96 we decided to have a scenic drive home via Dava and surrounds, and what a fantastic decision.  Black Throated Diver as close as I have ever seen them (breeding looks to have failed yet again) Redshank, Oyk, Lapper and Common Sandpiper all put in appearances, the Redshank and Common Sandpiper frustratingly so after being absent for the last two days!  But the Divers…… just WOW!

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Talk about wringing the most out of a month! Today saw me back at the hotel for 0800 to collect more repeat victims in the shape of Roger and Lynne and of course Cormac, who had now hopefully forgiven me after the ships stair debacle!!

We set off to the coast where the tide was perfect for waders and gulls, the Gulls were there, however the waders were obvious by their absence!   An Osprey hunted over the shallow waters of the Moray Firth, but did not venture onto the river Lossie.  I suspect this was a Spey River bird just straying into the other territory looking for food.

Hopeman turned up a surprise and not in a birding way… it was by far the lowest tide I have ever witnessed!

Hopeman

A very dry Hopeman Harbour!

The wind had began to pick up, however out on the rocks a couple of Dunlin fed on the newly exposed seaweed, showing signs of being the “alpine” race.  Rock pipit and Eider were picked up here, and at Burghead a flock of Common Scoter was a nice addition, as were the Sand Martins nesting just below the cliff face.

To the moors where Red Grouse put on their usual show, the Oystercatcher by the roadside was still sitting on eggs, but sitting high which could indicate they were hatching, cuckoo called from the nearby woods and lots of Mallard and Grey Lag Goose chicks provided the “awwwww” factor.  However no sign at all of any sort of Diver on the water.

Raptor valley was basically a wind tunnel by this time, most weather conditions are easy to deal with but wind is just the Bain of a birders life, but the benefit of this is the birds act differently!  And to prove the point a male and female Ring Ouzel had come off the tops and were seen on the road approaching the top car park, a bonus bird for the day, as were the pair of Bullfinches observed twice on the road picking up gravel and seeds, not a common bird in these parts, so nice to see.

And so that ended the weekend and indeed the month of May,  a day total of 64 was short of the best day total by 10 birds, the wind being a major player in this.  Total for the weekend was a very acceptable 95 species with some noticeable omissions such as Greenfinch and Tree Sparrow!  But what an absolutely brilliant month, thank you to all the victims that made this such a special time!

Friday 26 to Tuesday 30 May 2017

Skye Weekend.

“Oh I’ve just come doon fae the Isle of Skye

I’m no very big and I’m awfy shy

But the lassies shout as I walk by

Davy found his Conrcrakes!!”

 

Yes indeed, meet Mr Crex crex!

The motley crew of Fiona, Tony and Cormac (all multiple repeat victims to Birding Ecosse) were gathered in the reception of the beautiful Grant Arms Hotel, home of the BWWC, in good time on Friday 26 May 2017 – This is where the weekend started to go downhill  🙂

Our destination for the weeknd was the beautiful Isle of Skye on  the stunning West Coast of Scotland and what a truly fantastic weekend it turned out to be! Lots of Birds, Scenery, good food, great company and lots and lots of laughs.

The drive through the Highlands was punctuated with stop offs for teas and coffees and netted some really nice birds, Slavonian Grebes, Osprey (2), Red Kite (5) and a roosting flock of Goosanders.

Tony, Fiona and Cormac AKA “The three Mutineers”

Soon we found ourselves checking into the lovely Uig Hotel and sitting down to a sumptuous evening meal of Fish and Chips, and believe me it was the best fish I have had in a long time, highly recommended!

After tea we headed out to the North of the island where I had heard Corncrakes calling in 2016, the night was still and warm, ideal for Corncrakes, however it was also ideal for another Scottish beastie….. the Midge!  Unfortuntely no Corncrakes were heard tonight but the midges were out in force, so time to beat a hastie retreat!!

Back at the hotel and an early 2230 (ish) I laid down the plans for next day “Right troops rendezvous in reception 0500 tomorrow, for a Corncrake we go a hunting”  incredulous stares, silence, then 0500…. in the morning……. aye right…….. and so the Three Mutineers were born!

So ended the first day, great fun, a beautiful drive through some of the most scenic roads in the UK and in beautiful weather, would it hold?  Would the Mutineers turn up at 0500 next morning, would we find the Corncrake?  Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon……….

Saturday 27 May 2017… Day 2 the saga continues.

So after yesterdays cliffhanger did the Three Mutineers arrive at 0500 for the Corncrake search?

I cut a lonely figure as I left the hotel car park and headed North!  It was a beautiful morning, still flat calm and lovely early morning light.  First birds were a stunning male and female Whinchat.  I bird that is becoming more and more elusive to find on the mainland, sitting watching these birds whilst a Snipe roded high above and Skylark song filled the air.  It was a great day to be Birding.

 

Skylark

Back at the Uig Hotel Fiona, Tony and Cormac had arrived for a full cooked breakfast and were glad they hadn’t missed a Corncrake.  Soon we were heading to Portree for a boat trip out with the “Brigadoon” and what a trip.

It was surprisingly cool as we set off and we wondered how the scantily clad holiday makers waiting for another cruise would fare.  George the boat skipper was just outstanding spotting the Eagles perched on the rocks and grass slopes, it is amazingly difficult to pick these giant birds up as they merge perfectly into the background.  However when they took off!

White Tailed Eagle

Once back on dry land we headed to my favourite part of Skye, the Waternish and Dunvegan areas.  Stonechat and Cuckoos were about, the cuckoo providing a constant backdrop of sound through out the day, but still no sign or sound of the target species… Then just as we were driving back to Uig “Crex Crex –  Crex Crex” a bird called from a nearby hedge!! And there, right beside the fence a Corncrake!  Cormac connected with the bird quickly, but Fiona and Tony where on the opposite side of the car and just couldn’t see the bird!! A quick de-car and a quite walk back up the road we soon all had brilliant views! Result!

Corncrake

Corncrake!

Much rejoicing ensued, mainly owing to the fact that I wouldn’t be dragging them out for early morning or late night Corncrake hunts!!  But seriously it was a great experience to witness this rare and shy bird at close quarters and one that will remain for all four of us for a long time to come.

Sunday 28 May 2017… Day 3

After a long lie and another lovely breakfast we were soon heading down to Uig harbour for a pelagic across the water to Lochmaddy.  After getting Cormac up many many flights of stairs, I realised I had taken a wrong turn to get to the Outside viewing areas.  The look he drew me stopped me in my tracks and I just could not stop laughing!!  All the way back down the stairs, and as they say what goes down, must come up, and so we were finally looking over the water to Uig whilst watching Black Guillemots swimming about in the harbour…. it took a few minutes for Cormac to forgive me 🙂

Corncrake team 2017

The Corncrake team 2017!

Soon we had picked up Razorbill, Guillemot, Puffin, Manx Shearwater and Gannets, Skuas were hard to come by and we only managed two Bonxies on the whole crossing and surprisingly no Arctic at all.  Highlight was a Minke Whale just as we approached Lochmaddy.

Once again back on dry land and we headed off over the Quaraing, one of the most scenic roads in the UK, it has also the majority of bad car parking enthusiasts in the UK with some of the most ridiculous and dangerous parking I have ever seen!  However what happened on this road put all that into perspective….

As I was driving a noticed a large bird appearing from a dip in the landscape and heading straight for the car, it just kept on getting closer and closer and closer until……

GE

Golden Eagle!

This bird circled over head for a good 7 – 8 minutes giving crippling views as it thermalled right above out heads, I had to zoom out the lens as it was too close to fit in the frame, by far the closest encounter with a Goldie I have ever had!  More picture will be posted in due course but even just writing this now it gives me goosebumps!

And so ended our last full day on Skye, tomorrow was travel home day, so to celebrate (and enjoy the fact I didn’t have to drive) we had a beer at mealtime, a grand way to end the day.

Monday 29 May 2017 – Hometime

Although always nice to be heading home, it is still sad when a much anticipated and successful tour comes to an end, and after a fine breakfast of smoked fish and poached eggs we were on the road and heading back to the mainland, however we had one more place to visit, the atmospheric Sleat peninsula.  The weather had broken and a steady drizzle had started, but this only added to the stunning and dramatic landscape.

elgol

Cormac, Fiona and Tony on the road to Elgol

Target bird for this part of the trip was Twite, and with the skill and truly awesome identification skills of the tour guide (i.e me and pure luck!)  we soon had a pair sitting up proud on some ferns, a brief but super view.  A pair of Red Throated Divers and a nearby lochan was an added bonus!  A brilliant way to end a truly fantastic weekend, a big personal “Thank you” to Fiona, Tony and Cormac for making it such an enjoyable and fun filled time, thank you all so much!

Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 May 2017

A short update on the fantastic mid week special I had with Rick,  Bonnie and Richard, Fanatstic company, great Birds and jaw dropping scenery.

Oyk

Stunning Oystercatcher

Day one was spent inland taking in some of the local specialities at this time of year, Ring Ouzels the male singing from nearby posts and a female sitting on her nest incubating her eggs.  It was a startling difference from ten days ago when I was standing in snow! Today was beautiful sunshine, cloudless blue skies and double figure temperatures!

The Red Grouse on a local moor were slow to show themselves to begin with, however once we saw one they were like a number 33 bus and soon we had some fantastic vies of both males and females, Red Throated and Black Throated Divers lounged around doing nothing much, and a lone red Throated flew overhead calling.

We struck lucky with Ptarmigan with a male showing well, but very briefly, at the top of Cairngorm, I will have some exciting news about Birding Ecosse and Cairngorm Mountain very soon, lets just say the constraints of the viewing platform could soon be a thing of the past……. stay tuned!!  The Grant Arms Hotel was the lunch stop off and there is something magical sitting in the hotels exclusive hide watching one of the rarest breeding birds in Scotland displaying right in front of you!

Slavonian GrebeSlavonian Grebe

Eagle valley came up with the good, two very distant White Tailed Eagles started the visit, and a stunning view of a Golden Eagle getting mobbed by a Buzzard, and then a Peregrine ended the first day.  Homeward bound tired but very happy!

 (wee yin)

Golden Eagle (Big yin)  Peregrine (wee yin)

Day two saw as standing on a Black Grouse Moor, 9 Males were present and one female,  I have the nagging feeling this lek is dropping in numbers, we will have to wait and see!

The main venue for today was the stunning Moray coast, and what a day to showcase the fantastic part of Scotland.

RSPB troup head was as spectacular as ever, the light winds and summer sun made it the place to be!

Gannet

Gannet

 

Gannets

A surprise bird was a Couple of Corn Bunting singing from the fence as we left Troup head.  An impromptu drive through the surrounding countyside due to a diversion netted us Redpoll, it also let Rick and Bonnie visit the famous village of Pennan, made famous in the brilliant movie “Local Hero”

Nest stop was the amazing Bowfiddle Rock, where we witnessed an even more amazing view of Black Guillemots “flying” under the water.

Black GuillemotsBlack Guillemots “flying” under the water

Kittiwakes

Kittiwake

Final stop off was Osprey estuary, where we were treated to an Osprey carrying out three dives, the last being successful. excuse the heavy cropping but this was a nano second before the bird hit the water, and shows the classic dive style.  Fantastic, goose-bump inducing experience!

Osprey

Osprey about to catch lunch!

Saturday 06 and Sunday 07 May 2017

Day two and three for Linda and Stewart, and today we were joined by one of my first ever, and multi repeat victim, Jackie (just returning from a world cruise and then ending up with a tour to Portmahomack!! )

It was a beautiful day weather wise, and a flock of 200+ Long Tailed Ducks, many males in full plumage, started the day off well.  Dtanding in the sunshine and listening to their fantastic bugling call was a real treat.

Portmahomack

The walk up to Tarbat Ness Lighthouse was stunning, the gorse was in full bloom and filled the air with the warm scent of Coconut, it was a feel good day 🙂

The sea was covered with birds, Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Gannet, Fulmar whilst on the heather behind us Meadow Pipits displayed.  Yellowhammers showed very well in the car park and many Willow Warblers sang from the phone wires.  It was a lively place to be!

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

One of the Highlights for me this weekend was witnessing an Osprey fishing on the River Lossie, it was Linda and Stewarts third day birding and they were treated to one of natures great sights!

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Its amazing the Oilve the Oystercatcher picks the same nesting spot year after year, and even more surprising that she always raises a successful brood.  But it does give a great opportunity to get some close up shots from the car without disturbing her.

Oyk

Meanwhile in the nearby field a stunning Lapwing tended its nest, but stood up for a wing stretch allowing me to give this quick snapshot, Take a look at the undertail coverts.

Lapwing

And so the three day tour ended, thank you to Linda, Stewart, Jackie and Matt for Booing with Birding Ecosse, it was a great weekend!

Friday 05 May 2017

A very early start today saw me picking Matt up  (a repeat victim) in Inverness, prior to heading back south to pick up Linda and Stewart from the magnificent Grant Arms Hotel.

First port of call was a beautiful Scottish Loch surrounded by a not so beautiful Grouse Moor, Red Throated Diver loafed on the calm water surface and the ever present Grouse “go back go back go backed” throughout the visit.

Red Grouse

Red Grouse

Lapwings and Oystercatchers were calling and displaying all over the place and it was nice to see the annual Oyk nesting in a most public of places right next to the road, it does however it does give stunning close up views and brilliant photo ops.

Oyk

Oystercatcher

A nearby Lochan gave jawdropping views of breeding Slavonian Grebe, Little Grebe  and Male goldeneye (no pictures)

Up to the Cairngorms and what a difference a 10 days make! Today was double figures temperatures and Ring Ouzels were singing and feeding in the expected places,

Ring Ouzel, male full song!

Mountain Blackbird – Full Song

Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzel side shot, showing distinctive pale wing panel.

And from the Ring Ouzel to the Water Ouzel,  the Dipper, this was a very young fledged bird, sitting waiting for the parent to deliver lunch!

Dipper

A very young Dipper.

And so the day ended, we dropped Matt off in Aviemore, sadly he was only out for the day, and then back to the Grant Arms for Lynda and Stewart.  Roll on tomorrow when the day victim will be one of my original members Jackie.  Should be a great day.  Northwards Ho!!

Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 April 2017.

Sorry for the delayed reporting of this mid-week trip, however a severe chest infection has laid me low for a few days (it was seemingly the worst EVER reported case of Man Flu suffered by any male, anywhere in the world….. ever 🙂   )  but feeling a perkier now and able to manfully type some words on the computer.

I had been looking forward  the return visit of Bill and Janet all the way from sunny Alabama US of A, however what wasn’t expected was the late winter storms that deposited a good covering of white and powdery rubbish on the higher Scottish mountains, forcing birds back onto the wintering slopes and back into pre-breeding feeding flocks!

winter wondeland

Looking for Ring Ouzel in the snow!

Both days were bespoke for Janet and Bill and we spent our time mainly looking for smaller birds and recently arrived migrants, Janet and myself picked up brief views of Ring Ouzel as the male flew from undergrowth before perching on a fence before disappearing never to be seen again, what was galling that Bill never connected with it.  However the snow Buntings were back in the area and showing well.

Snow Bunt

Snow Bunt

Snow Buntings

More surprising however was the Red Grouse with an identity crisis thinking it was a Black Grouse as it perched in a pine tree!

Red Grouse in tree

Conditions were less than ideal when we ventured up the funicular, and when we arrived the visibility was actually worse than I had imagined, so up on the first train, ad straight back down again!!

Janet and Bill on Cairngorm

Snow Birds Janet and Bill

Ending the trip on the coast, the weather was a lot better, even to the point of being mild!  The target birds were soon picked up, with Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper showing we and in stunning plumage, a couple of Whimbrel giving close, and a whole rake of Wheatears feeding on the local salt marsh it turned out to be a fantastic couple of days. And it was as much fun, if not more spending time with the two victims as it was two years ago, roll of 2019 autumn when hopefully they can make the Pelagic Specials.

Turnstones

_DSC0147 (2)

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Avril and Alister had booked the “non-glossy” Birding Ecosse to help them connect with a couple of Bogey Birds, Crossbill and Black Grouse.

It was a beautiful morning and as we drove past Loch Garten I just had to stop to capture the image below, but as I stood in the silence a familiar “tchuup tchuup” rang out and setting the scope up we soon had the first Bogey under our belt, a stunning male Crossbill perched atop a pine tree!

                                                                                                                                   Loch Garten

Then with 20 minutes bogey bird number two was put to bed as we stood on a beautiful remote moor listening to the lovely rooking call of a Black Grouse Lek!

A great way to spend a half day tour.

Saturday 15 to Monday 17 April 2017

Easter Weekend 2017

Well what a whirlwind weekend that was!  Departing from my usual format I met up with the Edinburgh “Finch Group” numbering 10 people in total, the transport problems were alleviated by the group using their own vehicles and rotating various victims through my vehicle over the comings days.

The forecast was a not looking great for the weekend with high winds and snow forecast, however we were pleasantly surprised throughout the three days.  Day one was supposed to the windiest day so we stayed inland and started with a very productive walk around the Beautiful Loch Mallachie.

finch groupFinch Group at Loch Mallachie

We were lucky enough to connect with both target species here, Crested Tit, which can be problematic at this time of year when they are on breeding grounds and a family party of Crossbills calling loudly from the pine trees.

A local lochan turned up returning Slavonian Grebes and we had a nice lunch sitting in the custom built hide watching the antics of these stunning wee birds, nice to see them back and here is hoping for a successful breeding season.

avielochan grebesSlavonian Grebe

Raptor valley was next on the list, and two Golden Eagles later it was a great end to the first day, 52 species in the bag!

Day two and onto the Moray Coast, first up Bowfiddle Rock, a beautiful location with some brilliant birds, including the outstanding, and quite a rare wee bird on this side of the UK, the Tystie, or Black Guillemot.  Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, and Shags all in smart breeding plumage.  Another successful day and day two ended on 73 species for the weekend so far.Redshank                                                                                                               Redshank

Last day started on the banks of a stunning Scottish Loch, the Red Throated Diver loafed in typical diver fashion, but no sign  of the Black Throated,  A Wheatear was a nice first of the season, as it searched for food on the blackened and scorched Grouse moors.

WheatearMale Wheatear.

CormorantCormorant (possible sinensis?)

The Moray coastline was being blasted by an Arctic Wind, so birding outside was limited to short bursts, a possible Sinensis Cormorant was sitting on the rocks with normal “Carbo” types, its smaller size, large extent of white on the head, and the shape of the Gular patch were good pointers.

And so the weekend ended, it had been a great three days and with a great bunch of enthusiastic, knowledgeable people, who because they had come as a group all knew and got on with each other, it was a real pleasure to spend time with them all.

BowfiddleFinch Group at Bowfiddle Rock

Monday 03 April 2017

They’re back! Had a lovely walk with Cheryl, my wee lass today (She was Dads taxis as I am unable to drive for next few day after a small op) and the destination was our local Osprey spot just to see if they had arrived back, and the good news is they are!  Both birds present at the nest site, one bird on the nest the other feeding on a nearby dead tree. doesn’t matter how many times I see Osprey they always always always give me Goosebumps, I’m so happy I chose them as my emblem!

No apologies for quality of pictures, they were taken from very very far away, through trees and from a public area. so once again no disturbance to a schedule 1 species.  However next time they will be digiscoped!

Osprog nest

Osprey

Distant Ospreys, 1st of the season – welcome home

Tuesday 28 March 2017

A manic couple of days with Margaret on Sunday and day three of three, and Rex, Karen and Gill on Monday.  What did the two days have in common?  Beautiful hot sunny weather and fantastic birds!

Sunday was clock change, so it was a nice surprise for Margaret and myself both managing to arrive at reception at the appointed time!  And soon we were heading North to…. not Alaska, but Brora! The sun was glinting on the flat calm water and then a sound hit my ears, the sound of Summer, “kreeeah  kreeeah” and my first Sandwich Tern of the year gracefully glided past.  Scanning across to the river mouth we connected with my target bird for the day, and species number 202 on the Birding Ecosse life list, an Immature and an Adult winter Little Gull!

The trip around loch fleet gave us Greenshank, Wigeon, Linnet, but sadly no sign of the Osprey that had been seen earlier this week.

loch fleet                                                                                                                    Loch Fleet

A quick dash up the Findhorn Valley was definitely the way to end the weekend for Margaret with superb views of a Golden eagle getting a severe harass from a Red Kite and then a pair of Soaring Goshawks!  A brilliant three days with a weekend total of 91 species!

And so onto Monday, Rex, Karen and Gill were smart of the mark and soon we were standing watching the mating antics of the local Black Grouse,  The spring sunshine was definitely having its affect as the males strutted their stuff.

A frustrating period started with the Crested Tits going into “summer mode” and remained silent and invisible and Rexs target Bird Crossbill decided that after finding it singing high on a treetop that it would exit stage left just as Rex lifted up his binoculars, drat!!

However our luck changed when we arrived at the local raptor valley, 1 immature Golden Eagle and a distant White Tailed Eagle made spirits soar, and then in very short order, Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard, Goshawk and Red Kite all put in appearances!

Most surprising sighting of the day came just as I was explaining to today victims about the perfect habitat for Capercaillie as we drove down the side of a very small copse of Pine Forest, “This is perfect for Caper, good under storey, nice mature trees but far far too small to support Capers” when LO! a female took off from right beside the deer fence bordering the road and disappeared into the trees, landed, and disappeared from view.  A most bizarre encounter.

Low point of the day though had to be speaking to two fishermen at Lochindorb who completely ignored the signs stating this is a fly fishing loch only, basically they told me to “go forth”, they had been fishing the Loch (using bio degradable water solvent hooks…… really?) and that the land owners, police or anyone else was not going to stop them.  Waste of time arguing to folk like that but very very frustrating.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Day two in the Birding Ecosse House….. a beautiful sunny, warm day with the temperature hitting a sweltering +15!  It was a cracking day out and about with Margaret.

Highlights included an immature Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Buzzard, giving fantastic views and a brilliant comparison of size, a Merlin hunting Meadow pipits low over the moors, and the species that Margaret has jokingly asked to see, a stunning Golden Plover feeding in a sheep field and building up it fat reserves before heading to higher ground to breed and a flock of 100 plus Fieldfares.  It is a magical time of year with the winter birds still lingering and the summer ones just arriving.  Not many photo ops today so just some record shots below and a bonny Mute swan!

Golden PloverGolden Plover

FieldfaresFieldfares

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Friday 24 March 2017

So day one of a three day bespoke tour for returning victim Margaret, prior to meeting at the sumptuous Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey I had already had 5 Waxwings and 2 male Black Grouse under my belt, but today saw us heading across to the beautiful Scottish West Coast.  First stop en-route was a small Scottish lochan in search of early returning Slavonian Grebes, we were in Luck with two smart looking birds present, now at this point I will state that these pictures, and all my Slavonian Pictures, are taken from Public Footpaths, hides or viewing areas, so no disturbance is caused to these endangered Schedule 1 birds.

Slavonian Grebe

Slavonian Grebe

Slavonian Grebe

Red Kites were soon picked up near to the Tollie Red Kite, and by the end of the day we had seen seven individuals!  Hopefully a sign of a real bounce back after the  poisoning fiasco of two years ago.

Greenshanks at Poolewe and four Great Northern Divers at Gruinard were the highlights of the day, and a very photogenic Skylark topped of the limited photo ops.  In total 51 species, not a bad start to a tour!

SkylarkSkylark

Sunday 12 March 2017

It was a lovely sunny morning as Lynda and myself took off for our weekly “patch” walk, Once again it didn’t disappoint!  Spring is very much in the air with lots of birds in full song, courtship and aggression postures all being given in equal amounts!

Starling

Male Starling “Gein’ it Laldie!!”

Bullfinch

Male Bullfinch, a very nice find in this area.

House Sparrow

looking for a mate, a Male House Sparrow

Two new birds added to the patch list today, Goldcrest and Brambling. Total in two visits 38 species.

Wednesday 08 March 2017

Well it has been a highly enjoyable long weekend, plenty of R&R and some good birds, ringing in my garden produced my first ever Rook, plus Blackbird, House Sparrow and a couple of Dunnocks, nothing to set the world alight, but it is still a fledging garden so any birds caught are a bonus!!

Rook

RookAdult Rook

And then today, not far from home………..

Waxwing

And then the sun came out!Waxwing

waxwing

Waxwing

Friday 03 March 2017

Going back to my roots! Today was a fantastic day birding, no scope, no camera, just Lynda, Me and our binos! It really felt like I had gone all the way to being a young kid birding in my local town of Arbroath many many moons ago, just wandering around our local area and having time to just stand and watch the birds.

Lynda had been out for a walk last weekend and had called me to say what a wonderful place she had found, and just up the road from home, she was watching Bullfinches, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpeckers! So today we both set out so she could lead me round her new “local patch!”

Once we had walked a short distance on the main roads we soon found ourselves on a beautiful tree lined quieter road, immediately we were picking up Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Chaffinches were in full song, Blackbirds, Robins and Dunnocks we all seen feeding on the leaf litter, then we heard a plaintive one syllable call, Bullfinches, a male flew up and perched on a nearby bush in very much the same location as last week, the sunshine illuminating its beautiful pink breast and showing the sharp contrast with the jet black crown, what a stunner! As we were watching the Bullfinch I familiar “chirrup” broke out, and a quick search turned up a pair of Tree Sparrows nest prospecting in a gnarled old tree, so the last two species only yards away from our house and brilliant Birds to see, then “Thcuup Tchuup” another call!  Looking up a male Great Spotted Woodpecker landed on a dead branch right above us, his red nape patch glowing in sunlight.

A wee Dunnock jumped up onto the roadside brambles and sang its wee heart out, a Song Thrush flew over and into the nearby beech hedge, where a noisy group of House Sparrows had another couple of Tree Sparrows company, A Buzzard swept out high across the trees and attracted the attention of the nesting Rooks.  A noisy Charm of Goldfinches jingled their song as they flew between the fields and the larch trees where they were feeding on the cones, in the same fieled 5 Skylarks were in display flight and chasing each other at low level across the wheat stubble.

Bonus birds for the day where a Treecreeper  feeding in typical fashion in amongst the ivy clad tree trunks and two Long Tailed Tits on a garden feeder right at the end of the “loop”

So in a lovely walk, of just about a mile and half, we counted no less than 32 species, quite amazing in such a small area, and it will be fantastic throughout the year, so stay tuned for the seasonal reports from Lyndas local patch! (Next time with some pictures!)

Thursday 02 March 2017

Today started off not in the usual way, today was a pick up in Inverness and Debbie was awaiting my arrival outside her hotel.

Soon we were heading South and watching a pair of Dippers on the river near to Nethybridge, Lifer number 1 for Debbie!  The Waxwings that are reported nearly every day were obviously spending time with the other mythical creatures such as Unicorns and Mermaids.

Lifer number 2 came in the shape of this cheeky wee chap…..

Crested Tit

Close behind was another lifer was a stunning male Siskin

Siskin

Siskin

Next was a trip to Cairngorm, it was nice to see the area quiet of photographers and it was not long before our target birds were in the area, a flock of 30+ Snow Buntings.  And boy did the perform!

_DSC1059 (2)

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Buntings

So a highly entertaining day out with Debbie where she netted an incredible 11 lifers (two of which she found herself) signs of spring were definitely in the air with a flock of 50 Oystercatchers at Broomhill and at least 40 Lapwings feeding together in Strathdearn, not long now until the first Sandwich Terns, Wheatear and Sand Martins grace our shores.

Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February 2017

A cracking couple of day birding the Highlands with Dave, even though Storm “Doris” threw what it could at us we still managed a creditable 80 Species.

Wednesday was a tad wild and windy on the coast, but in between heavy showers we still managed some stunning close up views of Common Eider, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Wigeon and Teal.  An immature Sabine’s Gull was a surprise flyby at Findhorn, starting close to shore before drifting out towards the Culbin Forest, sadly I just could not get David onto the bird so cannot count towards the years total…. just makes the autumn pelagics more interesting!

The Eiders were looking absolutely tip top in the sunny spells.

Common Eider

Eider

Common Eiders

The Sanderling were doing what Sanderling do best and played chase the wave…… then run away!

Sanderling

Sanderling – Wave Chasing

Thursday the wind had dropped, but was replaced by snow and sleet showers, however every cloud has a silver lining and the Crested Tits and Chaffinches looked beautiful in the snow covered pines.

Crested Tit

Crested Tit

Chaffinch

Chaffinch

Up the Cairngorm, I shocking show of lack of field craft was evident with a group of photographers “staking out” the Snow Bunting flock, they were standing exactly where the birds feed, guess what guys?  They won’t appear if you are that close!  Let the birds come into the area, wait and they will filter towards you!  Very frustrating and not a single bird seen during the visit, so off to the Black Isle it was.

Surprisingly clear of snow (giving birth to meaning of the Name “Black Isle”) the Isle turned up the usual suspects, Scaup by the bucket load and some fantastic views of Slavonian Grebes, one bird in particular beginning to show signs of summer plumage, three Red Kites circling the area was nice to see and a close flyby of a Curlew showed off its stunning plumage.

Curlew

Curlew

Final stop of the day was a late afternoon visit to Eagle Valley, and it was one of those days where the birds did actually play the game and we were soon watching the spectacle of an Immature White Tailed Eagle in a tussle and Immature Golden Eagle whilst both being harried by a couple of Raven!  Sorry for the quality of the picture, but will give you an flavour of what it was like, a truly memorable way to end the two day tour.

Eagles

WTE far left Golden Eagle Far Right and the Ravens in between!

Saturday 18 February 2017

So too windy for a mist net in the garden I put out a couple of traps instead, Pedro the Woodpigeon had been hanging around the trap eyeing up the seed I put down.

Lynda: Imagine catching Pedro in the trap

Me: Never in a month of Sundays, way too big and wary

Lynda: You never know……….

Woodpigeon

Meet Pedro AKA FH07610!

So Pedro is now released safely back into the wild sporting a shiny new bracelet, and the first Woodpigeon I have ringed since being a trainee ringer!  Happy days!

Still a couple of places available on the following two day trips 🙂

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Crested Tit
Crested Tit

The “Highland Bird” experience

On this full day tour we visit a variety of habitats including Ancient Scottish Woodland, Mountain and stunning valleys in search of Eagles, Crested Tit and Ptarmigan

Pick up in reception at 0800 – drop off 1630

Price £90 per person

Thursday 23 February 2017

Long Tailed Duck
Long Tailed Duck

The beautiful Moray Firth

From long sandy beaches to rocky shore, the shallow waters of the Moray Firth hold a fantastic variety of birds. Purple Sandpipers camouflaged against the sea weed strewn rocks, flights of Knot and Dunlin swirling around over a flat calm sea. Long Tailed Ducks, Common and Velvet Scoters lounging just off shore and the whole range of Divers are on offer, a quick visit to a beautiful inland loch will add freshwater duck to the days total  and our final stop will be at a local spot in search of some elusive white winged gulls.

Todays target species: Velvet and Common Scoter, Long Tailed Duck, Purple Sandpiper, Red Throated, Black Throated and Great Northern Divers.

Pick up in reception at 0800 – drop off 1630

Price £90 per person

Thursday 09 February 2017

Well what a difference a week makes (again) today we were standing in -10 and snow at the Cairngorm carpark, they must have started snow sports today as the car park was being marshalled.  But today was a special day, it was Dad and Daughter day out 🙂  an event that doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does it is always a magical, laugh filled day!

The flock of Snow Bunting has increased with around 15/20 flicking around the area, not the best of lights but gave Cheryl her best even views of this charismatic wee bird.  And getting it in pristine white snow just made it even more special.

Snow Bunting

Snow BuntingSnow Buntings in the snow!!

Off the mountain it was easy to see the beauty in even the most common of species, and a close up of a sleepy Mallard was the perfect example,

Mallard eye close upMallard

Then it had to be done, back yet again to one of my favourite locations to see one of my favourite bird, and fast becoming my favourite, the Crested Tit.

Crested Tit

Crested Tit

Crested Tit

Crested Tit

Crested Tits

However the more common species were looking resplendent, and really shouldn’t be taken for granted, I mean if we were somewhere hot and sandy and we saw our own wee Blue, Great and Coal Tit, The Chaffinches and Robins you would probably remark how beautiful they are, and yet here they are just over looked.  Shame really.

Great Tit

Great tit

Chaffinch Chaffinch

The birdy theme continued with an outstanding lunch at the Winking Owl in Aviemore, try the Cullen Skink it is really yummy (as are the haggis pakora and the scallops on belly pork!)

Thanks for a great day out Cheryl, roll on our next photo expedition!

Lochindorb sunsetLochindorb sunset

Thursday 02 February 2017

Day two of Elizabeth’s’ bespoke tour, and today was to be inland birds, so we set off from the warmth and luxury of the Grant Arms Hotel, home of the BWWC, and headed out into the mist and low cloud.

First port of call was the local Black Grouse Lek, and with the usual parking spot being already taken, I headed further along the road to another car park, and surprisingly even though this is a wee bit further away the view is actually better.  We had six males in total but  I do have the knawing feeling that this Lek is falling rapidly in numbers.

A quick call in at a local Dipper River proved very successful with a singing male giving us an impromptu show!

Dipper

 

Next it was onto one of my favourite visits, feeding the Coal Tits whilst hunting the elusive Crested Tit!  Luck was on our side and we quickly had breathtaking views of our target bird.

Crested Tit

Crested Tit

Crested Tit

And as always the cheeky wee Coal Tits just had to be given a treat.

Elizabeth, the human Bird TableElizabeth the human bird table!

Bonus bird for this location, I heard a Crossbill song and fellow tour guide John Poyner picked out the male singing on top of a nearby tree.  It stayed put long enough for me to get a record shot, top bird!

CrossbillMale Crossbill

The day ended with a visit to Cairngorm, as we drove to the top car park weather conditions did not look great, cloud was sitting just above the Funicular station and a steady drizzle had begun, but just as we approached the building a movement caught our eye near to the picnic benches, a flock of six Snow Buntings.  A cracking way to end the day.

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow BuntingSnow Bunting

Wednesday 01 February 2017

Pinch punch first of the month! and a lovely day out on a bespoke trip with Elizabeth, today was Northward bound to one of my favourite areas of Brora, Golspie and Loch Fleet.

The mound was looking beautiful as normal as we stopped off for the first coffee stop of the day, Shelduck, Redshank and Teal added a bit of interest as we munched on the Tunnocks Teacakes 🙂

The mound, Loch Fleet

The mound, Loch Fleet

The local Robin made us feel guilty so I left a wee bit of seed that was intended for the Crested Tit tomorrow.

Robin

Robin

The elusive Black Redstart at Brora stayed elusive (If you are reading this Margaret C guess where you are heading next week!) but a large flock of  Gulls kept us amused sifting through for white wings…….. none to be seen

A very pale Pink Footed Goose on the Black isle got my interest as I drove past and the American Wigeon showed beautifully at Udale Bay.

Leucistic Pink Footed Goose

Leucistic Pink Footed Goose

Stars of the day was the Teal near to Merkinch just outside Inverness, they were just absolutely stunning.

Teal

Teal

Teal

Teal

 

Elizabeth enjoying the sun.

Elizabeth enjoying the sun!

Friday 27 January 2017

Just a quick entry to say a big thumbs up to CleySpy   www.cleyspy.co.uk  ordered a new Stay on Case for my Swarovski Spotting Scope, arrived from Norfolk to Forres in less than 24 hrs with no supplement for being a Highland postcode, well done CleySpy and I Highly recommend you to all Birders living in the Highlands needing new Kit (some companies where wanting £19.50 for delivery!)

Friday 20 to Sunday 22 January 2017

So this weekend was the return of yet more repeat victims in the shape of Fiona and Tony.  And in a whole different weather system that greeted Richard and Serena a week and half ago.

Fiona and Tony on a calm Moray Firth

Fiona and Tony on a calm Moray Firth

Long Tailed Duck and Eiders were the order of the morning with small numbers of both species present on the Firth. Heading for Hopeman and the fairly reliable Purple Sandpipers, we were having some distant views of the birds, when all of a sudden every single bird irrupted into the air, that can only mean one thing….. Peregrine!  And sure enough a huge powerful female screamed overhead and disappeared inland. Luckily for us the birds settled closer to us and gave some brilliant views.  Even more surprising was a Shag in full breeding plumage!

Next stop was Lossiemouth, where a very strange thing happened,  As I drove through the streets an eider duck called from the back seat of the car…….. “ohhwoooo” but then I realised it was not an Eider, but still a familiar noise…… the noise of a female seeing a “Sale” sign in a local shop, pointing the noise out to Fiona much merriment was had and even more laughing ensued when she admitted she was unaware the noise had come from her!!

Fiona captured in a flagrant abuse of a Birding Ecosse Check list!

Fiona captured in a flagrant abuse of a Birding Ecosse Check list!

Highlight bird for me was this Male Gadwall, seen at a small lochan right beside the main A96.

Gadwall

Gadwall

Day two dawned on a Grouse Moor, yet another stunning clear, calm and crisp morning and 6 Black Grouse strutting their stuff got the day off to a great start, a quick foray for the Nethybridge Hawfinches drew a blank but did give great views of two Dippers.

In quick succession we notch up a couple of Scottish specialities Crested Tit and soon after a fine male Ptarmigan, hiding on a snow patch behind a rock high on Cairngorm, we were lucky to see a further two birds on the funicular trip down the hill.

The day was rounded off spectacularly by a very low and close flyby from an immature Golden Eagle, a bird we had tried to connect with on two previous trips with Tony and Fiona, so to see one so clearly and so close was a definite relief, I was so enthralled with the spectacle I even forgot to take pics!

The mound

The mound

And so to our last day, and what a day it turned out to be!  The original plan was for the Black Isle, however we had already visited this area on Tony and Fionas last visit, so I decided to head North to the Golspie, Brora and Loch Fleet area, what a great decision that was!

Once again the weather was flat calm, sunny and just above zero degrees, fantastic weather to be on the coast!

The run of birds stated with three waxwings at Golspie, and a very pleasant 10 minutes speaking a really nice resident of the sheltered housing that the birds had chosen to frequent.

Waxwing

Waxwing

 

Waxwing

Waxwing

 

Waxwing

Waxwing

Heading down past the Golf Couse a large gaggle of Pink Footed Geese were in a field near the road, parking up and getting the scopes out luckily we did not spook the birds and scanning through the flock we soon picked up a lone Barnacle Goose, I was intent on finding a White Fronted Goose, so scanning scanning scanning then something caught my eye, I called Fiona across and asked her to tell me the colour of legs of the three bird in the scope…… Pink…. Pink….. Orange!!!! Yes we had just found a Bean Goose, small billed with an Orange sub terminal band… a Tundra Bean Goose and species 202 for Birding Ecosse!

Loch Fleet was as beautiful as ever and soon we were watching one of the target species for this area, Greenshank and lounging just off shore we had Common and Grey Seals

Last stop of the day was an area I had never visited, a large expanse of estuarine mud flats, to say I was gobsmacked was an understatement! It was a birders paradise! More Shovelers in one place than I had seen in many many years, Pintails by the bucket load, Wigeons by the thousand and the star bird, and the reason I had arrived at this place, an American Wigeon.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

And so the weekend ended, a total of 90 species, which is just amazing at this time of year, and brings the year total so far to 101!! And it is still January, this may very well be Birding Ecosse’s own “Big Year”  roll on the good times!

Lochindorb at Sunset

Lochindorb at Sunset

 

Thursday 12 January 2017

Another brilliant day out with Richard and Serena, not nearly as windy but cold cold cold!!  The two days ended up with a very respectable 75 species, quite remarkable when you take into account the weather!

Black Grouse was first on the list, with two males sitting hunkered down in the snow looking fairly fed up with the current cold snap, the nearby Red Grouse looked to be organised and had “dug themselves in” sitting in scrapes in the snow and keeping out the wind, a la Ptarmigan tactics!

Red Grouse "Dug In"

Red Grouse “Dug In”

The trip to Coal Tit feeding city was a great success, with Crested  Tit picked up and seen well within the first five minutes and then it was all fun feeding the Coal, Blue and Great Tits, with Robin and Great Spotted Woodpecker all edging closer and closer but not being as brave as the Tits!

Chaffinch

Chaffinch

 

Coal Tit

Coal Tit

 

Robin

Robin

However it was the afternoon when all the real excitement started!  Driving up Raptor Valley Serena looking out the car picked up a large raptor just to our left, a very opportune layby was just ahead so I told Serena and Richard to keep their eyes on the birds until I parked up, and when we did get out what a treat!!  An immature White Tailed Eagle getting harassed by two Golden Eagles!  Just above us!

Golden Eagle (LH) White Tailed Eagle (RH)

Golden Eagle (LH) White Tailed Eagle (RH)

 

Golden Eagle (Top) and White Tailed Eagle

Golden Eagle (Top) and White Tailed Eagle

 

Golden Eagle about to dive on the White tailed Eagle

Golden Eagle about to dive on the White tailed Eagle

And the Eagle show wasn’t finished yet!  Another three individuals crossed over as we approached the top of the Glen, just a magical afternoon Birding!

My office for the day!

My office for the day!

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Well today was the first official tour of 2017 and what a way to start!  Gale force winds all over Scotland, making it difficult for even me, with my svelte frame, to remaining standing at Hopeman, snow showers that blew in off the Moray Firth that looked a lot like plumes of smoke as it obliterated the landscape and dark scudding clouds so low and dark the streetlights came back on at Burghead at 0910 in the morning!!  But what a FANTASTIC day to be out and about!!

Highlights of the amazing 59 species we encountered today included a Male Shoveler, Male and Female Goosander, discoving a new and very lively flock of Tree Sparrows, One Male and Two female Brambling, Purple Sandpipers hugging the rock face to get out of the winds, a single flock of 300 + Pintail, and a lovely covey of 6 Grey Partridge hunkered down in a stubble field.  Add to that some stunning views of the more common birds like Teal and Wigeon just made the day a brilliant experience!  Fancy getting out on about with Birding Ecosse?  Then just check out birdingecosse.co.uk

Male and Female Teal

Male and Female Teal

 

Wigeon and Teal

Wigeon and Teal

 

Grey Partridge

Grey Partridge

Monday 02 January 2017

Happy New year, and a healthy Bird Filled 2017 to you all!

So today was a busman’s holiday for Lynda and myself as we took a wee drive “oot and aboot” around the beautiful Moray Coastline to see what the recent stormy weather had turned up, we were not to be disappointed!

First real surprise was a Merlin sitting on a fence post not far from Rose Isle woods, it was then onto Burghead where we were treated to close up views of Long Tailed Duck, Common Eider and an Immature Glaucous Gull.

Male Long Tailed Duck

Male Long Tailed Duck

 

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

A quick drive through to Hopeman added Rock Pipit, Sanderling, Turnstone to the years tally, but to tell you the honest truth it was just nice to be out birding!

Tours start for the 2017 season on Wednesday 11 January 2017, and with some form of  booking every month already from now until October it looks like being a busy year, something I am really excited about! So please don’t hang around if you are thinking of making a booking this year, the slots are filling up very quickly so just get in touch and have a chat about what dates you may need.

Thanks for following this blog, call back frequently for updates, my new years resolution is to work harder to keep this page updated…… lets see how that goes shall we!!