Monday, 18 April 2011


As you may know I've recently returned from a birding holiday in Scotland with Steve, Bun and Nick. It was mostly very enjoyable ( a bit too long long in woods fruitlessly waiting for Parrot Crossbill for my liking! ;-)) A great trip for Nick with twelve lifers, three for Bun I think and I had six (or seven depending on how scrupulous I am about what goes on my list). My six, were Black Grouse, Capercaille, Ptarmigan, Black Guillemot, Scottish Crossbill and White-billed Diver. Summer plumage ticks were Slavonian Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Black-throated Diver. I also saw three new mammals, namely, Red Squirrel (yes, really) Mountain Hare and Pine Marten. They were all amazing but my favourites were definitely the Black Grouse, Black throated Divers and Red Squirrel. The White-billed Diver was very distant and the views were 'untickable' to be honest, which was disappointing. Other disappointments were dipping a King Eider and the 'Speyside Wildlife Mammal Watch' This is where three of us saw the Pine Marten but only extremely briefly. It's pretty darn expensive to attend and we were very annoyed because although we were given a sheet of paper with a list of rules, including, obviously, to be SILENT! One woman continually yakked away with no attempt to even hush the level of her voice a little. What compounded this was that the guide made no attempt to stop her, in fact he positively encouraged her! Really! He asked her if she could name all the species of mice in Britain...which she  then proceeded to shout out. Being British we bit our lips and somehow refrained from a punch up. The guide said it was the worst night for Pine Marten in months... I wonder why?! I'm writing to complain...  for what good it will do.  Still all in all we had a great time and the scenery was as amazing as the birds! :-)

I won't describe what we did each day in detail as Steve is doing a superb job of this on his blog. I did take quite a few photos (surprise, surprise) so I'll stick 'em on here with a few captions.There aren't as many nice ones as I'd have hoped for because on the first night of the holiday disaster struck, when I accidentally (obviously) deleted all that day's photos. I'll put it down to being tired, not being stupid! I could recover the photos at home but only if I didn't use that camera any more (Note to self. Buy a spare card, coz it'll probably happen again). I therefore had to rely on the old super-zoom and my back up digiscoping camera which I'm not very good with. I didn't get photos of everything but here's a selection of what I did get.

Black Grouse

 Red Grouse
 I think this Red Grouse is an older male than the one above....
judging by the size of that eyebrow!
Female Red Grouse

Hooded Crow
Great Northern Diver.
Slavonian Grebe
Black-throated Divers.
Stunning birds. Bird of the trip candidate for sure.
White-billed Diver. Obviously!! ;-)
 Gorgeous Eiders. My favourite ducks, the call is as good as the colour.
Great views of hundreds of these on the Ythan Estuary made up somewhat for dipping the King Eider, which was back there the day after us!


Highland Bulls
 Red Squirrel
She looks a tad on the pregnant side to me. Aaah!
Grey Seals

 Rock cunningly fashioned into shape of crashed car? ...or do I need help?
 Findhorn Valley
 Somewhere on the west coast. 
We saw a superb adult White-tailed Eagle over  these here mountains don't you know.
Loch Whatsit...
Loch Thingy
Rattray Head..
another place we dipped King Eider at, gorgeous beach though.
View from atop of Cairngorm

The Cairngorm Centre car park was worryingly full...

 We were crammed into the cars of the funicular railway like sardines.It was the last weekend of the snow sports season!! Steve makes like a tourist..which is of course what we were!
 Nick struggles to see past the hoards of skiers
 Steve spots the Ptarmigan from the edge of the intermediate snowboard run.
 Various Ptarmigan watching shots.
You can see how little snow was actually left on the ski runs. It was plenty good enough to accommodate around 200 skiers though!
 Steve photographing Loch Thingamajig
 They have every angle of Loch Oojamaflip covered. 
That Black-throated Diver's there somewhere.
 Gourmet lunch at the Nethy Bridge Spar shop..
Steve chose a cake in his favourite colour.
 First and best. Watching the Black Grouse lek on day one.

Towards the end of a long day, Bun tries to squeeze the last dregs out of his flask.
We saw two Golden Eagles over the hills in the background a couple of days later. Yes we did all fit in that car....though I don't know how!

Finally, I was taking a photo from the Loch Garten ( I remember that one) hide when I thought it would make a good demonstration subject for showing the capability of the Canon SX1 super-zoom. I took four photos thus.
 No zoom.
The Osprey nest is between the two sets of trees and barely visible.
Full optical zoom (20x)
 Digital zoom (40x)
Full digital zoom (80x). Pretty nifty really.

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