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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Riding the breeze with a Harley on a wintry Scottish weekend

A twitch up to Aberdeen on Saturday morning with Mark, Darren and Stuart for a first winter drake Harlequin Duck that had been found on the river Don a week ago, we got there about 9-30 am and the bird was showing very well, we spent a couple of hours with it as it fed along a short stretch of this fast flowing river occasionally resting up on a branch or rock, just a year tick for me as I saw the females at Girvan back in 1996, nice to see a male though and already showing signs of what is to come. Next it was up the coast to Inverallochy where a winter plumaged Spotted Sandpiper was still present, a load of Pink Footed Geese were seen in a field en route as well as a few Greylags that owing to their wariness we thought were probably genuine wild ones, that corner of the coast was a bit exposed and it was blowing a gale, however a few Purple Sandpipers were scurrying about the rocks and eventually our quarry was spotted, or not spotted as the case may be (pardon the pun), a very distinctive bird nevertheless, a little look out over a very rough sea only managed to find a few Eiders. We had decided to stay over and make a weekend of it with the plan to try and photograph Crested Tit in Speyside tomorrow, we made our way down to the Guest House in the Boat of Garten encountering a fair bit of snow as we neared the mountains and with half an hour of light left when we got there we had a little tour around some feeding stations we knew of to suss out for the morning, the one near the village looking to be the best bet with at least three Crested Tits attending it.
out on the open river when we arrived

it soon flew off to its favourite area opposite the toilet block

we left him on one of his favourite rocks

winter Spotted Sandpiper coping with the wind better than we did

Sunday morning we awoke to find several inches more snow had fallen overnight although being Scotland the roads were soon cleared and after a hearty breakfast we ventured out. With it being a last minute decision to stay over we hadn’t got any info on where it would be best to go so we just headed to the feeding station up the road, great views of three or four Crested Tits there amongst the many Coal Tits etc as well as a Red Squirrel but the feeders were well under the trees and coupled with a dull cloudy morning there wasn’t much light so we didn’t get what we had really hoped for, oh well it gives an excuse to go back again. We headed up to the Ski Centre on Cairngorm next and even though it was still snowing quite heavily apparently there was not enough for Skiing so there wasn’t many people about, no Snow Buntings neither but plenty of Red Grouse were telling us to “go back”, a couple of Mountain Hares looked for shelter and after a short climb we found a pair of nice white Ptarmigans, the first time any of us had seen them in winter finery so it was a real treat. We dropped back down trying to think of where there might be more favourable feeding stations and ended up at Loch an Eilein car park, there was a good number of birds in attendance at the feeders there and we added Lesser Redpoll to the list but there were no Cresties, with the snow becoming more persistent we made a start for home with the plan to pick up a few Sea Duck on the Forth Estuary but by the time we got to Perth we realised there was no time for that so we had half an hour at Loch Leven instead, it broke the journey a bit but a load of Pink Footed Geese in a field and Goldeneye on the Loch was about it.
a snowy Boat of Garten

probably the best shot, shame about the perch


good for Mountain Hare and Red Grouse 

a Red Grouse in the snow

a Ptarmigan in the snow, a bit far for the camera really but you just got to get a record shot or two

Loch an Eilein birds

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