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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A wild and wet Scottish weekend

Joined by Mark, Paz and Stuart a Scottish weekend had been planned to Speyside for the usual specialities and hopefully to get some better pics of Crested Tit, we had also received some gen on where to maybe find Black Grouse and Capercaillie. Friday the 5th, it was an early start and we got to our first site as it was getting light, just North of Stirling we had turned off at Braco and proceeded to take a scenic route which eventually rejoined the A9 at Pitlochry the first part of which was good for Black Grouse, not this morning though despite driving up and down a couple of times, a few Red Kites were about though, we eventually carried on to Pitlochry where we paid a visit to the Cuilc to get very good views of a very confiding long staying Ring Necked Duck, also an even more confiding Mandarin there. The light rain that had been with us all morning eventually fared up as we carried on in to Speyside then turning off at the Ruthven Barracks we had a scan over Insh Marshes, lots of Whooper Swans with the more common Wildfowl and we also managed to pick out a Hooded Crow amongst the more common Carrions, we carried on and took a short forest drive at Feshiebridge but it yielded very little so we soon moved on to Loch Garten where we enjoyed good views of several Crested Tits at the feeding station there. Late afternoon we headed over to suss out a site for Capercaillie we’d been given calling at Broomhill Station near Nethybridge on the way, there has been an Iceland and Glaucous Gull on a flooded field there recently, just the Iceland present this afternoon,  we found the Caper site alright though nothing doing this late in the day then finished off at another site nearby that was supposed to be good for Crossbills but all three species seem to be in short supply this winter.
Ring Necked Duck at Pitlochry, not often you get this close

also a very tame Mandarin

Crested Tit at Loch Garten

plus friends

Iceland Gull at Broomhill Station

Saturday the 6th, out after a hearty breakfast and back to the Caper site, we had a good walk through the forest finding plenty of droppings but not the bird unfortunately, it was a fine morning so we headed up to the Findhorn Valley next, we took a steady drive out to the end with plenty of Buzzards, Ravens and a Red Kite (first time we’ve had this species here) then about halfway down what was originally thought to be a Buzzard coming over the ridge was thought to look rather large as it drifted nearer, we all piled out of the car and sure enough it proved to be a superb Golden Eagle, we carried on to the end where we enjoyed several more Ravens, six Buzzards in the air together but there were no more Eagle sightings. With some weather coming in from the head of the valley we decided to leave and head up into Cairn Gorm to search for Ptarmigans, getting out of the car at the Ski centre car park it was blowing an almighty gale whipping up the snow like a sandstorm, we gave it a go and managed a couple of Red Grouse but it was just impossible conditions and it wasn’t long before we gave up and headed down to have a late lunch at a relatively calm Loch Morlich, nothing more than a few Goldeneye on the Loch. We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at Grantown Forest calling off at Broomhill Station again, both the Glaucous and Iceland Gull were present today, the forest as usual was pretty hard work but we did get a Crossbill flying over but from the call it was just a Common one, also several Buzzards and a Peregrine soared overhead.
A bleak Findhorn Valley

plenty of Buzzards

and Ravens

Glaucous Gull at Broomhill Station

Sunday the 7th, after settling up at the Guesthouse we headed to the feeding station up the road, two or three Crested Tits were in attendance but as last year with the feeders being under the trees, there wasn’t really enough light for photography plus with a big cage around the feeders there was no sign of any Red Squirrels neither. After considering several routes for the way home we had finally decided to head round the other side of the mountains to Glen Shee then onto Largo Bay, it started off OK with several Buzzards and Ravens noted along the way but after Tomintoul the rain started with it getting quite sleety by the time we reached Breamar, as we got to the Ski centre at Glen Shee it had become snow and on top of that it was blowing a gale again, we managed a few Red Grouse but with the weather worsening we thought it best to get going, a couple of miles down the road it turned back into rain which became quite heavy however after a pit stop in Perth it eased off a bit and had stopped by the time we got to Largo Bay but the wind was ridiculous, at Ruddon’s Point we could barely stand up let alone keep a scope steady and the sea was too rough anyway, we dropped back into Lower Largo but there was nothing more than a few Eider sheltering in the little harbour there, we carried on to Leven and found a few birds sheltering where the river ran out into the bay but it was mainly Goldeneye with a few Eider and a single Red Breasted Merganser, no hoped for Long Tailed Ducks or Scoters, we called it a day and headed home. Once again a nice weekend in Scotland in good company but we were defeated a bit by the weather this year.
at the Boat of Garten feeding station, but the Cresties were dropping straight onto the feeders all the time

at Leven a female Eider

and a few Goldeneye

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