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John's Mammals 2016

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Old Thursday 10th March 2016, 21:17   #51
Farnboro John
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Otters again
Pallas's Warbler
Water Vole

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Old Thursday 10th March 2016, 21:20   #52
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Water Vole
Sika Deer

John
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Old Thursday 10th March 2016, 21:29   #53
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Sika Deer
Naaah. That's a sheep with half a bush stuck to its head!

Some shots to be pleased with there John.
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Old Friday 11th March 2016, 07:56   #54
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Very nice I have only ever connected with white hinds.

I have been away so not much locally a trip report in due course.

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Old Saturday 12th March 2016, 06:53   #55
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Top otter, top stag.

Just back from japan. birds more than mammals, but Japanese sable, luxuriously coated red foxes, (hokkaido) red squirrel, sika, largha & harbour seals.

Oh, and my new book (A Summer of British Wildlife) is out. With thanks to thread members including our leader...
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Old Sunday 13th March 2016, 17:10   #56
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Glad to be of assistance, James!

Funny sort of day today. Mammal-wise it was all about Roe Deer, with a bunch at the Willow Tit site in the morning (sorry, non-disclosure on that) and then a minimum of 13 animals in a fairly small bit of countryside South of the village of Martin, where Steve and I were looking for Grey Partridges and Corn Buntings reported on Hampshire Going Birding yesterday.

We stopped first up a dead-end road off a crossroads where although I could hear a very distant Yellowhammer, no other farmland birds were on show at all. However, the kronk of a Raven made us look up, and we saw first one, then two, which flew towards each other and then began displaying together. Jolly Good! Then they were joined by two more, and we joked that this must be the secret breeding colony that Hampshire Going Birding is trying to suppress by removing all mention of Ravens in Hampshire from its on-line reports (Honestly - despite the fact you can't go anywhere in the county, from the New Forest in the South West to Martin in the North West to Farnborough in the North East to Portsmouth in the South East without hearing that same dull kronk!)

Then we took the opposite road at the crossroads, drove up to Tidpit Down - we only found the sign for it on arrival - hopped out to look at a finch flock that turned out to be mostly Linnets but with some Yellowhammers mixed in, and looking up in response to that kronk sound, found about twenty Ravens wheeling and tumbling above us: complemented by the numbers sculling the air above the fields and for that matter the ones surrounding a dead sheep in one of those fields.

So we walked over the top of Tidpit Down to conduct a detailed search for Grey Partridges and Corn Buntings. We found neither, but we did find some pig fields, and we also found - I kid you not - over 150 Ravens sitting up in trees, sitting down on the grass, perching on pigs and pig-sties, floating about and soaring up to display with their mates and/or friends.

If we didn't see over two hundred Ravens I'd be astonished. And somehow I don't think it was the Hampshire Raven Convention, with the rest of the county denuded.... and even if it was, they can't have been at the massive Hampshire Raven breeding cliffs (no cliffs)! But what I'd really like to know is, what on earth do those pilchards at Hampshire Going Birding think they are playing at with this nonsensical suppression?

John
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Old Tuesday 15th March 2016, 07:07   #57
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Just back from japan. birds more than mammals, but Japanese sable, luxuriously coated red foxes, (hokkaido) red squirrel, sika, largha & harbour seals.
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Old Saturday 19th March 2016, 22:12   #58
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I have been in Scotland.... report later.

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Old Sunday 20th March 2016, 09:39   #59
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Great pictures John! Just love the otters!

So far this year in Bulgaria I have seen Golden Jackal and Red squirrel.

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Old Monday 21st March 2016, 23:14   #60
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Finally finished my trip report from my trip to Israel with a couple of other forum members.

Just a few photos to wet you appetite.

http://www.hows.org.uk/inter/birds/2016blog.html

Mark
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Old Tuesday 22nd March 2016, 21:46   #61
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So, last Tuesday evening Clare, Steve, Barry and I piled aboard Steve's car and set off for Scotland. We quickly found out that after 2200 the motorway trolls come out to play, digging holes, excreting cones all over the place and generally blocking up the routes. Nevertheless by dawn we were scooting across the border and before the locals used the alternative road-blocking system of going to work en masse we were past the Central Belt and sliding off the A9 onto the tourist route.

Our first targets were Red and Black Grouse, and it would really have helped if the view wasn't obscured by thick mist/low cloud/mizzle. Despite the frustrating weather we did find a few Red Grouse mainly because they were standing on prominent rocks quite close to the road, but after some miles of failure it was quite a surprise to slow for a Red Grouse on the right and realise there were four Greyhens standing in the open squashed down tawny grass on the left.

Unfortunately as my camera lens came out of the (open) window, they flew: but I did manage a flight shot before they skimmed like stones across water over the moorland to disappear into the nearest copses.

We investigated a side road and found four more Greyhens up it, along with two Blackcock. One of the latter was sitting in solitary splendour among the dew-laden rushes while the other was trying every display trick he knew to get some sexual response from the four Greyhens, who appeared to have seen it all before, decided he was a very small Blackcock and they wanted nothing to do with him. As he advanced on one, she actually ran away. The others manoeuvred subtly so as to keep out of his eye-line. So thee he was, all revved up, four females all to himself and still couldn't pull. We listened to his bubbling calls for some time (it may be the first time I've heard it live) and taunted his lack of success with the ladies.

From there it was no very great distance (past another two Blackcock in some maize stubble) to the Loch of the Lowes SWT reserve. No Osprey yet, but several Red Squirrels and a couple of bright male Yellowhammers around the feeders were excellent: though the light was still abysmal.

John
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Old Wednesday 23rd March 2016, 20:38   #62
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From Loch of the Lowes we headed East to Blairgowrie and then North up the A93 to the Glenshee ski centre. We knew there had to be fine weather somewhere and had our fingers crossed that the murk was just mist that we could climb out of in the mountains.

About halfway up the glen before the ski resort we broke out into blazing sunshine with a complete dome of cloudless blue above us. The higher slopes had long strips of snow marking shallow gullies and slightly north-facing surfaces. Yes! Now all we had to do was get right up among the snow and heather for one of our favourite wildlife encounters.

We parked up near the Cairnwell ski lift, which has been completely refurbished with three-person bench seats replacing the old single passenger seats. There is no advertised up-and-back fare, all the literature and boards covering the charges for daily skiing. Not helpful. We spotted a white Mountain Hare not too far above us and stumped up to acquaint ourselves more closely with it as it sat just outside a recess in the heather, regarding us with some derision (well that's how it felt) as we staggered on the uneven ground, breathing heavily and moving slowly. As we approached (having prudently taken some pictures on the way) it turned, leapt up the small face behind it and hopped in a fairly leisurely way up the slope, in seconds opening the distance between us to its personal level of security before pausing to watch us out of the corner of its eye and then firmly turn its back on us.

Back down we went, and Steve found from the till operator that a mere fiver would secure us a return ticket up the chairlift. That brief excursion had convinced all of us of the merits of mechanical ascent, so we paid our money and repaired to the lower station where we were instructed in the safety aspects of the chairlift - not! The lift man had to shout after Steve and Barry to tell them to pull down the restraining bar as they rose rapidly, completely exposed to the possibility of falling out. Clare and I are rather cautious around heights and made sure we knew what to do before setting off upwards!

I was looking around as we went up, and was rewarded with the sight of a blotchy male Ptarmigan in the heather on our right, which I managed to train the camera on with some difficulty, all the while talking reassuringly to Clare who was really quite nervous. At least I hope it was reassuring - my sense of humour may have led me astray in this....

We reached the top and hopped off. A quick scan round revealed that on this occasion there were no Ptarmigan right next to the chairlift, so some exploring would be necessary. The trouble was, the first stage of that had to involve ascending a steep snowfield, not for very much height but with a decent chance of landing on your backside. The other two lads were away quickly, I followed with Clare whose nerve didn't quite take her up: by the time I had assisted her safely back down (definitely more difficult then up) the others had disappeared over the summit.

I went in pursuit and found them heading straight into the sun around the East side. The West side is steeper and I reckon more likely for Ptarmigan, so when they gave me the thumbs down to indicate they had no targets, I went the other way and in a couple of minutes, out of sight and with no phone signal, found a white male Ptarmigan. It was reasonably accommodating but straight into the sun: in trying to outflank it I flushed it. It dived away round the flank of the mountain and was gone. However, I kept an eye as I moved onward and soon saw it sneak back the other way - a lot lower down though.

Then I found another one and also that I had a signal, so I called the boys and they came over to my side of the hill. Together we went after this new male, which flew a short distance but landed where Steve thought he could get round below it. He had read a theory that if you approach Ptarmigan from above they will always fly, but if you come up from below them, they will stick. Gentle folk, the floor is open.....

He got round underneath it and began to stalk it uphill. He got fairly close I think, then it flew towards me and Barry before veering left to alight on a boulder fortress just up from us. In moving to get a view of that we found there were two pure white females sitting up on the front of the same pile of rocks, and the stalk was on for me this time! I did my best - you shall judge the results in a while.

A bit of a wander after our encounter with glorious winter-coated Ptarmigan led us to another hare, also in nearly full winter whites. We got some pictures but unusually it wasn't falling for being fixed with a glittering eye and walked up to.

This left us with the necessity to return to Clare and find out what she had seen in the meantime. We got there without serious incident although there were a couple of pitches on the snowfield that Barry and I took a bit faster than we had intended - but we stayed on our feet. It turned out the white grouse had been avoiding her, but two then belted across the slope below us and at least gave her a view (she had missed the one below the chairlift from sheer fear. No shame in that - she'd got on the chairlift despite knowing the likely sensations to come. That's bottle, that is.)

Steve reckoned one had landed not far away and as the most energetic of us (despite having done all the driving) he set off to get round it and drive it back towards us. Clare and I sat down and tried to look inconspicuous, and it all worked, with the bird whirring towards us then gliding in to land on the snow perhaps fifty yards below us: whereupon it began walking straight up the snowfield in our direction. Great! Cameras were quickly in action and Steve reappeared above the bird, sliding downhill on his backside to undertake his own subtle approach. Needless to say after a while the bird left, giving us a last fine view of it crossing some of the whiter parts of the landscape before finally vanishing round the North side of the mountain. We returned to the chairlift and rode down, which I found to be far more fearsome than the ride up due to the landscape falling steeply away in front of you instead of looking at a fairly close slope. Aaaaaargh!

The blotchy male Ptarmigan was still below the chairlift, now accompanied by his gleaming white mate, and I managed some shots as we descended past them. The real treat however was a magnificent cock Red Grouse right underneath us, giving me an unusual photographic angle.

Back at the car we took time out for a cuppa then made off down the glen, through Braemar and then up that route beloved of radio 2 traffic news, the Tomintoul road. It was snow-free, ice-free, dry and being scorched by the sun on this marvellous spring afternoon, and we went quickly over the hills and down into Speyside to find our digs and prepare for the next wildlife session of the day.

John

To be continued, and its getting time for some pictures as well!
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Old Wednesday 23rd March 2016, 21:40   #63
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Some first day pictures:

Greyhen
Blackcock
Red Squirrel
The Grampians, looking NW from the Cairnwell

John
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Old Wednesday 23rd March 2016, 21:43   #64
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And some more:

Mountain Hare
Steve
Ptarmigan X 2

John
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Old Wednesday 23rd March 2016, 21:47   #65
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Last lot for now:

Mountain Hare X 2
Ptarmigan X 2
Red Grouse

John
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Old Thursday 24th March 2016, 18:33   #66
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Bags and gear settled into our accommodation, a quick turn round and brush-up, and back into the car for the first of our evening sessions at Speyside Wildlife's hide near Loch an Eilein. On arrival we were met by the guide, Jonathan, and had views of roding Woodcock overhead while waiting for the other two people who were sharing the hide with us.

Once we were safely inside Jon went out to place the bait for the animals we were hoping to see: peanuts, peanut butter positioned carefully on trees and branches, and a single raw egg for the first-comer. No jam: apparently there is now good evidence that it not only rots the animals' teeth but can lead to diabetes, so responsible baiters take note.

We didn't have to wait too long for our first visitor: a Badger. Northern Scottish Badgers are quite a lot smaller than the bruisers we get in the South: about two-thirds the size (though we had been telling Clare they were the size of Water Voles.) This McMinimus Badger ambled about hoovering up peanuts and stretched up a few times against stumps and tree-trunks for a peanut butter treat. It was joined or replaced by two more: I don't remember seeing all three together. I was quite surprised because in past visits I have seen the whole tribe of eight or so out together but apparently in late winter/early spring individual efforts are more usual.

Anyway, this was all very well and entertaining, and we were getting a few Badger pictures using the amazing low-light performance of modern cameras (no flash allowed at the hide) as well as finding a Rannoch Sprawler that had come to the light on a window frame, but frankly Badger was not what we came for..... Jon kept insisting our target would be there in a minute. After a couple of hours this was starting to reach the credibility of the answer to "Are we nearly there yet?" and the tension was ratcheting up as we were only expecting about a two hour session. Jon didn't seem disposed to throw us out and we weren't going to invite him to, so we were still there at 2145 when finally a Pine Marten turned up to get the party really started. Hurrah!

It was a nearly four-year-old female (in fact the individual I saw at the same venue last year. Nice to catch up!) Small and lithe, with a thick winter coat, she climbed up onto the main tree outside the hide and made her way down a strategically positioned branch, licking off peanut butter as she went. Photo opp! Then she dined on the nuts themselves, scattered in profusion on the marten table at eye level near the hide window.

Finally she stole the egg - which normally went to the local alpha female, so she'd be popular - and took it away to cache or eat at her leisure in the darkness. Cue exultation, particularly for Clare and Barry who had each just had a mammal tick. As organiser I was more relieved. Pressure off on the first night - and we had another session set for Friday evening as backup. From Steve's point of view this was just as well, because the lens he had brought simply hadn't permitted him settings that would work in the difficult light. His 100mm f2.8 was back at the house.

We had now been on the move for 23 hours and nobody had any difficulty sleeping once we got back to our accommodation. Due to the long day we set no alarms, judging that when our bodies decided it was time to wake up would be soon enough.

John

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Badger (Form "McMinimus")
Pine Marten X 4
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Old Thursday 24th March 2016, 19:16   #67
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Fantastically evocative write-up and great pics! I can't tell you how jealous I am, the only Pine Marten I've seen was sadly dead in the road here last April.
Good luck with the rest of the trip.

Chris
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Old Thursday 24th March 2016, 19:51   #68
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Fantastically evocative write-up and great pics! I can't tell you how jealous I am, the only Pine Marten I've seen was sadly dead in the road here last April.
Good luck with the rest of the trip.

Chris
Beech Martens are quite common in Bulgaria, at least in the northeast. I saw four in as many days just by driving around quiet country roads at night.
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Old Thursday 24th March 2016, 21:20   #69
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Wow, great report! And first time I see a mammal on Photo-branch (the picturesque branch covered with lichen or moss, which bird photographers usually put near the food to photograph birds on nice background).
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Old Tuesday 29th March 2016, 21:34   #70
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Thank you one and all - sorry for the delay, had a fairly busy Easter of which more later! In the meantime, onwards through Scotland.

I was woken from a deep sleep by others moving around, which meant no guilt about getting up and waking anyone else. Considering there were four independent people with differing morning routines we got sorted and on the road fairly quickly: Clare had managed to spot a Red Squirrel in the back garden while all this was going on and before we left I put up my trailcam facing a birch tree which suddenly and very unexpectedly bloomed peanut butter and a peeled hard-boiled egg.

First stop was Loch Garten RSPB car park. The reserve centre was shut and there was a firm but fair notice forbidding access to the Osprey centre up the track as birds were already in the area and they prefer to give them total peace to settle in. No matter: we arrived to find photographers already seated in deckchairs with lenses trained on a variety of mounted sticks with lovely lichen, moss, peeling bark and peanut butter. The trunks of one Scots Pine and one Birch had received the same treatment and the area looked like the bird equivalent of the Tesco's lager aisle the morning before the final of the Champions' League.

There were many Chaffinches, overwhelmingly smart breeding plumaged males with only a couple of dowdy females: Great and Blue Tits, but the Parids mostly represented by hordes of lightning-fast Coal Tits: occasional visits from the hulking form of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and best of all, within a few minutes our first of numerous visits from that Highland speciality the Crested Tit.

It was, as the previous morning, overcast, and the light could have been better, but we rattled away with the cameras and seemed to be getting some decent results despite the additional hazard and obscuration provided by a smoking tog in the front row. More than slightly inconsiderate to fellow-birders and wildlife alike, I should say....

We could hear Pink-feet going over in the mist, we had a few fly-over Crossbills of indeterminate but presumably Common types - certainly the calls were light jips, not bass jups or joops (I've often thought the last must be Yorkshire or Lancashire Crossbills - joop joop, lad), though I refuse to subscribe to the madness of types A to ZZZ, or low A flat to high G sharp or whatever the current Crossbill piffle is. Siskins were likewise elusive, which rendered our lack of access to the centre more frustrating as normally there are dozens at the gigantic drainpipe peanut feeder there.

Gradually the cloud began to thin and a touch of warmth suggested it would break up - perhaps already had in the mountains? We went to find out, pausing at Carrbridge to look for Dippers but seeing only a Sparrowhawk that may have explained why they were keeping a low profile.

On a windless - literally windless, that rare day in the Highlands - sunny day with a dome of blue from ridgeline to ridgeline, the place to go near Speyside is the headwaters of the Findhorn, up along a single track road that wends its way through pine woods and scrubby juniper and open grassy hillside shot with scree, one minute at river level the next tiptoeing along a hundred or more feet above it before descending to the flat floor of the U-shaped valley where it forks and finishing at a public car park (small - ten vehicles parked well, or four or five scattered carelessly) just shy of Coignafearn Lodge.

The Findhorn Valley holds Golden Eagles and offers a reasonable chance of White-tailed as immatures seem to choose it as a good place to hang out for carrion as they grow up. It has Peregrines, often Merlins, Kestrels and Buzzards in plenty, Ravens croaking their way across the sky and also all three of Britain's Lagomorphs. I've had Rabbit, Brown Hare and Mountain Hare all in the bins at once in the past. There are large herds of Red Deer and small numbers of Sika - the latter stick to the low ground and woods while the Reds head up onto the bare hills each day and overnight in the valley floor. There is also a colony of feral goats, shaggy mad-eyed beasts not afraid to square up to a Red Stag and more than capable of butting a troll off a bridge. No easy meals here.... I like the goats, and look forward each year to recognising individuals from their multi-coloured coat patterns.

On this particular day the Red Deer were miles away up the hills and unfortunately so were the Feral Goats: fortunately Clare spotted the latter when they poked their heads above the ridge as they fed high on the North side, or we might have missed them altogether.

Raptor-wise we had to wait for the real excitement, though a Marsh Harrier tracking East along the North ridge made for an interesting sighting. It was followed after a long fallow period (apart from a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly that made for a most unexpected year-tick) by an adult female Peregrine that emerged over the same ridge and circled for a while before setting off across the valley. Close and distant Buzzards flattered to deceive, but we were not going to be fooled by Tourist Eagles.

Finally a minibus of tour-guided birders drew up and began to disgorge its contents at some speed, as the guide/driver asked if we'd seen the bird against the opposite slope. We hadn't, but as it in turn emerged above the Southern ridge the yell of identification was immediate and definite: a huge immature Golden Eagle casually soared out over the valley and began to circle up, offering excellent views not quite into the sun.

After a few circles, as it rose on the thermal and Steve desperately struggled with a 1.4 converter that thought this was a good moment to refuse to lock onto his 500mm lens, the bird was assaulted by the big female Peregrine. Frankly it didn't take much notice, rolling slightly to present a talon to it but otherwise continuing to circle up. Having rattled off a few shots myself and unwilling to see Steve cast either himself or his camera into the torrent, I intervened and luckily the recalcitrant converter decided discretion was the better part of valour and locked on properly under my fingers. Steve opened fire and I returned to my own shooting.

Eventually the eagle reached the top of its thermal and glided away into the hills. We hung on for a while but it didn't return, and by now we had interrogated the guided group who had seen two more Goldies and a White-tailed Eagle near the Farr Road junction further down the valley. We went in search but of course the eagles were long gone. Amazing how these big birds can disappear so easily into the landscape, especially when they spend much of their time high above it. Patience is needed - after four hours in the valley we had got the benefit of that!

With the afternoon going but the sun still beating down (I was quite worried I might have got burnt, as my skin is fair and vulnerable and I had actually ejected sunblock from my luggage - doh!) I suggested a walk in the woods to look for more Crested Tits and perhaps some Crossbills. We followed a nice forest track through fairly decent pine woodland and had the sound of a few Crested Tits buzzing in the distance, but from the movement of the calls the birds were rocketing around the forest and pretty much uncatchable. What we needed was to blunder into birds, and the fact that we had done this was announced with a great crash as of falling timber, followed by the awe-inspiring sight of a mighty male Capercaillie, perfectly lit by bright sunshine behind us, rowing itself through the air across the clearing we were passing to disappear all too soon into the thickest woodland. Nobody reached for a camera or even bins, we just enjoyed the privilege of seeing rather more than just a retreating Caper backside.

Inwardly warmed by this magnificent sight we returned to the car after further fruitless Crestie listening along the track and finished the day with a brief visit to the Cairngorm car park (nothing) and Loch Morlich, where a single adult Whooper Swan lingered, up-ending to feed distantly under the eaves of the mountains. Half a dozen Goldeneye made up numbers but declined to give close views.

We took the easy option of dinner at La Taverna opposite the bottom of the ski road and retired fairly early. My trailcam had caught a Red Squirrel bounding up the birch tree - nice.

John

Last edited by Farnboro John : Tuesday 29th March 2016 at 21:41.
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Old Wednesday 30th March 2016, 07:12   #71
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Another great write-up John!

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Old Thursday 31st March 2016, 17:52   #72
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Some pix from 17th March, first off at LGRSPB car park:

Chaffinch
Coal Tit
Crested Tit
Chaffinch
Crested Tit

John
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Old Thursday 31st March 2016, 17:55   #73
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Now "up the Findhorn":

Findhorn Valley
Feral Goats (record shot, apologies)
Golden Eagle X 3

John
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Old Thursday 31st March 2016, 18:00   #74
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Finally a little episode I missed out. When we moved on from Coignafearn Lodge we had to stop to avoid running over Common Toads that were climbing up from the damp valley bottom to dive into their breeding ditch just on the uphill side of the road (there were already some flat ones but it wasn't us, honest.)

Bright sun and Toads on the move! We jumped out and encouraged those in the road to move on quickly, and when it was clear waved the car through to resume our journey.

John

Common Toad
Toad Crossing Guard
Cairngorm from Loch Morlich
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Old Wednesday 6th April 2016, 19:38   #75
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I'm sorry about the further delay. When I have a choice between computer and going out wildlife-watching, I go out! Currently I have 180 photos to process from the last week and a half, and I really must get them done before this weekend. However, I will try to move this tale on as well.

Friday was our second shot at the Speyside Wildlife hide, but that wasn't till evening so you'll have to wait a bit for it.

In the morning we went for a walk in the woods, keeping rigidly to broad vehicle tracks and taking note of the Capercaillie lekking warning notices put up by the vehicle barriers. We couldn't understand why there wasn't a notice hammered into the ground by the parking place at the bottom of the obvious footpath directly into the woods. Stupid: its the obvious direction for an innocent birder to take, and would cause them to journey into the heart of Caper habitat without seeing any warning signs. Frankly, the warnings along the main tracks serve only to tell grockles who otherwise might well pass in ignorance, that these are Caper woods.

I read the Capercaillie Biodiversity Action Plan before we went to Scotland, and that was very clear that Caper activity involving less than two males does not constitute lekking. Obviously the BAP was framed to exclude rogue males from consideration.

Anyway, we heard some Crested Tits scorching about deep in the woods, but given their ready availability at Garten were not tempted off the tracks: several Crossbills flew over calling and we heard one singing, which was quite possibly a first for me. Certainly I can't remember hearing the song before. Didn't hear any odd Crossbill calls, though, all bog-standard Commons to my ear.

Anyway, the weather was dull and so was the birding, so we decided to go to Nethy Bridge to clear up a bird that had been dodging us effortlessly: if there is a better place for Dipper (from a consistency angle) I don't know where it is. I was extolling its virtues to the others, so of course when we arrived there were none on view. I headed upstream where a footpath follows the Nethy in a small wooded ravine and the stream bubbles and chuckles over gravel, stretches of rapids, and low falls. Its very Dippery, but this morning the birds were using some other bit of its course. I walked half a mile, saw nothing and turned back, to find Steve just catching me up. I turned again and we went on further, but the result was the same.

We hadn't long turned back - in my case, for the second time - when my phone went and Clare told me she and Barry had a Dipper by the road bridge back in the village. We increased speed and luckily when we arrived back there the bird was still showing, feeding desultorily in between gathering nesting material. It was very nice to see and having snapped a couple of photos we watched it for some while - it was after all the first decent bird of the day.

I then noticed a bunch of birds coming to feeders just the other side of the road bridge and wandered over to find Siskins and Lesser Redpolls showing well although mostly by a particularly offensive lime-green feeder. Nice to see, nevertheless, and I managed to get some pictures among the willow and alder branches.

From there we wandered nearer to Grantown, trying several overview spots to scan the tops of forest tracts for loafing Capercaillie, without success. Given that we might not have much time in the evening for a meal we ate at a café in Grantown which did decent and quite reasonably priced food, then drove up to Lochindorb for Red Grouse and hopefully Black-throated Diver.

Lochindorb is amazing for Red Grouse. The moors come right down to the loch shores and the birds are stupidly approachable, often on foot let alone in the car. We managed to get photo-opportunities even for Clare with her 200mm telephoto: Steve and I with our Canon primes occasionally had trouble fitting whole birds in. Having got portraits we became ambitious and hopped out to try for flight shots. After several stalks and more particularly after first I then Steve circled round behind individuals to make them fly towards a waiting cameraman, it occurred to me that what we were doing was essentially driven grouse shooting.....

We also scanned the loch and found a summer-plumaged Black-throated Diver meandering about quite distantly but offering splendid scope views. Possibly the best Diver in the world....

Back to the house, and a bit of relaxation before kitting up for the evening.

John
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