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Scottish Highlands and beyond... (1 Viewer)

Tri-Counties Birder

AKA The Portland Naturalist
I realise that Scotland is old tat to many of you, but I hope that those who have yet to visit find my trip report interesting (and perhaps useful, but I do feel an obligation to Speyside to keep the location of some of the sites visited vague – sorry about that).

I did visit the area (as well as Mull etc.) in 2009 on my own, and although I did see a few of the specialties, I missed out on a few keys ones.

It wasn't my choice (I went with my local RSPB group), but this trip was run by Speyside Wildlife. I realize that many people do greatly prefer finding their own birds (including me!) rather than being 'handed them on a plate', but I think it was important to go out with people who knew the area intimately, and knew where the best spots were, at least once so you know where to go next time (I will undoubtedly be coming back!). I did find many of the key birds myself anyway; Speyside just brought us to the right spots.

You can't argue with the results, as thanks to the fantastic Speyside team, we pretty much cleared up on all the specialties, not without more than a little luck however! Here we go.

Day 1 - 11th May

I drove all the way up from Surrey, only stopping for lunch on the M74, before arriving at Bridgend Farm pools near Glasgow for a twitch. It did take some finding, but managed to spot the corking drake Blue-winged Teal in the end, consorting with a female Shoveler, and it went on to show really well. An unexpected lifer! Both these species, plus Canada Goose were not seen on the main trip.

On the way up the A9 I stopped off at various promising-looking laybys. One particular layby (No. 46) near Killiecrankie overlooking the River Garry, got me an early Dipper, as well as 2 Peregrine, Common Sandpiper, and a few Raven. A great start! I arrived at our hotel in the lovely town of Grantown-on-spey early evening. We were staying here rather than Speyside’s usual accommodation due to the large size of our group. We were staying at the Grant Arms, which I would highly recommend, particularly due to the mine of info it has about the wildlife and the sites of the area (including a latest sightings board).

Day 2 - 12th May

What with all the excitement, I struggled to sleep, and when I awoke at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep, I figured it was a good excuse to get out and do some birding! Luckily, it was just a short walk down to some pristine Caledonian forest at Anagach Woods. It’s supposed to have all the specialties in it, so I thought it was worth doing the entire 3 hour red route! Siskin and Redpoll seemed to be everywhere round the wood, and a few Redstart (my first of the year) were singing well, though hard to see. A Cuckoo was singing, and a Treecreeper was seen well. I scanned all the forest floors for Capers, without success. I realise now that perhaps I was neglecting the high tree branches a little. It wasn’t until about ¾ into the walk till I heard a Crested Tit. Luckily, I found it above my head, as it sung well. I only heard one other, which I found surprising (I discovered why later). I thought they would be everywhere in there! Shortly after, I was standing still on the path, when two Red Squirrel run down the path and right past my feet! I assume it was two males too engrossed in their chase to notice me. At one point I thought they were going to jump on me (I was wearing camo gear)! I later saw two more, engaging in similar behavior, but round a tree.

On the way to our first proper birding excursion, we went past a field with a few Greylag Goose in it. I then noticed that there was a couple of Pink-footed Goose amongst them. I wasn’t expecting that!

Then, it was onto an unpromising looking hillside along a stretch of the old A9. We immediately had a Mountain Hare in view, and the more we looked, the more we found. Their camouflage was impressive, with just their pale legs giving their location away when they moved. On the same hillside we found the hoped-for Ring Ouzel. We heard a male singing, and it took ages to locate him. But, once we did, we found his mate was not far away, and later someone found another pair foraging further along the hillside, at the grassy entrance to a small cave.

From here, we went into a beautiful nearby valley. Pretty much as soon as we entered the valley, I noticed a distant raptor, which Craig (the leader) decided to stop our little convoy for. It was worth doing, as it turned out to be an immature White-tailed Eagle soaring over a distant mountain. This bird had been about the area for some time, but we certainly didn’t expect to bump into it! It drifted away and out of view, so we carried on in the hope of intercepting it further down the valley. On the way, we found some nice Mountain Goat, and a pair of late-boxing Brown Hare. At the end of the drivable bit, we stopped for a cuppa. I wasn’t really interested in the coffee though, as the mountain ridges were crying out to be scanned. Shortly after starting, I picked up a Golden Eagle soaring around quite close to us (as eagles go!), I called out, but everyone was too busy with their drinks to notice! It went out of view pretty soon after, and could not be re-found. After tea, we were shown a Peregrine nest high on a cliff in an old Raven nest, and we could just about make out the female sitting tight in the increasing wind. It was nice to see and hear a displaying Snipe here too. Just before we left, the White-tailed Eagle was picked out again, this time coming straight towards us from down the valley. I thought at one stage it was going to pass over our heads, but sadly it veered off and went behind a mountain. A slightly better view! The lunch spot was by a bridge, which happened to have a Dipper nest under it! We got great views of both of the pair coming back and forth with food.

On the way to our next destination, we drove slowly along some moorland in the hope of Grouse. This proved no problem with a number of Red Grouse seen, including some metres from the van.

The last stop of the day was to the famous Loch Ruthven. It was no surprise to find the Slavonian Grebe showing well, with at least 6 individuals about. There was also a pair of Little Grebe, which proved the only ones of the trip. What was more of a surprise however, were a reeling Grasshopper Warbler by the car park, and two Osprey which drifted over an adjacent hillside for some time. They looked like they were heading for the loch, but they kept doubling back and lingering about. Most odd!

In the evening, there was an optional visit to Speyside’s own hide on the Rothiemurchus estate. When we got there, two Woodcock were chasing around, and a Red Deer herd was feeding in a field. We settled in for the long-haul. Before it was dark, I suddenly noticed a shape moving along a bank between two trees. I only got a glimpse, but what I saw was a cat-shaped animal with a bushy tail. When I noticed it I called ‘Fox’, but that was only because I saw the bushy tail and made a snap judgment. Evidently, it seems Foxes are very rare there. It may sound a little stringy, but I’m pretty convinced it was a Wild Cat! Apparently the feral hybrids are unknown from that area. Craig has only seen two Wild Cats there before! It was an hour or so after dark till the first Badger appeared, and it began hoovering up the peanuts. A total of 5 animals visited, and it was wonderful watching them at close quarters in the spotlights. Between them they soon exhausted the peanut supply and staggered off into the night. Not long after, the surveillance cameras picked up the unmistakable shape of an incoming Pine Marten. The moment we’d all been waiting for! It immediately jumped up onto the table, and tucked into the sultanas (this individual’s favourite!). A gorgeous animal. It didn’t take long to finish them off, and it had a quick lick of the yummy peanut butter before moving on. We all left back for the hotel at 11:30, very happy! Because of the size of the group, we had to visit the hide over two nights, and would you believe the second group missed the Marten! I think myself extremely lucky. The hide is highly recommended.

What a first (proper) day!

Day 3 – 13th May

To the coast today. We headed north towards the Black Isle, and a day spent around the Moray and Cromarty Firths. A stop at a rest area provided our first view of the local Red Kite, as well as a singing Blackcap (which are scarce in speyside).

We carried on our journey, and ended up at the famous Channonry Point. As we approached through the golf course, we stopped to admire a Wheatear and a couple of unexpected White Wagtail. As soon as we arrived at the point, I spotted a passing Great Skua, though it soon disappeared into the sun. As always here, the Bottle-nosed Dolphin were spectacular, with a pod of 10 or so about, including lots of breaching. We set up behind a sheltered wall, which proved a good spot, as a couple of passing showers barely touched us. From here we spotted at least 3 passing Arctic Skua, including a particular dark-phase bird which spent a lot of time harassing the Terns. Talking of the Terns, there was a constant presence of birds fishing in the turbulent water at the tip of the point. In amongst the Common and Sandwich were a couple of Arctic Tern. A transitional-plumaged Black-throated Diver flew by, and an unexpected Manx Shearwater made a fly-past. Gannet, Kittiwake, Razorbill, and Guillemot were all present too, so it was easy to forget that this was a sheltered bay, and not the open sea viewed from a headland. As we were about to leave, a flock of 4 Long-tailed Duck went past. A smart spot!

On the way to our next proper stop, we went via some farmland, where we bumped into a few Tree Sparrow, as well as Yellowhammer. We also came across a number of Hooded Crow-like birds throughout the day, although apparently, we were very much inside the ‘hybrid zone’!

Once in the Cromarty Firth, we stopped for lunch at a pretty saltmarsh, which had a decidedly wintry feel to it. Not only were there yet more Pink-footed Goose there, but all the waders we saw (Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot) were in winter plumage! Offshore here were a good number of Eider, a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, as well as the remnants of the regular winter flock of Scaup.

A couple of other stops further up the coast produced excellent views of more Long-tailed Duck, as well as one of the only Whitethroat of the trip.

Day 4 – 14th May

Another day spent at the coast. This time we checked out various sites along the coast of Moray.

We started off at Burghead Harbour, where a Rock Pipit and Sparrowhawk were immediately present. We started scanning the sea. It hadn’t escaped my attention that White-billed Divers had been seen in this area recently. Sadly, little was to be seen except a distant Red-throated Diver and the expected stuff. We took a quick look at the other side of the peninsula, and this turned out to be much better. A flock of Turnstone were the only new species for the trip list, but there was a great deal to entertain. Kittiwake, more Arctic Tern, a Great Skua, and a Black-throated Diver all passed close-in. Further out were a flock of Common Scoter, a Fulmar, an Arctic Skua, and some Long-tailed Duck also went by.

On the way to the next stop, I very fortuitously put my bins on a pair of Grey Partridge by the roadside.

Our next site came recommended as a place to see fishing Osprey. As we approached it, I could immediately see a hovering Osprey close-in. The bird showed well for most of the visit, and did make a couple of dives, though unsuccessful, were no less spectacular for that. As we scanned the river mouth, there was a nice flock of loafing Goosander, as well as the only Gadwall of the trip. A singing Sedge Warbler was also the only one of the week. A small flock of waders flew in, and these turned out to be a few Ringed Plover amongst Dunlin, some in summer-plumage. A single Whimbrel flew across the river mouth, and a suspicious-looking Barnacle Goose flew in. We then decided to give the flat-calm sea a good going over. A flock of 5 Red-throated Diver flew in to join a couple of others, one of which was close-in and in summer plumage. I excitedly picked up a large summer-plumaged Diver a fair distance out, but this turned out to be a Great Northern Diver (not complaining!). There was also another really smart bird close-in near to the Red-throated.

We finally ended up in another similar river mouth down the coast, which was far more ordinary. We did however see the spectacle of Arctic Skua ending up heading inland over the town! Another flock of Pink-footed Goose flew over, and singles of Grey and Common Seal were popping their heads up offshore. On the way back to base across some moorland, I noticed a Red Grouse by the road.

Day 5 – 15th May

We headed out at 5 this morning, for a very good reason. We had to get out to the RSPB’s Caper watch at Loch Garten. We did however jump the gun a little and were a bit early. We therefore took a quick look at some roadside seasonal pools which had in the past produced waders. Sadly none were present, only a pair of Teal, more Pink-footed Goose, and a flyover Peregrine. We were just heading down one of the narrow forest roads, when we came across a couple of cars stopped on the verge, one with its hazards on. We weren’t really sure what was going on, till we got closer, and Craig shouted ‘’Displaying male Capercaillie by the road!’’. I must admit that the early start meant that we were all a bit dozy, but that woke us up! We sneaked up behind the other car and parked. There he was, right in front of us on the other verge, doing his thing, and was a beauty! It was at this point that I realised that the camera that I carry everywhere with me was in the boot, damn! I asked Craig if I could go the back and get it, and he warned me to be as slow and quiet as possible, as rogue males like this have been known to attack people! Everyone’s hearts were in their mouths as I returned unscathed, carefully closing the boot. Something which another one of our party failed to do! Luckily, the Caper hardly batted an eyelid. It was more interested in the cars, and at one point moved towards the wheel of the car in front, and began to attack it! Hats off to the driver, who did not attempt to scare it off! We sat and watched it for some time, marvelling at every detail of its plumage, as well as every sound of its complex display. It’s not like we could go anywhere anyway, as the road was somewhat blocked! Craig went on to explain that he did know of this bird, but was not expecting for a minute for it to turn up. It did eventually move off, and it was almost a greater thrill to see it displaying off in its element, looking through the trees. Needless to say, we felt extremely lucky!

Having mopped that up earlier than expected, we moved on to a Black Grouse lek site. Could we possibly see both dark grouse species displaying in one morning? Well, no, as it turned out we were a little late in the year to see these birds displaying, so we had to make do with a very distant view of two males on a moorland hillside. This was a nice spot though, as it also had a singing Whinchat on the overhead wires, as well as a pair of Goldeneye on a nearby pond.

Still with a little time, we decided we may as well take a quick look at Loch Garten itself. There was not a great deal to be seen on the water, except a male Wigeon. But, in the branches above us, two Crested Tit chased through the trees. It appeared to be pair courtship feeding. It’s apparently quite late, and most birds are already paired up, and so are quiet.

That was all before breakfast remember! Afterwards, we planned to head back out into the Caledonian forest. First, we headed to a secret Osprey nest on the way to Kingussie. The birds were of course easy to see, but it was great to watch the female bird flying about, and being mobbed by Crows. Later, the male came into the nest with a small fish.

We then visited a lovely forest site near Glen Feshie. There didn’t appear to be a great deal here at first, just the usual suspects. That was until we heard a Crossbill fly over, and managed to follow it flying, as it landed atop a pine. It was a female bird, and the bill was clearly rather chunky. Craig (like many others) is rather sceptical of the whole concept of Scottish Crossbills, however, he proclaimed that this bird was ‘definitely not a Parrot, or a Common, so make your own minds up.’ I did! Scottish Crossbill it is! We later had a flock of about 10 Crossbill fly over the car park in addition. We were rather lucky, as Crossbills apparently were particularly scarce this year. I was surprised to learn that about ¾ of the Crossbills in the area were Parrot, with the others Scottish-types!

We did then take a quick look at the Loch Garten Osprey centre, and we realised just how good our views of the nest we visited earlier were! The only other more unusual sightings here were a Red Squirrel on the feeders, and a female Red-breasted Merganser on Loch Morlich. On the way back to the hotel, another Dipper was spotted on a river from the van.

Day 6 - 16th May

On this day we took the three hour drive north to the famous Handa Island on the north-west coast. It was a fair distance to go, but I’d say it was well worth it! From the van, we spotted 2 Red Kite, a pair of Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, our first proper Hooded Crow, and our first Stonechat of the trip (a juvenile). On the way, we stopped at a very picturesque loch, which happened to have a pair of Black-throated Diver nesting on a custom-built raft. The views were fairly distant, but it was clear that these were stunning birds.

We finally arrived at the hamlet of Tarbet, where the boat goes from. It was clear that this area was bird-filled from the word go, as just offshore in the tiny bay were Guillemot, Razorbill, Eider, Shag, and best of all, a pair of Black Guillemot. A Cuckoo flew across the bay being pursued by a Meadow Pipit, and there was a small flock of pure (and tickable) Rock Dove around the café. Then, as we were about to leave, I heard the distinctive call of Twite, and I just caught a glimpse of a pair as they flew over the ridge. I then looked over to Handa itself, and immediately saw a Buzzard being mobbed by a cloud of Great Skua! I was itching to get over there!

The boat journey was pretty uneventful, but as we landed at the tiny beach, it was crawling with birds. There was a small flock of summer-plumaged Dunlin, a nesting Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, and a White Wagtail, all at point-blank range. After the talk from the Scottish Wildlife Trust warden, we headed off up the hill towards the Skua colony. On the way, we came across a very tame Red Grouse, a fly-over Golden Plover, more migrating Pink-footed Goose, 3 Arctic Tern, as well as a close Raven. The Bonxies were of course spectacular, with plenty of argy-bargy and calling. They did on occasion take a closer look at us, but didn’t attack! I wouldn’t like to be here when they have chicks! We then came across a freshwater pool in the centre of the island. Even though the Bonxies would be rather unhappy if any of the others entered their nesting territory, here at the pool they were perfectly amicable, as at least 40 birds enjoyed a wash. It was rather amusing watching them completely invert and contort their bodies into all sorts of shapes, to try and get the water into every nook and cranny! Despite this Skua spectacular, there was only a couple of Arctic Skua present, and they were only seen distantly, which was a shame. But, the other seabirds nesting at the ‘great stack’ made up for that. All the expected suspects were present, including one or two Puffin. One of our group then spotted a Great Skua on the water with a struggling Guillemot. It quickly dispatched the unfortunate bird by holding it underwater, and started to tuck in. Another Bonxie was hanging around, and eventually the original bird allowed it to start picking at the carcase too. We then noticed that a few Fulmar were starting to take an interest in the commotion. Suddenly, one of the Fulmar rushed in, and bullied the Skuas off the kill! We couldn’t quite believe what we were witnessing, as the Skuas backed off a little, and eventually scarpered! A couple of other Fulmar, and then a Great Black-backed Gull all tried to get in on the act, but the original bird chased them all off! Remarkable behaviour! I’m sure the threat of being oiled kept the other birds at bay! Even Craig had never seen such an event before.

We returned back to the boat, having had a great day, in the best weather that Handa had seen so far in the year!

Day 7 – 17th May

It was a very fitting last day, as we took in the unique environment of the Cairngorms.

On the way up to Cairn Gorm itself, we stopped at a car park, and had great views of a singing Ring Ouzel, this time not drowned out by road noise!

As we drove up to the funicular railway, we spotted several Red Grouse, but we then had the spectacle of a pair running onto the road, with the male chasing the female alongside us for a while!

We took our place on the train alongside a load of skiers and snowboarders, to get up to the Ptarmigan café at the summit. We were worried that the low cloud-base may envelop the area in fog. Luckily, as we approached, we could see it was pretty clear, despite a great deal of worrying thick cloud all around. Through the maze of stairs and doors, we eventually made it out onto the balcony, into surprisingly mild and wind-free conditions! There were already a few birders out there, and they informed us that both our target birds were in view below! I managed to spot the Dotterel, but they were an absolute nightmare to direct other people to! It was a constant stream of ‘on the large green patch with the flat rock on it, near a pink rock’ etc. in a landscape of such features! There were four birds in all, and we were rather lucky, as they had only just arrived from their wintering grounds, and they all flew off up into the clouds shortly after! Apparently there was a Ptarmigan in the same area as the Dots, but try as I might, I could not find it. I therefore started scanning the surrounding ridges, and to my surprise found a pair of Ptarmigan strutting about in the snow. They soon took off, with their white-wings flashing. They went on to show pretty well to the group, as they flew back and forth, possibly a male perusing a female? Anyway, I did manage to find the bird down below us eventually (a female), but its camouflage was ridiculously good. Sometimes, you would lose it, and then realise that you were looking straight at it all along! A Wheatear was the only other bird up there, but we did see a herd of semi-wild Reindeer! We descended, very happy.

We stopped for lunch at the smart spot we went to before with the Osprey nest. The male bird gave as a neat display, including a couple of dummy dives (dropping towards the water, then veering away at the last minute)! All the usual suspects were about, including a close pair of Goldeneye. I then picked up a dot in the distance off towards some mountains. As it drifted closer, I noticed a sparkling white tail with black tip. It was an immature Golden Eagle! With the ID confirmed by Craig, I watched it for ages at it made its way across the landscape. It did drift closer, and just before I lost it behind trees it was coming this way, sadly, it never arrived. Nice to see one though after a splinter group on the Handa day saw one ridiculously well!

We ended up at a lovely moorland loch which had yet another pair of Black-throated Diver on it, and we got better views than before. There were a number of Red Grouse around again, we came across a colony of Common Gull on the moor, and we got great views of a Cuckoo on a post by the road. We also saw our only Redshank of the trip.

Day 8 – 18th May

It was just a case of heading the 650 miles home today.
I decided to head for Edinburgh first, where a Surf Scoter had been seen offshore adjacent to Musselburgh. On the way, I noticed a sign to RSPB Vane Farm on the shores of Loch Leven. I thought it was worth a stop, and indeed I managed to add a load of species to the trip list including things like Magpie, Coot, Moorhen, and Great Crested Grebe! The best birds were a Little Ringed Plover, a Pochard, and yet more Pink-footed Goose. I eventually made it to Musselburgh, and I stopped at various points along the seafront, in the pouring rain! Visibility wasn’t too bad, and I did find the Scoter flock, though I could only see Common Scoter in there. Otherwise it was just the expected offshore stuff. A shame, but I shouldn’t complain considering the proceeding days, and amount of luck we experienced!

I got home safe, but very tired!

All in all, it was a rather spectacular trip, in a truly unique area. Get out there and experience it for yourselves.

Full list (birds seen on upward and downward journeys only in brackets):

Red-throated Diver – Moray coast (10+) + Handa (1)
Black-throated Diver – Channonry Pt (1), Moray coast (1), Loch near Ullapool (2) + Nr Grantown (2)
Great Northern Diver – Moray coast (2)
(Great Crested Grebe – Vane Farm)
Little Grebe – Loch Ruthven
Slavonian Grebe – Loch Ruthven (6+)
Fulmar – Various
Manx Shearwater – Channonry Pt (1)
Gannet - Various
Shag - Various
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Greylag Goose
Pink-footed Goose – everyday!
(Canada Goose – Bridgend Farm pools)
Barnacle Goose – Moray coast (1 probably feral)
Wigeon - Various
(Blue-winged Teal – Bridgend Farm pools (1))
Gadwall – Moray coast (4)
(Shoveler – Bridgend Farm pools + Vane Farm )
(Pochard – Vane Farm (1))
Tufted Duck – Moray coast (1)
Scaup – Cromarty Firth (c60)
Eider - Various
Long-tailed Duck – Channonry Pt (4), Cromarty Firth (10+), + Moray coast (10)
Common Scoter – Moray coast (c30)
Goldeneye – Abernethy Forest (4) + Nr Glen Feshie (4)
Red-breasted Merganser - Various
Goosander – Channonry Pt (2), Moray coast (c30), + Loch Droma (2)
Red Kite – North Kessock (1) + Contin (2)
White-tailed Eagle – Monadhliath mountains (1)
Golden Eagle – Monadhliath mountains (1) + Nr Glen Feshie (1)
Osprey – Various
Peregrine – Monadhliath mountains (1) + Spey valley seasonal pools (1)
Red Grouse – Various
Ptarmigan – Cairn Gorm (3)
Black Grouse – Abernethy Forest (2)
Capercaillie – Abernethy Forest (1)
Grey Partridge – Nr Elgin (2)
(Moorhen – Vane Farm)
(Coot – Vane Farm)
(Little Ringed Plover – Vane Farm (1))
Ringed Plover – Moray coast (10) + Handa (2)
Dotterel – Cairn Gorm (4)
Golden Plover – Handa (1)
Knot – Cromarty Firth (3)
Dunlin – Moray coast (c30) + Handa (6)
Snipe – Monadhlith mountains (1) + Handa (2)
Woodcock – Rothiemurchus (2)
Bar-tailed Godwit – Cromarty Firth (c50)
Whimbrel – Moray coast (1)
Redshank – Nr Grantown (1)
Common Sandpiper – Various
Turnstone – Moray coast (25)
Arctic Skua – Channonry Pt (3), Moray coast (5), + Handa (2)
Great Skua – Channonry Pt (1), Moray coast (1), + Handa (c50)
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake – Various
Sandwich Tern – Various
Common Tern
Arctic Tern – Channonry Point (2), Moray coast (10), + Handa (3)
Guillemot – Various
Razorbill – Various
Black Guillemot – Tarbet (2)
Puffin – Handa (4)
Rock Dove (pure) – Tarbet (3)
Collared Dove
Stock Dove – Nr Elgin (2)
Cuckoo – Various
Sand Martin
House Martin
Tree Pipit – Various
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit – Burghead (2) + Handa (4)
Grey Wagtail – Mondhaliath mountains (2)
Pied Wagtail/White Wagtail – WW: Channonry GC (2) + Handa (1)
Dipper – Mondhliath mountains (2) and River Spey (1)
Redstart – Various
Whinchat – Abernethy Forest (1)
Stonechat – Nr Tarbet (1)
Wheatear – Various
Ring Ouzel – Old A9 (4) + Cairn Gorm (1)
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Grasshopper Warbler – Loch Ruthven (1)
Sedge Warbler – Moray coast (1)
Whitethroat – Cromarty Firth (2) + Moray coast (1)
Blackcap – North Kessock (1) + Nr Glen Feshie (2)
Willow Warbler
Long-tailed Tit
Crested Tit – Anagach woods (2) + Loch Garten (2)
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
(Magpie – Vane Farm)
Carrion Crow
Hooded Crow (pure) – Ledmore (2) + Handa (1)
Raven – Various
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow – Black Isle (3)
Redpoll – Various
Twite – Tarbet (2)
Scottish Crossbill - Glen Feshie (1)
Yellowhammer – Black Isle (3) + Moray coast (1)
Reed Bunting

TOTAL: 130 (139)

I have plenty of footage, which, once edited, will be posted here as a link.
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Carpe Carpum
Staff member
Very well written report. It's a great area isn't it. You were lucky with the trip to Handa as they weren't crossing on the 14th. Not sure if you can answer this Sean but are Grey Partridges easy to pick up along the coast? It's one of my (many) bogey birds.

Thanks for sharing,

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Tri-Counties Birder

AKA The Portland Naturalist
Very well written report. It's a great area isn't it. You were lucky with the trip to Handa as the weren't crossing on the 14th. Not sure if you can answer this Sean but are Grey Partridges easy to pick up along the coast? It's one of my (many) bogey birds.

Thanks for sharing,


Your right, I'm not sure I can answer it accurately, but I got the impression that they are pretty frequent along the coastal farmland of Moray.

Whilst at the hotel I found a great book in their library called 'Breeding birds of North-east Scotland' or something like that. It has maps with distribution of all breeding species. I seem to remember that Grey Partridge was very widespread, particularly towards the coasts.
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David and Sarah
Great report.
We also thought it worthwhile to do the hide for the Pine Marten, with Speyside, the old guy who took us up showed us some pictures of wildcat, that he had taken so they do occur there.
We managed to find just about everything else from just the wildlife maps that Grant Hotel issue and a bit of chatting to other biders.

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