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Post Info TOPIC: Scottish Highlands


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RE: Scottish Highlands


A trip up to Spey Bay today with lots of good birds seen. An Osprey came in to fish on 3 separate occasions spooking everything in sight! Also seen were lots of Arctic Terns, a Sandwich Tern, Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Guillemot, Red-throated Diver, Kittiwake, Common Scoter and Gannet. Inland a few Yellowhammers and lots of Linnets.

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Had a trip over to the West coast of the Highlands on our holiday today. So different weather-wise from recent weeks in that it was murky and wet, raining lots of the time. We did our usual tour round and best spot for weather and sightings was Red Point near Gairloch. Here we had Wheatear inland but seawatching was the main thing. A very close Great Skua started it off and then was followed by Arctic Skua, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Black Gulliemot, Guillemot, Shag, Kittiwake and Arctic Tern. Later on we stopped at Gruinard Bay where a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver was the highlight. A shame about the weather but not a bad haul nonetheless.

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A couple of days on the shore of Loch Tay produced good views of Goshawk and Black-throated Diver. My first Chiffchaff of the year and a few flocks of Fieldfare passing through. Red Kites around Stirling on the journey.

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Just spent two days birding with Heatherlea, based in Nethy Bridge. Most of the Scottish specialities I had seen before and nothing new was seen on this trip. It was just good to get back up north in some stunning, wintry scenery in view of the recent heavy snowfalls, staying in a lovely hotel with quality food.

The first day was spent primarily in woodlands and on moors around Nethy Bridge and Carrbridge with the second day spread out on the coast, working our way westwards from Lossiemouth, taking in Burghead, Findhorn, Hopemen and Netherton. On Saturday morning we did our own thing, so spent the morning around the lower and upper Cairn Gorm car parks together with taking the funicular to the Ptarmigan Restaurant at just over 3500ft.

The weather throughout was very cold, around minus two each day and at times reaching minus nine. Windchill at the Ptarmigan Restaurant was minus sixteen. Snow blanketed the whole of Scotland from Gretna northwards and we very nearly didn't make Glasgow with terrible conditions on the M74. All three lanes were white over, all the traffic was using the first lane only and it was snowing very heavily.

Ninety six species were seen in all. There were highs and not so highs (I won't say lows because that's birding). I have birded before in the Burghead/Findhorn Bay areas and must say previously we have had much greater numbers of waterfowl and sea duck. We also drew a blank at an established Black Grouse lek, quite probably disturbance from several ponies feeding in a close by field. On the plus side we had flight views of a male Capercaille in a delightful woodland and had the bonus of a juvenile White tailed Eagle at Slochd Summit, east of Findhorn Valley. In the Valley itself we had incredible views of a minimum of five Golden Eagle with interaction between a pair chasing of a rogue bird. The first Golden Eagle we saw started off as the usual speck in the distance but kept coming and coming until it flew directly overhead. Finally, we dipped on Ptarmigan after a long search both up Cairn Gorm itself and around the lower/upper car parks. We did console ourselves with nice views of around forty Snow Bunting, a flock of 25-30 birds plus others here and there.

Of note :-

Red-throated Diver (c.6)
Black-throated Diver (2)
Great Northern Diver (3)
Gannet (1)
Shag
Whooper Swan (c.40)
Gadwall (1)
Pintail (c.35)
Wigeon
Teal
Eider
Common Scoter (c.50)
Velvet Scoter (1)
Long-tailed Duck (c.25)
Goldeneye (6)
Goosander (4)
Red-breasted Merganser (4)
White-tailed Eagle (1 juvenile)
Golden Eagle (min 5)
Capercaille (1)
Red Grouse (1000)
Black Grouse (2)
Red-legged Partridge (6)
Grey Partridge (2)
Ringed Plover (1)
Golden Plover (2)
Knot (350)
Purple Sandpiper (2)
Bar-tailed Godwit (c.15)
Woodcock (1)
Guillemot (1)
Razorbill (1)
Rock Pipit (1)
Waxwing (1)
Stonechat (2)
Blackcap (1)
Crested Tit (4)
Hooded Crow (1)
Siskin
Common Crossbill (3)
Snow Bunting (c.40)
Yellowhammer (2)





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Final full day of the holiday started with a trip to Loch Ruthven RSPB where we saw 5 Slavonian Grebes, a brood of 5 Tufted Ducks and 2 Swifts. Later after a bit of dragonflying we headed down the Findhorn Valley. On the way we saw 3 Red Kites and then within 3 minutes of arriving at the end Carys picked up an adult Golden Eagle which I managed to get in the scope. Several Buzzards flew over, flushing a pair of Peregrines from their nesting crag. A Kestrel and later a Sparrowhawk completed a real raptor-fest today! Not a bad end to another great holiday up in The Highlands.

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A bit more of a birdy day today with a visit up to Spey Bay. Always good on a rainy day like today due to the Scottish Dolphin Centre & fabulous Cafe there! Best birds of the day were 3 Arctic Skuas offshore chasing Arctic, Common & Sandwich Terns and 28 Whimbrel (final count pm) on a shingle spit. Also seen: an Osprey over the river, several Manx Shearwaters past, summer plumages Knot, Sanderling and Turnstone and a few Ringed Plover & Dunlin. Lots of Gannets plunge dived offshore but the only auk was 1 Razorbills. A flotilla of at least 80 Goosander were offshore, adults plus this years young. A few Eiders and Goldeneye were also on the sea. A male breeding plumaged Redpoll seemed out of place on the lagoon islands were a Willow Warbler also fed. A great day and as usual really nice volunteers there as well as scrumptious home-made cake & great coffee in the cafe!

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Not a lot on the bird front today. A Tree Pipit at Dell Woods, Nethy Bridge and Common Crossbills at Uath Lochans being the pick of the bunch. The Crossbills were heard, not seen, so Common was the safe ID option but as always up here they could have been something more interesting!

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Yep, it's a great place for Ospreys I agree, Andy, the only place I have ever digiscoped them in flight with any success! Ta for the extra info & thanks for your good wishes. Today we headed over to the west coast mainly for dragonflies but squeezed in a tiny bit of birding. Headed down to Shieldaig and with a bit of help from 2 kind locals eventually caught up with one of the two White-tailed Eagle young from this years nest here. Little else of note today,

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At the end of Loch Fleet at the mound is an osprey nest, and osprey regularly feed in the lochan on the west side of the A9 there. We saw 4 different birds there on the 1st June this year.
We always visit Loch Fleet when we go up there, dolphins often come into the loch at high tide as well.
Good luck with the rest of your visit

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Late report for Sunday 23rd. Had a trip up north inspired by a scarce species up there, but a trip that we regularly do whilst up here. A cracking journey over the Firth's of Moray, Beauly, Dornoch & Cromarty and we arrived at Embo. Here we searched for a while with no luck and decided to leave and call back later. As we drove out, on the road verge there was the adult Rose-coloured Starling! A vision in pink and black! I grabbed a few record shots as it fed up in a cherry tree, but most of time it was deep in the tree. Next we headed along Loch Fleet, a Nature Reserve just N.of Embo. Here we watched Eiders with broods of all ages, Red-breasted Mergansers with tiny, fluffy ducklings and several other species new for the holiday list. Hooded Crow, Sandwich Tern, Shelduck, Cormorant & Linnet were added amongst others. A brief return to Embo allowed much better pictures as the Rose-coloured Starling sunned itself on a bungalow roof. A picturesque route back across moorland and plantations added little to the daylist other than Grey Wagtail and Raven.

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Out again mainly doing insect things but a great supporting cast of birds! Headed up onto Meall Liath near Dalwhinnie through Caochan Woods. On the way up saw a hulk of a female Goshawk, what a cracker! Other sightings included a couple of Common Crossbills, lots of Siskins, a Goldcrest, Grey Wagtails and lots of Meadow Pipits. Late afternoon we popped in to a well known Osprey site on Loch Insh where we saw 3 Ospreys near the nest, adult and young.

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Some you win, some you lose!! I was on hol for the LbDowitcher & Stilt Sandpiper at Neumann's in the past so missing stuff because of holidays is just part of our game. Had a lifer subspecies of butterfly yesterday & can't grumble about what we're seeing at all. Also first holiday for about 10 months so I needed it! No regrets!

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I presume you will be nipping back for the Great White Egret at Newchurch Common. Unlucky timing. hmm.

Cheers, John

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Our first full day in The Highlands today and we again stayed in Speyside. A morning looking at butterflies but seeing breeding Grey Wagtails and Spotted Flycatchers on the River Spey was great. But even better was an afternoon trip to Lochindorb where we picked up Red-throated & Black-throated Divers on the Loch. There are signs along the road about the latter species so this isn't revealing anything that isn't already publicised. Also here were family parties of Red Grouse. A sad sight was upwards of 30 dead Common Gull young on the road to the Loch, from the Common Gull colony here but run over as they wandered onto the tarmac. Why drivers aren't more careful or caring I don't know, it was a gruesome sight with all the corpses littering the road. Close by at Dulsie the usual Red-legged Partridges were seen, the juveniles afforded great photographic opportunities.

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Up in The Highlands again on holiday, later than usual but a welcome break all the same. Our first half day, yesterday Thursday, was a drizzly afternoon staying local. First port of call was Loch Garten RSPB where we saw an Osprey even though they failed this year. But our main target took a wee bit longer. We scanned the distant trees for ages & Carys eventually found a Crested Tit picking at lichen. Also seen here were a nice Spotted Flycatcher, lots of Siskins, a Treecreeper and a family of Goldeneye. A walk along the Mallachie Trail nearby added a Common Sandpiper sitting 10 feet up in a tree calling!! Not a bad start and hopefully signs of things to come!

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Day 7 saw us visit a new location not far from our Nethy Bridge base. We headed directly North to Findhorn Bay. Arriving at the hide we had to make a quick call for the lock combination, then we could bird that area. We soon saw a Short-eared Owl, Dunlin, Sanderling & Knot and the biggest numbers of Ringed Plover I have ever seen. There were over 1000 birds, a huge passage of the Tundra race through this area. As I searched I was chuffed to find a Curlew Sandpiper, one had been seen recently but I never thought that I would find it. Later a Whimbrel was found too, again a bird seen on recent days. We then headed to the beach and started a seawatch. Without warning the wind switched round & a freak storm hit. As we watched an offshore yacht race was hit, all 10 boats beeing capsized. A full scale emergency followed with Lifeboats & Helicopter and sadly one fatality (which we only heard about later). During this time lots of birds were blown in close, with 500+Guillemots, 15 Puffins, 3 Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Fulmars and several terns. As quickly as the storm started it stopped, leaving calm & sunny conditions for the rest of the day, very unusual conditions indeed.

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Day 6 of the Scottish holiday saw us visit the West coast as we always do on one day. We started at Loch Maree but with the bad news that for the second year running no White-tailed Eagles had bred on the loch. In the past they even had a webcam on them so it was a well publicised location. But the info in the visitor centre at Benn Eighe was that a pair were at Sheildaig to the South. So we headed down there & sure enough after a short wait a magnificent White-tailed Eagle flew in with prey, giving fabulous views. Next we drove up to Red Point near Gairloch. The winds were so ferocious on this exposed headland that Great Skuas were flying over the car! Then on up to Gruinard Bay which held at least 5 summer plumaged Great Northern Divers & a Red-throated Diver too, as well as Black Guillemots and Ravens. Finally up to Ullapool for fish & chips by the harbour where after an extensive search I found the long-staying juvenile Glaucous Gull. A great day as ever way out west!

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For the second half of today on our holiday we headed up to the Moray coast. We started at Burghead heading down to the harbour. Here we had great views of Rock Pipits, Kittiwakes, Gannets, Fulmars, Guillemots, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Shag! Best of all was a pod of c.20 Bottle-nosed Dolphins close inshore fishing & breaching, magical later a trip to nearby Roseisle Forest produced Crested Tits on our first visit to this site.

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The rest of my holiday was spent in Kingussie, with time spent exploring the RSPB's Insh Marshes reserve, nearby Ruthven Barracks (the ruin itself is a wonderful place to stand and survey the habitat below it) and the various habitats on the opposite side of Kingussie. An afternoon, two full days and a couple of hours on the morning of the day I travelled home spent watching the wildlife. Highlights:

Insh Marshes / Ruthven Barracks

Willow warbler*
Sedge warbler
Spotted flycatcher
Long-tailed tit
Coal tit
Pied wagtail
Meadow pipit
Tree pipit
Reed bunting
Starling pair nesting in an old great spotted woodpecker nest
House martin
Sand martin
Swallow
Jackdaw everywhere
Great spotted woodpecker
Swift
Lapwing (including a couple of pairs with young)
Redshank
Snipe (drumming)
Oystercatcher (including a couple incubating, with one seen turning her eggs)
Curlew
Teal
Mallard (with young)
Greylag geese (with a few goslings, too)
Moorhen
Grey heron
Red-legged partridge
Buzzard
Osprey

With the usual woodland birds (song thrush, goldfinch, blue tit, blackbird, etc) seen around the woodlands.

As well as lapwing with young, others were behaving in a very agitated manner; one individual, in the space of a couple of minutes, dive-bombed a jackdaw, a redshank, another lapwing, and then, repeatedly, an incubating oystercatcher. It bombed, she ducked, it bombed, she ducked. She won.

A fantastic reserve, this, that's extremely quiet (I think on the first morning there I had the whole place to myself), which a great range of habitat (marsh, old birch / rowan woodland, upland heath, meadow, river) to explore.


Kingussie

Around the village itself and walking around it for a few miles on the side opposite to the reserve, you have lots of different habitats, including the fast flowing river Spey, pine woodlands, birch woodlands, meadows and moorland, which yielded a good variety of different species:

Goldcrest
Willow warbler*
Chiffchaff (two heard in a pine wood, the only ones I encountered in Scotland)
Coal tit
Long-tailed tit
Siskin
Lesser redpoll
Goldfinch
Chaffinch
Pied wagtail
Grey wagtail
Meadow pipit
Dipper
Robin newly fledged
Wheatear
House martin
Sand martin
Swallow
Mistle thrush
Great spotted woodpecker
Cuckoo (one being mobbed by meadow pipits)
Swift
Common sandpiper
Red grouse
Buzzard

I'm also fairly sure I heard crested tits; the sound I heard was not one I'd encountered before, and matched the description given in my book. I listened when I got home, and while I *think* it was the same sound, I'd heard so many sounds since then that I can't say with 100% certainty.

*Willow warbler, along with chaffinch, was by far and away the most encountered small passerine (with the possible exception of the hirundine species); I even saw one singing away on the open moors. Contrasted interestingly with the almost complete lack of chiffchaffs; also odd to be somewhere where I didn't see a single magpie.

A wonderful few days up here; was extremely sad to leave. I've never seen an osprey before, and another highlight was watching a mixed group of siskin, redpoll and goldfinch feeding at the top of a pine; the detritus from the cones was snowing down, and something must have spooked them, because eventually around 25 birds all simultaneously exploded out in all directions; was fabulous to see. Also plenty of other wildlife seen, which will be mentioned in the appropriate thread.

I thoroughly recommend a trip up here.

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Several pairs of White-tailed Eagles have bred on the west coast of the Highlands on the mainland for many years now, Martin. They are kept relatively quiet but one that is well publicised and that has bred in the same location for ovr 10 years is the pair on Loch Maree near the Ben Eighe NR, you can call in the visitor centre there for news each summer. They breed on one of the northern islands of the loch & usually head north to fish on the coast there smile

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Apparently nearly all of the White-tailed Eagles recently introduced to the east coast have gradually made their way over to the west coast, where the earlier introductions were made. So you are more likely to see them in the central highlands.

Always good to see them, wherever they are - much more impressive in real life than on film where you never get a true impression of their size.

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RE: Scottish Highlands :Gairlochy, Loch Lochy, Fort William




Just spent a week in Scotland staying in Gairlochy on the shores of Loch Lochy.. I am a frequent visitor to this region as it is one of my favourite places on earth for wildlife and scenery. To be honest this trip was a bit of a disappointment wildlife wise compared to previous years probably due to the time of year as I normally go in spring/summer. I was very lucky with the weather.. clear blue skies and very mild for this time of year and it only rained once! Anyway over the week ive seen numerous Buzzards , Grey heron, Hooded Crows, Canada Geese, & 3 Tawny Owls (heard). There is a very large Robin, Chaffinch and Blue/ great Tit population up there (Im talking flocks!) more than I have ever seen in my life! however the crowning moment of the week came at 9am on Friday the 28th November. I had just set off from Gairlochy for a hike along the Great Glen highway( besides Loch Lochy) when a White Tailed Eagle slowly flew right past me! I never even thought I would see one on this trip to Scotland as I was under the impression that their habitat was restricted to the Hebridean islands, Mull being the closest to where I was staying..Never the less my best spot to date! & totally made my entire week! awwaww

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Scottish Highlands


Had an hour to kill before a plane from Inverness this week so drove over the Farr Road to Findhorn and then to the head of the valley. Highlight was a possible Golden Eagle being mobbed by a pair of very pale buzzards above the hill to the north of the car park - as there were up to four birds in the air and at around 2000ft up I can't claim a definite eagle - [good job I turned round every so often!] Loads of Red Grouse from the Farr Road and only a few weeks before all the migrants will be back too!

Also Iceland and Glaucous Gulls still in Thurso rivermouth.

-- Edited by Pete Welch on Friday 2nd of March 2012 10:22:43 PM

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17th - 20th Feb 2012. Ardnamurchan peninsula, Highland.

Visited this area for the first time last weekend with Melanie staying at a nice b&b west of Strontian overlooking Loch Sunart. The Ardnamurchan is the most westerly point of mainland Britain and is typically a beautiful and remote part of western Scotland. It just so happened that our b&b was also home to a resident family of Pine Martens! Every evening we enjoyed incredibly close up views of these cracking mammals that visited a small table situated right up against the kitchen window. At 7pm a mixture of sultanas and jam on toast was placed on the table and it wasnt long before they appeared, the larger male usually arriving first and quickly followed by up to two smaller females. It was great to watch them licking the jam on the toast at such close quarters. For some reason the Pine Martens are unable to see you through the window so you can literally put your face right up to the glass so you are only a matter of inches away from them!

The Ardnamurchan is one of the best areas in Britain for watching mammals. We tried an area known to have Wildcats but despite spot-lighting after dark we failed to see any of these rare mammals, not surprising though really. We did however manage to see two Short-eared Owls flying through the spotlight. Much easier mammals to see were Red Deer with large groups of mainly stags seen at various locations throughout the visit and on the calmer days we connected with five or six Otters along the shores of Loch Sunart. One individual showed well at close range on the shoreline in front of the b&b.

We only managed one eagle sighting and this was a sub adult White-tailed Eagle on the shore of Loch Sunart on an early morning walk from the b&b. Several Greenshanks were present around the large Loch along with the usual commoner waders. Other fairly numerous birds on Loch Sunart included Shag, Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Little Grebe and Black Guillemot with the latter all now in summer plumage. A single Slavonian Grebe, just starting to show some breeding plumage, was seen close inshore near Glenborrodale along with small numbers of Great Northern Divers.

A visit to the north side of the peninsula including the spectacular area around Castle Tioram produced all three species of diver with Great Northern Diver being the most abundant. Freshwater lochs were packed full of Goldeneye and two wintering groups of nine and 13 Whooper Swans were found. An adult and 1st winter Iceland Gull were welcome finds in the Loch Ailort area along with a further Otter which appeared as we pulled in to scan the loch but then completely dissapeared without trace!

A lovely area almost guaranteed to have the place to yourself! Definitely one to add to the long list of sites to visit sometime again in the future.


-- Edited by Simon Warford on Friday 24th of February 2012 01:03:21 PM

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03-11/06/2011 Scottish Highlands and Aviemore/Loch Garten

Had a great week in the Scottish Highlands on a family holiday where we stayed in a little hamlet near Ullapool overlooking Loch Broom. We were lucky with the weather which was mostly clear and we managed to get lots of walking done in the mountains and around lochs.
I really recommend a short trip on a boat to Handa Island for pretty much every kind of seabird you can think of in Britain. Also Ben Eighe and Inverpolly nature reseves are great for eagle and diver sightings (all species recorded in the same reserve although white tailed sightings are rarer than at, say, Mull).
Sadly I was a bit too late for Loch Garten 'Caper Watch' which ends in May and didnt see Capercaillies. Also didn't spot Ptarmigan and Crested Tit despite my best efforts.

Osprey - 3 different sightings - Loch Garten Osprey centre, Inverpolly nature reserve and one flew over the car near Pitlochry well south of the highlands on the main road to Perth from Aviemore.

Red Throated Diver - both near Aviemore on small lochs and on the loch just south of Stac Pollaidh mountain which I climbed !
Black Throated Diver - 2 sightings Loch Maree and Loch Broom
Great Northern Diver - on the sea at Lochinver bay
Cuckoo - Lots around and relatively easy to locate and see, lots more heard - we had one on a post just outside our cottage where we stayed near Ullapool.
Wheatears - everywhere! and Chaffinches were literally everywhere up there - easily the most common bird.
Greenshank - Loch Maree
Hooded Crows - as common as carrion crows in manchester.
Red Breasted Merganser
Peregrine

Handa Island:
Great Skuas
5 Arctic Skuas
Black Guillemot
Raven
Eiders

Loch Maree (Ben Eighe nature reserve):
Golden Eagle over the mountains and loch
Black Throated Diver on loch
Red Grouse

A great holiday but wish I had a bit more time to devote to birding. Must go back soon and must say I am jealous of Joe's thread below.

Cheers

Rob






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Spent an enjoyable week in the highlands with my family. Since I was with family, couldn't do quite as much birding as I would like, but still fitted plenty in! We stayed up near Garve and Acnasheen, on the side of loch luichart in a birch and oak coppice. This lead to easily the best garden list i've ever had, including wood warbler, spotted flycatcher, siskin, osprey, red kite, tree pipit, cuckoo and on one occasion a day flying pipstrelle bat! Sadly first day was rainy, so had to stay indoors and in the garden but still found a goldcrest nest. However, on the second day clouds lifted so we went walking from acnasheen. Not a great deal of birds to be had (although mountain weather forecast had mentioned clear tops, it had somehow neglected to mention halestones!), still had common sand (a bird on the nest incubating eggs) and a peregrine with a greenshank in its talons, ironic as didn't actually get greenshank on holiday (alive, at least!). We were then treated to another peregrine as well. On the way down had red deer too and had merlin on the top.

Another day, another hill, this time in the Fannichs, well known for dotterel productivity. Sadly none that day, but did get a female ptarmigan on the nest which then moved off but when we went back to check had returned and she had. Meadow Pipits and wheatears everywhere as well as a ring ouzel. On the way down had golden eagle fleetingly in flight.

Another rainy day so resigned to indoor stuff and the more reliable highland spectacles, like the red kite feeding. Only 2 individuals this time, but still good views of them, buzzard, yellowhammer, chaffinch, GS Woodpecker and the usual garden tits.

Another sunny day so went off to loch maree. Whilst not birding, still got white tailed sea eagle (a stunning adult bird without a trace of juvenile plumage) went on to dip red throated diver attheir usual smaller lochen near gairloch, but the eagle more than made up for that!

Went off on a final hillwalk in the Fannichs in search of dotterel, but as soon as we reached the first distinctly un-dotterelly top, we were forced down by heavy winds and disheartened members of the party before we reached the proper dotterel summits. Its a pity, because you have to climb over all the other fannich mountains before you reach the one reknowned for dotterel.

Sadly had to go home again, but not before a stop at my favourite highland creature's loch, the slavonian grebe. The original male near to aviemore now has a mate and has to share with a pair of goldeneye, a nice end to a fantastic trip!


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Ian McKerchar wrote:

Hi Joe, nice trip.

Any Crossbill up there could more feasibly be any one of three species and without good views or vocalisations then identification down to species level is practically impossible. With regards the hovering Buzzard, it is a common trait of Common Buzzard too so a hovering Buzzard doesn't necessarily indicate a Rough-legged I'm afraid smile.gif






Yea, I agree crossbills are a bit of tricky one up there! Didn't realise buzzards did the kestrel flapping thing. Probably is normal buzzard then, it looked like one, it was only the behavior that got me wink.gif
cheers,
Joe

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Hi Joe, nice trip.

Any Crossbill up there could more feasibly be any one of three species and without good views or vocalisations then identification down to species level is practically impossible. With regards the hovering Buzzard, it is a common trait of Common Buzzard too so a hovering Buzzard doesn't necessarily indicate a Rough-legged I'm afraid

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Late report from last week. Just back from the Highlands having stayed with birding relatives and got out all days with phenomenal very un-scottish weather.

Flew up on friday night, and set alarms for 0500 on saturday morning to go looking for black grouse cocks lekking with the RSPB at Corrimony near glen affric. We went on a minibus up the track there, and stopped about 10 feet from the lek getting better views than i'm ever likely to get again ! Its incredible that the RSPB take you actually this close, i'd recommend it to anyone heading up that way! Other sprcies were meadow pipits, wheatears and "crossbills" (I can't tell the difference, but i'm guessing Scottish just because of location no.gif). Headed for breakfast in Cannich, and then headed up the glen to climb some hills. Got cracking views of Ptarmigans (smile.gif) just beginning to get their summer plumage, with two females and a male, one giving absolutely astonishing views! Also of note was the liberal spreading of short eared owl pellets, all of which were found well above 3000ft which I always thought a bit high up for them. Anyway, in the dark driving home got woodcock and tawny owl.

Next day hit the mountains again but in the cairngorms, juat up glen feshie. Got red grouse on the path, and then on the tops stunning summer plumage golden plovers(smile.gifsmile.gifsmile.gif) as well as wheatear and mipits on the decent and a flypast ring ouzel. At the carpark got a gorgeous female merlin! on the way home, stopped at a private site and got slavonian grebes in summer plumage. Slav so close i could've touched it!

Headed out to Glen Strathconon to look for eagles on monday, but driving rain and wind kept the eagles down, but did get both goosander and RB Merganser. Went onto Tollie Red Kite feeding station and got fantastic views of both buzzard and kite feeding off the table. Two birds were tagged, both last year's birds from the black isle, which is good news as the kites are persecuted heavily up there. Driving back through inverness got RB merganser again, this time much closer in.

Went out again to the cairngorms in search of capercaillie (0400 in morning!), osprey, peregrine and the slavonian grebe (again!). Got capers, even the female! Limited sucess with the ospreys, saw them whilst eating our breakfast (not many places you can say that about!), but when we headed out to the fish farm it favours (rothimurchus) but we couldn't see it catch anything, although it did go over a few times. There were some really obliging sand martins too. Also tried for cresties at an old nesting hole, but no such luck, they obviously wern't nesting there this year. Had more slav grebe as well as willow warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap.

A trip to glenfindhorn for more ouzels, some eagles, dippers and other moorland birds. Got fleeting views of dippers and of ouzel, the wind was so strong they were deep in the cracks in boulders! Still, some grouse landed right in front of me and so got cracking views. They're much tamer up in the highlands, can't thing why... Finally, on the way back along the glen there was a "raven" about 30ft above us. it flew against a hill, and it was clear that it was pretty big for a raven, and also had a golden head! Definitely an eagle, a superb view smile.gif!

Spent a final day down on the coast looking for waders, gulls and terns. Went north to the cromarty firth, and got Sandwich terns, LBB Gull, GBB Gull, Shag, yellowhammer, redshank and best of all 16 purple sandpiper, some in summer moult biggrin.gif. Had to sadly head home on the plane after this, but in the airport saw a buzzard hovering like a kestrel would, possibly a rough legged buzzard? Anyway, a good end to a fantastic trip! In total got 74 species, including 1 lifer for me.









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Henerz, email me at tommckinney1979@yahoo.co.uk and I'll email it to you.

Just to show how hard it all is, Lindsay Cargill (a Crossbill fanatic involved in very long term research of Crossbills around Deeside) once gave these ID tips on Birdforum:


Calls

Not all calls on Dutch Birding are wrong - excitement calls for Scottish look ok though some flight calls are wrong esp. Deeside birds. Parrot excitement and flight calls have been wrongly diagnosed as Common ( on bill size ! )

EcD Parrot easy to confuse with EcA ( lots about just now ). There are also two EcD - EcDii is a bird that is very like Scottish in appearance.

EcC ( Scottish) is easy to confuse with EcB and EcE both Common. EcB tends to have a faster cadence. Only subtle timbral differences. I can do it no bother by ear in the field but have heard thousands and also have had the benefit of analysing the sonograms. eg. firmly ID them ......I can also tell the difference between Boccherini and Mozart for what it's worth !

All flight calls sound similar but Parrot is the simplest with just a strong downward component = "Choop" = \

Common flight calls usulally have more structure harmonically and sound "chippy", "gi-llipy". Resemble this ... \/\ . The down, up, then strong down creates a di-syllabic effect.

Scottish is similar to Parrot but with an extra harmonic difficult to hear = \' Not helped by a di-syllabic variation that resembles two lightning flashes.

Common Juvs give "chee-choo" or "chee-too" and Scots/Parrots "chi-too", "ti-too".

Taxononmic Features

Scots

Steeply Downcurved culmen on intermediate (not BIG ) bill. Appears slightly shorter than Common.

Slight bulgle to lower mandible.

Orange in plumage, some grey.

Slightly bigger head than Common.

Parrots

Bigger heads and bodies

Mandibles can appear equal in depth

Bill length can appear "short" compared to Common ( rectangular )

Mean Look - Parrot = Herring Gull, Common/Scot = Common Gull !

The species alll behave differently too but that is too much to go in to here.

Pretty subjective.

-- Edited by Tom McKinney at 08:29, 2007-05-21

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Tony Coatsworth wrote:

Not sure how you miss WT Eagle - they are as big as a barn door :)

I went a few years ago and one flew the length of the island in about 3 wing-beats. It was at least twice as big as a Greylag Goose which it put up.






They are indeed as big as a barn door but when there are several big hills in front of you and the bird its quite easy!biggrin.gif It was in the Findhorn valley that we missed it, we only found out after driving up to the furthest car park up the Findhorn valley were several people had seen it. Unluckily for us it had been hidden by the hillsides from our spot!

-- Edited by Simon Johnson at 22:37, 2007-05-20

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Sounds an interesting topic. Tom do you know how I could get hold of that paper you mentioned in BB?
Thanks

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The (only?) way to do them is by call - get hold of The Sound Approach for an understanding of how it all works. But if you really want to get Scottish and Parrot on your list then take some recording equipment with you, get the calls recorded and then run it through one of the many sonogram programmes available for free on the internet. I've been dabbling with recording and sonograms for a while and it's pretty straightforward once you get your head around the basics. The Ron Summers paper in BB from January 2002 was pretty enlightening - 74% of Crossbils in Abernethy turned out to be Parrot and only 8% Scottish - arrgghh!

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A couple of friends of mine has just returned from a week in Scotland and saw Parrot and Scots Crossbill and the photos were pretty conclusive, the Parrots were in Grantown woods nest building. Having never seen Parrot Crossbill myself (so don't mind if they get lumped), apparently they said it's easier to distinguish Parrot from Scots than Scots from Common, but obviously good views are required.

Ian, as for Britain's only endemic, I still think Red Grouse should be a species in it's own right, not Scots Crossbill, Willow Grouse turn white in winter and live in forests, Red Grouse don't, not sure what the DNA says though!

Neil

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Not sure how you miss WT Eagle - they are as big as a barn door :)

I went a few years ago and one flew the length of the island in about 3 wing-beats. It was at least twice as big as a Greylag Goose which it put up.

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Ian McKerchar wrote:

Scottish Crossbill, difficult one that confused. Can we be sure they're Scottish Crossbills were seeing up there or did you get good enough views? I haven't been up around there for years and even took Scottish Crossbill off my life list when I used to keep one such is the confusion that existed at the time with the buggers and the reasonably poor views I ever obtained. That said I've lost track of the current Scottish/Parrot/Whatever-bills debate up there so things might have changed. Good trip though wink






Off to Netthy bridge in the morning for a week. I have spoke to Richard Thaxton from the RSPB @ Abernethy NR regarding the status of Scottish/Parrot Crossbills. The general stance is Parrot Crossbills are the most widespread with Common and Scottish Crossbill numbers even but the numbers are very erratic with influxes of Common Crossbill from the continent possible.
I myself was in Grantown-on-Spey a couple of weeks ago birding and had what i believe to be both Parrot & Scottish Crossbills in one area of woodland (photos not conclusive). A week in the area should hopefully (for my sake if nothing else) clarify the differences between the 2 (3) species and if possible sound recordings taken and compared with sonograms.
As you say Ian this is such a grey area and with so many doubters it would be nice to put this to bed and ease my conscience its a shame you have deleted Scottish Crossbill from your list if that is what you believe you saw.

Let you know how i get on ..

cheers
jason

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great trip simon up in the cairngorms for 2 days in a couple of weeks birding so hope to get the scottish specialities then..

cheers
jason

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I don't see them being 'lumped' together, Britain loosing it's only endemic species? Can't see that coming evileye

-- Edited by Ian McKerchar at 16:42, 2007-04-13

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Thankfully managed to get good scope views. Think they breed in the wood at the B&B we stay in, had up to 5 birds with the male even singing! Have seen Parrot crossbill once in the same wood years ago and that was when there were alot more crossbills about (that was scoped too). Haven't heard any outcome of the dna testing that they were on about so its not been scrubbed of the list just yet!



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Scottish Crossbill, difficult one that confused. Can we be sure they're Scottish Crossbills were seeing up there or did you get good enough views? I haven't been up around there for years and even took Scottish Crossbill off my life list when I used to keep one such is the confusion that existed at the time with the buggers and the reasonably poor views I ever obtained. That said I've lost track of the current Scottish/Parrot/Whatever-bills debate up there so things might have changed. Good trip though wink

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Just spent the easter break up in the highlands and had a fantastic trip!

Stayed in the Aviemore area and caught up with Ospreys, Black Grouse, Caper, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill and breeding plumage Slav Grebe.

A trip to Gruniard Bay on the Saturday added Great Northen & Red Thrt Divers, Wild Barnacle geese, Red Kite, Greenshank, Raven, Hooded Crow and Golden Eagle to name but a few. (We managed to missed a white-tailed sea Eagle by standing in the worng place! Doh! cry)

Sunday Burg head where we had a 1w male King Eider, Common & Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed duck, Auks, Rock Pipit, Sandwich Tern, Greylag and Pinkfooted geese and a Drake Smew at nearby Loch na Bo.

Monday we headed home adding Ring Ouzel and the long staying Drake Barrow's Goldeneye!

Cracking trip!

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This forum is dedicated to the memory of Eva Janice McKerchar; rest in peace mum.