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Post Info TOPIC: Caithness and Sutherland


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Caithness and Sutherland


A bit late, but here are some brief highlights of a stay in Caithness from 3-6th June. We predominantly went up as this was Orca Week, and we were lucky to see a female hunting at Dunnet Head on the Friday morning. Seal numbers on the rocks went from 6 to 34 in a matter of minutes. There was also a Minke Whale off the head too. Right place, right time.

After we went to see the Marsh Warbler singing and displaying in West Dunnet. Very showy. Also around the RSPB reserve were a few Twite. Hooded Crow were numerous in most places.

Two wildlife cruises from John O'Groats proved excellent value. On the Friday afternoon around Duncansby Head we saw masses of Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake, as well as being followed by a Great Skua, and seeing a Minke Whale breach. On the Saturday morning it went around Stroma Island and here were many Puffin, Black Guillemot, Arctic Tern and many Skua, with an Arctic chasing the Tern, and Great chomping on a Razorbill. Two summer plumage Black Throated Diver were together near the ferry harbour.

A morning at Duncansby Head on the Saturday gave us Cuckoo, fly past Red Throated Divers and many Great and fewer Arctic Skua. The latter two species were much easier to see than we expected, especially Great. Gannet were also numerous at sea here. The ferry from Orkney had stopped and a scope view saw why. Our 3rd Minke Whale of the trip.

We stayed in Keiss, and the shore and surrounding farmland was a nice change from rushing from headland to headland trying to spot Whales.

Whimbrel were more common than Curlew, with some great display flights seen. Oystercatcher were numerous, and we also saw a stunning summer plumage Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone, as well as breeding Redshank and Lapwing near the village. An obliging Sedge Warbler was just behind our accommodation. Just South of Wick on the journey we witnessed a great Peregrine Falcon vs Rock Dove battle too.

Apart from that the route was quiet, but we did see Red Kite near Agaty and Black Isle, Osprey near Perth and Red Breasted Merganser on Dornoch Firth.

Cracking few days, superb scenery and top wildlife. But it is a very long drive. A few images attached. 

 



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Was on a railtour to the far north of Scotland from 18 Oct to 21 Oct 2013. This included Wick and Thurso. From Georgemas Junction to Wick on the Far North Rail Line the area was absolutely teeming with birds particularly waterfowl and waders. The area by the line is full of small lochs plus one large one (Loch Watten) and umpteen marshes. Even from the train and without binos it was possible to recognise Whooper Swans, Pink-footed Geese, Grey Lag Geese, Lapwings, Redshank, Oystercatchers etc. Would have loved to have done the area with binoculars and a 'scope, although access appeared to be difficult to say the least.
A bonus at Thurso was a small flock of Twite feeding on weeds close to the station platform.

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Evening walk around Dunnet Head and bay today after work. The Orkney Islands were aglow in the sunset - birding highlights included Puffins back on the cliff tops, Great Skua flyover, Rock Doves, Hooded Crows, 20+ Ringed Plover and a good pale Glaucous Gull.

One of my favourite birds is the Fulmar and I've never seen so many in one place before. One had a grey tinge to the body but the normal white head - not sure if that's what known as a "blue phase" I'll have to do some research :)

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Another trip North with birding on the move from my hire car saw lots of Hoodies, more buzzards than normal, loads or red deer, stonechat - but no Harriers [not sure if they winter in the flow country or whether they head south or at least to the coast]. Also popped to see the King Eider - which is handily only 25 minutes from the airport in an advanced state of moult at the moment which means it looks very dark, the sails are still evident though and the orange bill is quite distinctive.

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Was way up in the North of Scotland this week and took half a days leave to get some birding in on the way back to the airport. Didn't quite go to plan as there was a whiteout and some scary driving conditions which meant I had to stick to the coast rather than go eagle spotting...

Highlights:

Perfect grey male Hen Harrier - in a snow storm just west of Thurso and nowhere to stop for a photo! Pinkfeet flocks of several hundred in many of the fields.

Black Guillemot - Scrabster Harbour - very obliging bird with bright red legs.

Hen Harrier x2 [f], close up Kestrels, Buzzards and a Merlin on the Caithness moorland stretch of the A9, flocks of Skylark on the move. Hooded Crows and hybrids of every colour and shade plus one Nordic looking Jackdaw.

Popped in at Embo for a flock containing many Long Tailed Duck, Scoter [nothing unusual in the flock that I could see], Goldeneye and Eider. [much better weather than when I was last there!]



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