1st – 17th June – Scotland   Leave a comment

Sorry I haven’t been able to update the blog for so long but Margaret and I have spent the last couple of weeks in Scotland.

This is just a brief summary of the trip, a more detailed account and photographs will appear later.

We flew on 1/6 to Sumburgh in Shetland via Edinburgh and spent until 6/6 staying with Paul and Liz Harvey. We had cold but generally sunny weather but the bitter N wind put an end to migration, Paul had expected a lot of goodies at that time of year but migrants, other than breeding migrants like Wheatear were almost absent. Over four and a half days we recorded just four warblers, one each of Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Subalpine and Marsh! Shetland lies at the same latitude as southern Greenland so we weren’t really expecting a hear wave.
We dipped on a vagrant Black-headed Bunting that had been there the day before, but had great views of the adult Long-tailed Skua and saw three of the increasingly rare Red-Necked Phalaropes (a tiny Arctic wader) distantly. We saw one Whooper Swan on the nest and also a pair with five cygnets, Shetland being the only place in the UK where this species breeds. There were several sum plum Great Northern Divers offshore and we even heard one calling.
Hermaness reserve which is as far north as you can get in the UK was excellent as ever, although Puffins no longer sit on the cliff top due to Bonxie predation and Arctic Skua  is now rare for the same reason. Bonxies (or Great skuas) put on their usual vicious defense of their breeding area.

Just north of Hermaness on the island of Unst is the Muckle Flugga lighthouse and beyond that Out Stack. At 60 52′ this is the most northerly point of the British Ilses.

Back on the mainland we drove to Knapdale in Argyll where whilst being bittern by millions of midges, I scored with the introduced European Beaver. Glenroy Lodge near Fort William gave fantastic views of Pine Martin and to our amazement we found that fellow Dorset birder Chris Chapleo and family were staying there (he had recommended the B&B to me as place to see Pine Martins)
I only got a poor flight view of Chequered Skipper Butterfly, which is confirmed to a 20km radius of Fort William, mainly due to high winds and drizzle, but White-Tailed Eagle and Black-throated Diver in sum plum were compensation.
On Skye, a boat trip gave us great views of White-Tailed and Golden Eagle plus a close Red-Throated Diver (far closer and more photogenic than the 30+ we saw on Shetland). We saw many auks and few Manx on the crossing to and from the Outer Hebrides but no Storm Petrels. The Isles of Harris / Lewis were fantastic for scenery but quiet for birds. I expect that because it was a Sunday they were at church like the rest of the island, certainly all shops, garages and visitor centers were closed and there were no cars on the road.
North Uist produced great sightings of Corncrake, the long-staying male Snowy Owl, masses of breeding waders and distant views of a Golden Eagle eyrie. Unfortunately the Greater Sand Plover that had been there for several days disappeared just before we arrived.

The wonderful beaches and mountains of the Isle of Harris

We returned to the mainland via Skye and drove over and around the incredible Applecross peninsula, the highest road in the UK, before heading Speyside. Two full and two half days here gave us Red and Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Dotterel, Ring Ousel, Slavonian Grebe, Scotsbill, Crested Tit, Goosander, Dipper and a total of 10 Ospreys and 5 Red Kites in the wider area.

The hard slog up the Cairngorm Mountains

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On a wet day we headed for the coast near Aberdeen where I got flight views of a vagrant Black Scoter but dipped on the King Eider. There were literally thousands of Common Scoters and Eiders on the sand or the sea, and with a stiff wind, rain and a crashing surf sorting through seaducks wasn’t easy.
We ended the trip with a visit to Margaret’s brother and his family near Edinburgh before flying home on Sunday evening.
A really great trip with far better weather than I expected and most of the target birds seen. I’m glad I flew and hired a car in Edinburg as we drove 1900 miles, that would have been 3000 if we had driven from Poole.
I have taken loads of photos, but due to other commitments, including those arising from a death in the family, I might not be able to post them on the blog for a while.

Posted June 20, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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