13th – 17th June. Speyside to Edinburgh.   Leave a comment

Caledonian pine woods once covered much of Scotland, but today native forest only remains around Speyside and a few areas to the north.

On the 13th we drove from Lochcarron across to Inverness and then south to Speyside where we stayed at Boat of Garten. The Speyside area is one of the most outstanding in the UK, with large areas of native Caledonian pine forest, birch woodlands, open heaths and on the Cairngorm plateau, an arctic/alpine zone. We had two full days and two half days to explore this area. We saw most of our targets, Red and Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Dotterel, Scottish Crossbill, Crested Tit and breeding Slavonian Grebes, missing only the giant woodland grouse, Capercaille which is much easier to see in April when it leks.

 

Native Red Squirrels are fairly common.

In the late 50’s a pair of Ospreys returned to breed at Loch Garten, having been extinct in the UK for most of the 20th century.

The same Osprey nest site has been used for the last 60+ years. In that time the nest has blown down, been robbed by egg thieves and the tree cut down by vandals. Today it is bolted together with metalwork and surrounded with electronic surveillance. The female Osprey and one of the three chicks can be seen in the digiscoped shot.

Osprey

Nest boxes have allowed numbers of breeding Goldeneye to increase and they are a regular site on the largest lochs.

We hoped to go up the funicular railway on Cairngorm Mountain and then go on an organised walk to the summit (you are not allowed to walk on the summit plateau on your own unless you hike up from the base). Low cloud changed our plans and we headed up to a nearby ridge where my targets of Ptarmigan and Dotterel could be found but Margaret’s knees didn’t allow her to get to the top.

Cairngorm summit is at 1245 m but we were able to get into the alpine zone by following a nearby path to a ridge at 1080m, on the edge of the cloud base.

As the cloud lifted there were stunning views to the west, but not eastwards towards Cairngorm which remained obscured.

Ptarmigan, a bird with a silent P (like ‘swimming pool’)

One afternoon we drove north to Carrbridge, the Findhorn Valley, Loch Ruthven and the south side of Loch Ness.

The historic bridge at Carrbridge.

Mammals were much in evidence in the Findhorn Valley, with many Red Deer …..

…. feral goats ….

…. and Brown Hares.

It’s not far from Loch Ruthven to the south shore of Loch Ness.

One wet afternoon we drove to the east coast near Aberdeen. After struggling with heavy traffic and lack of road signs in central Aberdeen we reached Blackdog. An American Black Scoter, several Surf Scoter and a King Eider had been reported here and the former was new bird for my British list. As it was June and most seaduck were on their breeding grounds I had expected an empty sea with just one or two seaduck on it. I was amazed to see over a 1000 Common Eider on the beach and similar numbers of Common Scoter offshore. With a strong NE wind, heavy rain and a pounding surf, sorting through these birds was difficult to say the least. Eventually I found about 20 Velvet Scoter and had flight views of the Black Scoter but dipped on the Surf Scoters and King Eider, which is not surprising considering the birds were scattered all along the coast.

It took a walk down the beach, a tricky crossing of this log and a clamber up into the dunes for shelter to get a good look at the ducks at Blackdog.

Male Eiders gathering to moult. Just a small part of the huge flock.

Late on the 16th we drove down to Edinburgh and stayed overnight with Margaret’s younger brother Duncan and his wife Wendy. We flew back to Southampton in the late afternoon of the 17th and were home by 9 pm after a most rewarding Scottish trip.

Margaret with (L-R) her nephew Darren and Sean, sister in law Wendy and brother Duncan.

Posted June 30, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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