Scotland trip blog 1: 18/01/18 Brilliant birds and mammals of the Highlands
I was able to write my blogs about my Scottish adventure on the nights whilst away, so they read in present tense of those nights as dated at the top of the blog. After a long and interesting train journey up to the Cairngorms, taking me to cities, counties and obviously one country I’ve always dreamed of going due to its iconic wildlife and landscape we headed out for our first day’s birding today. It really was nice yesterday to see the Tyne, Tweed, my first Grey Heron of the year in a London Park and beautiful views in Scotland on the way up. The other big thing of note from Wednesday was the snow, getting thicker and thicker the further north we got and making for a lovely addition to the landscape. I’d probably never seen snow this thick in Hampshire.
So day one was absolutely incredible as we searched out the specialities of the Highlands with Heatherlea the wonderful company the holiday was booked with. Today I got 8 bird year ticks including 5 bird life ticks and 4 mammal year ticks with one of them a life tick as well. We darted about a lot in the mini bus to different places but it made sense to do one Wildlife Sightings Summary of the day at the bottom and I’ll talk through the highlights saying some of the specific places we went.
It was an early start as we headed out to try and see some Black Grouse at Dorback and what struck me here and throughout the day was how surreal the landscape looked just blanketed in very thick snow. Needless to say it was absolutely stunning and I captured the 1st picture in this photoset of it. The Cairngorms and Highlands have offered me some of the most stunning views I’ve seen ever. We didn’t see Black Grouse in the morning but did see a Red Grouse at the brow of a hill, still amazing as the first of my 5 life ticks today.
When driving back we saw a Red Squirrel on a feeder which is always brilliant, I took the 2nd picture in this photoset of it. This had the extra prestige of being our first ever mainland Red Squirrel with Brownsea Island the only place I had and easily can see them down south. Red-legged Partridge and Brown Hare were interesting things to see for the first time this year as we were driving also.
Then we went back via a break at the cottage in Nethy Bridge to the famous Loch Garten where it was just nice to be at and take in, I took more pictures at Loch Garten than any single place on the holiday including the 4th and 5th pictures in this photoset of snowy vistas. At the feeder area we quickly saw the bird we had come to see there, the iconic Crested Tit our first ever enjoying lots of views of a few which was amazing. I took the 3rd picture in this photoset of one. On the way to the Loch we were looking out for Capercaillie in the woods with no success so we walked along a path in woods to try and see one. The wonderful guides just caught sight of on flying through the trees and fantastically the whole group of 10 saw it our third bird life tick of the day. It struck me what a gigantic bird they are.
More open country namely Strathdearn was where we headed next with Eagles on the mind and we stopped the mini bus at Slochd Summit in glorious sunshine now as a lovely day had fully awoken. This was because a White-tailed Eagle had been spotted and again we all saw it what glorious views I got the 6th picture in this photoset of it a record shot. This was only my second ever sighting of one and like that Old Basing rarity for Hampshire in 2011 one of my favourite birds the Buzzard was on hand near it in the air to show how big the Eagle really is.The Buzzards showed well in the Highlands throughout and if I thought it was good for Eagles as we made our way down a ten mile track it got a whole lot more amazing. On our first stop off at Garbole pictured in the 7th in this photoset a Golden Eagle was seen and flew right over our head! A young bird showing white on the feathers. This was my first ever and a bird I had dreamt of seeing for years and years. It was a big one for me to see as my Mum saw one in Switzerland as a teenager before she was into birdwatching so ever since we began over 10 years ago she always had this one over me but not anymore. This all probably made it the biggest sighting for me of a phenomenal wildlife day and I got the record shot in the 8th picture in this photoset of it.
As we moved further down the road to Coignafearn the landscape looked magnificent and large in scale again. Indicated perfectly by the fact we saw our first Deers of the year high up and they looked like insignificant dots in the landscape. On our last stop off down this track where I took the 9th picture in this photoset we would go onto see 5+ more Golden Eagles with some displaying nicely and loads more of another on the day life tick Red Grouse. Since this area looked up onto massive mountains we were able to see a Mountain Hare in the distance a new mammal for us. There was also a little river in this area perfect for one of my favourite birds the Dipper and sure enough we saw one just before leaving. My earliest ever sighting of one in a year and probably the best view I’d got of an adult since 2014.
Just when we thought we had seen everything we possibly could we cleaned up on the way back to the hotel via one final stop off by seeing the bird we couldn’t in the morning the Black Grouse just as we passed Garbole again on the way out. One showed really nicely at the top of the tree and I got the 10th picture in this photoset of it. I was thrilled with this too, there is only one British game bird we are now yet to see in our lives. I am just so thankful for today it was one of my best ever wildlife days and one of the best in my life in total. When I heard we were coming to Scotland for definite for my 21st birthday present I rattled off a list of iconic Scottish species we could see and I saw them all today which is just thrilling. I have no idea which pictures I will take forward right now and I think it’s unlikely every picture from the day is in this blog so as always you can find them all on my Twitter Dans_Pictures.
Wildlife Sightings Summary: My first ever Red Grouse, Crested Tit, Capercaillie, Golden Eagle and Black Grouse, my first of one of my favourite birds the Dipper this year, my first Red-legged Partridge and White-tailed Eagle of the year, my first ever Mountain Hare, my first Red Squirrel, Brown Hare and Red Deer of the year, Roe Deer, two of my favourite birds the Buzzard and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Siskin, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Raven, Kestrel, Mallard and Goosander.