This was to be a trip based around the Cairngorm Mountains, an area that I have never visited, staying with Heather in a small cottage attached to a farm, between Nethy Bridge and Grantown on Spey. September is perhaps not the best time in this area (Spring being more productive), but we had some leave booked and decided to go for it. Perhaps I was a little over expectant and naive, driven on by such terms as "guaranteed", "can't miss", every feeder will have them", the list goes on! Anyway, a c500mile drive was completed in good time, arriving at our accomodation and being told of Otters on the Spey, about a mile away. I was encouraged and next morning, up early, off I went in search. However, at the first gate, I suffered a minor disaster! I managed to crush my right index finger in its latch, causing a very deep laceration over the tip and distal phalanx, requiring steristrips and dressing applied by Heather! I never did locate the Otters!
The days seemed to fly by. Day one was hazy but predicted to be the best day of the week so up the Cairngorm it was. It would have been nice to walk to the summit but both Heather and myself were suffering various afflictions, so decided to take the "funnyculiar" (my word!) railway to the Ptarmigan Restaurant. What a crazy system in place! If you take the train to the top, you cannot leave the restaurant area. If you walk up, you have free range over the mountain and can if you wish, travel down on the train. Apparently, this is to prevent the environment from being damaged. Well, cycles and quad bikes probably cause more damage and they were seen in number! First DIP of the trip - Ptarmigan, not for want of searching, teaming up with a Heatherlee tour group, several hours in the very strong wind, searching in vain!
A visit to Grantown on Spey was quickly accomplished! Then onto the expected dip of the trip - Capercaillie! The "secret" and known sites were searched, again zilch! I supposed as I expected to dip this one, I should be pleased with this achievement! We decided to visit Nairn, on the Moray coast which produced - Hooded Crow; Guillemott; Eider; Bar Tailed Godwit; Sanderling; Sandwich Tern and Arctic Skua.
The Findhorn Valley was a challenge with typical Scottish minor roads and the weather! Snow was forecast but we were delivered sleet as an alternative! Grey Wagtail; Dipper; Tree Pipit on the lower gradients gave way to a "Raptor Fest" on the higher ground! First life tick in the form of a distant Golden Eagle being mobbed by Buzzard and Ravens was a delight! Other raptors included - Peregrine; Goshawk; Merlin; and Red Kite. Nearby Loch Ruthven produce two adult and a juv Slavonian Grebe and nothing else!
A couple of days spent around Nethy Bridge, Bridge of Garten, Lock Garten and Tomintoul proved the hardest birding days! Silence in the woods and little bird life! Thanks to Heather, a single Crested Tit was briefly observed (life tick two!). Red Squirrel, Siskin, Red Grouse and Goldeneye were some consolation!
The last day was spent over on the Moray Coast at Findhorn Bay, Roseisle Forest and Burghead. This area produced - Curlew; Knot; Pink Footed Goose; Ringed Plover; Razorbill; Guillemot; Red Throated Diver; Fulmar; Rock Pipit; Gannet; Arctic Skua and Eider.
Overall, not a bad trip - fantastic scenery, lovely villages and a good number of bird species. Photographic opportunites were limited to light and distance, but I have tried my best. Separate entries will show my efforts. Below is a list of species seen.
Red Squirrel; Brown Hare; Rabbit; Vole Species; Red deer; Roe Deer; Reindeer.
Jcjdaw; Wood Pigeon; Black Headed Gull; House Sparrow; Blue Tit; Rook; Magpie; Coal Tit; Greenfinch; Chaffinch; Robin; LBB Gull; Carrion Crow; Starling; Mallard; House Martin; Swallow; Mute Swan; Blackbird; Goldfinch; Meadow Pipit: Great Spotted Woodpecker; Pheasant; Pied Wagtail; Yellow Wagtail; Collared Dove; Greylag Goose; Wheatear; Red Grouse; Buzzard; Reed Bunting; Herring Gull; Wren; Goldcrest; Redshank; Turnstone; GBB Gull; Lapwing; Oystercatcher; Common Gull; Hooded Crow; Sandwich Tern; Bar Tailed Godwit; Guillemot; Gannet; Cormorant; Common Tern; Eider; Arctic Skua; Sanderling; Dunlin; Kestrel; Grey Wagtail; Song Thrush; Dipper; Tree Pipit; Mistle Thrush; Merlin; Raven; Golden Eagle; Peregrine; Goshawk;Red Kite; Slavonian Grebe; Great Tit; Crested Tit; Goldeneye; Long Tailed Tit; Treecreeper; Siskin; Dunnock; Wigeon; Dabchick; Tufted Duck; Curlew; Knot; Pink Footed Goose; Ringed Plover; Grey Heron; Razorbill; Manx Shearwater; Red Throated Diver; Rock Pipit; Fulmar; Jay; Barn Owl.
And STILL my "bogey bird" is Crossbill!