I have visited Scotland on numerous occasions, only to wish I could do some proper birding there. A brief visit may leave you thinking that there are only three species, Buzzard, Chaffinch and Oystercatcher, but there must be loads more, right? Six of us (myself, Gary, Adam and our partners) set off for a week of intensive birding, based in Glenmore and Mull.
Day 1 – Saturday 10th April 2010
We left Norwich at 10:45 on the Friday night, driving overnight to minimise traffic and maximise birding time. After a relatively uneventful drive, we arrived in Aviemore at around 8. With half an hour to wait until the cafes opened, we took a quick drive up to the bottom of the Cairngorm ski-lift in the hope of a cheap Ptarmigan. Having seen no grouse of any description, it was back for breakfast. Our accommodation wasn’t ready until 7pm, so we decided to take a drive up to Burghead, in the hope of seeing the overwintering King Eider.
We were still having no luck on the grouse front (Red Grouse has been a bogey bird for me for some time), however Gary (“King of the Road Kill”)* spotted a splatted one by the side of the road, so we pulled up to look for live ones. On cue a Red Grouse was standing up on a rock nearby, and others called from further out. Hurrah! We taunted it with the Famous Grouse theme but it didn't take any notice. The next commonest species on my hit list is Wood Warbler, lets hope for one of those this spring. We carried on, adding Hooded Crow, Grey Wagtail and Red Squirrel to the trip list. Despite a pair of Grey Wagtails, we failed to see any Dippers. The suggestion was that the melting snow had caused the water levels too rise too high. Gary did find what we were assured was Dipper excrement** on a rock at Glenkillie.
Burghead was a bit of a disappointment. Although we weren’t at Roseisle, there was no sign of any King Eider. We did see the biggest flock of Long-tailed Ducks I’ve ever seen, and some screeching alerted us to two early Sandwich Terns. On the way back we stopped at Lochindorb, where two Ospreys were on display, and we eventually saw a summer plumage Black-throated Diver. Our final stop of the day was at Loch Garten, where we saw Crested Tit, Red-breasted Merganser and House Martin amongst others.