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SCOTLAND 26th August - 2nd September 2000


26th Aug

For those of us leaving the South West by train it meant an early start and a long day. Everyone except Philip had delays of one form or another, but eventually we all arrived safely at our hotel in Nethybridge. We had our evening meal and then despite the thunder and lightening we retired to bed ready for the morning.  

DAY 2 27th Aug

This morning the weather had cleared and blue sky and sunshine made the view from our hotel towards the mountains a beautiful sight. As we ate breakfast we were distracted by a Red Squirrel in the garden. Having finished we headed for the Abernethy Forest. After only a fifteen minute drive we soon arrived and then set of for a walk. The forest was rather quiet except for several mixed tit flocks which included Goldcrests, Coal Tits and even a few Crested Tits although they did not show as well a we would have liked. Continuing on through the forest we came to a clearing where we could look across towards the Cairngorms. Two Black Grouse suddenly flew up from the heather and disappeared over the hill with only a few of us managing to see them, a Roe Deer was then spotted feeding down in the valley. We then returned to the vehicle and drove to a bridge over the river Spey where we had our picnic lunch. A superb Dipper was seen very close on the river while Common Buzzards and a Goldeneye flew over. We then continued on to Loch Indorb and as soon as we had arrived we were out of the minibus and watching two adults and a juvenile Black-throated Diver swimming silently across the loch. As we watched these birds Mick then spotted an Osprey which was soon joined by a second bird after which they flew around with one bird eventually diving in to catch a fish. We moved further around to get better views of the divers and then drove to the other side of the loch where we set up the telescopes on a few Red Grouse which were trying to hide in the heather. We left here and drove back towards the hotel stopping briefly to view several small pools which held both Wigeon and Teal plus a Little Grebe. A short drive then saw us back at our hotel ready for our evening meals.


DAY 3 28th Aug

After an early breakfast we set off towards the West coast. A short stop at Tullock moor soon had us watching a male Black Grouse stood proud on a mound of heather. Another four birds were then seen flying across the road. We continued on to Arrisaig where we soon boarded the boat which would take us to the island of Eigg. While waiting for the boat to depart we spotted an Otter floating on its back close to the shore, everyone enjoyed seeing this beautiful animal before the boat set off. It wasn't long before we spotted our first Black Guillemots on the sea and families of Common Seals lazing around on the rocks. Once we had cleared the mainland we started to see more and more Common Guillemots and Razorbills, allowing good comparisons of these two species. We also saw several more Black Guillemots, there were lots of Kittiwakes and then we saw our first Harbour Porpoises, soon followed two Great Skuas, including one bird that the captain steered the boat right alongside. With the flat calm conditions it wasn't long before we spotted the first of six or more huge Minke Whales, the captain setting chase to try and get the boat close to where we thought the whales would surface next. The excitement of seeing these large mammals blow and break the water fairly close to us was a highlight of the crossing. A short stop was then made on the island of Eigg before we continued on to the smaller island of Muck. Again Black Guillemots, there commoner cousins and more whales were seen. After disembarking we spent a couple of hours here. First our picnic lunch was eaten along with some of the local fresh cakes and then we took a short walk so as we could overlook the island of Rhum. There were a few Hooded Crows seen and some very distant Twite, plus common species such as Meadow Pipits, Stonechat and even a Kestrel a rare bird for the island. On our return boat trip we picked up several distant Manx Shearwaters and a couple of Arctic Skuas as well as a single Barnacle Goose amongst some Greylags. The return journey was less eventful but we did see two close Harbour Porpoises and several more Black Guillemots. Once ashore we were soon back in the minibus and on our way to the hotel.


DAY 4 29th Aug


towards Cairn Lochan

After breakfast we headed off to the Cairngorms. We arrived at the car park collected our packed lunches and then set off walking uphill towards Cairn Lochan. Two Wheatears were seen while Meadow Pipits could often be heard giving their (sip) calls. After an hours walking we got to an area of scree where several of the group took a higher path than the rest and then we continued walking parallel to each other. We hadn't gone far before two Ptarmigan flew up calling and then landed on some rocks not to far away. With our telescopes trained on these birds we all enjoyed wonderful views before they eventually flew off again. We then walked a little further until we reached a flat plateau which was a good place to eat our lunch. The views from this height were spectacular, and once we had finished our lunches we set off to search the plateau.

higher area

A close Ptarmigan was seen by a few, before we all got to a higher area of grasses where we then fanned out and slowly walked along. A group of twelve Ptarmigan appeared and were watched running along in front of us, and this was then followed by a Dotterel flying off calling. We continued slowly on and then Mick signalled as he then found a second bird no more than twenty feet in front of him. This juvenile Dotterel allowed us watch it very close for as long as we wished. After half an hour of stunning views we left the bird alone and set off back down the mountain. The group of Ptarmigan were seen very close again and then we headed downhill toward a very distant car park. It seemed to take forever to get back but once there we found three Twite feeding on some weeds, showing very well. From here we then returned making a quick tea break beside Loch Morlich, where we found eight Goosander and seven Goldeneye plus two Red-throated Divers. We then made our way back to the hotel ready for our evening meal.




30th Aug


Today we were up early for a pre-breakfast walk. En-route to Tullock moor as we passed through a woodland Margaret and then Chris shouted as they spotted a head sticking out from the heather. We reversed the van up and then watched as two or three Capercaillie walked through the heather showing on occasions. We decided to get ahead of where the birds were walking and then as most of waited in the forest a few then slowly walked towards the area we had seen the birds. Amazingly five Capercaillie then flew up right in front of us, giving superb views. We watched as one bird landed in a nearby tree giving us wonderful scope views, before it then flew off and through the wood. Elated with this we then continued on to the moor where it wasn't long before we spotted a male Black Grouse sat on the top of a ridge of heather. We quietly set the scopes up and despite the mist enjoyed good views of this bird as well, making our early morning start well worth while. After breakfast we headed to a private hunting estate where we then drove slowly around the woods. Several small tit flocks were found but the last one produced the hoped for views of Crested Tits that everyone wanted. We had a few of these lovely little birds right beside the minibus allowing excellent views. Other birds in the wood included Meadow Pipits, Goldcrests, Mistle Thrushes and lots of Coal Tits. Leaving the wood we then drove to the Findhorn valley where we parked at the end and ate our packed lunches. On the hillside opposite we watched lots of Red Deer, most of which supported huge antlers. Lunch over with we then decided to walk up the valley. There were lots of Buzzards and Ravens seen while Peregrines also put in an appearance. We scanned the sky for hours and just as we were about to leave a sub-adult Golden Eagle was spotted flying along the hillside beside a Buzzard, it then dropped to land on a small rock, from which we could all enjoy super views. As we watched this bird another was spotted flying right overhead, giving everyone time to appreciate this magnificent bird. Content we then left, but not before the eagle on the rock then took off and flew low around the hill in front of us. We then drove back to the hotel with a brief stop as Mick spotted a Short-eared Owl. After our evening meal we took a short walk up the road where we saw what was probably a Long-eared Owl, several bats including Piperstrelle and Long-eared and finally a Hedgehog.

DAY 6 31st Aug

Mick's early morning walk paid off when he found a pair of Capercaillie and some Roe Deer. After breakfast we all headed into the Abernethy forest, where despite the drizzle we were going to try and find crossbills. At Loch Garten we walked slowly through the wood. It was generally quiet although Siskins could be heard calling overhead and on the nearby Loch we found several Goldeneye. We decide to try another part of the wood and it wasn't long before we had brief flight views of two or three Capercaillie. A mixed flock of birds included a Spotted Flycatcher, Treecreepers and several Crested Tits which came down very close. We had our lunch at Loch Garten and then headed to the Black Isle, with a brief stop to look at Carrbridge. Continuing on we made our first stop at channery point. Unfortunately the winds were from the west so our chances of seeing seabirds was slim although we did see plenty of Kittiwakes and a few Sandwich Terns. From here we then drove to Udale where we were able to watch over the estuary from the RSPB hide. As we arrived an Osprey was spotted circling around and then flying out to sea. The tide had just started to go out and wading birds were leaving their roost to feed on the exposed mud. Lots of Oystercatchers were soon joined by Redshanks, Dunlin, bar and Black-tailed Godwits and a few Knot, there were 1,000s of Wigeon in the bay plus a few commoner duck. With the weather wet and miserable we then left and headed back to the hotel. After our evening meal we had a short walk down the road where we saw a Piperstrelle and then a Daubenton's Bat which was hunting low over the water under a bridge.

DAY 7 1st Sept


Almost everyone was up at dawn for a walk into nearby Dell Wood. It was drizzling but we weren't put off. It was generally very quiet excepting the ever present Wrens singing and Siskin's flying over, and after an hours walking we were about to return through the wood a different direction when suddenly a male Capercaillie flew up from in front of us soon followed by a female, they both flew away and everyone got good views. We then returned to the hotel for breakfast after which we decide to try one last attempt to find crossbills. We went into a different part of the Abernethy forest and after a fifteen minute walk a Scottish Crossbill was spotted on top of a tree. It then flew off joined by another eight but there was still two juvenile's left in the same tree. We approached closer and eventually everyone got fairly good views as these birds feed on the pine cones. Leaving here we then collected our packed lunches from the hotel and set off to the east coast. When we arrived at the Ythan Estuary we searched the first Common Eiders we found to try and locate the resident King Eider. We saw Golden Plover, Turnstones, Lapwings and both Sandwich and Common Terns. Not finding the eider we decided to try nearer the sea. We searched through hundreds of eider but still could not find the king. By the mouth of the estuary we watched a Great Skua fly close by chasing the terns while on the sand and out at sea we saw Shoveler, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, lots of Kittiwakes and a couple of seal pups. We walked back to the minibus leaving Mick and Chris to find an Arctic Skua while we went through the waders finding lots of Knot and Ringed Plover plus a Greenshank, Grey Plovers and some Bar-tailed Godwits. We never found the King Eider which must have been out at sea, so we decided to check further up the river. Here we found two Pink-footed Geese and three Ospreys plus a single Spoonbill sat amongst the Cormorants. Finally we left and returned back to our hotel, but not without an emergency stop for a superb Short-eared Owl sat on a fence post and then flying around.

DAY 8 2nd Sept


After an early breakfast we said our farewells and then all headed off back to our respective homes bringing this great tour to a memorable end.


For a complete Birdlist, Follow this link for the 96K Adobe Acrobat PDF document.


birdseekers photos