Thursday, 31 March 2011

Scotland - 5 Day Highlands Tour

26th March - Day 1

I couldn't resist a visit to Scotland before returning to Spain on the 4th April, so I set off for a few days in the Highlands with Dan and Rob Pointon early on the morning of the 26th. We broke up the journey North with a stop at Sizergh Castle and had a look for the recently reported Hawfinch. We managed to see a total of 8 birds including the bird pictured below.
By 14.45 I was stood on the top of Cairngorm mountain and after a short walk managed to find 2 superb Ptarmigan. It was fantastic to watch these crackin birds, particularly when the male bird began displaying to the female. A single Snow Bunting was also a welcome edition to the trip list. Despite the continuous snow, I managed a few pictures below. Click on the Image to see an enlarged version.

Ptarmigan - above 5 images

We called in at Insh Loch on the way home and recorded 30+ Goldeneye, Gooseander, a single Slavonian Grebe and numerous Whooper Swan on the nearby marshes. The best find here was a 2nd Summer Iceland Gull which was roosting on the loch.

27th Marsh - Day 2

We began our day at Loch Garten where we visited a nearby Black Grouse lek, recording 2 male birds and a single Brambling. Next stop was Grantown-on-Spey where a walk through the ancient woods the surround the town produced numerous Crested Tit, Woodcock and 7 Crossbill sp, including the male pictured below. This bird seemed a fairly good candidate for Scottish Crossbill if that's possible! Note the bulbous neck, medium sized bill and the birds call was also fairly deep. A private site was our next venue and after a short visit 5 Capercaillie had been seen, offering distant but good scope views, including the below male which was just loafing in the tree for the duration of our visit.

Above 2 images - Capercaillie

Crossbill Sp.

Before moving on to Lochindorb we stopped in the town to admire the resident Dipper as they urgently went about collecting nesting material. On arrival it was clear that the Black-throated Diver had not yet returned to Lochindorb, however the visit wasn't a waste of time as numerous Red Grouse showed well from the car throughout the drive around the loch, see below.


Red Grouse - female

Red Grouse - male

The afternoon was spent sea watching from various points around Burghead, my personal combined totals are as follows; Guillemot (numerous), Razorbill (numerous), Sandwich Tern (6), Common Scoter (numerous), Eider (numerous, below), Red-throated Diver (5), Great-northern Diver (15+), Slavonian Grebe (20+), Red-breasted Merganser (30+), Velvet Scoter (250+) and Long-tailed Duck (200+, below).

Once again we ended the day at Insh Loch where the 2nd summer Iceland Gull remained.

Long-tailed Duck


28th March - Day 3

Today we headed out onto the Wester Ross Peninsula, stopping en route for Red Kites along the main road and an adult Ring-billed Gull at Dingwall which was in the company of a Nordic Jackdaw (pictured below). Throughout the day we stopped at various spots along the loop road including Little Loch Broom, Gruinard Bay, Loch Ewe and Loch Maree.

Although we missed out on White-tailed Eagles, we did have a really good day - recording the following combined totals of note; Great-northern Diver (250+, below), Red-throated Diver (5), Black-throated Diver (3), Slavonian Grebe (40+), Black Guillemot (25+), Shag (numerous), Red-breasted Merganser (numerous), Golden Eagle (1), Pink-footed Goose (12, below) and a single White-fronted Goose, see below.

Ring-billed Gull

"Nordic" Jackdaw

White-fronted Goose

Pink-footed Goose

Great-northern Diver

29th March - Day 4

Today we began near Grantown-on-spey and managed to locate 5+ Parrot Crossbill, including one male which despite being too distant for a picture gave exceptional scope views. When seen well these birds are impressively massive with a bill which represents nearly its entire face! We also watched a number of Red Squirrel including the cheeky individual below which seemed keen for a drink!!

Great Grey Shrike

Red Squirrel

We spent the afternoon having a leisurely stroll along the Findhorn Valley, the breath-taking views of this area were only enhanced by the presence of a minimum of 4 Golden Eagle, including the very showy bird pictured below. Having a little extra daylight thanks to the clock change we decided to stop at Drumguish where we soon located the Great Grey Shrike (above) which was last reported in mid February.

Above 4 Images - Golden Eagle

30th March - Day 5

After such a successful trip we made our way home today, stopping briefly at Vane Farm RSPB for a look at the Ross's Goose and Lower Largo where we managed to pick out an adult drake Surf Scoter and a single Red-necked Grebe amongst the plethora of other sea duck. We currently have only two places remaining on our May Highlands tour (5th - 9th), for further information on this tour please visit

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Ireland Day 3

We began our final day at Nimmo's pier, in the hope of finding some White-winged Gull's or re-locating the American Herring Gull which has been seen sporadically in various place's along the coast during the winter. Unfortunately we didn't connect with any of our target Gulls but we did manage to find 3 Ring-billed Gulls, 2 adults (including the adult pictured below) and a single 3rd winter bird. Click any image to view an enlarged version.

We birded the area for a couple of hours longer recording the following species of note, Bar-tailed Godwit (30+), Greenshank (1), Knot (2), Turnstone (40+), Sandwich Tern (2) and numerous common waders such as Curlew and Redshank. We also spent a few minutes watching the Grey Heron pictured below attempting to eat the disgusting looking fish type meat, although a struggle it eventually swallowed it whole!!!

Above 4 Images - Adult Ring-billed Gull, Nimmo's Pier, Galway.

Grey Heron. Nimmo's Pier, Galway

Next stop was Cobh for another crack at the now resident Indian House Crow (see images below). Unbelievably having spent hours searching on the first day of the trip, this time I could hear the bird calling as soon as we got out of the car and within seconds we were all getting superb views of this highly under rated corvid. Having cleaned up all our target birds for the trip we could now just enjoy some relaxed birding and spent the afternoon searching the various channels and marshes between Great Island and Little Island.

New species for the trip recorded during the afternoon included, Dunlin (numerous), Grey Plover (10+) and a single Common Buzzard. Thanks to Dad, Dan Pointon and Ashley Howe for a crackin few days birding, good company, good Guinness and most importantly good birding!

Above 3 Images - Indian House Crow, Cobh, Cork.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Ireland Day 2

Having stopped the night in Galway we had a couple of hours driving ahead of us at the start of day 2, aiming to reach our next main target bird - American Coot. We arrived on the Mullet peninsula at 11.30 and immediately set about searching the extensive Reed bordered edges of lake Termoncarragh. The initial 2 hours on site were good, recording 4 Whooper Swans, 1 ad Iceland Gull and a Shovellor/Blue-winged Teal hybrid.

Eventually I managed to locate the bird moving through the reeds and after a short wait it came out into full view for all the group to see. Below is a very poor record shot which obviously does this bird little justice. If you enlarge the picture you may see some of the features such as the lack of white in the shield and the dark ring on the greyish bill. The overall colour of this bird is also much lighter than our Coots, similar to the colour difference between Jackdaw and Chough. The white undertail coverts were also noticeable, but mainly when diving under the water.

American Coot

Next stop was Rossaveel in the hope of re-locating the recent Theyer's Gull, no such luck! There was a massive shortage of large Gulls on site, a single Glaucous Gull providing the only excitement. We decided to spend the last bit of daylight at Nimmo's pier and at this site we were not disappointed. I immediately located a smart adult Ring-billed Gull amongst the Common and Black-headed Gulls. Shortly afterwards Dan picked out the Forsters Tern with 5 Sandwich Tern feeding on some nearby rocks. We watched this amazing little bird until it went dark, click on any of the images below to enlarge the picture. We also got very close views of the below Hooded Crow, Turnstone and Great Northern Diver! A superb days birding, lets just hope tomorrow is as good!!

Above 4 Images - Forsters Tern

Great Northern Diver
Hooded Crow

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Ireland Trip - Day 1

Having limited time to do any posts during this trip means a full report will have to wait until Thursday, I couldn't resist adding a bit now though. Yesterday (monday 14th), Dan Pointon, Mark Powell, Ashley Howe and myself arrived in Dublin at about 6am, we headed straight for the Indian House Crow in Cork but despite a 3 hour search, we couldn't pin down our target species. Deciding to "cut our losses" we moved on towards Rossbeigh to try and see the recently reported White-winged Scoter of the Asian sub-species stejnegeri.

Within a few minutes we had located the bird feeding with a small raft of Common Scoter. I managed to get a couple if images below and also a very poor video which does show the bird with its wings open at about 33secs. I will put my full notes on here when we arrive back at home on Thursday, a very distinctive bird none-the-less, as you can see below. Large numbers of Red-throated and to a lesser extent Great-northern Diver, were also watched at close range in the bay. Click on the images to enlargen them.

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter

Friday, 11 March 2011

Deer Park Mere

Arriving at Deer Park Mere at 08.00, I walked the footpath around the Mere and back to the hide. It was much the same bird wise as a couple of days ago, with the female Smew still in residence along with numerous Wigeon and 10+ Goldeneye. The feeders were again productive with Marsh, Willow, Coal and Long-tailed Tits numerous. All 3 Woodpecker species were again recorded on site, with the Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers drumming alongside the mere. The best surprise of the day were 2 Mandarin Duck which were feeding near the island throughout the few hours I spent on site. Mark.

Mandarin Duck

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

This morning on the patch and Gulls from the weekend

Dad managed a few hours away from the desk on the patch this morning and got a couple of nice images featured below of a drake Goldeneye and a Treecreeper. Other bits of note recorded included - Wigeon (numerous), Goldeneye (12), Marsh Tit (6), Willow Tit (2) and a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker all from the hide.

I have also included a good record shot of a Glaucous Gull which we saw a few days ago at Sandbach Flashes. The bird was with an Iceland Gull as well which unfortunately would not pose out in the open and remained amongst the large congregation of mixed gulls whilst we were there.

With a trip to Ireland for 3 days this Sunday already planned, the news today of a drake White-winged Scoter in Kerry, certainly got everybody involved excited! Fingers crossed it sticks around, watch this space for a full trip report and pictures on Thursday next week!!



Glaucous Gull

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Chippin Gripback!!

Having seen the Oriental Turtle Dove a few times now, my Dad was keen to see the bird as soon as possible and today at the second time of asking, he did!! The bird seems to still be drawing in the crowds with 40+ people there this morning. Despite low light and the glass of the window, Dad still managed to get the great images below. Again many thanks to the owner of number 41 not only for allowing access but also for keeping the peace with the other residents. His superb efforts and hospitality have raised over £2500 for Birdlife International.

Above 3 Images - Oriental Turtle Dove. Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire