Thursday, 27 February 2014

AMERICAN COOT AND CAPERCAILLIE

A trip up north for the AMERICAN COOT at Loch Flemington was a great chance to spend a few days up in delightful Scotland, a place I've not birded for many years.

 

 

Day 1-2: Leaving on Saturday morning at 11:30am, driving the 535 miles from my house and arriving at around 7:30pm at Boat-of-Garten, I managed to book into the Boat hotel. First thing on the agenda for the morning was the Coot. Only 36 miles from where I was staying and on arrival I was greeted by Pete Morris and Alan Lewis. Amazing how you can bump into people you know in the wildest of places. The weather was poor with these being the best and only images of the AMERICAN COOT I could obtain. These were taken with the iPhone and scope and in the extremely dull wet conditions.

 

After I had had my fill of the Coot I then took the short drive to Loch Garten where my target bird was Crested Tit. A bird I've seen before but had never been able to get any decent photos of. As Tits go this has to be the finest on our shores, although confined to the Pine Forests of the extreme north. Another target species was Scottish Crossbill but I was unable to locate any in the usual haunts. The Crested Tit was an absolute joy to see and really great to finally get some decent images of this charming little bird.

 
 
 
 

The area was good for many species including Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch and the wonderful Tree Creeper.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Day 3: I was planning to tackle the Findhorn Valley but the low cloud and rain put pay to that. Although I have since heard from a friend that both Golden Eagle and White-tailed Sea Eagle were seen that day. I however drove out to a known site for Black Grouse only to find that the field that they had fed in previously was no longer as they required it. No sign of the birds at all. I did see an immature Golden Eagle on the mountain pass near Dirdhu, which was a great bit of luck. The only grouse on offer was the rather glorious Red Grouse.
 
 

My next target was Capercaillie, a real beauty and sadly declining grouse. I had been given some infomation by a friend of mine Christopher Bridge. I was unlucky on the morning of my visit but I know three were seen the following morning, due to a call from another good friend Paul Hackett and in the very spot Chris had mapped out for me. I went to another location later that afternoon and was totally amazed and privileged to get the selection of images below.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The most amazing, exhilarating, scary and truly a wonderful experience. Certainly one of the top highlight's of my birding years. I've seen Capercaillie before but never managed great views like this. Sadly the Capercaillie, according to the RSPB are down to less than 280 individuals. We really must try to do what ever we can to save this our largest and possibly the most beautiful of all grouse.
 
 
Day 4: Was final days birding and was a morning looking at Black Grouse at Tulloch Moor and then on to Caingorm and unfortunately failing to locate any Ptarmigan. A nice addition to the list of sightings was this beautiful Roe Deer that stared at me for at least 3mins before deciding it may be best to depart back into the deepest parts of the Forest.
 
 
 
All in all, a great few days. I do hope to go back to wonderful Scotland before the end of May this year, fingers crossed.