A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Scottish Highlands - Day 3 (10th April 2015)

With our last day dawning as sunny as ever, we decided to get up early and head back to the location where we saw the male Capercaillie the day before in the hope of getting further sightings of this magnificent Scottish speciality. We were in luck - down the path just in front of us we spotted a female Capercaillie flying up to the top of one of the towering pines lining the trail! We enjoyed great views of her beautiful chestnut coloured plumage and richly patterned feathers before she became completely invisible and out of sight at the top of the tree.

Interestingly we encountered masses of Capercaillie poo in the area mainly along the sides of ridges and trails, indicating that the birds may choose to follow these indents in the substrate as natural pathways.
Capercaillie Poo
Caper poo!
It’s amazing to think of these huge birds roaming through the landscape and it’s especially sad that they are now becoming a rare sight in their last stronghold of the Scottish forests, mainly due to disturbance, habitat fragmentation and habitat loss. It was great to have seen both a male and female on our trip, and it was a perfect end to our visit to these ancient Scottish forests.
Red Squirrel, Scotland
The squirrel from the previous day was still about!
Scottish Forest
Still relatively early in the day and our target species achieved, we decided to head north to Lochindorb to see if we could locate the divers that breed on the huge expanse of water. Driving down to the loch, the surrounding heather next to the road was full of Red Grouse, the birds allowing a fantastically close approach using the car as a hide. Normally used to distant individuals flying away in the Derbyshire peak of the Goyt Valley, I made the most of this excellent photographic opportunity to get some pictures.
Red Grouse, Lochindorb
Red Grouse, Lochindorb
Red Grouse, Lochindorb
Red Grouse, Lochindorb
Red Grouse, Lochindorb
Red Grouse, Lochindorb
Red Grouse, Lochindorb
Arriving at the loch, we scanned the choppy waters for any signs of the divers, and eventually Alex managed to pick out the pair distantly on the other side of the bank. Assuming they were Black-throated, we had second thoughts as the pair approached closer, the sides of the head looking just too solidly grey, more similar to the markings of Red-throated Divers.
We moved round for a better angle, and eventually as they drifted closer I could make out the red tint to the throat underneath and the smooth pale grey sides to the head and neck – two cracking summer plumaged Red-throated Divers.

Enjoying a nice lunch by the side of the loch, we headed further north to try and catch up with any Hooded Crows, not having seen any on our journey so far. Approaching Inverness, we encountered various hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crows, slightly too dark and blotchy to be considered pure. Hooded Crows can usually be found North and West of the line splitting Inverness, so we travelled westward to visit the famous Loch Ness, with hopes of finding more than a Hoodie at the back of my mind.
Hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow
One of the hybrid Hooded x Carrion crows
Thankfully after stopping next to one of the ploughed fields which held an absolute abundance of corvids, we tracked down two pure birds, easily identifiable by their light grey shawls and darker heads. Quite underrated, these birds are subtly beautiful, and it was great to see them just on the very outskirts of their natural range.

Unfortunately Loch Ness drew a blank in the search for any lurking mythical sea creatures….
Loch Ness
With time pressing on we made our way back down to the fantastic B&B in Cumbernauld from a couple of nights earlier as a stopover point before our trip back to the North West the next day, and we enjoyed our second meal at the delicious Beefeater nearby – a fantastic end to what was a truly brilliant and memorable minibreak.

With such Scottish treasures as Capercaille, Ptarmigan, Crested Tit, Pine Marten and summer plumaged Red-throated Divers under our belt, and all our targets for the trip achieved, I’m now looking forward to our next journey north of the border to track down Scottish Crossbills and hopefully to take a trip on the boat at Portsoy to get views of the regular White-billed Divers that frequent those waters. Massive thanks to Alex for doing all the driving - a fantastic trip and most definitely well worth the effort! 

The bridge Carrbridge is named after!

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