Saturday, April 27, 2019

📖 #19/2019 ~ SCOTLAND

Over the Easter weekend, Dazza and I spent time in the southern end of the Cairngorms National Park in glorious conditions. Around an hour from our new property, we began at the Muir of Dinnet just off the B9119. There are two freshwater lochs with fringing vegetation, plus mixed pine and birch woodland, thinning to open moor on the high ground.

It was a pleasant walk down to the waterside with the usual selection of Siskin, Coal Tit, Chiffchaff and Common Crossbill, a definite influx of Willow Warblers and a single Redstart but the highlight for me was a couple of singing Tree Pipits. The loch itself was extremely quiet with the exception of two pair of Goldeneye which were likely nesting nearby.

Red Grouse abundant around the Cairngorms
From here we rejoined the A93, the highest public road in the UK and continued on towards our final destination of Glenshee Ski Center. As usual, we stopped on many occasions to enjoy the outstanding views with many Red Grouse and of course, there's always a possibility of spotting a Golden Eagle, although sadly not today.

Grey Wagtail

Common Sandpiper
One area we've visited on previous occasions is at Glen Clunie, a small conifer plantation at Baddoch along the A93 and after parking up we headed off across the hills to the west. The River Dee runs along this stretch as it winds down the mountains towards its eventual outlet at Aberdeen. Here we encountered Dipper, Grey Wagtail and up to four Common Sandpipers, many Meadow Pipits and at least six Wheatear were also noted. Good scoped views were obtained of two distant Ring Ouzels and the occasional call of Raven high up in the hills, there were several Siskin and Crossbill along the plantation.

Wheatear
Common Crossbill
With the day ebbing away our final stop was at Ballochbuie Forest, which is best accessed from the car park at Keiloch on the Invercauld Estate. It's one of the largest areas of native pinewood and part of the Balmoral Estate. Once again the River Dee runs alongside and more Common Sandpipers were noted along with a drake Goosander and four females. Capercaillie are now very rare here or even absent and it was no surprise we didn't encounter one but Black Grouse, more Siskins, Scottish Crossbill, Tree Pipit and a passing Osprey were the highlights.

At least nine Whimbrel along the Ythan Estuary
With Dazza flying back to Birmingham early Tuesday morning and me driving back Thursday I spent the remainder of my time discovering more of the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire coastline and RSPB Loch of Strathbeg. Highlights during these visits included Sandwich, Common and Little Tern, plus Common Crane, Spoonbill, Whimbrel, Greenshank and Little-ringed Plover (apparently quite the rarity up here). The Ythan Estuary holds the UKs largest population of Eiders, which were literally everywhere, Red-breasted Merganser and Long-tailed Duck can also be found in good numbers and waders during my visits included Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, summer plumage Golden Plover, many Curlew and Ringed Plover.

The Ythan Estuary mouth also holds a huge population of Grey Seal