Tuesday, 30 October 2012

First of the Winter

Tuesday October 30

Awoken from my stupour by the news of Waxwings at Repps with Bastwick - on the Stalham Gt Yarmouth Road, I had my first outing since last Thursday.
There were six birds feeding on top of a dense Hawthorn tree, in the lay-by opposite the garage. Convenient. We pulled in behind another car , the driver had the better view, then turned round to approach from the south.
This meant that I was on the side away from the birds and forced (!) to try some photos through a mucky front screen. That's no excuse for the pretty appalling photographs. It was not possible to get the depth of field required to focus more than one and they were mostly hidden amongst the branches. We watched for about twenty minutes, hoping for a classic 'berry in beak' shot, before they all flew, trilling,  away.
Beautiful birds, always a delight to see.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Great Birding Possibilities

October 24-25

And we're stuck indoors.
I've had a stomach bug, the first time I've vomited since I was a young child. I missed a lifer, Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll in Holkham Woods and good seawatching conditions. A very strong northerly wind and cold. Many Little Auks.
I was determined to try and make the Redpoll to-day, a bit of a yomp east from Lady Anne's Drive to Washington Hide then along the boardwalk into the seaward side of the dunes. Seemed to have been a very confiding bird. Bother.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Thrush Bonanza - and a Garden Tick

Tuesday October 23

A post lunch view of a Black Redstart on our front porch - garden tick - by Pam from her seat on the sofa, sent us off in search of migrants. We toured the local lanes getting as far as Cart Gap before home via more back lanes. The latter looked like plough due to sugar beet and lettuce harvesting. We saw thousands of winter thrushes, even more than we did in Scotland. I saw one male Brambling before it disappeared down a trough.
Back to our seats at home...Pam was on the phone... she saw the Black Red again. I whipped outside, saw it on our roof ridge, my camera was in the locked car! I ran indoors, got the car keys  and took some pics as it flicked from roof to roof, shivering its tail. Appalling light, misty too. This is the best I managed.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Heatherlea Week at the Mountview Hotel October 13 - 20 and a Last Day Lifer

Saturday October 13

After a hearty breakfast, we left Fairwinds Hotel late morning and drove to Aviemore to pick up Pam’s birthday cake from the Mountain Cafe. The latter turned out to be over an outdoor clothing shop with a queue for tables extending down the stairs. Amazing place, all tables full, everyone eating various cakes. No chance of a coffee here. I'd been recommended them by Heatherlea.

Picked up a huge chocolate cake and drove towards Cairngorm to find a cafe where we could park and have a hot chocolate. Whilst enjoying our drink we both admired a cherrywood albatross suspended from a bracket, its wings gracefully flapping in response to any movement. We bought it.....

Lochindorb is a favourite. By now we had a misty drizzle yet we saw 14 + Red Grouse and 3 Roe Deer. The loch was empty of all but Mallard, bred for shooting.

Lochindorb in the mist

Juvenile Red Grouse
Roe Deer
 We reached Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge, Heatherlea’s headquarters, at 3.10. Funny place...old fashioned looking, at the end of a steep driveway. We were shown to a pleasant, and large, room overlooking the front entrance, but with very little storage space. Reasonably sized en suite. No internet access either...low or non-existent signal.

Dinner was served at 6.30. Ordinary veg soup, a lump of chicken, green beans, slices of potato, followed by pear and chocolate sauce. Adequate.

Another slow and abortive internet go, downstairs in the side lounge. How disappointing. We retired to our bedroom to watch Merlin and Casualty

First reactions. Older people in the main, a scotsman with a loud voice he uses a lot. Breakfast at 7.30 to-morrow.

Sunday October 14

Pam’s 75th birthday - an especially early start to open cards etc. Even though breakfast was at 7.30, we didn’t set off until 8.45. Dilatory. All depends on when the kitchen produces the packed lunch.
Off to the moor at Dorback off the Grantown/Tomintoul road. I immediately saw a distant flying Black Grouse in an area unsuitable for stopping. We were able to park in a pull off 200 metres further on where I had 4 male Black Grouse in the scope. Still distant.

The Black Grouse spot - Pam's photo
It was very very cold on the moor!! A little better in Grantown community woods where we wandered for an hour or so, along with the inevitable dog walkers and joggers.

It was an undulating walk with sections of mud. We heard and saw: Crested Tit, Crossbill , Treecreeper, Goldcrest plus the expected commoner birds. We were shown a large lump of edible Cauliflower fungus, half of it missing but it had re-grown.

Cauliflower Fungus - about a foot across.
Our guide for the week, the very funny and affable Ian, had already acquired it and then hidden the remainder under branches to keep growing out of sight . The 'past its best' Chanterelle was in situ.
A cuppa and a home made shortbread biscuit for elevenses whilst Pam listened to the Brisbane family sing to her on the phone. The phone was then turned off for the rest of the week.

Elevenses at Anagach. From the left. Pam, Hazel, Richard, Janet, Liz, Jean, Heather, Wendy, Geoff and Joyce
After a shortish drive, we spent half an hour sea watching at Burghead, at the opposite end  from the Maltings. Few birds to see, Gannet and little else. Next stop Burghead harbour where the sun and deep troughs made viewing difficult. Big flocks of Eider some Long-tailed Ducks and large flocks of Scoter. The latter included a funny white one with a lemon beak. A few Razorbill. No sign of the King Eider... ..We ate our lunch here whilst scoping.
On to Hopeman, not much again but, a Guillemot and a flying Red-throated Diver to swell the list.
Back to the Maltings. Another flock of Scoter and a few of the delightful Long Tailed Ducks, so much handsomer in winter plumage.
Roseisle Beach, a first for us, Pam resents paying the parking charge !  She's not usually a cheapskate....An empty sea. More of the same common birds.
Findhorn Hide area on the estuary, not the hide itself, a walk around onto the marsh in front of it.. Golden Plover, Grey Heron, hundreds of Curlew, Wigeon, Dunlin, Ringed
Plover and Knot. All very distant....
Findhorn Bay. At last, 3+ Velvet Scoter amongst the dozens of Common. Our closest views of a large flock of the glorious Long-tailed Duck.
A glorious rainbow lit up the grey sky, a beautiful double arc with something else I didn't catch. Only found in this part of Scotland. Must look it up.

Mammals seen and heard
Roe Deer, Red Deer roaring, Red Squirrel, Atlantic Grey Seal.

Monday October 15

Breakfast at 7.00 to-day so that we could make an early (er) start for Ardnamurchan. We were away by 8.20, overnight small bags stashed on the back seats. Pam and I saw a flying Black Grouse en route. Everyone had been told to look to the left - we were sat on the right so that’s where we looked. We had to make a big diversion onto side roads, due to a vehicle fire, we then  passed a bus in the ditch. It too had had to make a diversion and the side of the road had given way.
Hundreds of Redwing around, apparently they’ve been pouring in over the last few days. Only 1 Fieldfare,
An absolutely stunning day. Windless, sun all day, interesting clouds, superb autumn tree colour. Scotland at its best. The reflections in the lochs were beautiful.
The Corran Ferry was discharging its car cargo as we arrived so we only waited a few minutes. 

Corran Ferry - at Corran
It was great to view Tysties in winter plumage, Shags and winter Razorbill as we crossed - still seated in the minibus.
The route crosses Loch Linnhe from Nether Lochaber to Ardgour at the Corran Narrows, nine miles south of Fort William.

Shags on drums looking north westish from Ardgour on Ardnamurchan. Coffee time.

I can't resist wrecks, also at Ardgour
We stopped at a loch on Ardnamurchan to scope Great Northern Divers, some in summer plumage, dozens of Slav Grebes, Goosander and Eider. Great excitement all round when Heather saw an Otter whilst we were birding. We all chased it along the lochside until it swam too far away. Pam, Geoff and I stopped at the first steepish descent when the otter was too distant to photograph.
A pretty large school of Harbour Porpoises showed well but distantly further along the loch, I counted 10 fins showing simultaneously. My first ever experience of  Red Deer roaring at the rut. Exciting, much better than on TV.

Wild goat sunbathing lochside
Benview Hotel in the village of Strontian is long low and wooden set on an elevated position looking out over a loch. Our room is very comfortable. Strontian gave the name to the element Strontium, one of the only two places after which an element is named. It lies on the north shore of Loch Sunart, close to the head of the loch. In the hills to the north of Strontian lead was mined in the 18th century and in these mines the mineral strontianite was discovered, from which the element strontium was first isolated (Wiki !)
As previously arranged, Kevin arrived in Ian’s car, Ian then left to drive to Dundee for a funeral.  We shall miss him. Kevin is not W's favourite person. She's a Heatherlea groupie, this is her fourth visit this year and she will return for New Year.
Before dinner, Mike joined us and we drove high into the hills where the home owners who feed Pine Martens are found. Mike is trusted by the house owners, he only takes Heatherlea to visit.

We parked a few feet away from a tree stump where jam sandwiches, honey coated peanuts and dried fruit had been laid.They didn’t come until dark. At least 3 beautiful, thickly furred, animals, taking the sandwiches away to stash for later before returning to eat the dried fruit and nuts.

The laden 'table' - before it got dark
Pine Martens are fantastic. Broad bushy tail, stoat like head, Robbie (our large ginger cat) sized. So disappointed that flash photography was not allowed, understandably. Would have loved some pics, one of the biggest disappointments really, although it was fantastic to see them.

 A delicious supper followed by New Tricks on TV.

Tues October 16

7.15 pre breakfast departure to meet Matt Ford in a lochside lay-by. Employed as a stalker/ manager for a local estate (s) he has worked for Springwatch, Autumnwatch and other wildlife programmes - still is. He's involved in helping with the wildlife shoots for a new programme on the Hebrides due to be broadcast in the spring 2013.  Matt's great, a real wildlife man. Unassuming, pleasant and a good communicator. I saw 1 otter on the drive, as did Kev and Matt, no-one else did as it only showed briefly below us. One well pointed Red Deer stag on the hillside became camera shy. Why did such a handsome beast have no hinds? It would have been better to breakfast  first was the general consensus. We were able to drive private roads and lanes because of Matt.
After breakfast, I had great scope views of 2 otters, mother and well grown young, swimming, fishing and play fighting on the seaweed rocks. Most extensive views ever, I loved it, one of the trip highlights. In all, we saw 5 otters to-day.
Looked hard for raptors, none seen, much too still and fine a day for them to be flying. Apparently, windless days are rare here.

Whilst watching Red Deer stags  rounding up their hinds on the hillside, Kevin called a Golden Eagle flying along the ridge behind us. I swung my scope round, got it immediately and watched it  landing. It soon flew again, even further away, I was able to follow it. After letting others look through my scope, I  digiscoped it.  

Very distant Golden Eagle - digiscoped with a Canon PowerShot SX 220 through Swarovski 82 scope
Matt asked for a copy of the photograph as he didn't recognise the bird, it might be this year's young or an incomer. He keeps records.
Big herds of deer on the glen side. We all stood in awe watching a great fight between two evenly matched stags, an unusually long one Matt said. Stalkers were out on the  hillside and had pushed the stags and their harems much too close together for their comfort. I watched the whole bout through my scope. Again, much better than on TV.
Gralloch  - the deer remains left on the hillside after shooting - attracts Eagles and Ravens, clean up merchants and good feeding.  No wind - nothing flying.
Loo stop at Lochaline where the ferry leaves for Fishnish on Mull. The road here was like a race track. Mull had finished hosting their annual road race and the cars were still driving fast on the single track roads of Ardnamurchan. It was one of the regular loo stops and Kevin did his 

' we're leaving in two minutes' that he's famous for (I wonder if he knows) in order to beat the incoming ferry-load. Eight women and two loos = queues.
We re-traced our drive as far as Matt’s house (garden) to eat our lunch. He talked about Pine Martens - it was on his house that they were filmed in the roof space and climbing outside. He also showed us some of his eagle feather collection so that we could see the difference in size and shape between the primaries of Golden and White-tailed Eagles. Not much difference in length but the White-tailed feathers are much broader. Juvenile eagles have longer tail feathers than the adults in order to help them fly in their first year. Fascinating. I could have listened to him all day. 

His extensive garden, at the junction of three glens, is well treed and shrubbed with two  vegetated ponds. The list of birds seen in and from it is impressive. It must look like an oasis in the middle of mountain and moorland.
We left at 2.15, dropped Matt at his car and drove directly to the ferry and home in a beautiful golden evening light and then sunset. Stunning experience, a wonderful two days. 

A Dipper at Broomhill Bridge with the sun setting behind the river and hills was an apt ending.

Wednesday October 17

Woke to a tremendously heavy frost. Ground, trees and shrubs encrusted in frosty white. Left at 8.45. Drove part of Abernethy to look for Capercaillie, Johnny, another guide, saw one here recently, we didn't. We then drove part of the Tulloch Moor road looking for feeders - all empty - nothing for Cresties to feed on.

We had elevenses in a frosty side road where I needed some privacy and took photos on my way back.

Frosted Rowan berries. Lovely
I've never seen such heavily laden Rowans as we saw in Scotland. The boughs were bent low under the weight. I thought ours was good until I saw these. A row of trees on Ardnamurchan was particularly splendid but we couldn't stop there.

-8C overnight temperature, a dusting of snow on Cairngorm, heavy hoar frost on everything. Looked wonderful. Pam's photo

Would there be Cresties at Loch Garten? Geoff, Pam and I drove back to the Hotel for peanuts whilst the others did Abernethy loos - for the second time to-day. Loch garten RSPB is closed yet the entry gate is unlocked and one can walk up to the Centre.
The hanging feeders at the entry have been removed and a board placed across the top of the rail opposite the kiosk window. Beyond here, many of us were engaged watching tits come down to feed from Ian's hand and a few people did likewise.

 Heather came over to tell us that she'd been photographing Crested Tits on the shelf. Quick return for me. I really enjoyed the challenge of catching the little b's zooming in to snatch some food and fast away. Their speed, together with poor lighting and my lack of skill = poor photos. One day........

On reaching the centre we found half a dozen people feeding and photographing the birds, obviously a known local spot. No Cresties here but a Bank Vole darting out to snatch some bird food. So many Coal Tits, far outnumbering all other species.
Heatherlea has access to a private estate off the A9, en route to Inverness, entry via a locked gate. We drove slowly along variable tracks through conifer forest, part felled in places. No-one spotted Capercaillie......When we reached the top near a pylon, we walked a little, admiring any fungus we found. Rain sent us back to the van and lunch.
A poser for a guide. What to do in the rain, I guess they're used to it up here.
Not a good day for anywhere, let alone Findhorn valley, but... that's where we went. Raptors do fly in the rain but it's not easy to see them. We stopped at the dipper bridge where we saw a fully clothed, in walking gear, man lying flat out on the bank last year. I was on the verge of pronouncing him dead when he got up and walked off. Knackered I guess. Pam and I walked over to look for spawning salmon, an ambition I've long had but done nothing about. No sign.
Not a long wait in the top car park before calling it a day. No birds and heavy rain. Time for a shower before dinner.

Thursday October 18
Usual leisurely start after a 7.30 breakfast. Drove some woods looking for Crossbill........ walked in Curr Woods looking for Crossbill.......found some nice fungi.

Wolf's Fart - who named this and why?
Via Inverness, we travelled to the  Black Isle in low overcast, mist and drizzle. One of my favourite views, Kessock Bridge, the Firth and Inverness laid out below as one crests a rise on the A9, was grey mist.
The Black Isle is not an island but is, in fact, a peninsula,. It's about 23 miles long and 9 miles wide at its broadest. It's not an island and where did the 'Black' come from? Theories range from  : a reputation for witchcraft to the colour of the soil.
Morning drink and biscuit were taken whilst  scanning Munlochy Bay for waders and ducks etc.
Highlights were our first Red Kite, Lapwing and Little Grebe (me only) and our first Black-tailed Godwit. The anticipated geese were missing. Two Yellowhammers added to the list.
High tide is a good time to be looking for Dolphins at Chanonry Point, a long finger pointing south into the Moray Firth. The opposite shore at St George forms a narrower chicane where both birds and dolphins are channelled closer to shore. Not to-day unfortunately - and it was a cold wind on the exposed shore.
Towards the landward end of the point, 30+ Swallows and a single House Martin fed low over the golf course, often perching on an overhead wire.
We continued east, I was sitting in the front for the first and only time. Ian mentioned a bird which had come through on his phone. He'd teased me earlier in the week about bringing my pager on holiday - at least I'd turned the alerts off ! I realised that I hadn't checked the news for a day or two so I read it. At first I skipped over the Cromarty message, forgetting that I was in Scotland. I checked back, a Dotterel 3 miles SW of Cromarty with a flock of Golden Plover. Just up the road.
Off we went and found the 'newly planted' field (should have said newly sprouted) after a couple of erroneous directions from locals. As suspected, the field was undulating, many of the plover often out of sight. Ian found a side road where we were able to park in a muddy track. He, Wendy and I, then scoped the multitude. I was the first to see what I thought was THE bird, sheer luck that it was in sight. I've never seen one in winter plumage before. A very pale bird, it's off white, narrow breast  band indistinct. It's a bit smaller than the Goldens too. The flock was active and flew on several occasions. Despite this, both Pam and Ian re-located the Dotterel and everyone managed to see it. Excellent. It never entered my head to try digiscoping. Lunch was eaten whilst we were there.
The road up to the headland where one can look over the area where the Cromarty Firth meets open sea is steep and single track. Part of the way up, a large bridge/tunnel appears on the right leading into an estate. Ian's trivia question for the day 'what's its purpose'. No idea - which didn't stop me guessing. It was a servant's entrance which  they had to use so that they were hidden from the gentry in the main house. How sad was that.
Last birding spot was Udale Bay at high tide. The first stop was to view several hundred Scaup way out in the bay. Two females were closer, my digiscoped photos are less than good.

Female Scaup
A rather poorly looking young Guillemot drifted by.......
The second stop was in a lay-by where a hide is situated. By now, my knees were sore from a day climbing in and out of the van. All steps are high, the front one marginally higher. Geoff - his knees are shot - and I stayed in the van, scanning from there. The others walked into the new hide, about which Ian has been fairly scathing.

Hundreds of commoner waders, at least seven Grey Heron looking dejected at which they are champions . Knot was new for the trip.
A short drive around the bay past some road works and another stop to scan the birds on the fast dropping tide. Pam photographed a Cracked Boletus here - I genuinely thought Ian said crap Boletus, cos it was.

Cracked Boletus, Pam's photo. Ian gathered it for Johnny, another guide
We got back later than usual so it was a quick change for supper at 7 before leaving for Johnny’s house to watch for badgers at 8.15.  We were ensconced in the kitchen and living room. Ian laid a peanut trail on the front grass before making our post supper drink. He'd hardly started when a badger appeared. Great. She carried on scoffing the peanuts whilst the window was opened, people leaned out, talked and cameras flashed a few feet away.

Eyes down, non stop scoffing.
Excellent. I've only had views of them crossing the road at night - or dead beside it - since I was a kid. Then, local boys caught one, loaded it into a cart and pulled it back through the woods. I was more worried about them sitting my Downs syndrome older brother on the edge of the cart with his legs dangling inside. I was supposed to be looking after him. I don't think my parents ever found out, brother Geoff kept his mouth shut for once.

Friday October 19

Catch-up day, for missed birds.
Not such a calm and collected group to-day, drifts of train, car journey and packing chat at intervals. Groups like this are so transient. One lives closely for a week and then swiftly depart, often never to meet again - although several here are Heatherlea regulars. Ships that pass in the night....It's several years since Pam and I joined a birding group, we tend to do our own birding or hire a local guide for the two of us.
A different area of Grantown woods to try for perched Crossbill, we've had a brief flying view previously.
Three Bullfinches flew through and Crested Tits were heard on our half mile each way walk.
No Crossbills.

Many fungi to keep us interested and my fascination with photographing be-dewed spider webs, spider in the centre, woven across bracken and heather, was indulged. I've not got a good one yet, too messy a background detracting from the shot, needs some plain card held behind - and that seems so artificial. I still try......
Pam found an attractive stone - one of her delights - which Ian identified as map lichen. She found two in total.

Carrbridge loos for lunch, the car park that is. I discovered why W. Pam and J. were much amused by the mirrors. I'd only used the ordinary loos previously which did have larger than normal mirrors. This time I used the disabled loo - J has a key - glanced to my right as I was seated and saw a full reflection of me which I'd never witnessed before. Nor do I want that experience again ! Now I understand the laughter.
Pam and I walked to the Spar to buy a hot drink from the vending machine. We'd seen others return with steaming cups on previous visits. To-day was such a miserable low overcast and rain - day we felt like the  olfactory comfort of hot chocolate. It was good.
Where now? Up the A9 towards Inverness and a slow, jolting,  mind-numbing tour of the forested estate again to look for Capercaillie. Ian's timely reminders of where to look kept us more or less on task. After the usual false alarms of calls to look at dark stumps, Richard's call was yet another piece of punctuation. Until...it actually was one! Only visible from a certain angle and sitting with its back to us was a male Caper. Richard had been so disappointed not to have seen one - it was the only bird he wanted to see, he's not a birder. And to find it himself must be brilliant. Ian rolled the van backwards and forwards to ensure all saw the bird, found the best view and started a strange (later) setries of movements in the van. Imagine several less than agile, some elderly and all handicapped by low headroom, other bodies and high backed seats changing position to take turns to view. It all seemed quite normal at the time. At Ian's suggestion, W.  then set her scope up just inside the door and the quadrille started again.

My brain had to process seeing the bird upside down as I leaned over the seat - my knees do not allow me to kneel without extreme discomfort. Ian's suggestion that I walk along the ceiling was not a goer.
Phew, many happy people with terrible photographs taken through tinted, rain-dropped glass of a black blob sitting amongst branches. I'd got sharp branches and fuzzy bird. Through the binoculars, one could see all the salient ID features well. I should have tried to digiscope the male and female birds we saw well at Loch Garten in the spring. Too busy looking at the time.
Further along the A9 we took the Ruthven turning and drove a part of the Findhorn Valley unfamiliar to us. Such a beautiful valley in persistent rain. We were looking for hares, both Brown and Mountain, all we saw was rabbits.
A contraption at the side of the swollen Findhorn river turned out to be a zip line for fishermen to cross to the other bank via a box, locked away, which could be suspended from the wires crossing the river. I reckon they would have got more than their feet wet, the wires were very low.

Pam and I went for a wet walk up the track, a few others got out too, we were not out long. Back to the hotel earlier than usual so that we could do some packing before dinner.
After dinner on the last night, it is traditional for groups to assemble in order to take turns to speak about the best wildlife and the best non-wildlife experience of the week. Ian took notes as he is charged with producing a report. I could have chosen so many highlights. The rutting deer was popular, I chose my excellent sustained views of the female otter and her well grown cub. Where did Matt fit in? He could have been in either category in my book. Glorious scenery, especially the hoar frost morning on autumn trees and the sunshine on similar trees on Ardnamurchan, greatly enhanced by perfect mirror reflections in the glassy still-water lochs. I do not like sharing my emotions with realtive strangers - I'm not the best with friends - so chose the disabled loo mirror at Carrbridge for a cheap laugh.
The apparently silent and reserved Geoff, who we got to know well as the week went on, we were often seated near him in the bus and at meals, brought the house down at the end. We were well aware of his dry humour and pithy asides but his Skua story was a classic. Speaking of Bomb Alley on Shetland, he told us that Bonxies come straight for the eyes. His theory was that if he put his coat on back to front and put a mask of a face on the back of his head......we didn't hear the rest, everyone roared and Ian had difficulty in keeping his water in his mouth. A spontaneous classic.
It's been a lot of fun this week, ably led by Ian who is also a very good birder,  my reserve soon dropped. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and Pam was very happy that her birthday choice turned out so well. I still hankered for Scilly.........

Saturday October 17
Our lifer is still there - after at least 5 days. I set the SatNav to Crail, south of St Andrews, and we were there lunch time. Not without puzzlement. We asked three people, including at the golf club which was only half a mile away, the way to  Kilminning. At last, a man told us it was along the lane with a big sign to the GoKart track at its entrance.
Kilminning looked like a disused and very overgrown airfield, lots of cracked concrete in secret corners edged by trees and shrubs. It could have been a race track I suppose, there was one up the road which we passed on the way in.

The first evidence of man's use of the site comes from ancient stone burial chambers called cists which have been found opposite the Kilminning Castle rock. Another burial site, Long Man's Grave, lies at the northeast end of the reserve. In local folklore, it is said to be the final resting place of a great Danish warrior.
During the Second World War the land behind the reserve was used as a Royal Navy Air Station. Remains of some of the defensive works that protected the airfield can still be seen on and around the Reserve. 

Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve is an area rich in wildlife and history. The reserve consists of a strip of coastland about one kilometre in length and 10 hectares in size. It was established in 1985 and is managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust through an agreement with the owners, Fife Council.

Should have looked it up first before surmising!

Early afternoon, the sun came out. After several false alarms and fruitless rushes, with the help of several other birders, all very helpful, the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler showed very well in a partially bare Elderberry Tree. It was very active but occasionally paused and appeared to listen to the ratatat of camera shutters. Pam fetched my scope and Powershot, I managed three photos before it disappeared.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Amphibian Vehicle Wanted

Friday October 12
It was dry when we set off from Annan, then mist which became increasingly heavy and sustained rain. I've known much worse, this was accumalative. Misty mountainsides and roadside banks cascaded with  white-foam rivulets hurtling downwards. Many roadside meadows were lochans, the River Spey had spread across the valley, tops of bushes showing the original water course meandering. Awesome.
Despite several road works involving convoys and lengthy delays, we reached Aviemore at mid-day. The village was incredibly crowded, we didn't expect that at this time of year on a Friday. We quickly filled a parking space in Tesco, waiting whilst someone moved out, walked to the chemist for some more Night Nurse for Pam - and earplugs for me! We then bought some lined waterproof trousers ( seemed an essential) and lunched at Roo's Leap. 
Lyndsay greeted us at the Fairwinds Hotel, where we usually stay in a chalet in May, and showed us to our comfortable room. Hurrah, my laptop accesses the internet fine here. What happened last night? I caught up with my farm, had a shower and dressed for dinner. We'd ordered Carrot Soup, Venison in a pepper sauce, followed by ice-cream and chocolate fudge sauce. The other starters and mains were fish based. All very good. Lucy the Maltese Terrier came to see us plus Lily, also a Maltese  who belongs to friends who are on holiday.
No football to watch to-night, Scottish TV is restrictive. England beat San Marino 5-0 and Wales beat Scotland 2-1, the second an absolute screamer by Bale.
Time for bed after watching devastating flood scenes on Scotland's east coast somewhere........

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Barnacle Day?

Thursday October

We set off in sun and ended up driving in torrential rain. We stopped several times but still got to the Annan area with enough light left to drive to Caerlaverock - well that's what Pam decided! I didn't think it was a good idea after a long drive and her persistent hacking cough - and the heavy rain.
Befgore reaching Caerlaverock, we spied a flock of about 80 beautiful Barnacle Geese amongst a flock of Gulls in a lane side field. How lovely  to see a flock other than the one or two, amongst thousands of Pinkfeet, that we may be lucky to get in Norfolk. I took a few photos in the heavy rain and mist.......

Here they are....

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The First - on the Second

Tuesday September 2

Pam was insistent that we do a day's birding despite her viral upper respiratory infection. The doctor pronounced her chest clear yesterday! Despite this, she has a dreadful cough. If she stood near the sea-lion enclosure at the zoo, the keeper would throw her a fish. 
Abbey Farm had plenty of water and 30+ Teal in addition to the usual Coot, Moorhen, iffy Mallard and one Little Grebe. Not even any Greylag.
At Snettisham, the tide was receding fast with plenty of the usual waders scattered on the mud, all feeding avidly - apart from the flock of Golden Plover which just sat there in a tight huddle.
Pam thought she could manage a walk at Titchwell, we got as far as the bench overlooking the Freshwater pool. Here we added 10 Spoonbill, witnessing one big youngster begging for food, one Little Stint, a Curlew Sandpiper, Pintail, Gadwall, Shoveller, 30+Avocet, Reed Bunting and four of our first Dark-bellied Brent flew over. A sharp 'chevit' alerted us to the presence of a Spotted Sandpiper on a Thornham Marsh pool. We added 16 birds to our list in a pleasant temperature. The wind was starting to increase as we made our way back.

The only picture I took all day. This Beetle sp was bumbling along the path verge. What is it?
Why were several birders viewing Thornham Marsh through a gap in the trees near the Centre? Three Whinchat were zipping about on the large bales in a hay field. Our first this year. Too early in Scotland and we'd missed the passage in Norfolk. Lovely surprise bird.
No Ibis at Salthouse but Egyptian and Canadas were day ticks, as were the Red-throated Divers and Gannets seen from Cley Beach.
We saw three House Martins at Thornham and a single Swallow at Titchwell, no other hirundine to-day. We also missed Little Egret (!) and Skylark which we usually expect, other 'misses' often are.
To-day's total was a pleasing 83, all but 16 from the car..........

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Most enjoyable - apart from the result

Saturday September 29
5.30 kick-off so we were able to drive to Manchester in the morning. We'd gone posh this time and booked a hospitality package based on Salford City rugby league ground. All the Old Trafford deals were taken. This involved parking at OT and being bussed to the Salford stadium, built two years ago. Lovely room and facilities.

Champagne on arrival and then a notified table. Ours was number 4 and we ended up four missing from the ten settings. Two siblings, she from Malta he from Norwich. An English man from Florida and his Venezuelan girlfriend ! Very good meal. I had pea soup followed by chicken, a delicious chocolate tart and cheese and biscuits. Wine with the meal was part of the deal ,  as there were four missing Pam and I had most of the bottle of red - over three hours. 
Bussed back to the ground, Man U magazine and a Twix on the seat, we walked to the Megastore. As Pam was passing a big bloke he stepped back and knocked her flying. First Aid was quickly there but she was unhurt apart from shock and a few bruises. Very lucky. After form filling we made our way to our seats near the Stretford End in the NW quadrant to enjoy the pre match atmosphere and team warm-up session.

Man U always warm up at our end.

Stretford End - the fanatics are in the top tier.
Paul Scholes was fantastic throughout, all over the pitch.
The calls of Roooooneeeeey went up at the end of the first half. He was on for the second and made a difference.

Dreadful performance by us in the first half, 2-0 to Spurs. Wonderfully exciting in the second half, the noise from The Stretford End was incredible, wish I'd been sitting there. End score was 3-2 to Spurs which they deserved, don't know how we didn't score 5 or 6 goals, they were really under the cosh. AVB said that they were shattered by the end. Spurs all looked bigger than us too, Bale is enormous and so fast. He had a brilliant game.

Very slow drive to the Travelodge, thank goodness fro the SatNav, so many roads closed off. We got in at 9, had a meal in the restaurant which we'd pre-paid, far too late for Pam's stomach, she had a bit of mine, delicious Lamb Shank and chips followed by ice-cream with chocolate sauce. Pam had her own of the latter.
We drove home on Sunday morning after a cooked breakfast, getting in at 2ish. I want to go again and again......