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Monday, 10 March 2014

Scotland - Day 3

March 2nd

The 3rd and final day was always going to be tough to match the previous days, both in terms of birds and weather, the previous evening we had decided to bird the north coast on the edge of the Moray Firth. This made a lot more sense as we would eventually end up a lot closer to Inverness Airport; this also gave us a crack at the King Eider.

We had originally planned for the Black Duck and the West Coast, this would mean a lot more driving 2 hours + each way so the easier option was taken + the rigours of the previous day’s mountaineering meant that the younger chaps needed a rest.

Mountain Hare seen on the previous day

First however was another visit to Loch Garten, again Crested Tit and Red Squirrel were targeted so we got there nice and early and waited patiently.
Red Squirrel was seen almost immediately but we had to wait a while before we saw Crested Tit, not one but 2 appeared, diving in to the feeder they were even quicker than the many Coal Tits present and proved a challenge for us all. They were going from light to dark areas in the forest, lightning quick, I got a couple of photos, not great but ok.


After a short while they disappeared, we followed suit and headed for the car, about an hour + later we had arrived at Lossiemouth using the A96,the plan from now was to work our way back west towards Inverness.

En route we picked up Common Buzzard and many Oystercatchers, a large flock of Greylag Geese in a field also produced around 10 Pinkfeet Geese, surprisingly apart from some Dark Bellied Brent’s the only wild Geese seen on the day.

After visiting Lower Largo a number of years ago which provided a stunning amount of birds including all 3 Divers, 3 of the rarer Grebes, 3 Scoters including Surf and hordes of Goldeneye, Eider and Long Tailed Duck, hopes were high for Lossiemouth.
On arrival it was clear that the numbers were just not present, or perhaps we were expecting too much, hard to say.
After about 30 minutes we came up with Red Breasted Merganser, Red and Black Throated Diver, 30 Eider, around 8 Long Tailed Ducks, 10 Common Scoter, Razorbill, 2 Fulmar and a Shag. A good mixture of birds seen so can’t complain, the drake Long Tailed Ducks are simply stunning, that is one bird I would love to be able to photograph closely.

Pressing on we next headed for Hopeman Harbour, a relatively short hop down the coast, we had been told of a pair of Long Tailed Ducks that were actually in the Harbour and were giving crippling views. Not to be I‘m afraid as we arrived, I expect they had come in only when the outside sea was rough beyond the harbour walls, nonetheless we soon located 4-5 Purple Sandpipers which kept the cameras busy.
Also present at roost were 10 Redshank and 28 Turnstone + a single Rock Pipit.

Next port of call was Nairn, this was the site of the King Eider, as yet we had still not picked up any White Wingers, one of the birds we had been looking out for. We did come across a Pig Farm, I can’t recall where which was alive with the larger Gulls but no Iceland’s or Glaucous were seen unfortunately. A Goosander was seen in town.

We spent a good while searching Nairn for the King Eider up at the Golf Course but as with the White Wingers no luck. Red Breasted Mergansers were seen along with Goldeneye, Eider, Black Throated Diver, around 40 Dark Bellied Brent Geese and Common Scoter.

Time was now marching on, the Airport called, we had seen some good birds, mostly distant but how can you complain when you’re up here?

I totted up a species list and we arrived at 82, even adding Whooper Swan on the way to the Airport, arrived back to Luton Airport to torrential rain, Sod’s Law.

3 days of intense birding in spectacular surroundings, climbed a Mountain, burnt 600 calories doing it, nearly saw all the Scottish specialities so what more can you ask for, Mull is calling.

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