Monday, May 21, 2012

Highlands in Spring? Part two

Wednesday May 16 was to be a less strenuous day after the long journey yesterday. Loch Morlich is on the way to the car park at the start of the funicular railway We had decided to go to Cairngorm, look for ring ouzel in the car park and then either climb or use the railway to get to the plateau. The weather did not agree and decided to make things look very pretty. We did have an unsuccessful scout round for the mountain blackbird but decided not to go higher through the thickening snow showers. We did see some animals that are more adapted to the conditions. They were not accompanied by a man with a white beard though.
Some of us had a hot chocolate to thaw us out and we then all proceeded to the RSPB reserve at Loch Garten. Good views of the osprey as well as lots of chaffinches, coal tits, siskins and red squirrels feeding on the nuts just visible outside the Osprey Visitors Centre. As you can see they were accompanied by one or two great spotted woodpeckers.
The walk to  Loch Mallachie along the edge of Loch Garten and through the pinewood was very enjoyable despite the lack of birds on Garten itself. As we got about a third of the way round we saw the wood ant nest with its millions of inhabitants busily getting on with their lives. One of our party then paused a few yards further on and pointed out a crested tit on the ground. It soon flew into a tree and continued to try to evade our gaze. Loch Malachie soon came into view, as did a pair of goldeneyes on the far side. Even from a distance we were able to watch the female fly straight into the nestbox. The only other notable things on our walk was several redpolls calling right above our heads

Thursday May17 was to be our longest day. We started by going to the capercaillie watch starting at 0530. The first thing we noticed was a slight dusting of snow on our cars. We did check calenders to see if it was still May and we had not missed out June, July, August etc..and gone straight to December
You will not be surprised to learn we did not see any capercaillies but we did see the newly hatched osprey chick. We also learned a great deal from Richard Thaxton of the RSPB about  goldeneyes, ospreys and the continuing pressure on capers. Porridge when we got back to our residence was very welcome.
After breakfast we made the long journey to Gruinard Bay. A small Loch between Inverness and Ullapool gave us the opportunity to see two black-throated divers. One swimming in the centre of the loch, the other on the nest, barely visible through the telescopes. Our hoped for view of White-tailed eagle was not realised but we had fantastic views of black guillemots, Great Northern divers, a razorbill, some common guillemots, a distant gannet and some red breasted mergansers. Those of us with our eyes on the ground found this lovely caterpillar, which someone identified as a Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar

It had been a long day, so after dinner ( or supper or tea) we had a relaxing time taking part in a quiz, reading or playing Scrabble. Most of us had an early night.

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