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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Scottish Highlands February birding trip

Having received a call from John H proposing a trip to Scotland for the Harlequin and Speyside specialities (weather permitting) I could only commit to the Feb 14/15 weekend and on Friday the 13th we drove from Caister at 9pm. The Scottish team from last year, Tim H, Tony S, John H and myself were reassembled for an assault on the assorted Scottish goodies. After a 12 hour drive, we reached Aberdeen's Seaton Park at around 9.30am. I saw a calling Grey Wagtail fly over car park. The weather was very grey and overcast but fortunately wasn't raining. We were told to follow the river at the end of the park but we turned right and followed the fast flowing river for a mile which proved to be the wrong direction! We saw a female Goldeneye and then a couple of Goosander on the river first a female and then a male. We retraced our steps and this time we turned left at the toilet block and coincidently bumped into Matthew D and his Suffolk party and we walked along the path following the riverbank and then past a construction site and then past a new build of flats where we saw a path down to the river over a mound a ditch and some barbed wire, safely negotiated (no ripped trousers this time!) and a small group of people with scopes were looking through a wire fence panel and immediately saw the excellent Harlequin Duck sat on a rock, a truly superb bird it stood up and then started swimming in the fast flowing water over to the edge of and island area before it flew towards us and amazingly stood on a rock barely 30 feet away! It stood here for over half an hour in the rapidly detiorating weather which was starting to drizzle. We saw the Harlequin, an immature male dabble its bill, stretch its wing before some canoeists forced it to vacate its rock and quickly swim out past us and fly back to its original rock. Also seen were some 6 Goosanders (3 male and 3 females- all in pairs) and 2 singing and displaying Dippers (I sadly missed the display) on rocks on the stream behind us. As we walked back near an island copse we saw an excellent Otter scrabble out of the wood and scramble down to its drey then briefly swim in the water before clambering up the bank into the wood again and then back down the bank and into the water again. The rest of the dat we drove to Speyside and between Grantown on Spey and Aviemore I saw 2 Buzzard and a Mistle Thrush in the fields. As it was half term week we were struggling to secure reasonably proved accommodation one Hotel could put us all up for £85 a night! After trying 6 places in Aviemore, we decided to try Grantown and our 3rd B&B rang up and we secured accommodation at the bargain rate of £30 a night each for 2 twin bedded rooms. We saw a group of birders who had just seen a Waxwing we didn't see it that night. The next morning we drove up the Lane and Tony spotted the excellent Waxwing perched in a tree/ bush in the front garden of a cottage. Next stop was Anagach woods where we saw Coal Tit and heard Crested tit, which Tim did well to spot. We tried to go up Cairngorm but the ski road was closed so next stop was the car park at Loch garten- Coal tits, Chaffinches, great tit, GSW, 2 Crested tit, 4 treecreeper, 4 Wood pigeon Abernethy- not a lot seen h Sisken 4 Eider 2 male & 2 female, C- score 2 groups of 50, 3 LT Duck, Black scoter swimming left seen through tony's cope, Gannets, 3 RT Diver, 4 Razorbill, 15 Mute Swans.

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