The weather in the highlands had started getting milder so I decided to take the chance to get some photos before most of the snow had melted.
I had recently been to Cardwell Bay near Port Glasgow where I met someone who told me that there were some interesting species around in the highlands like Snow Buntings, Ptarmigan, and Red Grouse in addition to a host of more common species. So, this weekend I went up to Grantown-on-Spey with my family where we stayed in the Grant Arms Hotel. The hotel is has a dedicated Wildlife and Birdwatching club and holds nightly talks and has experts on-hand to advise on good local sites to visit.
We got up at 5.30am on Saturday morning for the 3 hour drive up north. The first place we went to was called Loch Garten where I had been before (Blog #1). This time there was much less bird activity around the car park area, with only a few coal tits prepared to feed from my hand. However, it wasn’t long before we saw a lovely common frog with stunning colouring; I also found two common toads which also offered some further photographic opportunities. During the 2 hours we spent at the site we still managed to see a number of other birds including Treecreepers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue tits, Great tits, lots of Chaffinches and some red squirrels.
After grabbing some lunch we headed off to the Cairngorm Mountains in search of the elusive Ptarmigan and Golden Eagle. We stopped at the car park for the funicular railway but then headed off for a 1 hour walk up to one of the corries.
Despite meeting a couple who had found a pair of Ptarmigan further up the path we were unable to find them when we arrived at the spot although we did hear them – so frustrating!! Despite this I did get some Red Grouse photos which didn’t prove too difficult as there were around 20 – 30 of them constantly popping up from amongst the heather and rocks.
The next day was spent looking for Crossbills in one of the valleys close to the Cairngorms but unfortunately I had no luck with that, although I did manage to see two red deer as well as a long-tailed tit.
Before heading home we made a quick stop-off back at Loch Garten to see what else was around; on route we saw a nice Jay and a few Buzzards. At the loch car park I got some photos and film footage of a lovely robin singing on a branch. Unfortunately, time was against us and we had to head off home without having seen the crested tits this time. However, the highlands is such a wonderful place and I’ll definitely return!
On the way back, about 1 hour from home as the light was fading we stopped briefly at Flanders Moss Nature Reserve near Thornhill and saw around 500 pink footed geese in a nearby field. The light was fading fast and although birds could be heard in the trees, none were showing; however, the frogs had clearly been busy as there were massive clumps of frog spawn in the many pools.
Despite not seeing many of the species I’d hoped to at the outset of my trip I still had a great time with the mammals and amphibians stealing the show this time!