Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Scotland Birding Trip: American Coot, Loch Flemington

Saturday 29th March: Day 2

Dawn on day two and we set off from Fort William heading for Loch Garten. On route taking a quick detour to Tulloch Moor.
A first scan across the moor seemed devoid of any birds, But perseverance eventually paid off when Brian spotted the head of a single bird some distance away from the viewing screens.
From here it's a short drive round to Loch Garten. Unfortunately at this time of year the reserve is not yet open to visitors. Sadly it was due to open on the 1st April, the day after we would have returned to London.

So no views of the Osprey's from the hide and no early morning Caper watch this year. That left Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbills as our main targets.
The car park seemed the best place to start our search for Crested Tit, the trees around the Western corner of the car park had several feeders hanging from the trees and were attracting Chaffinches, Coal Tits and Siskins on a regular basis.
As we scanned the feeders a single Red Squirrel appeared and proceeded to dominate the peanut and suet feeders.

Always entertaining, but it seemed we were to miss out on Crested Tit. Then just as we were about to move on and try one of the forest paths dad spots two Crested Tits land on a lower branch of a nearby tree.
A walk around Loch Garten failed to turn up anything of interest with only a single Little Grebe seen on the Loch itself.

Trying to fit in as much as possible in the short time period we had, it was time to hit the road and travel the 36 miles to Loch Flemington in search of the American Coot.
Parking up close to the lay-by with the white stones we quickly located the bird emerging from the reeds. A British lifer for all three of us.
Frustratingly it stayed feeding among the reeds for most of our time here. Great views through the scopes were had, but it remained out of range of the camera.
After an hour or so it started to drift a little nearer and the photo's below were the best I could manage.

American Coot

Time was disappearing fast, so back to the car and after a drive of around 25 miles we were pulling into the parking area at Findhorn Valley.
Timing was perfect, the 4-5 birders present told us they had just had an eagle drifting across the top of the nearby ridge. As we scanned the ridge the bird re-appeared and then drifted right over our heads.

Golden Eagle

A mountain Hare was then pointed out close by on the slopes and gave superb views through the scope. It's white winter fur starting to show signs of being replaced by the brown summer coat.

One of the Scottish birders present we had met on last year's trip and it was good to catch up with him again this year. 
After a couple of hours and with no more eagle sightings it was time to take the Farr road to Loch Ruthven.
The drive along this road is always good for Red Grouse and a chance of Merlin or a Goshawk. On this occasion we only saw Red Grouse.
Parking up at the car park at Loch Ruthven we headed off along the footpath towards the hide. The paths leading to the hide were covered with Toads. The one below wasn't moving for anyone.


The first birds seen from the hide were a pair of Goldeneye, followed by four Little Grebes. Then the target bird was spotted, a single Slavonian Grebe in full breeding plumage drifted across the Loch.
This was turning into a superb days birding and it was about to get even better.
A raptor appeared above the trees in the distance, It didn't have the look or flight of the Common Buzzards we had been seeing so often.
If the sight of a Golden Eagle drifting over our heads earlier wasn't good enough we now had a Goshawk displaying right in front of us! It stayed in view above the treetops for around five minutes treating us to our best ever views of a Goshawk
The return trip along the Farr road produced many more Red Grouse sightings and a single Mistle Thrush perched close to the roadside.

Mistle Thrush

 The first full days birding draws to a close, with just another 75 miles left ahead of us to return to our base in Fort William.

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