Wednesday, 22 March 2017

18th March 2017 - Scottish Weekend

We decided on another trip to Scotland this year. We both had a few days off, so two nights were booked at the Nethybridge Hotel, having stayed there for our trip in 2010. The aim of the short break was just to indulge in a bit of birding, and see a few species that we hadn't seen for a few years, or as in CJW's, for many, many long hard years. We only had three target birds to see.

We set off on Saturday morning at 4am and had our first fuel stop just after the Erskine Bridge. We soon started adding a few year ticks with Hoodish Crow and Red Grouse, and a nice drive through a misty Glencoe. First stop along here was at Loch Achtriochtan, where sixteen swans caught our attention, and our suspicions were correct. They had yellow beaks.

Some of the 16 Whooper Swans on Loch Achtriochtan (CJW)
Next random stop was just before Onich to view the top of Loch Linnhe, where we saw three Great Northern Divers, several Shag and 50+ Eider. To save time, we crossed via the Corran Ferry. Unfortunately, CJW didn't have his sea legs with him on the crossing and succumbed to self chumming. Three Black Guillemots were in the straight and we had fabulous views of an Otter on the opposite shore. 

We finally reached our destination at just after 11am, taking us a mere 7+hrs to arrive.

Having done our homework, we headed to the mouth of the river first, parking in the car park. We were immediately surprised by the total lack of Mallards in the area (and where were all the supposed hybrids?). We saw Greenshank, few Goosander, RBM but that was about it. For the next few hours, in between the heavy showers, we searched all round the bay, even heading over to the opposite bank. We returned back to the mouth of the river, and found three Mallards had appeared. Our spirits lifted, but that was all that flew in. And it started raining again. 

I managed to buy a sandwich from a small local store ran by local people. The sandwich was alright, and was only a few months out of date (It is quite a remote quiet village and I was surprised to find sandwiches available. For legal reasons it was in date but they did look at the shiny silver and gold discs I gave them in exchange for the sandwich in an odd way. Maybe they normally accept pebbles or favours at the shop

As we sat in the car in the rain, knowing how important it is to get the first bird in the bag, we rang the Stalker. Amazingly, he was sat in the car next to us! (Only joking). He suggested we went up the stream. Now we had already driven up the left hand bank, but on the Stalkers advice, we walked up the right hand bank this time. We were tired, it was raining, and there wasn't much to see. We walked past the council depot, then the fire station and then carried on towards the school. In a field there was a flooded bit with two ducks dabbling away. I casually lifted my bins.....two hours to find our first target bird. CJW hadn't seen a Black Duck since he was on Scilly in the 1950s while staying with his Auntie Hilda Quick-Hide. Both of my previous Black Duck were in the south west, so it was a nice addition to my Scottish list.

Flushed with success, we headed off to our hotel in Nethybridge, a drive of just under two hours. We made two stops. The first was alongside Loch Linnhe, where a small flock of birds on the water caught my attention. We stopped and there were seven Slavonian Grebes bobbing around. We decided against the Corran Ferry again due to CJW's sea legs (or was it the £8-40 charge?), and headed up to Fort William. By Duisky, there was a large gathering of gulls on the shore, probably due to the nearby landfill site. A quick check, and there was an immature Iceland Gull sat preening.

Iceland Gull at Duisky (CJW)
 It was still light by the time we arrived on Speyside. There had been two Tundra Bean seen recently at Loch Insh, and as we were passing, we decided to call in. We didn't really know where to look, and we only found several groups of Greylag Geese. We did see a Sand Martin though over the Loch. 

And that ended Day One of our Scottish trip.