Terry and I had visited the Cairngorms before but not on an organised trip. We decided to give Heatherlea a try this March for a week of Winter Birding. We duly arrived at Aviemore, having had an uneventful journey by train, to be collected and driven to our hotel in Nethybridge.
Our aim was to see at least some of the scottish speciality birds that we don’t get to see here in the southeast, and we were not disappointed. Our first trip out to the Abernethy forest seemed unnaturally quiet but it was not long before we were taken to a spot where a rogue male capercaillie was to be found. Not only did we see this individual but had great close views as we were forced back by him along the track out of his territory. How could this be topped? Well perhaps a trip up the Cairngorms to see views of Ptarmigan, Red grouse and Mountain Hare came close, and that was only the first day.
The next 2 days were spent travelling to and around the Thurso area on the north coast, where we had good views of Whooper swans, Pink-footed and White-fronted geese in the fields as we drove around. Once arrived at the coast there was a multitude of birds to see including Scaup and Lesser scaup, Long-tailed ducks, Scoter and Velvet scoter, Eider, Red-breasted mergansers, Slavonian grebe and many more. A visit to Scrabster harbour also gave great views of more than one Iceland gull. A first for us.
Another day, another trip. This time to Findhorn valley, where in a snow blizzard, we watched Golden eagle tumbling in the sky with a Raven. Great comparison of sizes. Also in a stream nearby a Dipper was busy dipping.
We had not had any good sightings of Black grouse yet so the following morning we were up early to visit a lek. Success, there were several individuals strutting their stuff. Another successful day. Our last day and we had not seen a Crested tit. A visit to the RSPB Reserve at Loch Garten was in order and there on the feeders was our target bird.
With a bird count of over 100 we finished the week on a high.
Irene and Terry.