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Friday, May 25, 2012

A day in the Cairngorms.

I recently returned to the UK for a friend's wedding.  More specifically Glenborrodale Castle, Argyle, Scotland.  We arrived there on 26th April.  I have to say the 3 days in the Castle were wonderful, the weather miraculously was fabulous, clear blue skies each day but a little chilly, hospitality and food amazing.  The weather was actually a welcome change to the heat of Dubai !   This was a chance for me to do some Scottish birding, only my second time ever !  My wife and I had decided to extend our stay a couple of days after the wedding and so decided we would go up to Aviemore having targeted Slavonian Grebe, Capercaille and Ptarmigan.   On our first day I managed to find the Grebe but nothing else,  the weather had also taken a turn for the worse. Grey, wet and cold - I guess normal for the time of year !  Went to bed that evening not too confident that the weather or my luck would be any better the next day.

I woke hope at 4:30am only to see fog outside the window - however it was my last chance to find the Capercaille so decided to head out to the forest.  I arrived around 5:15am,  the fog was not as dense but it was eerily misty with not a sound coming from the trees.   I set off on my hike hoping to hear the cackling 'grak' that is often heard during the lek season which starts early May.  I had only walked for about 15 minutes when I heard the tell-tale noise.  I looked around in the mist but could not see the bird until suddenly it flew from it's perch in a tree to the ground a little further ahead.  I got reasonable views for a couple of minutes until the bird wandered off deep into the forest, at which point I set off back to the car.  My good fortune meant that I would get back in time for breakfast !!

 Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus)
Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus)

By now, after a very hearty breakfast, the fog and mist had burnt off and the blue skies had returned.  So next stop Slavonian Grebe.  I returned to the small lake where I had found 4 birds the day before.  I buried myself in the undergrowth and waited (hoped) for a bird to sail close to the shore,  there had seemed a pattern to their movements.  I was soon rewarded with one of the birds which did not seem to worried about my presence laid down in the damp thistles,  little did he know how uncomfortable I was :-)


 Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus)


Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

So far so good,  2 out of 3 in the bag.  Next stop lunch, I had been told of a place where you could have lunch and watch Red Squirrels.  This appealed to my wife as well as myself,  it was on the way to our next destination , the Funicular railway.  Only what specimen unfortunately,  but a welcome encounter.

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
By now the temperature had risen to a lovely 21c when we arrived at the foot of the funicular.  My wife was to ascend on the railway and I was to hike up the mountain beyond the snow line in search of Ptarmigan.  I set off with my 300mm slung over my shoulder.  I quickly learned that pacing yourself was the key to reaching the summit !  Eventually I reached the snow line and this was when the walk got much more difficult.  In places the snow was waist deep with no way to tell as I found out several times :-), the snow was also very wet !.  Finally I had got to the top but had not seen any sign of Ptarmigan.  Having rested and took in the amazing views I decided to walk down in a zig-zag fashion playing the call in the hope I would cover more ground.   Needless to say the walk down was much easier on the heart but certainly not easier on the knees.  About a third the way down and feeling a little despondant I suddenly heard a creaking sound to the right of me.  Off in the distance I could see one bird standing on a rock.  As I approached I could also see a female.  Eventually having fallen into several drifts I managed to get close enough to the birds as they began to march up the mountain side - I certainly was not going to follow them !

 Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) - female
  Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) - male
 Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) - male

Finally I reached the bottom where my wife was waiting for me.  I was exhausted from what seemed a very long and tiring day.  The only thing left to do was to return back to our hotel where I gladly rested my aching body in the beer garden with a lovely pint of British Bitter beer !   Cheers !!









2 comments:

  1. Great serie, great birds and excellent photography! Keep on ;)

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  2. Mike,
    What camera and lens do you use for your pictures. They are terrific.

    ReplyDelete