Sunday 24 February 2013


So far, so good. Other than missing out on the long-staying Desert Wheatear (photographer overruled....) the plan was going precisely according to plan. Accordingly, therefore, Monday was a tour of Speyside and the Cairngorms in order to year-tick various birds. Not that Bradders is doing a year-list you understand (i.e. he's only third on Bubo at the moment), but it's important to see everything every year even if you're not. Keeps your eye in. Or something.

"Git oot ma garden!"
Taking one for the team
So, first stop Lecht ski-station, there to dip Ptarmigan again. Apart from inadvertantly straying into the tractor driver's garden (I had thought his house was a shed) and getting shouted at, and not seeing Ptarmigan, this was a great success, so we carried on to Boat of Garten where a feeding station drew in Crested Tit for the year trip list. Grabbed a couple of shots in semi-darkness before we carried on.

Onwards to the nearby Black Grouse site, only to discover that not only has the viewing screen been ripped up, but the public road it was on has been marked as "Private", and deliberately flooded so as to be inaccessible to vehicles. Now I can understand that it's a sensitive species, but come on! It was one of the best places to observe Black Grouse that I knew of, indeed I've slept in the car here on more than one occasion, including with Muffin, and awoken to their bubbling, but it now seems that the Great British Public isn't welcome anymore. I assume that the reason is photographers. I hate them.

We finally scored Ptarmigan at the third time of asking, on Cairngorm. We estimated the distance to be approximately three kilometers, so supreme views. John was scanning a distant slope from the the bottom on the mountain railway, and a bird was good enough to fly through his scope. He tracked it until it landed, but in fact the best way to see the birds was just to scope the approximate bit of mountain and wait for another one to fly. I reckon we saw about six birds, though it could equally have been three, or indeed nine. Who cares. Tick and run. The ski area was completely rammed - millions (possibly trillions) of people all out enjoying the fabulous weather. As you can see from the snap above, it really was amazing. In fact, thinking about it, we didn't see any rain the whole trip. We drove through a bit, and Glenshee was in a cloud, but apart from that it was fabulous.

So, see that roundish rock with snow on the lower right hand side? Well, go left from there about three scope widths (20x) and then look up in a snowy gap, a bit to the left. Whaddaya mean you can't see anything?!

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