Speyside and the Cairngorms

14th to 21st October 2018

So a return trip to the familiar haunts of Speyside to hopefully see Scotland in all its autumnal glory . An overnight stop at Carlisle broke the journey up ,so up early and away to get to the Kelpies close to Falkirk. These remarkable structures the shape of horses heads ( 30 Metres high ) signify a piece of Scottish history and also are synonymous with the heavy horses which used to pull heavy loads along the towpath of the adjacent Forth and Clyde canal .


A further stop close to Dunblane at Argaty Red Kites was very good with up to 26 birds coming down to feed as the offal scraps that were put out for them . This was the original Central Scotland release site and was originally managed by the RSPB but now is run independently with lots of school children visiting the site on a regular basis .

So onwards and upwards to Grantown on Spey where my week just happened to coincide with a ‘ celebrity ‘ week in the form of Mike Dilger he of The BBC One show. Having previously met Mike at an organised dinner at the Birdfair I knew he would be a great host for the week .

The first night took the form of a quiz and if nothing else my team beat Mikes team and I also found out that here was a remote Scottish island in the Orkneys called Cava not prosecco.

Anyway onto the wildlife watching , the first two days had their own ideas in the form of mist and rain but then when it did clear we had wonderful views of a female Hen Harrier hunting over the moorland close to Lochindorb it just looked so right in this habitat we just need to convince the local gamekeepers of that fact, it was so funny as wherever it quartered it put up the grouse . Several Kestrels , a merlin and a couple of Peregrines really made it into a raptor fest .A visit was made to Loch Garten and a temporary feeding station was set up to encourage the selection of local Tits with the Cresties being the stars of the show . The ubiquitous red squirrels put in brief appearance but the colours in the Birch trees were incredible in the intense but low morning sun .

A visit to the Black Isle to take in the high tide roost at RSPB Udale bay was rewarding with Curlew (a couple with coloured leg rings, reported to the BTO ) many differing species of waders such as Dunlin , Bar Tailed Godwits , Redshank and a host of others . The whole spectacle was enlivened by the appearance of 2000 + Pink Footed Geese which just dropped in to join many hundreds of Wigeon and an odd Pale Bellied Brent Goose .

The only downside of the day was stopping to observe a full grown otter dead at the side of the road on the way back .The following day was bit of a local day with the highlight a pair of late afternoon Golden Eagles flying relatively low over our heads as we traversed the Farr road down into Strathdearn. It was quite clear that they had been feeding heavily judging by the size of their crops possibly on the Grallloch ie the Guts of Red Deer which are left on the hillside prior to carcass deportation to the hanging store .

A stunning day followed so after tea and cake at ‘The Potting Shed ‘ a walk in Glenfeshie saw Scotland at its finest with a kaliedescope of colours all round , this was topped off by a pair of Ravens ‘mobbing’ a pair of Golden Eagles at the side of the valley .

As morning turned to early afternoon it was time to go to the observation platform at RSPB Loch Insh where we had missed a pair of Sea Eagles over the hillside by minutes and sadly no Hen Harriers our intended quarry turned up . Herons , Roe Deer a plenty but not a lot else . So the British themed week at the Hotel seemed to go down very well with all the guests .With my talks on British Garden Birds and Britain’s Natural spectacles mixed with Mike’s very amusing tales , videos and banter rounding it off perfectly .I have to say it was probably my favourite week of all the six or is it seven now that I have spent there . It certainly inspired me to get more people to come with me on future trips to enjoy this unique part of Britain . Watch this space !.

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