It is with great anticipation, that I returned for the umpteenth time to see what has now become my second family at the Grant Arms Hotel. In recent times I have been organizing my own tour groups to share what makes this area so special.
Arriving a couple of days early to do some reconnaissance work , Spey Bay was was at its productive best with Red and Black Throated Divers, Slavonian Grebe, Guillemots and Gannets on the sea with big numbers of passerines in the surrounding stubble fields, the patch bird of the day was a self found male Snow Bunting what a stormer!
A warming cup of Hot Chocolate and Victoria Sponge in the WDC café completed the day. Other Moray coast sites were visited to get an autumnal feel for what was about, with a lone Puffin on the sea and a flyby Sandwich Tern being birds of note.
The tour commenced proper with dinner on the Saturday evening, the Sunday saw us seek refuge at Loch Spynie out of the cold northerly winds, with Jays and a solitary female Scaup amongst the highlights. The Lossie river turned up many Teal, Wigeon and a couple of Bar Tailed Godwits. At high tide we even had our own wader roost on the harbour wall at Burghead with even greater numbers of wader plus a few Pintail at Findhorn Bay.
"another Golden Eagle flying across Strathdearn valley through the most vivid rainbow was just a magic moment ."
On this day we even had an Otter run across the road in front of the car giving us great views, close to Rothes.
The following day a trip out on the Moray Firth we saw many Long Tailed Ducks followed by a walk through Merkinch local nature reserve, a great leg stretch and a chance to interact with our guests.
Over the next few days highlights included four Badgers and two Pine Martens at the evening hide this after the satisfaction of three Golden Eagles, two Ravens and a gorgeous Hen Harrier being seen at Insh Marshes. We also met up with ‘Angus’ a local birding character from Grantown on Spey who remarked his new telescope and an electric bike had changed his lifestyle in 2019.
Seeing Cresties and having Coal Tits feeding from the hand at Loch Garten was followed by time with the Cairngorm Reindeerand a walk up the paths at the ski centre. With Autumnwatch being imminent we met one of the cameramen whilst in the field who was hoping to film Aspen trees and Pink Footed Geese. As the week drew to a close Red Deer bellowing on the hillside, another Golden Eagle flying across Strathdearn valley through the most vivid rainbow was just a magic moment,
was it eclipsed by 3000+ Pink feets whiffling down onto Udale Bay the following day, ooh but that’s a tough one to call! A raft of 300 plus Scaup just a little further down the coast was a sight to behold.But to round the trip off a pod of six or seven Bottlenose Dolphins swimming and fishing in Rosemarkie Bay was probably the highlight. RSPB Fairy Glen was visited certainly a site for a spring visit with great views of Grey Wagtail along the stream.
With Dippers, Red Squirrels and countless other sightings the trip tally was 102 with the guests seeing 84 in total add into this 14 species of Mammal. As we left the Autumnwatch team had been in residence for a couple of days and were preparing to beam Speyside to a UK wide audience.