Base camp for this trip is a cottage in Tomintoul (highest village in the highlands – just saying). Day one started well. Breakfast at 5, then we had to de-ice the inside of the car – twice. Then off to caper-watch at Loch Garten.
Spotted a couple of black grouse on the way across, then rolled into the car park with the sun barely up and made our way up to the hide. Stopped for a quick shuftie at the feeders first. Bang. Crested tit. Off the mark.
Unfortunately, when we got into the hide the dawn patrol informed us that a female caper had flown across the screens just after first light, but hadn't been seen since. EJ was on the nest, but the fog was so thick we could only see his silhouette. So we spent our time enjoying a hot chocolate and long views of the crested tit, siskin, greater spotted woodpecker and red squirrel.
|I wouldn't complain about one of these nicking from my feeders!|
After being kicked out at 8 we headed for second breakfast in Granton. Then, thoroughly refreshed, headed back toward Nethy Bridge. A wander through the woods at the kirk gave us another 50 odd chaffinch, gold crest and a couple of treecreeper.
|The light through the trees was magic.|
After another quick snack,we nipped back to Loch Garten for a proper view of the ospreys. Bumped into Jen, one of the group that went ringing on Little Cumbrae, who's now volunteering on the osprey project. She pointed us in the direction of Forest Lodge - a really great site and well worth a longer explore than we were able to give it. We also found a cracking little toad!
|Most. Determined. Toad. Ever.|
By 3 we were shattered, so we headed off to the Glenlivet distillery. Stoat, red grouse, grey and red-legged partridge en route. Then, 50 minutes later and 3 bottles better off, Reeve’s pheasant on the way home (yeah I know it’s not a qualifying tick, but a cracking looking bird).
|Blink and you'll miss him|
In the end, not a bad day, 6 more birds for the year list and one life tick. Back to Loch Garten tomorrow to try for capercallie and crossbills again, then off to Cairngorm Plateau for a chance of ptarmigan. But, for now a little whisky and an early night.