This morning I've been doing some site scoping ready for Tom (the other, maler half of the blonde birders) to arrive for another weekend of rocketing round the highlands. Having been to a few sites that scream ring ouzel over the past few weeks, I headed to the most promising this morning after hearing a spate of ouzel reports from around the UK. It was a good idea.
The weather was perfect and everything was in full song. Grey and pied wags, around 30 wheatear, meadow pipits everywhere, then - suddenly - the sounds of a blackbird gone wrong. I'd been squinting at the more promising southern slope, but the noise was behind me.
It took a few minutes to locate the bird, it was very far off, then it took off in alarm, flying a little way down the valley to hurl itself at another male. Below this second rock sat the drabber female, who was joined in a race around the rock, before all three scudded off down the valley. I emptied my camera from my bag and used it to lay out flat and await the birds return.
I wasn't waiting for long, with the female and one of the males soon returning to the scree. The birds were distant, but at one point (after an hour of sitting very still) all three flew low over my head, then back again. After another 20 minutes the male started displaying to the female, dipping his head and cocking his tail. Not wanting to be any source of disturbance, I slunk away down the hill and back to Kindrogan (hoping they'll be in the same spot this weekend).