Monday, 21 October 2013

Caper capers

part 3 of our Scottish holiday, this time on speyside.
For the last 5 days, we were in Speyside staying at the Boat Hotel in Boat of Garten, very well placed for most of areas around. The weather was starting to turn, but it was still pretty mild although th mornings were misty!!
As well as the stunning scenery around our main targets were the Speyside specials - crested tits, capercaillies, red and black grouse, ptarmigan and Scottish crossbills. Eagles would always be nice, although having already seen them they were less of a priority and we didn't figure on getting anymore otters.
Apart from red grouse, which were plentiful and confiding, particularly on the Farr road out of Findhorn. Here we had them about 20 feet from the car, quite curious and I presume destined for the pot!!!

Their compatriots the black grouse proved a lot harder to pin down. Out of the lek they didn't seem
easy to get at Tulloch Moor, but we finally got a very distant view from the Coire na Ciste car park. This came from a tip off from Speyside Wildlife, more of whom later. In the same area we got our only miss, as the weather proved too intractable to get onto the tops to go for ptarmigan.
Having had only really poor views of a very distant capercaillie last time we were up, in the spring, we set out to try and track them down. After a couple of abortive self-found attempts in the forest around Loch Garten we got a tip from a Heatherlea guide that "walking up to Rothiemuchus lodge" might be a good idea. So, we set off on what is a decent track/ road up to the load by Loch Morlich. Didn't seem that good, as cars kept coming past us. Quite soon after getting into the wooded area though I heard a distinctive call and a flock of Scottish crossbills arrived in the pines near us. It was a group of about 10 birds including at least a couple of smart males. After walking for another 30 minutes we then heard a much more musical, trilling call. I got Judith to get out her iphone and on playing crested tit we got a very smart pair come down to check us out. So, two targets we didn't expect but not the one we did. We walked all the way to the lodge without any sign of capers. Coming back down we scanned what looked like suitable areas and played caper calls but nothing. We were almost out of the forest when suddenly there was a tremendous noise and crashing from high up in the trees to our right. Two or possibly three) large shapes were flying or rather battering their way through the pines - capercaillies. We ventured into the woodland a few feet and in the distance you could see a male fly off. Distant but definitely a caper!! Not wanting to just chase them we waited for about 20 minutes but they didn't return. Happy, we set off down the road and about 5 minutes later a huge bird flapped across a clearing - another male caper, this time beautifully viewable. Mission accomplished!!!
What else was good? Findhorn valley was spectacular but didn't yield much apart from one lone golden eagle floating really high on the tops. There was large numbers of red deer though on the hillside, and when we arrived early morning they were bellowing and jousting away on the hillsides. The Moray coast was really blowy but we got large numbers of long-tailed ducks as well as little gulls, velvet and common scoter, common eider, red-throated diver and lots of gannets.
Red squirrels were a bit shy this time, but we did get a couple of god views down by Loch Garten.

One night we went to the hide run by Speyside wildlife. This is basically a large, but heated, hide in the woodland near Loch an Eilean where badgers and if you're lucky, pine martens come to food. Although the weather was foul we were lucky and got quite a few badgers and one pine marten. The photos aren't great as you're looking through glass, with some artificial light and no flash!

Mainly though it was about the scenery and the landscape with some great skies and perfect reflections in the lochs.