Sunday, May 23, 2010


I didnít sleep great last night, mainly because the bed is hard as a rock.† I was awake more than usual, and I only got about 7 hours of sleep.† So, my cottage isnít perfect, but it is still great, even with the hard bed.


Last night I tried for some pictures of the Grey Herons who are in the treetops across the fields.† If any come out, Iíll put them in the next Photos album.† This morning there was an Oystercatcher in the field outside my door.† I think of them as shore bird at the ocean, but I guess they breed up here in the hills.† Again, I tried for a picture, and if I got one, Iíll post it.† I donít feel like messing with pictures tonight, so it might be a day or two.


After my breakfast of a chicken and cheese sandwich and a yogurt, I was up and out of here by 8, I think, and my first destination was the Insh Marshes.† I didnít expect to see anything new, but I wanted to see the place anyway.† It was overcast this morning, and about the time I got to the Insh Marshes, there was a brief rain shower, fairly heavy.† I just waited it out in the car, and when it cleared, I checked out the place.† Right near the parking area, there is a new overlook platform and under it a new room with information about the place.† It is an interesting looking place, but I donít see how you would ever see many birds from way up on the hill at the viewing platform and the two hides.† Actually, I didnít take the walks to the hides, so maybe they are closer to the action.† I enjoyed the view, though, and as I was enjoying it and picking out a few birds below in the marshes, I saw one flying and got my binoculars on it.† I wasnít expecting anything, but it turned out to be a Snipe, a species that I hadnít expected to see, as they are not all that common and are fairly secretive, I think.† I am assuming it is the same species of snipe that I see at home, so I am not counting it as a lifer, but it was a trip bird.† It was just a fluke to see it, but it was one of the species mentioned as living in the Insh Marshes, and it was actually one I had hoped to see there, until I discovered how distant the views of the marsh are.


Next I drove to a lake I had wanted to check out, Loch Morlich.† One of my books said that there can be Goosanders there all year, and is one I still need.† We call that species Common Merganser, and I see it regularly at home, but I need it for my Britain list.† I saw some Goldeneyes there, and a couple of Common Sandpipers, but nothing for my list.† The lake gets a fair amount of water sport activity, it appeared, and I can imagine it would be pretty crowded in the summer.† There were people in canoes out on it today, and one wind surfer.


From there I moved on to the base station for the Cairngorm ski area.† It is also a national park, I think.† Before I got there, though, I pulled off into a parking area and got out and looked around.† Iím not sure what I was looking for, but the scenery was great, and I took some pictures.† Then I saw a bird flying, right across in front of me.† I could tell right away it was an interesting one, and I realized it was a Ring Ouzel, while it was still flying.† It landed and I got a good binocular view of it, too, confirming it as a male Ring Ouzel.† Another fairly uncommon species that I had hoped to see, but hadnít really expected to.† Another fluke, too; I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.† I tried to go around to take a picture, but I never saw it again.


After that, I went up to the base of the ski area.† None of the chairlifts were running from there, as there wasnít enough snow for that, but there is a funicular car that runs up the mountainside, and some skiers were getting on it, I noticed.† Also tourists, just to ride to the top.† I didnít do it, as I donít like participating in tourist things, but I wouldnít rule it out completely before I leave.† It was too busy on a Sunday, though, so I just hung around and took some pictures.


Next I went back down to the Loch Morlich area and walked around in the forests, looking for Crested Tit or Scottish Crossbill.† The Crested Tit is supposed to be ďcommonĒ, but there were damn few birds of any description; almost all I saw were Chaffinches, one of the most common birds I see here, and there werenít many of them.† I moved on after a while and had my humble home made sandwich and some crisps (potato chips) for my lunch, at a picnic table by the lake.


After lunch, I visited a place called Loch an Eilein.† There were supposed to be Crested Tits and Scottish Crossbills around there.† It cost me about US $2.50 to park, and it turned out to be incredibly crowded, and most people seemed to be walking dogs.† I walked around a bit, but the whole thing was way too touristy for me.† I canít imagine how bad it would be in the summer.


All day long I was struck by how commercialized the area is.† The developments all look pretty new; I can imagine that 10 or 15 years ago it was quite different.† It was fairly crowded on a May Sunday; the summer must be awful.† I hadnít realized what I was getting into.† My birding books made it sound like I was going to be visiting birding reserves and sites, but they are tourist sites, plain and simple.† It is a very pretty area, and they have done a good job with the development they have done, but I wasnít looking for water sport places, clay pigeon shooting places, adventure parks, gift shops, trailer parks, zoos, etc.† The locals have to make a living, and it is great for families to have a wonderful vacation place, but it is not what I had in mind for my birding.


Next, I tried a place called Carrbridge.† There were supposed to be Crested Tits there, too.† I was directed to the ďHeritage CenterĒ parking lot, but the Heritage Center turned out to be some kind of theme park, and the birding in the woods by the parking lot was as lousy as everywhere else.† It is just not a very birdy area at all.


So, it was getting late, but I was in the neighborhood, so I went to the Osprey Viewing place.† It is run by the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (RSPB), and is very well known.† Ospreys became extinct in Britain in the 1800ís, or maybe the early 1900ís, but they have now been re-introduced in several places, and they are doing well.† One reason I went there was because there were again supposed to be Crested Tits and Scottish Crossbills in the woods near the parking lot.† Again, no sniff of them, although I did see a Coal Tit, one of the few good birds of the day.


It turned out that it cost 3 pounds (about $4.50 these days) to get in to the osprey viewing place, but I am a member of the RSPB, so it was free for me.† I didnít really know what to expect, except that they had video cameras on the Osprey nest, and the nest was supposed to be a pretty long distance from the viewing center, so as to not disturb the birds.† It turned out to be a walk of a couple of hundred yards to the viewing building.† I had not lugged my scope along, and Iím glad I didnít.† When I got there, it turned out that they had 4 or 5 scopes pointing at the nest, and all you had to do was step up to a scope and look through it, and you saw the female Osprey sitting on the nest.† Well, you saw her head and neck, as she looked around.† You could also look at the video monitor, which showed a view from above her, to see a top view of her.


So, that was it.† Pay your three pounds (or donít, if you are an RSPB member), walk a couple of hundred yards, and score an Osprey.† It seemed like cheating or something, but I counted it for my list anyway.† There was a log on the wall, and it indicated that the male had come back to the nest two or three times today to bring fish to the female and the two chicks that have hatched so far Ė one of them just this morning.† I didnít hang around to see if he would come back again with another fish.


It was after 4:30 by then, so I headed for home.† I cleverly decided to take a shortcut, relying on a crude map in one of my guide books.† The road kept getting smaller and smaller, and for the last mile or two, I donít know what I would have done if I had met an oncoming car, as there werenít even any wide places for passing by then.† I was just starting to worry that my crude map was wrong somehow when I hit the minor road I was aiming for.† There were no signs, but at least this road was big enough for two cars to pass each other, and it eventually led me back to civilization.


But, my birding adventures werenít over yet, even though I was getting eager to get home and have a wee dram of the water of life.† I passed a small lake, so I stopped and scanned it with my binoculars.† I saw some interesting looking ducks on the other side, so I got out my scope.† They were definitely two mergansers.† They have two merganser species here, the Red-breasted Merganser, which I had seen in Wales, and the Goosander, which we call the Common Merganser, as I mentioned above (you remembered that, right?).† They donít look all that much different, and I struggled with these two birds, but ended up deciding they were Red-breasted Mergansers, the species I had already seen.† So, I still need to see Goosander.


I got back here to my cottage at about 5:30, after about 9 Ĺ hours of driving around and birding.† For this old rambler, that is a full day.† I got online and was having my wee dram, when the laird dropped by.† I call him that as a joke that anyone who has seen the BBC television series called Monarch of the Glen will get.† The rest of you can ignore it.† He is the owner, I guess, of this estate, and he stopped by to see if everything was all right or if I needed anything, since the key was in the door when I arrived, and I had not seen anyone.† As it turned out, I couldnít close the window in the kitchen, and I assumed it was broken, but he showed me that there is a button you have to press to close it.† He said it was a security measure but I donít understand how it provides better security; it just keeps you from closing the window unless you know the trick.† Anyway, it was nice of him to stop by and introduce himself and check to see if I needed anything.† Some scenes of Monarch of the Glen were actually filmed on this estate, and the estate they used for the series is not far away.


So, that was my Sunday.† I am very disappointed at the poor quality of the birding here.† I guess you have to get up early to see the three grouse species or walk for hours to the tops of the mountains to see the three high elevation species to really appreciate it.† That is what the hard core birders do.† I was really lucky today to see Snipe and Ring Ouzel today.† I donít know what I am going to do for my two more days that I have here, as I have hit all the key sites in the area.† I need to think about that tonight.† There are some more distant sites I could drive to, but if the number of birds is anything like it is here, I am not inclined to bother. †I could look some more for Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill, but that doesnít appeal to me much tonight.† We will see.† Tomorrow is another day, and time will tell.


So, that is my story, and Iím sticking to it.