Monday, May 24, 2010
Before I get going on today, I wanted to write something about an experience yesterday that I found interesting.† When I did my grocery shopping, I needed some aspirin and some ibuprofen.† The biggest packages it came in had only 16 in each one, but they were cheap, so I picked up about 6 of them, mixed between aspirin and ibuprofen.† At the checkout stand, the clerk asked me which two I wanted.† She could only sell me two at a time (32 pills total).† I was amazed, as I am used to buying both aspirin and ibuprofen in bottles of 500, with no restrictions in the US.† She told me I could go through the store again, as many times as I wanted, and she could sell me two more boxes each time, which seems to defeat whatever the intention is of having such a low limit.† So, I guess I will just have to buy a little more each time I shop.† The little differences between counties interest me a lot.† I bought two boxes (of 16) of aspirin and one box (of 16) of ibuprofen at the same time in England, earlier in the trip, so it is either a Scottish law or someone made a mistake one of the times.† I suspect she could have sold me two boxes of each.
I slept pretty well last night, considering the firm bed.† It was raining when I got up, so I took a shower and put my white laundry in the washer/dryer combo unit.† I also posted on a bird forum here in Britain and asked about finding specific species in this area.† I got a reply very quickly, and it was very helpful.† I asked some more questions and got the answers quickly also.† As a result, I formed a plan for the day, and waited for it to stop raining (ever hopeful, thatís me.† I consider myself an optimistic skeptic, which some people find contradictory.).
The rain let up at about 11:00, so I headed out, taking a sandwich, some crisps (potato chips), some biscuits (cookies), and a Diet Coke for my lunch.† I drove to Loch Morlich and had lunch in the car at the same place I ate yesterday, looking out at the lake.† Yesterday I sat at the picnic table, but it was too wet today.† I scanned around the lake before I ate, though, and this time I spotted my target species, Goosander, across the lake.† It was a male and a female, and the male is a lot easier to distinguish from the Red-breasted Merganser than the female, so it was an easy call, despite the distance.† Before I left, I took some pictures of a female Mallard and her ten chicks.† I had seen her (presumably her) yesterday, and she had ten chicks then, so it was good to see that all ten had survived the night.† The survival rate for ducklings is not high.
After lunch, I drove north about 15 or 20 miles to Lochindorb.† It is a lake in the high heather moors, and hadnít been mentioned in any of my bird books, but the birder who replied to my post this morning told me he had seen Red Grouse and Black-throated Divers there, so I made the trip.
It was a very interesting environment, see Photos16 for pictures.† It was raining off and on, but I kept going.† My instructions had been to go the south end of the lake and scan the heather for Red Grouse.† I did that, and read in the car when the rain showers came.† I spent an hour or more, scanning the heather and reading when the rain got too heavy, but no grouse showed themselves.† There was a chilly wind, as well as the rain showers, and maybe that made the grouse hunker down.
I moved on a little, a couple of times, but still had no luck.† The rain stopped for good finally, and it brightened a little, with a little sun from time to time.† I continued to look, and just as I was about to give it up, I spotted one.† A Red Grouse!† It is a bird that British birders take for granted, as there are so many of them, but I was very glad to see one.† I got out my scope for a closer look (it was about 100 yards away, I estimate), and I then saw that there was a female, too.† Both were just staying still, and I also saw a chick or two near them.† Finally I got back in the car and moved down the road a little to get closer, and when I looked again from the car, I could see them moving around feeding.† I then realized that even at 100 yards away, they had been aware of me and had frozen, but when I got back in the car, they were fine.† I had read about using your car as a hide, but now I understand just what they mean. †When I was in the car, it didnít bother them, even though I was quite a bit closer than before.† I could now see that there were at least three chicks with them.
I took some pictures from the car, and moved along.† I soon saw another pair of Red Grouse, and I took more pictures, but stayed in the car.† Moving along again, I got my closest look yet, maybe only 20 yards away.† Again, a family with at least three chicks.† I took more pictures from the car.
I never saw any Black-throated Divers on the lake, but I did see a couple of Common Sandpipers, an Oystercatcher, and several Curlews.† I heard a lot of the Curlew calls, which was interesting.† I have read about the call of the Curlew, and now I have heard it.† I finally left for ďhomeĒ about 4:30, and I got a good picture of a Curlew along the road on the way.
Arriving home about 5:00, I checked my white laundry, which I had left in the combo washer dryer, but it wasnít nearly dry.† The wash cycle took well over an hour, and it is really slow to dry.† So far, I have run it for 120 minutes of drying time, and the clothes were not dry, so Iím running another 40 minute cycle to see if that will do it.
So, thatís my story for today.† Two for my trip list, Goosander and Red Grouse, bringing me to 159 for the trip, of which about 115 are lifers.
I havenít decided what to do tomorrow.† The weather is supposed to be dry, although I donít trust the forecasts here, based on my experience so far.† I have a site where I could probably see Black Grouse, but it would mean getting out there by 7 AM at the latest, earlier would be better.† It is also on the same very narrow road that I didnít like driving yesterday, as there were no passing places for a couple of miles.† Iíll probably pass on that.† I need my sleep more than I need to see Black Grouse.† I was told I could possibly see them later in the day, so I might try for that.
Another option would be to ride the Cairngorm funicular to the top.† It isnít at the peak, but it is at about 3500 feet of elevation, I think.† You are not allowed to leave the immediate area of the station, but I could possibly see one or two of the mountain species from there.† It isnít likely, but possible.† If I lugged my scope along, I would have a better chance, I would think.† I might do that, as much for the fun of riding the funicular and seeing the mountain from that perspective as for the chance to see any birds.† Weíll see how the weather looks in the morning and what I feel like doing.† In any case, I will try some more for Crested Tit, and I have specific directions to a nest, so maybe I can get that one.† Crossbill is another possibility, although there are three species of crossbill here, and I doubt I could tell the differences among them.† If I see one, I will just count it as ďcrossbill speciesĒ, though, and add that to my list, as I havenít ever seen any of them.† That is marginally cheating to some people, but acceptable to me.
Life rolls on.† One more day and two more nights here, before I head off for the Outer Hebrides.† I am dreading the long (2.5 hours) ferry trips, as I get seasick sometimes, and I hate it.† I hope the weather is good for my crossings.† Oh well, sufficient unto the day the evil thereof.† It isnít a problem tonight.