Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I slept pretty well again, and I didnít get up to go look for the Black Grouse lek on Tulloch Moor.† I made a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches, one for my breakfast and one for my lunch, and I headed out about 8:45.† My first target species was Crested Tit, at a nest site that a British birder had told me about, in response to my request on BirdForum.
It was about a 20 minute drive to get to the departure point for the walk to the nest site, close to Loch Mallachie.† It was dry this morning, sometimes sunny, with dark clouds over the mountains to the east.† The nest site is on a loop trail that is about 1.75 miles long, so I was prepared for a little walking.† It was a very nice walk in the Scots Pine forest, and I heard some birds, and even saw one I couldnít identify, but didnít see much.† When I got to the nest site, there were three people there.† One of them had a camera on a tripod, pointed at the nest site, and the lens he had must be worth more than my car.† They confirmed that it was the Crested Tit that they were there for.† I guess that word has gotten out about this particular nest, as in the hour I was in the area, four photographers showed up, all with lenses that were worth more than my car.
I waited a short time, and a Crested Tit came back to the nest, but it flew straight in, just a blur, and when it came out, it shot off like it had been shot out of a cannon.† There turned out to be two of them, coming and going, so they must have had babies to feed.† When they returned, they had food.† Twice while I watched, one of the them perched on a branch before going into the nest hole, so I did get good, though brief looks at them.† I tried for a picture later, but they were too quick for me.† I was a little embarrassed with my little point and shoot camera, with these guys there who had these lenses that were about two feet long.† I guess size matters to me.† Anyway, I got Crested Tit, my first target bird for the day, and that pleased me, even if I didnít get any pictures to prove it.† It was also a nice walk in the woods, and I enjoyed that aspect, too.
From there I went over to the RSPB osprey viewing place at Loch Garten again, as it was right next door to where I was.† There were feeders there, and I got some pictures of Siskins, which was nice.† I had seen Siskins in north Wales with my British birder buddy Richard, but they were very brief, very marginal looks, so I was glad to get good views of them, even if they were at feeders.† The male was a very pretty yellow and black bird, and I got some pictures I like.† See Photos17.† I especially like number 3196.
I walked the short distance to the Osprey viewing building, in the hopes that maybe the male would come back with a fish when I was there, or I could get a good picture of the female on the nest, but both hopes were in vain.† The third chick had just hatched, I guess, and everyone was excited about that.
It was getting on toward lunch time by then, and I had a decision to make.† I could go ride the funicular up the mountainside, or I could go home early.† I chose to head for home, but I decided to take the narrow road I had been on yesterday, because it goes past the site where the Black Grouse lek is supposed to be, and I thought I would at least check it out.† I had been told that Whinchats could be seen in that same area, and that would be a lifer for me.† There was also the possibility of seeing a Black Grouse, although that was pretty unlikely.
I have been getting more confidence with the single track roads, so that didnít bother me as much this time.† People go slowly enough that they can stop, and I figured we would get past each other one way or the other, even if someone had to back up a long distance.† As I reached Tulloch Moor, the area where the lek was supposed to be, I was watching carefully for the viewing screen I had been told about.† I never did see it, which makes me glad that I didnít go out there at 5 or 6 this morning.† There were only a very few places where there was enough room for more than one car to pull off the road.† I stopped at a couple of those and wandered around a bit.† At one of them, I followed a track out onto the moor a little way, and suddenly I saw what looked like a dark bird, across a little pond, maybe 100 yards away.† I got the binoculars on it, and it was a male Black Grouse, much to my surprise.† I had come out without my camera, but I rushed back to the car and got it, put on my extender lens, and I actually got some poor pictures of the bird.† They are good enough to identify it, and I am happy to have them.† See Photos17.† Black Grouse.† A real surprise.
I stopped a couple more times, but didnít identify any other birds.† I might have seen a female Whinchat, but I didnít get a good enough look to tick it.† I met one car coming in the other direction, but it happened to be just when there was a passing place for it to turn into, so it wasnít a problem.† By that time it was after 1, and I needed my lunch, so I headed for my cottage.
I did some computer stuff, chatted on AIM with Christina, who was up at 5:30 AM, as usual, and ate my packed lunch Ė ham and cheese sandwich, crisps, and cookies, with a Diet Coke.
After lunch, I worked on my spreadsheet of birds I have seen, and I developed a new target list for the rest of my time in Scotland.† There are 26 species on the list, but most of them are pretty unlikely.† I figure if I see 9 or 10 of them I will be doing great, and the only reason my hopes are that high is because I am signed up for a group birding tour on Saturday, in the Outer Hebrides.† On my own, the hopes would be to see about 3 or 4 more species in Scotland.† It is going to be weather dependent, too, but at this point, Saturday looks fairly good (knock on wood, no jinx).
I also worked out my travel route for tomorrow.† I hope to stop at Loch Ruthven on the way, to see Slavonian Grebe, which is very rare in Britain, but breeds there.† I looked it up, and there are all of 6 pairs of them there this year, only three of which are at the end of the loch that can be seen from the reserve.† It is a 500 yard walk to the hide from the parking lot, though, and it is supposed to be pretty rainy tomorrow, and I donít know if I am up for a one kilometer round trip walk in the rain, to see the grebes.† It is a species I see in the USA, although we call them Horned Grebes.† Weíll see what the weather is like when I get to the place where I have to decide.† It would be about an hour detour, I think, to try to see them.† I have less than three hours to drive tomorrow, so I have plenty of time, if the weather is okay.
So, after all that work on my future plans, I decided to take a short walk around, a leg-stretcher, really, not a real walk.† I walked down to a stream that is out back and down the hill from my cottage, and just as I was saying to myself that this stream looked like it could be Dipper habitat, I spotted two of them!† One flew right up the stream, past me, and the other stayed downstream.† I saw a Dipper in Wales, but better looks are always appreciated. †I hadnít brought my camera, though, so I hoofed it back up to the cottage and got it.† When I returned, they were nowhere to be seen, of course.† I sat by the side of the stream on a bank (checking carefully for nettles), and waited.† In about 10 or 15 minutes, one flew back in, upstream.† I got some pictures, but mostly I am disappointed with them.† After it flew away, I sat there for another half hour or so, but neither returned.† Maybe my presence put them off.† It was very pleasant sitting there in the off and on sunshine, though, listening to the sound of the water running over the rocks.
I walked around more, and returned, as that was the best place to watch the stream from.† A couple of Pied Wagtails flew in, and I took some pictures of them.† I could see they were a bit different from each other, and later I looked them up and saw that the male and female are indeed a bit different, which I hadnít realized before.† I got good pictures of both of them, and I noticed that the male had several rings (bands) on his legs.† You can see them clearly in the pictures of him.
Finally I walked back up the hill to my cottage, after taking pictures of a couple of bunnies who posed for me.† It was a very pleasant way to finish off the afternoon.
So, I donít have much birding left now.† The group tour day on Saturday, and three or four partial days when I am traveling, and maybe a day or two in the London area.† I have been here for four weeks, and what is left is mostly driving days and the final 8 days in the London area, mostly for sightseeing.† Iím looking forward to re-visiting the Outer Hebrides, which I visited the first time in June of 1971.† I had perfect blue-sky weather on that trip, and I donít expect that this time at all.† Western Scotland is very cloudy and rainy most of the time, and that seems to be the forecast this week.† If I can survive the ferry trips without getting seasick, it should be fun.
This is the end of having a kitchen for the next week.† It is B&Bís now for 5 nights, and then two more Travelodges, before I get back to having a kitchen for the last 8 nights.† Iíll be scrambling for meals again, and this time I will be in pretty remote places most of the time. †Iím sure I wonít starve, though, and it will add to the adventure.† I have some oatcakes, and I have cheese, and I can probably get ham and fruit.† I can survive on that if I have to.† Iíll be looking for a grocery store tomorrow, in one of the towns I am going through, to stock up.† I have been having Waitrose prepared meals, with fresh veggies, for my dinners the last few nights.† There are places to eat near most of my B&Bís, if I want to have actual meals, rather than my usual grazing dinners when I donít have a kitchen.† I have a small fridge at two of the B&Bís, and that will give me more flexibility.† I am supposed to have internet access everywhere, which is great for me, of course.
I guess that is it for today.† Iíll make a Photos album and get this and Photos17 up on the website, eat my dinner, and settle on down for the evening.† Time to be moving along, in the morning.