Monday, 2 July 2018

Northwards, 2nd June 2018

We never bother doing too much on the Saturday journey northwards and this year was no exception. We left Melrose reasonably early and sailed past Edinburgh before the roads became too busy pulling into the RSPB Loch Leven (formerly Vane Farm) reserve by mid morning. The reserve is currently the site of much upheaval with a new underpass being constructed to enable visitors to access the ponds and scrapes without having to cross the road. Because of the work the bird feeders have been relocated but we still managed to find a couple of Tree Sparrows (for which this reserve is very reliable for) including a lovely recently fledged youngster which still sported its yellow gape.

Tree Sparrow
The coffee was as excellent as ever and after buying some bird food we were on our way again, this time diverting off to the Famous Grouse distillery near Crieff. Not to buy or taste any whisky but because a few years ago we had seen at close quarters a beautiful Dipper on the river there. Mind you we haven't seen a Dipper there since and we didn't this time either! But there's no harm in trying. There were at least some Grey Wagtails flitting around, too quick for me and the camera this time though.

It was now a very warm day (by Scottish standards) and further thunderstorms were forecast but, after loading up with provisions in Blairgowrie, we ventured out towards Glen Shee and the long way around via Tomintoul rather than use the much quicker A9. Until the rain started falling just after turning off the main road it was an uneventful drive. The rain changed that though and at times we were driving through torrential downpours with visibility much reduced and the pace slowed considerably. Any birds would be well out of that and sheltering, not that we'd be able to see them anyway. The rain had abated somewhat by the time we had pulled in at Glenmulliach. We stop here to view Black Grouse which can usually be seen high up on a hillside adjacent to the road and sure enough we spotted 14 male birds feeding in the heather. This is the most reliable and accessible site I know for this species in the Speyside area in the summer, all other leks either being a long way from any access points or sadly demised in recent times.

Black Grouse
We pulled in at the holiday cottage and after refilling the garden bird feeders made plans for our first full day tomorrow.

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