Friday, 8 April 2011

Nethy Bridge to Gruinard Island

Unfortunately our stay at Nethy Bridge was over, so after yet another hearty breakfast we said farewell to David and Jenny Carrott and started our drive north. A quick check at the Spey bridge just outside the village again came to naught, but the sun was shining, a few menacing looking clouds were pushed over by the gentle breeze but the forecaster said, further north more likelihood of rain.

There was nothing else to report right up to the Kessock Bridge, close to Inverness, but a few miles up the road having already seen one Red Kite, we decided to investigate this notice.

A new project feeding station was unmanned today but there was a notice on the window explaining all, so we just had a quiet look around.

Nothing was seen through the wooden viewing screen on the right and even the peanut feeders seemed abandoned? Turning to go, this

Red Kite obligingly flew in and perched in this pine tree,

so we maneuvered the car to best advantage and were well pleased with the view.

Returning to the main road for only a few minutes, another Kite flew above us and started to circle,

at which we found a convenient lay-by to watch this grand air display. We were now on the road to Ullapool, but while the scenery was spectacular there was little by way of birds except for c2 distant Golden Eagles (we did see one yesterday but omitted to enter it in the post) and this

Dipper that was busily feeding young,

with the nest, as often, being under a road bridge.

All we had seen of this smart little bird that far was a distant view while driving yesterday.

We arrived at Ullapool just after midday, me confident that we were going to see both White-winged Gull with no bother at all.

Even from this distance we could see there were none of the larger pelagic fishing boats alongside and it didn't look as if there were many Gulls either.

A scout around the Fish Quay was devoid of the expected Glaucous Gull, while this military group were having difficulty with the engine of one of their 'rigid raiders', there were however plenty of pyrotechnics being loaded so they were on a mission, training I guess!

We did find this rather stunning 'first winter' Great Black-backed Gull,

which is included here by virtue of it beautifully patterned plumage.

Later, this rather hefty Grey Seal entered the harbour

passing quite close to our position. Last time I visited there were c11 Iceland Gulls on the river estuary just north of the town, so surely we couldn't fail there - but we did! There were however a few additions to the 'Trip List' as we saw Ringed Plover, Redshank, Red-breasted Merganser and Wigeon

plus these c2 Hooded Crows. It was now time to try somewhere else, but with nowhere familiar to us we looked at the map to find a narrow track leading to the coast and the village of Rhue.

On the way we found this lone Greylag Goose on a small tarn and at the top of the hill managed to find a single

Iceland Gull, via the telescope, on the shore-line below (nearest Gull right of picture).

The Rhue Lighthouse was a 'tick' for me and I guess the Liftons (fellow lighthouse collector) will be suitably 'gripped'!

As we scanned Loch Broom in hope of a Black Guillemot, we spotted a very distant Great Skua which was followed towards the open sea by what we are claiming to be an Arctic Skua. We would welcome any comments on this very poor but distant photo please. It was now time to drive the long U retracing our track south, then cutting back to the north and along the shore of Little Loch Broom and to view Gruinard Island. An island with no access to humans as it was used in the late 40's and 50's for the study of the deadly Anthrax, since when the White-tailed Sea-Eagle has found it to be a sanctuary. There are said to be 6 pairs in the area now, but we didn't see any of the 12.

What we did see were a few Common Buzzards

this one flushed from a roadside telegraph pole, while down at the Slipway at

Badcaul village, some of the isolated crofters from across the loch were collecting stores to transport home by small boat.

Seals too were numerous here, but identification of this one is still in doubt. The nostril / face pattern looks good for Grey Seal,

but the 'short snout' gives the impression of Common Seal - more help please.

Off the island the Mine Countermeasures Vessel HMS Ramsey looked to be conducting some sort of exercise, while

this Black-throated Diver, one of a dozen in Gruinard Bay, had caught itself a tasty snack. During this time I had sighted a Black Guillemot at a fair distance and diving perpetually, Dave unfortunately never got on to it.

Tonight we are staying in Laide a 10 minute drive from the White-tailed Eagle watch-point, where we will be bright and early tomorrow.

The Trip List now stands at = 76 My GB Year List climbs to = 215

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