Monday, 11 April 2011

The 'KING' Will Come - Wishbone Ash

It was to be a 'single pronged' attack today with blinkered vision and only one target. Pulling the curtains back in the St Olaf Hotel, Cruden Bay the sun came pouring in, there was not a cloud in the sky and the trees were still as night, not a breath of wind, all set for a good day. A full Scottish breakfast is also guaranteed to kick you off on the right foot, but as we stepped out of the hotel the rain started and in a nutshell lasted for the rest of the day.

Driving north, we stopped to look at the Peterhead Lighthouse (another shot for The Lighthouse People) before turning down the track that led us back to Rattray Head. Once again the were a few Corn Bunting and loads of Pink-footed Geese and we also managed to get a shot or two of


Similarly to yesterday we searched the sea area close to the lighthouse and the rocky outcrops to the north for the King Eider but again without success, but quite a few 'Divers' seemed to have move in since our previous visit with at least 10 Great Northern, 13 Black-throated and a single summer plumage Red-throated. After this we moved back to

where there was just one addition to the Trip List, a spoonbill feeding in the Tower Pool and I caught my first sight of Coot, Gadwall and Moorhen, leveling the score with Dave.

There was also this unusual looking Pheasant

which will need to be looked up at a later date.

The view out of the Visitor's Centre window looks directly onto the Black-headed Gull colony

and beyond to the Tower Pool,

Loch of Strathbeg in the far distance and

the stone built Windmill that once drained this whole area.

A Grey Heron patrolling the reeds. Our last ditch chance to see the King Eider would be to return to Newburgh where the tide was rapidly falling, but optimistic as ever I had a strong feeling that we were going to get lucky. Time was running out as the hire car had to be returned by 16:30 but we did stop briefly at the second lay-by to try once again for the Bonaparte's Gull, then as quickly as you like to Inch Point overlooking the River Ythan.

Within minutes of arrival, I had the little bugger sat preening on an exposed rock with a few of its close cousins the Common Eider.

What a moment of elation and what a way to finish our trip that had also been a great success to watch this beautiful

male King Eider slip into the water not really bothering about our approach.

We must have got to within 40 yards which made for reasonable photographic range, but to look at one of the smartest ducks in the world through the telescope was astounding!

We did decide to end our advance there, as the bird and its companions started to look a little edgy,

but just to clap eyes on it was privilege enough.

It wasn't until returning to the car that it was realised I had the camera setting on 'landscape' and so doubtless the images could have been better, but hey who's complaining?

It was hoped that I might get to see the North Sea Bird Club Recorder and his assistant Alma Frazer at the Culterty (Cooterty) Field Station which is now incorporated in the brand new Oceanographic complex here but they were both away. Over my years off-shore I had sent 13,000 records of wildlife seen from various rigs I have served on and so it would have been great to see my old friends again - maybe next time guys?

We returned to the Ythan for our final hour where we found the Long-tailed Ducks just a little closer to the shore,

and although we would have loved to have seen the King Eider again it was not relocated.

Finally, the sight of a Bristow's 'Oil Rig Crew Change' helicopter flying high above the river quite put the wind up me as I thought they may be looking for me, so I dived for cover. While I loved every aspect of the off-shore life, especially on the Buchan Alpha, it made me realise even more how good it feels to have the shackles shaken off as I am enjoying life so much in retirement.

A quick word about our trip in general to the 'magic country' which is Scotland, for Dave and I has been a resounding success. We only 'dipped' on 2 potential species, Parrot Crossbill (not a sniff) and Glaucous Gull (which had been reported while we have been here but luck was simply not on our side). Besides this, the Pied-billed Grebe on Mull was just a 'bridge too far', while the Green-winged Teal (Loch of Strathbeg) and Snow Geese (various locations) seemed to be long gone. Once again there were no Pine Martens for me but we did record 8 species of mammal with the bird list for the trip concluding at 112.

For anyone who has not been here and loves the countryside Scotland must not be missed, and if as we your interests stretch to 'birding' particularly there is much to see that England cannot provide, so in the words of the Bard remember:-

Growing Old is Compulsory
Growing Up is Optional

From the 2 youngsters in Jockville, see some of you in the next few days!