Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Four Grouse and a Crossbill

There had been some overnight snow, and it seemed like most of it was on my windscreen! However, even though there was still a small 'fall' while eating the last hearty breakfast at Craigellachie House the sky was already brightening.

While it might be something of a national pastime to bemoan our councils, there is no cause for complain about the Road Gritters right across Scotland. This evolution isn't confined to the arterial roads, on the contrary, even the smallest roads including those through the forests are treated. I'm impressed! Lucky as far as I was concerned,as all that was on my mine was seeing the 4 Grouse species and the Parrot Crossbill.

My first 2 hours of daylight were taken up 'curb crawling' the bye-ways of the Abernethy and Rothiemurchus Forests rather than setting of on foot to find these elusive creatures. Capercaillie was considered most difficult as this would simple be a case of stumbling over one, which I didn't, while there were 2 sites that could be tried for the other.

While turning at Nethy Bridge to take another pass along the Loch Garten road, I couldn't resist the temptation to visit this 'feeding station' once again

where a Crested Tit was the only bird there. Who could resist another look at such a bonny, wee bird?

There was however an onlooker in the shape of this Red Squirrel.

Looking at Cairn Gorm from a distance, just momentarily head above the clouds, I was on my way for a final look at the Black-Cock Lek site.

There, to my amazement was a single Black Grouse* perched on a sapling as a further 3 flew past, all were males.

During the breeding season a wicker screen is erected here, but viewers cannot get much closer to the Lek as the whole area between is a bog. Today, better views were had via the Mighty Midget 'scope.

As the noon bell struck it was time to call it a day on the Caper and return to Cairn Gorm where it was hoped things would be a good deal quieter. They were but with lots of people still around maybe too much human activity for Ptarmigan and Red Grouse. A walk part way up the mountain followed by another perch on the parapet produced no signs of life except human, so it was time to move on. The drive back into Aberdeenshire is via another

Ski Resort, atop

The Lecht which is reached via this steep and winding road,

but up there, where you could almost guarantee a Red Grouse, it was a 'white-out'. The search produced nothing so it was decision time, a straight drive back to Aberdeen or take a 35 mile each way detour in the hope of success. NEVER SAY DIE SAY I!

'Blink' at the Bridge of Brown and you miss the village completely, but passing through brought back memories of the bird we found there last April. A fine male Reeves Pheasant not a bird that is on the British List but an absolute stunner to look at don't you agree?

Passing Corgarff Castle you soon reach the A 939 Ballater road catching the first sight of the

Mountains of Deeside & Lochnagar and the accompanying Braemar Grouse Moors.

It was a long search but finally a single Red Grouse* was sighted which soon took to the air

as I left the car. Good job it was a camera and not a 12 bore!

There was just a short stop at the town of Braemar to admire some of the fine buildings and bring just a flavour to you,

it being quite understandable why the Royal Family love this part of the world so much. As a footnote, there was a time when a Capercaillie made the roof of the Post Office here its favourite perch. It was certainly worth a look, but I couldn't even find the building.

Further on down the road, 7 more Red Grouse flew down a valley followed by the sighting of a male

and a female in a roadside lay-by.

Reaching Glen Shee, the final destination, the

Ptarmigan* proved to be far less troublesome than their cousins as 5 flew across the road close to the car to join a further 2 already perched at the bottom of a vavine. Unfortunately, the photograph is borrowed from the internet and is not mine, mores the pity but the bird was 'in the bag' so to speak.

There were also a number of Mountain Hares in their white winter plumage, but again the photograph has had to be lifted from the archive.

75% success rate on the Grouse is no bad result, and during the day quite a number of Crossbills were seen but none of them that I could see with the massive bill structure of Parrot Crossbill.

The Year (January) List now stands at 190
and we begin the countdown of the final 10 or more.

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