Sunday, 22 January 2012

Wonderful Land - The Shadows

We are delighted to welcome another country, and another Caribbean Island, to the readership by way of Dominica, number 162. Not to be confused with Dominican Republic, where I have yet to visit, some time was spent on this beautiful place during a cruise in 2004. Thanks for joining us, please pass the link on to your friends and families and hope you enjoy the ride.

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Before getting on to today's report proper, some information for 'birders' particularly but also others who may follow this trail behind me. The last 2 nights stay at the Aultguish Inn have been everything you could expect from a hostelry, with the geographical location probably being key to any bird watching expedition. The narrative of the last 2 posts will identify what may be seen, except the real chance of Otter, the odd Whale etc.

A good job I'd loaded optics, maps etc into the car before breakfast because as I made to leave the mother of all squalls hit and there I stood a little damp to say the least. From thereon it seemed to be a day of deteriorating weather with every element of BAD manifesting itself at one stage or another. There might have been a couple more 'bites of the cherry' as far as Golden Eagle was concerned, but not under these conditions, so by-passing Loch Maree I continued the 60 mile drive to the next location.

It should be said that due to the poor weather all of the wildlife shots are from the archive while all others were taken today.

With very short spells of sunshine en-route, there was chance to investigate some habitats visited in the past such as the bridge just south of Garve where Dipper breeds. There was a single bird on site, and I like to think it may have been one of last years offspring.

Further south, and just before the Torr roundabout, stands the Tollie Red Kite Feeding Station, a great little place Dave Tissington and I discovered on our visit last year.

3 Red Kite were seen today, but it was a much larger and more powerful raptor I wanted to see, however there was other business to attend to before that possibility. Passing the Culloden Battlefield, it was on to

the Slochd Summit, the highest point on the A9, and infamous for bad weather. Some say "if you can see the top it's going to snow", others say "if you can't see the top, it is snowing"! Just past this point on the right is a fine Grouse Moor where I have never failed to see Red Grouse. Today I couldn't even find the turn-off.

If I was going to see any Eagles today this would be the place, a single lane road at the Tomatin turn-off, where both Golden and White-tailed Sea Eagle are sometimes seen (eh Bomber?).

There are the 'headwaters' of the Findhorn River and one of the most scenic and tranquil places in this part of Scotland.

Common Gull have a breeding colony covering much of the area shown in the 2 photographs above.

One of the many tributaries of the River Findhorn.

Looking west down the Findhorn Valley.

I was only prepared to walk part way up this slope to get the photo!

There were Red Deer on the slopes but even they seemed to be cowering against the elements.

This is as far as you can go by car, on another day the 5 mile walk to the collapsed bridge would have been in order. I sat here for a full 3 hours this morning, stretching my legs as weather allowed, but it was never going to be an Eagle day!

A Golden Eagle? No unfortunately not, just a much smaller Common Buzzard. So. giving up, but only for the present, I pushed on to

Carrbridge, a village named after this fine structure. Luck certainly befell me as I tried for B&B, stumbling on Craigellachie House, the most beautifully appointed Guest House I have ever seen. With that accolade perhaps no need to say that I am staying for the next 2 nights. Having decanted my things, the search continued but with the RSPB Reserve at Loch Garten 'closed' I was at a loss as to where to find Capercaille.

The only site I know for Black Grouse, is in this direction but there were none here today. Things were starting to look a little grim, so next best is to slowly drive the forest roads in the hope of seeing either. This didn't work here,

but a stroke of luck did bring a 'chance' sighting of a large flock of Brambling*

without which the Year List would have remained the same.

With still some daylight left and still plenty of sleet, snow and now developing heavy rain, it was thought worth a drive to the Rothiemurchus Forest

to try our luck in this wonderful habitat. We came away empty handed, but there's another day tomorrow and no matter what the weather may bring you can be sure your correspondent will be in the field.

The Year (January) List now stands at 184

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