109. Great Spotted Woodpecker
Peregrine's Birding Fact. Trials with ringed birds have shown that a Eurasian Swift that has only just left its nest can fly from London to Madrid in three days.
Well finally a few days off so I decided to go and visit my sister Tyrella in Scotland and hopefully find a Crested Tit. I took the ferry from Larne in Northern Ireland to Cairnryan in Scotland. The journey is about an hour and a half and I saw a Fulmer and a Gannet to add to the list on the way across. I took a few photos of Gulls and Guillemots on the way.
On arrival I had to head back to Stranraer to get some petrol and as I was driving into the town I noticed some ducks out on the water, hoping that they might be Long Tailed Ducks a bird that has eluded me so far: sadly not too be they were Scaup which was nice and not a bird i would see that often.
It is 168 miles to my sisters house from Stranraer and it takes about three and a half hours. The journey isnt nearly as pleasant as it used to be as the roads have tons of average speed cameras on them and you lose track as to when they start and when they finish. They are also poorly signed as to what speed you are meant to be going. Fine if you come upon a tractor for a few minutes as you are sure to be under the speed limit but if the road is traffic clear which they quite often are I personally find it difficult to be within the law. I am hoping there is not going to be a nice envelope waiting for me on my return!!!!
I decided to stop off at a RSPB reserve just south of Glasgow called Lochwinnoch I had just missed a Green Woodpecker that had been at the feeders just in front of the hide/shop very frustrating as I would have liked to get a close photo of one. Instead all I got shots of were chaffinches Out on the Loch itself there were Teal, Widgeon, Mallard and Cormorants, Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe. In the reeds there were Stonechats and Reed Buntings.
Anyway as I wanted to arrive in daylight I continued on upto Milton Cottage my sisters house which she runs as a Bed and Breakfast. She had prepared a delicious supper and after a nice whiskey I disappeared to bed.
After a very good nights sleep I woke upto an absolutely stunning morning. My sisters first comment was did you hear the owls. I hadn't. She then told me she hears them most mornings and then told me that a Gt. Spotted Woodpecker regularly comes to her feeders. I had my eyes glued but not for me. As my sister had things to do I decided to go upto Abernethy to Loch Garten as I had heard that I might find Crested Tit there. Abernethy is nearly a hundred miles North of Tyrella near to the Aviemore Skiing area. When I left there wasnt any snow to be seen but it soon appeared.On the journey I passed various Whiskey Distilleries. Dalwhinnie for example. On this occasion birds were the things I was after so no detours. By the time I got to RSPB Loch Garten (which is well known for the Ospreys that breed up there) The RSPB hut was closed and I was quite surprised to find that there were no feeders at all nearby. On the other hand it was beautiful there had been a reasonably heavy fall of snow the night before and the sunlight was coming through the trees. No Crested Tit though!! I looked for over an hour. It wasnt easy to bird as the snow was falling off the trees all the time and every time you thought there was bird movement it turned out to be snow. The Loch itself was semi frozen The only bird I got to photograph was a Robin and they were about the only birds that I saw in the area. I could hear Tits up in the tops of the trees but apart from Coal and Great Tit I couldnt have told whether any of them were Crested Tit.
Having had no success I decided to drive even further to RSPB Corrimony which is a reserve near to Loch Ness. I had been told I might find the elusive tits there. So I drove on upto Inverness over the Corinthian Canal, where I saw a pair of Goosander, the male was displaying or certainly his neck was stretching right up then down and the female looked totally unconcerned,and down the side of Loch Ness (a place I had never seen before). I arrived at Corrimony expecting a centre to find it was just land with a trail!! So I went for a few miles walk and no tits apart from one Coal Tit and a Buzzard and some Carrion Crows. Still its a beautiful place and would probably be great in late spring. it was also about -4C so I was quite glad to head home to a very nice cassoulet. I had driven over 260 miles in the day.
Yet again I woke up and hadnt heard the owls again. But I did finally see the woodpecker on the feeder but everytime I saw it the camera was at the other end of the house :-( Right next to my sister's house there is a small hill on which there are some very old pine , beech and oak trees and I caught up with one of her resident Red Squirrels in an old oak. Annoyingly not in the sun!
I then went to the Loch of Lowes near Dunkeld about ten minutes from my sister to see what was on the Loch. Before I got to the hide I noticed the centre had a great feeding station and there were two Gt Spotted woodpeckers, loads of tits, chaffinches, Greenfinches and then a first for the year for me a Siskin.
The Loch which has an Osprey nest on it had some Goldeneye, Mallard, Great Crested Grebes and Little Grebes on it.
So all in all the trip was enjoyable even if I didnt see the Crested Tit or any Crossbills. I did see the Woodpeckers and got to photograph them which was an unexpected bonus.