10 Jun 2013

A 21st Birthday and A Few Days Birding in Scotland

Black Grouse
It was Charlie my youngest son's 21st Birthday. As he was just about to start his exams he didn't want a big party so Penny and I headed over to Edinburgh to take him out to dinner with his girlfriend Jess, elder brother Jeremy and Tyrella his aunt. We had a lovely evening at a restaurant I would highly recommend called Bia Bistrot. After dinner we took him to a bar where about twenty of his friends had gathered unbeknown to him for a few drinks.

The following day with slightly sore head I headed up to Dalguise near Pitlochry to stay with my sister.
On arrival I noticed her nyjer seed feeder was being besieged by Siskins. I counted as many as eighteen queuing up to use the feeder. I love Siskins such a small and beautifully coloured bird. I see them rarely on my own feeders so the ability to sit and listen and watch them fighting over the seed was a real treat.

Male Siskin

Male Siskin
Male Siskin
Female Siskin

As I entered the house I noticed a Chaffinch collecting feathers to line a nest it had made in the cotoneaster right beside the front door.
Female Chaffinch with nesting material
We decided before supper to head down to the Loch of the Lowes to see the Ospreys. As we were driving over the River Tay into Dunkeld there was an Osprey fishing right beside the bridge.
I am a great fan of the Scottish Wildlife Trust's reserve at the Loch of the Lowes with their star attraction being the pair of breeding Ospreys. They have great hides where you can look over to the nest site. When we arrived one was already on the nest and the other was just coming in with nest material. At this point she had laid four eggs. There are very good webcams both in the hides and in the visitor centre.
Breeding Osprey at Loch of the Lowes

The following morning I looked out of the kitchen window and there was Red Squirrel on the feeders.

 We then headed off to see if we could find any Black Grouse which would be a lifer for me. I have tried on a few occasions but to no avail. My sister rang the local gamekeeper to see if he knew of any good lekking sites. He rang another keeper and we headed off up the A9 to see what we could find. We found this track and headed for miles deep into the countryside. There were Wheatears, Meadow Pipits, Hares and Deer but no Black Grouse. When we had run out of likely habitat for the Black Grouse we headed back and as we were driving along I caught a glimpse out of the side of my eye of a bird dropping to the ground and at first thought was it a Kestrel. I got out of the car and headed towards where I thought I had seen it when a female Hen Harrier flew up. It made my day to see a Hen Harrier on a Scottish estate.
Hen Harrier
Scottish Estate

We continued on our hunt, at one point passing a Red Grouse calling but not from a very photogenic perch,
Red Grouse

to various lekking sites where my sister had seen birds previously. It wasn't until the last place only about 14 miles from my sister's house that we saw a couple of birds a hundred yards off the roadside. 
I was able to get a few shots of them. What fabulous birds.
Black Grouse

I went back to my sister's house on a high. The following morning I went up the hill behind her house in the hope of finding a Capercaillie but to no avail. There were however lots of Tree Pipits around
Tree pipit

Tree Pipit

Displaying Tree Pipit

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