Scotland 2018

During August we spent two weeks in Scotland for our yearly holiday.  We spent a week in Aviemore and the second week in Arisaig on the west coast.

In Aviemore, we spent some of our time at RSPB Loch Garten in Abernethy Forest.  Unfortunately, the Ospreys failed to nest here this year.  We saw lots of Siskin on the feeders and Crossbills calling high up in the pines.  One morning we were there and unexpectedly opened up the night’s moth trap on our own.  There were lots of species including Pine Carpet, Northern Spinach, Autumnal Rustic, Neglected Rustic, Ear moths, Heath Rustic and White-line Dart (not forgetting two unidentified species of pug).  Other good sightings that morning included a Red Squirrel and two Crested Tits.

Juvenile siskin growing new tail-feathers

Juvenile siskin growing new tail-feathers

Even though we didn’t see Ospreys at Loch Garten, we had amazing views of them when we walked down to the river from our cottage.  They had presumably been feeding at the nearby fish farm and we counted a maximum of 4 birds.  They were often heard making odd almost songbird-like noises which I’ve never heard them make before!

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We also visited RSPB Loch Insh where we went in the winter to see Whooper Swans and a Hen Harrier roost.  We didn’t see much but we did see a Striped Carpet, lots of Marbled Carpets and some Scotch Argus butterflies.

At the end of our first week, we went to Coignafearn Estate to see Golden Eagles.  It is managed specially for eagles and other birds of prey by the estate owners.  We saw quite a few eagles over the distant hills and you start to really appreciate the size of them when there are Ravens amongst them!  We also picked up a recently dead Kittiwake which we have saved the skull of.

The best birding we had in Arisaig was at Traigh Beach and golf course.  The habitat is very interesting as it is machair grassland and supports a host of species.  We had regular sightings of Rock pipits, Wheatears, Twite, White Wagtail and Ringed Plover.  One evening, we went to see Eiders feeding at high tide.  They were probably pretty incapable of flight as from one of my films it showed one individual that had moulted all of its flight feathers!  They were frequently diving down and coming back up holding what we presumed were shellfish or mussels.

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Hooded crow

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Rock pipit

We spent a day on a boat trip and went out to the Isle of Eigg.  On the boat trip there, we saw White-tailed Eagle, Bottlenose Dolphin, Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and Gannet.  It took an hour to get out to Eigg.  We spent our time on a beach and saw twite and two species of eagle, Golden and White tailed, circling over the cliffs.  We were informed that Hen Harriers have been very successful on the island for a number of years, and this year there were three successful nests, which is more than there have been in the whole of England some years.  On the return journey we saw Common Dolphins which came and swam in the swell of the boat, very far out Great Skuas and a pair of possible juvenile Black Guillemots.

We also had a drive round the Rhu Peninsula to see Whimbrels which I saw last year.  They were there but in much fewer numbers with only two seen.

All in all, it was a successful trip with 11 new species to my birding year list and 1 possible new species and I look forward to going again next year!