Thursday, 27 February 2014


A trip up north for the AMERICAN COOT at Loch Flemington was a great chance to spend a few days up in delightful Scotland, a place I've not birded for many years.



Day 1-2: Leaving on Saturday morning at 11:30am, driving the 535 miles from my house and arriving at around 7:30pm at Boat-of-Garten, I managed to book into the Boat hotel. First thing on the agenda for the morning was the Coot. Only 36 miles from where I was staying and on arrival I was greeted by Pete Morris and Alan Lewis. Amazing how you can bump into people you know in the wildest of places. The weather was poor with these being the best and only images of the AMERICAN COOT I could obtain. These were taken with the iPhone and scope and in the extremely dull wet conditions.


After I had had my fill of the Coot I then took the short drive to Loch Garten where my target bird was Crested Tit. A bird I've seen before but had never been able to get any decent photos of. As Tits go this has to be the finest on our shores, although confined to the Pine Forests of the extreme north. Another target species was Scottish Crossbill but I was unable to locate any in the usual haunts. The Crested Tit was an absolute joy to see and really great to finally get some decent images of this charming little bird.


The area was good for many species including Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch and the wonderful Tree Creeper.



Day 3: I was planning to tackle the Findhorn Valley but the low cloud and rain put pay to that. Although I have since heard from a friend that both Golden Eagle and White-tailed Sea Eagle were seen that day. I however drove out to a known site for Black Grouse only to find that the field that they had fed in previously was no longer as they required it. No sign of the birds at all. I did see an immature Golden Eagle on the mountain pass near Dirdhu, which was a great bit of luck. The only grouse on offer was the rather glorious Red Grouse.

My next target was Capercaillie, a real beauty and sadly declining grouse. I had been given some infomation by a friend of mine Christopher Bridge. I was unlucky on the morning of my visit but I know three were seen the following morning, due to a call from another good friend Paul Hackett and in the very spot Chris had mapped out for me. I went to another location later that afternoon and was totally amazed and privileged to get the selection of images below.

The most amazing, exhilarating, scary and truly a wonderful experience. Certainly one of the top highlight's of my birding years. I've seen Capercaillie before but never managed great views like this. Sadly the Capercaillie, according to the RSPB are down to less than 280 individuals. We really must try to do what ever we can to save this our largest and possibly the most beautiful of all grouse.
Day 4: Was final days birding and was a morning looking at Black Grouse at Tulloch Moor and then on to Caingorm and unfortunately failing to locate any Ptarmigan. A nice addition to the list of sightings was this beautiful Roe Deer that stared at me for at least 3mins before deciding it may be best to depart back into the deepest parts of the Forest.
All in all, a great few days. I do hope to go back to wonderful Scotland before the end of May this year, fingers crossed.


Monday, 10 February 2014


What a turn up! YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER a short 4hrs drive away at the beginning of Feb. Birding never fails to amaze and astound.

(Great information from Birdguides)

Site: Junction of Whitwell Acres and Apperley Avenue, High Shincliffe, Durham. Parking just inside Whitwell Acres in the dead end area.


Waypoint 247 above is the area where the feeders are. On the corner of Whitwell Acres and Apperley Avenue there is a large green with some Lime trees on, the best place was to stand here and look towards the feeders. They are placed, looking at the outer line of trees, to the right of the lamp column, lowdown between the next two trees. Early morning means you are looking straight into the sun, but of course the sun soon moves round.
Waypoint 249 is another area the bird seemed to favour. The trees are within the back garden of a property. The urge was to follow the bird all round the estate but really the best place was the two areas above. It was seen in some Pines and other trees around the estate but all the photos I got were in the usual areas and in time, with patience, it always returned.
Great to see Nick Franklin who I've not seen since the Bridled Tern, who is real gent and brilliant birder. I'm also expecting to see some great digiscoped images as a friend, Paul Hackett was on the prowl and his digiscoped images are second to none. Also great to catch up with David Campbell who I'd not seen since the BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot.
Also there were three Waxwings within the same estate. Waypoint 251 is the Rowan tree where the Waxwings frequent.
As all the bird apps and pagers say, please do respect the residents, it must be a bit of a shock to see the hundreds of birders on the estate. It's tempting just to stop in the middle of the road when the bird's flitting about and this was the cause of a few resident complaints. Also when they came up against the birders blocking the road, of course they beeped the horn and the bird flew off. So it will be of benefit to all sides @;^) (especially ours)


Sunday, 9 February 2014


Sunday trip out to see the Bluetail.
Site: Shire Valley, Marshfield, Gloucestershire. Parking at waypoint 245 junction of Shire Hill and Drifton Hill. Bird present at waypoint 243.

(Image of the great information provided by Birdguides)

Attendees: Barry Reed, Bill Last, Ron Cousins and I.

(Barry Reed)

Arriving around the same time as the heavy showers, it was a short wait in the car for a break in the clouds, or as it turned out, just for the rain to stop.

A short walk up the valley and the RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL was on view. Spending a lot of time in the Hawthorn and Elder trees along the track opposite Shirehall Farm. A great little bird and it did show well at times, coming down onto the grass to collect the meal worms kindly left out for him.

Raven was also a regular sighting in the valley.

Brilliant day, terrible weather, but you can't always have it all.