Saturday, June 06, 2009

Highlands of Scotland Holiday - day 4

Well the weather couldn’t stay perfect for the whole holiday, could it? Tuesday started as cloudy as it was predicted to, with rain forecast on the hills, so we decided to postpone the climb another day and instead visit some more of the local spots for birding.

First-up we visited the Findhorn Valley. The valley is accessed via a long and meandering road that first crosses the river on a high bridge, where we watched this Dipper preening:


















I like the way its eye is covered by the inner membrane in this shot. Unusual. In the same spot we watched a juvenile Grey Wagtail bobbing around:


















Further along the road a pair of Mistle Thrushes, again much paler than we're used to:


















Approaching the car park at the end of the valley we passed first a smaller herd of Red Deer:














before a much bigger one. We kept watch at the end of the valley for the raptors, but none showed. From the Findhorn Valley we took a gated road up to a grouse moor, heading for the village of Farr. Sadly en route we passed a parked 4x4 with spotting light and later heard shooting. At this time of year it only means one thing, illegal killing of birds of prey to protect the grouse so they in turn can be shot during the 'season'. Anyone with a brain and a conscience finds this sort of activity utterly despicable. The shooting lobby have us all tied up in knots so they can continue their barbaric and shameful practice of managing anything and everything around their canned killing, even the RSPB have their hands tied, though frankly they could do a lot more even so. It's hard not to have your whole day ruined by the knowledge that almost no one is doing anything to stop these practices, after all the Lairds and Lords are making a handsome profit, whilst successfully breeding species like the Golden Eagle 'mysteriously' shrink back to ever more remote and confined habitats.

We did spot a pair of Red Grouse and indeed a family as soon four chicks emerged, still the experience was tinged with sadness as the moor echoed to the sound of the gamekeeper killing other birds:














Our last stop of the day was looking for Crested Tits, we struggled to locate the exact spot from the book as the local landowners have decided to try and 'forget' it. The parking sign has been turned around and someone had previously tried to block the tarmac entrance, though the logs they used had been moved.

In fact the car park is located by heading away from Aviemore, past the ‘Sleddog’ (Sled Dog) Centre and a little further along on right hand side, where you see the back of a parking sign.

We didn’t meet any Crested Tits but we did see a small group of Scottish Crossbills and thoroughly enjoyed the close encounter. In fact it was real treat watching them feeding and moving about. Helen nearly got nutted by a falling cone, they were right above us for a good ten minutes or more:




















We did enjoy the day despite having our worst fears for the area confirmed, it being primarily a 'huntin', shootin', fishin' kind of place. The forecast for Wednesday was reasonable so at last we can climb one of the Carn's and maybe get a few more of the local specialities, before heading on to Skye on Thursday.

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