Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tales From The Highlands

Days 13 & 14

  Sorry for the lengthy double blog to end the trip but I thought I should get it all done together while I have the chance and working internet ;)

Day 13 - A Trip To Hawaii

  Okay, so we didn't really visit Hawaii but we did go to Embo that is twinned with Kaunakakai in Hawaii.I'm guessing it's because of the beaches and not the weather lol
  It took us about an hour to drive up the A9 from the Black Isle detour through Dornoch and up to Embo where we drove straight through the caravan park to the pier.It's a great place to look for birds.We have seen Scoters, Guillemots and Gannets here before.Today there was a raft of Eiders.
  Embo pier.


  Raft of Eider Ducks.

  Just another 5-10 minutes up the road from tropical Embo and you reach Loch Fleet.A wonderful place and always brimming with wildlife where the Harbour Seals lounge around on the sand bars.You can get out and sit on the bench or if you want to stay dry, use your binoculars through your car window lol
  Loch Fleet.

  Seals on the sand bars.

  There were over 100 Oystercatchers, along with some Redshanks,Red-breasted Mergansers, Grey Herons, a Greenshank, some Greylag Geese in the adjacent field and about another 50+ Eiders.
  Greylag Geese.

  Oystercatchers.

  Red-breasted Merganser trying to swallow a fish.

  Greenshank.

  More Eiders.




  After leaving Loch Fleet we headed a bit further North to Golspie where you will find a fantastic fish & chip restaurant, The Trawler.I had Scampi and chips.Now I usually get 8 or 9 scampi when ordering from somewhere, today I got 10 but each one was like a double scampi.Apparently from the West coast of Scotland where they are obviously given steroids lol 
  A quick visit to the charity shop a few doors down and it was time to head back to the Black Isle.

Day 14 - A Very Lochy Day

  This was our last full day in the Highlands (Boooo), and we had a few options as so many places to go and so little time to see them in.We thought about heading up to Ullapool, or across to Skye or down to Glen Affric.In the end we did head West but towards Sheildaig through Torridon.It's a drive we have done before though I never realised the amount of bodies of water on this circular route.Lucky for you all ;), I decided to photograph each of them to share with you as we drove around.
  So we set off up the A835 through Contin(another great cafe just after here, past Rogie Falls where we once got stuck in the snow and had to be pulled out by Police lol) where we see our first Loch of the day.
  1.Loch Garve

  Instead of continuing North towards Ullapool we turn left onto the A832 and head West.We soon see the next Loch, 6 miles long.
2.Loch Luichart

  Just another mile or two up the road and the next Loch comes in to view.
3.Loch A Chuilinn

  Connected to Loch A Chuilin by a few hundred yards of the River Bran was...
4.Loch Achanatt

  As we continued West we reached the village of Achnasheen where we saw a lone Red Kite, the further West of Tollie I have seen one.Just the other side of Achnasheen is a 3 mile stretch of water set in a glen that has some of the lowest temperatures in all of Scotland, Brrrr ;)
5.Loch Chroisg

  There is a short break in Lochs but as you drive down towards Kinlochewe you have this wonderful view of Loch Maree.A place where we have watched Great Northern Divers before.
6.Loch Maree
   We drove down the side of Loch Maree for a few miles to the hotel where we scanned the water for birds but found none.

  We turned around, headed back to the junction at Kinlochewe and down the A896.Going towards Torridon you first come to the most northern most point of the next Loch.
7.Loch Clair

  Now we are excitingly into White-tailed Sea Eagle territory.If you missed them around Loch Maree(watch them on the live cams at Beinn Eighe visitor centre), there is chance of seeing them in Torridon and Shieldaig.
8.Upper Loch Torridon

  We scanned the mountain tops but unfortunately the clouds were moving in and covering them so we moved on to Shieldaig.Here we made a pitstop at a cafe and looked over at the island and the surrounding areas for an Eagle.
9.Loch Shieldaig

  Once again the rain caught us up and stole our hope of seeing the flying barn door.The A896 then heads South through some stunning scenery before reaching our next Loch.
  The A896 scenery, we came from the left and headed off on the right.

  The next 2 lochs were actually joined together with just a narrower section of water between them.
10.Loch Coultrie
  

11.Loch An Loin, a quiet cottage to live in :)

  I couldn't tempt Majella to take a right turn here and head up Applecross so we drove down the East side of this 300ft deep loch, looking West towards Isle Of Skye.
12.Loch Kishorn
  
  Separated by just the headland from Loch Kishorn, the next sea loch on the West coast is...
13.Loch Carron

Panoramic view of Loch Carron

  You would think 13 lochs would be enough but no there was more.I can hear the sighs from here ;) On the road heading back up towards Achnasheen there were 3 more lochs.
14.Loch Dughail

15.Loch Sgamhain

16.Loch Gowan

  So about 100 miles round trip, 6 hours, 16 lochs(not including the few lochans seen along the way too).If you come here and you like lochs then you're in for a very lochy time ;)
  Later that evening it was still drizzling but I knew it was my last chance to get out with the Bat detector so around 9.15pm I spent half hour back at RSPB Fairy Glen and managed to pick up the sound of what I gather was one Common Pipistrelle Bat.They are known in the Glen and I picked it up at 45kHz so would think that is what it was.

  Well that took 2 hours to write and upload lol but it is the last blogpost of my Tales From The Highlands tour.I am back in Lincolnshire now so blogs will be more sparse and boring ;)

  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to have a look through my blogs, view my photographs and read about my time in Scotland.I recommend that everyone should see the amazing wildlife and scenery of Scotland at least once in their lives.
  Anyone up there already with a spare room(or shed), give us a call ;) lol

Thanks again.
Stuart

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Tales From The Highlands

Day 12 - Dolphins & Dippers

  The day started with the very short 2 minute drive(I couldn't manage the walk up the beach) to Chanonry Point at around 8.15am.Low tide had been at 6.30am so now was a great time to catch the Bottlenose Dolphins as they followed the tide back in to feed on the Salmon.We had only just made it to the point when the unmistakeable dorsal fin of a Dolphin broke the choppy water's surface, quickly followed by a second smaller one.I think it was Zephyr and her calf.



  A third Dolphin came closer to shore.


  If Charlie Phillips, Moray Firth Dolphin behavourial expert and author reads this then maybe he will identify the third Dolphin.We started to leave after about 75 minutes when the rain started to get too much and met Charlie up in the car park and was able to get his new book "On A Rising Tide" with the most stunning Dolphin photographs you will ever see.You can check out about his book on the link below.

http://www.nesspublishing.co.uk/books/on-a-rising-tide/

  This is why Chanonry Point is one of the best places in the UK to watch Dolphins from the shore.

  We left Charlie in the cold wind and headed back to warm up with a coffee.With a couple of hours still to go til lunch Majella suggested a walk up the nearby RSPB Fairy Glen in Rosemarkie.Only 5 minutes into the walk and a Grey Wagtail flew up and settled in a tree on the other side of the stream.

  The Fairy Glen

  Not much further along and I saw what I had hoped to find since last week.The bouncing white bib of a Dipper.Usually I may get a couple of photographs before it flies off but this one seemed happy to have an audience and came within a few feet of us.





  Dipper film clip by Majella Fox
                              video

  It was just amazing to be able to watch this fantastic bird so closely.After 20 minutes of a breathtaking wildlife encounter we left it to continue further up the trail.
  Dipper De Do Da
  Dipper De, Yay
  I found a Dipper
  That made my day ;)

  Okay don't leave just yet ;) lol Unfortunately there are no photos of the Fairy Glen waterfalls as we only got a bit further before my left knee(the one drained and injected before we came up here) decided that if we were to press on, it was going to punish me with more pain so we called it a morning and headed back for lunch.

  In the afternoon we set off to meet a friend and fellow Nature lover who was lucky enough to move up here.I am envious of her garden lol A constant procession of Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Siskins, Starlings, Robins, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Treecreepers, Blackbirds, Dunnocks came to the feeders while we were there.
  Treecreeper

  Siskin

  Red Squirrels usually frequent Helen's garden but had decided today to stay out of the rain.We all then went for a walk with a couple of crazy dogs.

  The 3+ hours were over way too quickly but we are moving into her shed shortly so are not too upset ;)

  All in all in was a good day, lots of wildlife and meeting up again with two great people.
  Thanks again for reading.It is getting near now to the end of our time up here so you will all get your 2 minutes a day back very soon ;) lol

Stuart

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Tales From The Highlands

Days 10 & 11

  A double day blog today to catch back up to date.

  Day 10 - Tollie Kites

  I know you were all dying to find out if we got the car fixed ;) Well we did, the guy at Fortrose garage was great.He replaced two coils and everything is good again except for the £82.50 taken from our holiday funds lol
  The car was fixed while we were out with our friend Jan who arrived for a catch up and then decided we should pop over to Tollie to see the Red Kites as she had not been before and we had only been once,a few years ago.
  We were met by RSPB employee Brad who spoke to us about the Kites and during a long conversation both before and after the feeding, also talked about the mass poisoning in 2014 which killed 16 Red Kites and 6 Buzzards.
  RSPB volunteer John arrived to put out the food in 4 stages to try to prevent the local Gull gang from taking advantage.The Red Kites didn't give them a chance though lol
 






 
  10 Kites were counted along with just a single Buzzard and the Gull gang.After leaving Tollie, Jan dropped us off in Fortrose to save us the walk to pick our car back up.I also saw species 62 of the trip with this Yellowhammer.

  With everything sorted we could look forward to getting out for Day 11.

  Day 11 - The Largest Shingle Beach in Scotland

  After looking at the weather forecast and believing it 😒 we decided to head East along the Moray Firth coast instead of North into Sutherland.The traffic through Inverness was surprisingly sparse for 8.15am as we expected to get stuck on the Kessock Bridge for a while, so we made good time.The drive along the A96 was the same.Just outside of Culloden hundreds of Pink-footed Geese were feeding in a roadside field.
  As we reached Spey Bay we turned off into Mosstodloch to drive down the side of the bay and were rewarded with our first Swallow of the Spring.We parked in Kingston on the East side and stepped out of the car into the wind and sea spray.
  Looking East up the shingle beach.

  Looking West up the shingle beach.

  This is the largest shingle beach in Scotland.It was now a very blustery day with the white tips hitting the shore with some force and was littered with a large amount of driftwood.


  Out in the water I noticed a large raft of ducks, Long-tailed Ducks.

 Numerous Eiders then started to fly in from the East.

 Along with 9 Sandwich Terns.

  Along with these a distant Northern Gannet over the sea and a Ringed Plover on the beach took our tally to 66 species.
  Spot the Ringed Plover.

  A Grey Seal also graced us with its presence and a pair of Goldeneye landed in the sheltered bay behind the shingle.We visited the Scottish Dolphin Centre there, where lots of people were busy buying souvenirs of Dolphins and a talk was been held.
  We left and head back West stopping at both Elgin(never been there before) and Inverness to browse the shops and managed to pick up some more bargains to be used on our carboot sales to help fundraise for wildlife 😊

  Raptorwatch Update

  Buzzards - 30
  Red Kites - 17
  Ospreys - 2
  Hen Harrier - 1
  Peregrine - 1
  Kestrel  -1
  Tawny Owl - 1(heard only)

  Come back tomorrow for Dolphins and Dippers.
  Thanks.

  Stuart