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Biggest Twitch
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Birding the Best of the Scottish Highlands

We head north and out to the coast - part one of three

An early start and we were heading north for the Highlands, we collected Tel, Val and Sue then croseed the border and on to Glasgow Airport where Rick and Charlie joined us. By chance a good bird was just down the road so of course we called in for a look. We found Frankfield Loch and soon found the drake Blue-winged Teal. This American vagrant was showing well in the sunshine with a group of Teal and Shoveler, what a brilliant start to the trip. We did however experience some language problems here, a local workmen spoke to us, but not a word did we understand! A thick Glaswegian accent had us baffled! He was smiling and we assumed he was being friendly so Alan replied with usual pleasantries and told the chap about the bird, hope we didn't offend him, we really did not have a clue what he was saying.

Back on the road we headed north into the Highlands and had our first Golden Eagle from the A9 as we neared Speyside. We checked in at our lovely hotel and met up with Sarah-Jane, completing the group. We had time for a walk at Loch Garten and enjoyed great views of a Crested Tit.

Burghead Harbour

Burghead Harbour on a bright but very windy day.

The next morning was very windy with heavy showers rattling through so we opted for a trip to the coast in search of waders, wildfowl and seabirds. At Burghead the wind was near galeforce but there was plenty to see. We had very close views of Eider in the harbour, Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters rode the waves, tons of Gannets were passing - mostly juveniles perhaps finding the gale difficult to handle?

Birders Burghead Harbour

Birders scanning the harbour

Eider drake and duck

Eiders in the sheltered harbour

Fish and Seafood carving

Local carving, fish and seafood a local speciality?

Burghead Stormy Seas

Stormy seas on the windy side of the point

At nearby Findhorn Bay there were plenty of birds with flocks of Pink-footed Geese and Wigeon out on the mudflats. Golden Plover were also here and Rick picked out three Barnacle Geese which only touched down briefly before flying on. A Yellowhammer showed well in the gorse right next to us.

Herring Gull crab lunch

Crab for lunch at Chanonry Point

We then headed west out on to the Black Isle and almost at once had a lovely view of a Red Kite right over the road. At Chanonry Point we had distant views of bottle-nosed dolphins and harbour porpoise. Plenty of birds offshore here including Black-throated Diver, two Great Skuas, Long-tailed Ducks, a late Arctic Tern and Gannets.

Hooded Crow hybrid

Keeping a close eye on our packed lunches!

Udale Bay RSPB Reserve

Udale Bay RSPB Reserve, can you pick out the American Wigeon?!

A short drive took us to the RSPB Udale Bay reserve and masses of birds! Careful scanning of the thousands of Wigeon and Alan picked out a drake American Wigeon! Now to get everyone else to see the rarity. This was a little tricky as the bird was moving about amongst a huge number of wigeon so every time we swapped places at the scope the bird had moved! But everyone soon managed to see the American Wigeon, phew! Then we could relax and enjoy the bird spectacle laid out before us. Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing all joined the wildfowl on the marsh here on the high tide. Wonderful close views of the birds in the Autumn sun. Just east of the reserve we found large flocks of Scaup just offshore, great to see so many of these sea-ducks so close.

Scaup flock

Just a few of the hundreds of Scaup in Cromarty Bay

Cromarty Bay

Also on the water in Cromarty Bay...

Avoch Harbour

Quieter waters in Avoch Harbour

Back over to Avoch, near Chanonry Point, the wind had dropped and the waters of the firth were much calmer so we stopped for a scan. Bottle-nosed dolphins were just off the harbour! Wow! We had brilliant views in the late afternoon sun, one animal even leaping clear of the water, fantastic! Also off here were over one hundred Long-tailed Duck though a long way out.

We had enjoyed some amazing birds and wildlife, and kept dry, so a very happy group headed back to the hotel for a lovely meal and a wee dram.

Lots more to come from our adventures in the Highlands so please check back soon for more updates.

If you would like to join us for the very best birdwatching and wildlife just drop us a line at...

We would love to put together a trip perfect for you!


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