Scotland - via Bempton and Northumberland - 20th June - 4th July 2008

Published by Greg Bond (gregorycbond AT

Participants: Greg and Val Bond


20th June

Drove north via Bempton RSPB for Puffins and other seabirds on cliffs plus Northern Marsh Orchids on cliffs, down main path then right at end, following main path for ca 200M. Plants are in grassy hollow on right. Photo opportunities here can be fantastic, though the Puffins were frustratingly distant, having taken to nesting in cliff crevasses rather than burrows for some reason. Then drove north again for Seahouses, where we were staying at the Old Ship – word of warning, parking is much easier at the back especially if the area is crowded!

21st June

Spent most of the day on Holy Island doing touristy stuff. Eventually found the orchids on the Snook between the main car park and the old building, presumably Snook House Five species in all,

· Northern Marsh – good or going over,
· “incarnata” Early Marsh, dwarf plants, 15cm or less, good or going over,
· Common Spotted, just coming,
· Marsh Helleborine, just coming;

and the main prize,

· Lindisfarne Helleborine, just coming. The latter are at NU100434, on the far side of the dune slack from Snook House at the base of very low sand ridges. Probably between one and two weeks away from full flowering. Most have wire cages over them
We were also told about a white apparent Early Marsh photo’d by another group at the island end of the Snook where you park and walk back into the dunes – we didn’t have time to check this intriguing sighting out.

22nd June

Drove north again to Carrbridge and the Fairwinds Hotel. Tel 01479 841240 ( Highly recommended with Red Squirrels (all year) and Crested Tits (mostly winter, but we saw a couple) in the garden and fantastic gourmet food, albeit not cheap (plus a decent selection of malts!). Weather indifferent en route so just a couple of Buzzards and not much else, though the motorway services were a bit grim and run down, just like they used to be in England, especially as the staff obviously smoked in the loos.

23rd June

A day of patchy sunshine spent in the Loch Garten area, seeing the obligatory Ospreys plus bits on the feeders including Red Squirrels. No sign of Lesser Twayblades but it turned out we were looking in the wrong place. Despite the less than perfect weather we had more success with dragonflies. The pond at NH968193 is obvious as the boardwalk can be seen on the right from the road approaching from Boat of Garten, just after a left bend. We visited three times eventually seeing and photographing 6+ ♂ Northern Damsels in the semisubmerged sedge on first stage of the boardwalk. Also in the area were

· 2-3 Large Red Damsels
· 10+ 4-Spot Chasers
· Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary
· 2 crossbill sp, looked large billed
· Roe Deer

The second dragonfly pool at NH982176 is less obvious. Park before the right turn to Tulloch/Tulloch Moor and walk back about 100m, when the short boardwalk is visible on left, approached along a narrow track in the heather. This site holds territorial White-faced Darters – we had 4+ ♂. Spent much of the afternoon photographing at the orchid meadow along the B970 at NH941162, opposite the Tulloch Moor road entrance. This is the garden of the house "Flowerfield". On advice we walked SW along the road to the entrance gate then back across the hill. We met the owner who is delighted for people to visit provided they do not trample the orchids and they use the gate, not climb the fence. Conservative numbers were

· 100 Small White on a small flat area 50m from the road
· 500+ Lesser Butterfly
· 200+ Heath Spotted
· 1000+ Heath Fragrant
Catsear is also present. Stunning!

24th June

Spent the day birding, with 3 Crested Tits early on the feeders at the hotel and 2 Ospreys at the Speyside Fisherey. NB the latter want a £10 fee to take any kind of camera with telephoto lens in, though you are OK with compacts!

25th June

Found several spikes of Northern Marsh Orchid along B970 on fenceline opposite Loch Pityoulish at NH921141

26th June

Loch Garten area: Northern Damsels difficult in strong winds but 3-4 seen including a green female at 1st dragonfly pool. Also 20+ Four-spots mid morning but few after lunch. Several plants of Common Wintergreen on road just S of main RSPB car park. We were also shown 3 flowering spikes of Lesser Twayblade in the area on the understanding we would keep the locality quiet.

At the second pond near the Tulloch Moor turn, we had 6+ White faced Darters, 3 or 4 Four-spots and a “blue” Common Hawker, which caused a bit of excitement till we could study the photos.

27th June

Visited Loch Bran (NH507192 – see various dragonfly site guides) where we had a young Honey Buzzard flying south. Spent some time wandering along the road by the loch, then found there is a proper car park with some access to the loch edge.
Dragonflies included

· Brilliant Emerald, 2 or 3 but not photographable
· Female type Highland Darter photographed
· Several Common Blue damsels

Finally, dropped in at Loch Ruthven where no sign of recent Bonapartes Gull but 1+ pairs of Slav Grebes.

28th June

Loch Garten area: 15-20 Northern Damsels at first pool including mating pairs. The damsels seemed to be hatching from a shallow grassy edged pool. Nothing at all at the second pool as too cloudy. Also photographed two wintergreen species at the entrance to the second RSPB car park to Lochs Garten and Mallachie. Common (flowering) on left, Serrated (not yet fully in flower) over fence to right. Several Wigeon and Teal in the fields by the Bridge of Garten/Carrbridge turn. As a general comment, Red Squirrels are easy to see at any site with feeders, with 3 or 4 at the guest house and good numbers at Loch Garten RSPB.

29th June

Moved on to Kinlochewe, where we stayed at Tom and Liz Forrest’s guesthouse Cromasaig (tel 01445 760234), just outside the village on the Torridon road. Excellent people and terrific hospitality. Tom runs several natural history web cams round the place and regularly sees Pine Marten in the garden in the winter, but not, unfortunately when we were there. There are red deer on the hill behind and Spotted Flycatchers in the garden though.

Once the rain stopped we walked down to the village, finding several Heath Spotted Orchids and Bog Ashphodels by the road. The boggy areas look good for dragons later on.

30th June

Spent the morning dragonflying. Nothing at all at the Bridge of Grudie site north of the road but several were flying distantly at the pool south of the road 2.8 miles west of the Bridge at the western end of a rock cutting, including 1 definite Highland Darter, Large Red Damsel and a couple of large hawker spp. Parking is difficult and potentially dangerous at the main Bridge of Grudie site and its best to park in the old road pull off 2-300 yards west and walk back. There were Lesser Butterfly Orchids along the road (before the vegetation was strimmed!) opposite a pine belt plus probable Large Heath.

Dropped into the newish Ben Eighe visitor centre, which is very obvious just west of the village south of the road. A new cinder trail has been laid leading back to Kinlochewe where we had a probable Northern Emerald patrolling high round the pines. Azure Hawker has been seen along here (but not by us). Take the Ridge trail from the centre, then turn left at the trail junction towards Kinlochewe. The trail runs through pine belts, boggy clearings, skirts a couple of pools and crosses several streams including 1 substantial one. Most importantly, you keep your feet dry! Drizzle set in in the afternoon, putting paid to dragonflies but we did have distant views of both Golden Eagle over the SE end of Loch Maree and a brief White-tailed Eagle flying into the islands mid-loch. Went back to lots of food.

1st July

Spent the morning driving to Poolewe via Gareloch, site seeing. Visited the main car park Woodland Trail at Loch Maree in afternoon. Several Heath Spotted Orchids along walk but nothing flying in drizzly weather. The new trail at the visitor centre however had Northern Emerald and Common Hawker, neither photographable. Returned to the guesthouse where a Roe Deer showed well in the garden.

2nd July

With long sunny spells and warm weather, spent some time along the new trail where we photographed Northern Emerald (3+ seen) and Golden-ringed (2-3 ♂♂), as well as Large Red Damsel. 1 hawker sp at Bridge of Grudie may have been Azure, as it was small, but nothing else seen there, while the pool at the end of the rock escarpment had several 4-spot Chasers. Birds included displaying Greenshank opposite the last pool and Tree Pipit along the new visitor centre trail.

3rd July

On our last day we drove to Shieldaig via Torridon (lots of real ale and whiskies in the Torridon Hotel) Looking from the caravan site at Shieldaig we had 8+ Black Guillemots, 20+ Shags and a small heronry. A final visit to the new Visitor Centre trail produced 3+ Golden-ringeds, 2 Northern Emeralds, 1+ Common Hawker, a Highland Darter and 6 or 8 Large Red Damsels, including 2 pairs.


Useful maps include OS Landranger series 19 (Gairloch and Ullapool) for Loch Maree area and 30 (Grantown and Aviemore) for the Cairngorm area.