Scotland Trip - June 2003

Published by RICHARD J WESLEY (snhguk AT

Participants: Party members: - Richard Wesley (Chapel), Dag Marshall (Wookie), Jen Marshall (Sherpa Jensing), Bryan Hartley (Golly), Pam Hicklin (Pamdella), Mike Conroy (Billy Tremble), Geoff Evans (Sid), Leo Galante (The Gentle Man), Phil Dent (The Guardian), Malcolm


11& 12 June 2003

Our fifteen seater Transit Minibus was on the M1 by 2130 hrs heading north for Scotland with all the team on board. We had four stops on the way stopping at Scotch Corner, Abingdon, Carlisle and a toilet stop at Newtonmore. Heavy rain began just before the border with Scotland, which didn't bode to well. The rain continued until we finally reached Tomatin at 0630 hrs and we decided to wait for the Little Chef to open at 0700 hrs for breakfast. Once satiated we eventually made our way down the Findhorn Valley, our spirits raised as the rain had abated. Curlew and Oystercatcher were soon ticked along with Common Sandpiper and Wheatear. We parked at the end of the valley and after a temporary lapse Kestrel appeared above the ridge. Following some difficult searching Ring Ouzel gave excellent views close by and Snipe were heard calling. Peregrine gave tantalizing glimpses and a Merlin was found in the distance back down the valley. Common Buzzard circled to the east and a Goosander flew up river. Apart from a few showers the Findhorn had been kind. We now made our way to the Nethy Bridge Hotel to drop off our gear before a walk in the Abernethy Forest. We started from the end of Dell Road and headed towards Forest Lodge. Immediately we found Spotted Flycatcher and within seconds we were viewing our first Crested Tit. Further on in a clearing a Treecreeper was discovered and a couple of Siskin gave good views. Cuckoo was heard and a Tree Pipit was singing before entertaining us with its display flight.

The walk to Forest Lodge proved further than expected and if had not been for a heroic member of the team who sprinted back to the minibus we would have all suffered. It had been a long day and we were all ready for a shower and a good meal. We were not to be disappointed.

13 June 2003

An early morning walk on Tulloch Moor produced Black Grouse and Redpoll. Our first Osprey was found near Loch Morlick and on Loch Pityoulish we discovered Goldeneye. Following an excellent breakfast we headed for the Cairngorm and our goal the summit. En route we picked up Whinchat from the van. On arrival we split into two groups one to take the easy route on the funicular railway and the others the hardier route on foot. At over 3000ft we nearly trod on one of our target birds Ptarmigan. A pair gave us amazing views much to the delight of one of the team. His joy was a revelation to behold despite nearly scaring off these wonderful birds. The summit was reached by lunchtime but we were greeted by gale force winds. Sheltering behind a large cairn we were soon treated to another of our target birds Snow Bunting as it flew past. We carried on along the ridge towards Cairn Lochan and soon rediscovered a bird from our Pyrenees trip. The Rock Hit-It is an unusual and yet worrying little bird. They are bloody hard to find and are usually associated with rocky areas. It may well be some time before this bird is re found and added to the British List. The weather continued to deteriorate and it was not long before we were retracing our steps. The descent was rather hairy but we all managed to make the car park in one piece our mission complete. Our next port of call was the Fish Farm at Aviemore where we were soon treated to great views of Osprey. This location is an almost guaranteed to produce these exciting raptors. Several birds were added to the ever-growing list including Sedge Warbler and Sand Martin. A quest for Slavonian Grebe proved fruitless so we headed back to the hotel and an entertaining evening entitled The Highland Fling. The Angus Beef was piped into the restaurant and a very reputable member of our team was asked to participate in the ceremony. He did not let us down and came up with a classic one liner, which will go in the annals of OBC trip history. The evening was enjoyed by all and further inebriation completed the day.

14 June 2003

We had an early start for the trip to the west and were soon heading through Inverness and the Black Isle. Our first stop produced Chiffchaff and as we travelled we were greeted by Red Kite and by the side of the road Red Grouse. At Loch Glascarnoch we were treated to Red-throated Diver, a Skylark was heard singing and a Common Buzzard circled ahead amidst this wonderful scenery. We were soon stopping again at Loch Droma for Black-throated Diver and on an island several Hooded Crows. Just past Dundonnel we stopped at Little Loch Broom and added Cormorant and Greater Black-backed Gull to the list. Within minutes of arriving at Gruinard Bay we were watching White-tailed Sea Eagle over Gruinard Island. It finally left and flew directly inland above us. In the bay were Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Eider and Shag. On the bank side a surprise was Fieldfare and sat up well a Stonechat and Wheatear. Carrying on we arrived at Aultbea and the Aultbea Hotel for lunch. From the garden we had Ringed Plover, Whimbrel and Redshank and then a real treat an Otter close by on the bank eating a fish. The next stop was Loch Gairloch, which immediately gave us Fulmar and Rock Dove. Out in the bay a Great Skua was found following a fishing boat scavenging food and soon after a Gannet was discovered sat on the water. A pair of Red-breasted Merganser flew into the bay and a Black Guillemot landed close by. Finally a Rock Pipit was first heard then seen well on rocks. Two more Otters were also seen here playing gently in the shallow waters. Our final stop was the Heights of Kinlochewe. We walked along the valley to the Eyrie site anticipating a sighting of Scotland’s most famous bird. We were not be disappointed as in the distance a Golden Eagle worked its way along the valley. It treated us to exceptional views as it passed and continued along the ridge. A wonderful end, to a day full of great birds.

15 June 2003

After another superb breakfast we left for home at 0900 hrs. We arrived at Vane Farm, Loch Leven at 1100 hrs to increase to our list. From the excellent viewing gallery with armchairs and scopes we found Coot, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Ruddy Duck and Pochard. On the woodland walk the only birds of note were several Crossbills and from the forward hide a Linnet was seen. Looking back above the wood the first Raven was found making this the last bird on the list. This brought the total of species for the trip to one hundred and fourteen. The winner for the correct number forecast was Billy Tremble.

The presentation for the person who made the greatest contribution to the Scottish Trip of 2003 was made at the Abingdon Services. Billy Tremble made an eloquent speech reminding us of many incidents which occurred during our superb stay in the Highlands. As with all the best presentation ceremonies Billy finally said, “the winner is”: - Wookie and Sherpa Tensing for their contribution to a brilliant holiday.

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