Glenshee, Boat of Garten & Glen Affric – June 2023
This was a much needed spur of the moment type of visit to the highlands targeting dragonflies, whilst at the same time hoping to see other highland specialities whilst visiting the key sites I planned to visit.
Glenshee was on en-route to Abernethy Forest, so I decided to go and try for Ptarmigan. I set off late evening on Wednesday 14th June and arrived at the ski centre car park at approximately 6am. Knowing the time of year would make it difficult to see Ptarmigan I'd already decided to have a walk up to the summit of Cairnwell, which was a steady but enjoyable steep climb. I was correct in thinking birdwatching would be difficult, but did eventually manage to add Ptarmigan (1), Red Grouse (3 families), Ring Ouzel (1 family and a pair), Northern Wheatear (2), Meadow Pipit (1), Common Buzzard (1) and Cuckoo (1 heard) to my trip list. At least ten Mountain Hare were also seen. Best of all was the amazing view from the summit, which I sat and enjoyed for just over an hour.
A Short-eared Owl and a Red Kite were seen whilst driving to the RSPB Loch Garten, where one Osprey was seen on the nest. The feeders were full of activity, but no Crested Tit in the short time I was at the centre (wrong time of year). I then started looking for my target species of dragonfly, which included Northern Damselfly and White-faced Darter. Most of the small ponds were dry, but one pond was particularly busy with hundreds of dragonflies to be seen. The pond that was most active was just a short walk from the southern most car park from the RSPB centre with the most numerous species being Four-spotted Chaser with at least eighty on the wing. Others included Northern Damselfly (4+), Large Red Damselfly (2+) and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (4+).
Loch Ruthven was only a short drive off route to Glen Affric, so a visit there produced Slavonian Grebe (4) which were seen at a distance. Hooded Crow was then being seen regularly with at least ten being seen before arriving at Glen Affric before night fall.
The following morning I left the wild camping site I had chosen and parked up at the Dog Falls car park. A tip here will be to make sure you have plenty of change for the car parking as there is very poor reception and the option of paying by mobile was not an option for me (for reference I'm on o2).
I took the footbridge over the falls and then took the left trail. A very short climb and descent found me at Coire Loch, which again was full of activity. The most numerous species here was once again Four-spotted Chaser (200+) with my target species of Emeralds occasionally being seen. Extremely difficult to separate the three species of emerald on the wing, but I eventually felt confident enough to say that I had seen Downy Emerald and Brilliant Emerald (Northern Emerald will have to wait for another time).
On the way back I stopped off at Loch Vaa were Crested Tit (1), Spotted Flycatcher (1) and Little Grebe (2) were seen.