Trip to Scotland 2007 - Loch of Strathbeg, Aviemore, Skye & Lomondside

A two week family holiday to Scotland from 24th July to 7th August 2007 visiting areas such as Loch of Strathbeg, Speyside, Applecross Peninsula, North Skye, Fort William and finally Loch Lomond. Despite having the family on tow and the weather being wet & windy (typical weather for the west highlands), I had some very good birding & photography opportunities.

Our first stop was at Mintlaw (24th – 26th), which was nice and handy for an early morning visit to the Loch of Strathbeg. A Common Buzzard and a female Marsh Harrier were seen shortly after arriving, along with at least ten Tree Sparrows. Two Corn Buntings, several Linnets, a Sedge Warbler, a family of Wrens and two Goldfinch were observed en–route to the hide. Shoveller (2 females), Shelduck (1), Common Terns (50+), Arctic Terns (10+), Ruff (2), Greenshank (2), Redshank (1), Common Snipe (2), Black–tailed Godwit (3) and Oystercatcher (2) were in and around the pools. Common Swift (1), Sand Martin (5+), House Martin (2), Swallow (50+) were also there. The loch itself held at least seventy Mute Swans, at least fifty female Goldeneye, thirty Cormorant, ten Pochard, one Tufted Duck, two Great Crested Grebe and a further three Corn Buntings.

Later on the same day (25th), a photography session at Deer Abbey near Mintlaw provided us with the journeys first Ospreys, which showed very well as they drifted over, heading in an easterly direction. An evening visit to St. Coombes produced Kittiwake (30+), Gannet (10+) and Common Tern (30+). The best find here was a single Long–tailed Skua, which was seen resting briefly on the sea before continueing south. By now, a total of seventy–three different species had been seen.

The next day we travelled to Speyside (26th – 29th). Siskin (3), Spotted Flycatcher (2), Willow Warbler (2) and Chiffchaff (1) were seen with a mixed flock of tits at Dalraddy. Red Squirrels (3) were also seen here. Ospreys were seen at three seperate locations. One was seen carrying a fish that it had just caught, presumably from Loch Alvie. One was at Loch Vaa and two were seen at Loch Insh. Common Buzzards were at several locations and a Peregrine Falcon was seen near Dalraddy.

The surprise find where raptors is concerned was a Hobby, which was seen amongst a large group of herundines on the 27th (am). Mistle Thrush (3), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1) and Chaffinch (10+) were seen at Boat Of Garten, with three Red Squirrels. Crested Tits were seen at three seperate locations, but there was no sign of any Crossbills.

Next was the short trip to Lochcarron (29th – 31st), where we hoped to see Ptarmigan on what the locals call the "Pass of the Cattle". The total now was eighty–three different species.

An early morning visit to the north end of Lochcarron (30th) produced eleven Grey Herons, two Common Buzzard and a very quick glimpse of what could have been the trips first Golden Eagle.

Loch Kishorn was quite, but productive. Greenshank (1), Common Sandpiper (1), Northern Wheatear (5+), Stonechat (1), Meadow Pipit (10+), Goosander (3+) and Eider (10+) were a selection of the birds seen here.

The target bird of Ptarmigan was not found on the "Pass of the Cattle", but Raven (3), Golden Plover (1 in full summer plumage) and a single Wheatear were seen close to the summit. This journey is definitely not for the cautious or the nervous driver, but I believe the journey isn't too bad once you adjust to the height. Pick a fine day, because poor visibility will make finding Ptarmigan very hard (as in our case).

Amongst the more common birds, Applecross produced Red–throated Diver (3), Black–throated Diver (3), Red–breasted Merganser (10+), Rock Pipit (2), Shag (10+) and Black Guillimot (2).

The poor weather continued into the second week, visiting North Skye, Fort William and finally Loch Lomond. The birdwatching was hard going in the sometimes very wet and windy conditions, but we still managed to see some good birds bringing the trip total to 113.

In North Skye (31st July – 3rd August), Uig bay had Gannets (seen at close range) and a selection of Gulls. A Black Guillimot (1) Common Buzzards (2), Hooded Crow (3+), Peregrine Falcon (1) and Stock Dove (10+) were also seen at Uig.

At least thirty Twite were at Kilmuir, along with three Rock Doves, two Whinchat and several Northern Wheatear. Five Raven, at least ten Hooded Crows, three Sedge Warbler and a single Grasshopper Warbler (seen reeling) were close–by.

An adult Golden Eagle and two White–tailed Eagles (Juvenile & a second year) were seen at Portree. A Merlin was observed chasing three Meadow Pipits at very close range close to Quiraing. The hunting ability of the Merlin was fantastic to watch and will stay with us for a very long time, excellent.

Fort William (3rd – 5th) provided some pleasant birdwatching.

Loch Linnhe held at least thirty Red–breasted Mergansers, at least twenty Canada Geese, ten Eiders, three Mallards, five Cormorants and three Curlews.

The surrounding area proved to be very productive. One road held Whinchat (3+), Stonechat (2+), Meadow Pipit (30+), Tree Pipit (2+), Spotted Flycatcher (1+), Willow Warbler (3+), Chiffchaff (2), Siskin (10+), Greenfinch (4+), Chaffinch (10+), Bullfinch (1), Raven (3) and Common Buzzard (2+).

Several Scotch Argus butterflies were seen at Glen Nevis.

Loch Lomond (5th – 7th) was surprisingly quiet. There was the odd sighting of common garden birds such as Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, etc., but the highlight was the sighting of a single Osprey, which was seen over Loch Lomond.

Glen Fruin was once again the most productive location here. Swallows (20+), Meadow Pipit (20+), Pied Wagtail (3+), Grey Wagtail (2), Stonechat (2), Pheasant (20+), Common Buzzard (2), Kestrel (3+), Carrion Crow (20+) and Hooded Crow (4+) being at there usual locations.

There was strong evidence showing that the Barn Owl was still present, although not seen on this occasion.