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This stay at the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown-on-Spey, and the visits either side of it, had been deferred from almost exactly the same dates in 2020, because, of course, of Covid-19. I had been intending to use the hotel’s full information resources, in the form of both human advice and enormous amounts of written material, to plan each day’s activity. But this time, the wildlife hotel had a ‘celebrity week’ on for four of my five full days based there, which was a real bonus, especially since these are usually a good deal more expensive, but this one was free. David Lindo, the ‘Urban Birder’ of BBC 1’s The One Show, was meant to be there, but he was stuck in Spain because of quarantine problems, so Nigel Marven, wildlife producer and presenter, who had already been ‘the celebrity’ a few weeks earlier, was asked to step in and replace David.

Each morning and afternoon, there was a choice of outings with Nigel or with other local experts, for which one booked in advance, numbers being limited on each. On a normal celebrity week, the group would be transported in a mini van, but at this period we had to make our own way to the meeting point, no sharing with anyone with whom one was not in a ‘bubble’ or household. On this, my first full day, Friday 11th June, I opted for Roseisle in the morning and Burghead in the afternoon, each with Nigel. The former is in Burghead Bay, on the southern side of the Moray Firth, about a hour from Grantown, and Burghead itself is on a point at the eastern end of its eponymous bay, about 35 miles to the east and a bit north of Inverness.

About twelve of us gathered here,

and walked a few yards to here.

(See the WW2 detritus)

We saw nothing of wildlife interest, and started walking gently along the coastline, alternating between forest and beach.

Three oystercatchers, five rocks, a beach and the sea
A House martin

Sometimes – often – I take pictures just because the image pleases me.

Nigel found a dog whelk egg case

This yellowhammer was a very long way off, and just wouldn’t move for us a to get better view.

Chickweed-wintergreen, though it is neither chickweed nor wintergreen. It is also known as Arctic starflower.
Ribwort plantain

We moved on to Burghead.

This was my first impression.

And this my second. It was not a particularly warm afternoon, and I felt cold just looking at these women.

Clearly still an active fishing village.

I was fascinated by this clearly Latin name. I’ve since found that it means ‘Law [yet] to be made [and should be]’. The boat carrying it was obviously not a new one, and I wondered what message the name was meant to be sending. Were the boat more recent, I would link its name with the Brexit deal.

A grey seal appeared.

Its surroundings reflecting a red van back up on the quayside.

We leant looking out to the other side of the Moray Firth for a while but saw nothing of interest. I was just enjoying myself being outdoors in clean air.

A short walk brought us to the other side of the point,

where a Fulmar was the only thing of wildlife interest that we saw. Not bad though.

Our leaders gave up, and added the bonus of a visit to Lochindorb, only a little way off the route back to the hotel. (Indeed, I had been here two years ago on my previous visit to Grantown. It rained then.) The waves show how windy it was. And it was very cold!

This sandpiper was hanging around.

And after about 20 minutes freezing in the cold, we realised why. Just a few feet in front of us was this chick. A quick photo, and off we scuttled.

It had been a strange day for me socially. After fifteen months of almost solitary confinement – I exaggerate a little but I’ve certainly not been used to doing things in largish groups – I was still very wary, and the whole experience seemed very weird. But a bizarre reminder of ‘normality’ at the same time.

After another excellent dinner – food at the Grant Arms Hotel is really good – I had a quiet evening in front of the telly in my room and looking at my photos. My more comforting, current, normal, normality.