I had planned to get this second post out yesterday, but I got distracted into the Laver Cup. Having taken out a Eurosport subscription specifically to see Federer’s final, historic match, it seemed not to take advantage of the chance to watch other matches.
Angela joined us on Monday, 12th September, as she did most. This was the day we went off the map to the north-west, via Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and the south west part of Loch Ness. We soon left the famous home of Nessie though, and went along a road parallel to the loch, to its east. (On the way we learned that almost every loch has its resident monster, or suchlike. Jon told us about kelpies, though he didn’t mention the steel ones at Falkirk.)
Our first stop was at Loch Tarff…
… where, despite appearances, it was very cold at the top of a small hill. We saw no kelpie, there or in any other loch that day. But we did see a dor beetle, the Scottish dung beetle.
On route to our next stop, no distance problems to see these sika deer.
Nor they us.
Our next stop was Loch Killin, where we hoped to see a big bird or two. We saw a couple of buzzards, but no eagles.
I got a better picture than yesterday of a dipper though.
It brightened up during our pre-lunch stroll.
We rejoined Loch Ness. Directly opposite was the second most visited tourist attraction, after Edinburgh Castle, in Scotland. Hmm.
It became a little more recognisable when I zoomed in.
Jon told us we would next visit Loch Ruthven, which rang bells with me, and joined up some dots. I had visited it in June 2019, during my first stay in Grantown-on-Spey, on the eastern side of the country. I had then hoped, in vain, to see a Slavonian grebe. We did so this time, though right across the other side of the loch, only visible in a telescope. But we did see two kinds of fungus, shown here along with one we had seen during our walk along Loch Killin.
I forget the name of the first, the others being birch boletus and fly agaric.
From here we moved on to our last loch of the day, Loch Mhor. On the way we saw a lapwing,
and a red kite accompanied by two ravens.
Once at Loch Mhor we saw a hare, though it was rather distant.
Finally, on the way back to Glenloy, the sun going down, we passed through this lovely view, which, we were told, is called ‘Cumins Seat’, presumably with reference to the Clan Comyn/Cumming, which according to this article can have 18 different spellings.
Sunday, 2nd June. The verdict as to what I should so on my final full day was unanimous: ‘Strathdearn’, they said, which is also known as the Findhorn Valley.
I made several stops along the valley As I got back in the car the first time, ‘Henry’ and ‘Clara’, out for a walk, asked me was I looking for waders. I replied I was looking for anything, in a very amateurish way. The waders were all over the fields they said.
I succeeded in seeing nothing for a while, except some colourful cows,
evidence that sheep had once inhabited this field,
some actual sheep,
and some oystercatchers too far away to get a decent picture. I liked the colours in this newish wall round a farmhouse.
And then it started raining. Many years ago, when I was working in Whitehall on public housing subsidies, it had been alleged to me that it rained sideways in Scotland. Here’s the proof.
It calmed down, and I came to a little layby. ‘Jack’ and ‘Jock’ were there with telescopes and heavy rainwear. Of course I pulled in. Birdwatchers always compare notes, though I had nothing to offer. The hope was to see a golden eagle. I stayed just a short while, which they clearly did not think was very professional of me, but I was keen to reach the car park at the end of the road for lunchtime, and I was now only halfway along.
I had stopped at a broad bank and had been watching the first oystercatcher making desultory nest-building moves, before the second came along and appeared to tell her there was no point. ‘Marie’ and ‘Hamish’, who said they were keepers (self-appointed or not, I was not sure) came along in a Landrover, and said they were concerned that a pair of dippers had been disturbed ‘just under that bridge’ in their nest-building recently. They seemed satisfied that I was not guilty and after some pleasantries drove on in the direction I had come from.
I continued on my way, and just before the car parking area, I encountered this meadow pipit, with caterpillar.
This was my view as I sat in the car starting to eat my lunch. I was really, really hoping to see a golden eagle or some other raptor.
Then I stopped chewing, because I could see two tiny protuberances at the top of the mountain. With my binoculars I saw this.
I was spellbound.
In due course ‘Jack’ and ‘Jock’ came along, and asked me if I had seen the ravens. (As it was ‘Jock’ who asked me, I had to ask three times what he was asking, his accent was so strong.) The ravens were way up on a hillside behind me. I had been so mesmerised by the red deer (and nice and warm in the car as I ate) that I had not yet turned round to see them, on a far horizon.
I learned that ‘Jack’ and ‘Jock’ came up to the Highlands from Dunfermline and Airdrie as often as they could to look for birds.
All of a sudden ‘Jack’ got very excited. ‘I don’t believe it!’. He had just been idly looking through his telescope, and there was … a ring ouzel. I had never seen one in my life, and I had previously met people who had travelled many miles unsuccessfully to see one. It is a mountain relative of the blackbird, and has a white bib. I was invited to to look at it through their telescope. I then tried to find it with my camera, in vain. So I took some general pictures of the gully, hoping I might pick the bird out on screen later.
Here’s one of the photos.
And yes, the bird is there. Yes it is. Here is a tiny segment of the main photo, enormously enlarged.
And here’s a tiny segment of another photo.
Clearly there is a blackbird with a white bib.
I was chuffed! Thank you ‘Jack’ and ‘Jock’. I’d never have seen either it or, probably, the ravens had you not been there. But that’s the birdwatching world (of which I do not count myself part). They love sharing their sightings.
Another car came along, but I was moving on. I had more plans. Again using the map and information provided by the hotel, I was making for RSPB reserve Loch Ruthven. But not before this common gull had greeted me beside my car.
And I had zoomed in on this ruin back along the Findhorn Valley.
There was what turned out to be a very narrow one-track road over some moorland to get to the reserve. The sun was coming out, and it made this ‘blasted heath’ a little more attractive.
The road was only 7 miles long, but it took a while to travel it. There was a delightful small loch at the end of it, Loch Farr. But I stopped only long enough to take a picture of it, as I had a few more miles more to do.
This was the view as I parked the car at RSPB Loch Ruthven.
And these a couple of views as I walked along the path to the hide.
THE bird to see there is the rare Slavonian grebe. Half the UK’s breeding population is found at this loch. (I know, there are countries called Slovakia and Slovenia, but no Slavonia. I don’t know why the grebe is so-called! … Ah, I do now. Spellcheck didn’t underline the word, so I thought I’d better look it up. Slavonia is a region in Croatia. So now I know. Well, I still don’t know how the bird got its name. In the US it’s called the Horned grebe.)
Anyway, I didn’t see any. Neither did ‘Janet’ and ‘John’, who were already in the hide, and didn’t say hello. They left after after ‘Janet’ said to ‘John’, ‘Shall we give up?’ I was happy just to sit there and see
and various other birds of which I didn’t get decent photos, and to enjoy this abstract.
As I left, ‘Nick’ came in. We exchanged shy smiles and as I made my way back along the pretty path I found my self thinking, ‘I’m sure I’ve met him before. Is he on the telly, or is he in in the Somerset Wildlife Trust?’ I didn’t work it out.