At stupid o clock this morning I seriously thought about turning over and going back to sleep. I peeked out the window. No fog and not a cloud in the sky things were looking promising but I did not realize how good the day was going to be!
The attendance of birders at Loch Garten was better than the previous day (around 20 people) but I managed to get myself into the first ten who would get first option to go to the forward hide should a Capercaillie show itself. Sure enough one of the staff found a male bird almost 200m away and took us to the hide. I must say this was a very civilised affair with people rotating to get views through a couple of scopes that were tuned into this huge turkey like bird!
After having my fill of views of the bird I returned to the main hide where the other staff had located a second male bird not far from the first. This was strange as there seemed to be a lack of interest from both towards the other. But once an imaginary line had been crossed the larger male fanned its feathers out and charged the other male was gone in a flash and not re located.
The adrenalin was pumping and with the sun rising I made my way to the Cairngorms Ski Centre paid my £10.50 day ticket to use the funicular railway and a Ptarmigan hunt was on. After a good while stood out in the elements I decided to have something to eat.
I positioned myself overlooking the small ski slope and started to tuck in to my food. Just as I was taking a bite a snowboarded whizzed a bit close to the fence and two Ptarmigan flew up and landed on my side of the fence. A couple of seconds of chaos a poor picture later and the two birds had scuttled back to where they had come from. I debated staying to get better pictures but the centre was getting busier and the weather was perfect for raptors.
This Red Grouse did put in a blinding appearance as I returned on the train. Why couldn’t it have been a Ptarmigan?!!
I returned to The Findhorn Valley and this time there were a few birders in the carpark. No sooner had I parked up and settled when a guy informed me his group had seen a couple of Golden Eagle just before I had arrived (Uh oh!!) and I was welcome to join them. Wonderful! There were certainly more raptors moving around but had I missed my chance with the Eagles?!
After half hour of so I caught a glimpse of two huge Eagles just coming in from behind the hill and put them up to the group. These birds looked overall too big and bulky to be Golden but the birds were high and after a third bird joined them, the adults wheeled round revealing the white wedged shaped tail band. A family group of White tailed Eagle well I wasn’t expecting that or what came next. The raptor fire alarm bell had obviously gone off and a dot of a Red Kite decided to attempt to spar with these monsters who took turns to play around with this brave bird. The show must have lasted for 10minutes before all three eagles disappeared behind the mountain.
It seemed like forever before a Golden Eagle was finally announced. This has been top of my difficulty list for this trip! Just like London buses there were more to follow. A brave soul of a Merlin joined a Peregrine buzzing past one bird which seemed almost un-phased by either bird. Again this species was huge and slighter in appearance with longer wings than its counterpart white patches and a tailband was noticeable on one bird.
I had seen a full house of raptors but the eagles stuck to the far side of the closest hill and the smaller raptors were on the carpark side waiting to ambush an eagle that crossed the imaginary line! There was also a family group of Raven just shows that in the right conditions all you have to do is place yourself in the right place and the birds will come to you!! I met some very helpful Geordie birders why can’t all birders be like them! Cheers guys!