Trip report - north and west Scotland

24th June 2016
Dates: 18th to 23rd June 2016

Destination: north and west Scotland



Purpose of trip:

The purpose of my trip was my regular annual visit to the region to see bird and mammal species that are not found on a regular basis in Essex or East Anglia.

Primary target areas:

The primary target areas for wildlife watching and/or landscape photography were:

Perthshire: Glen Quaich, Loch of the Lowes SWT reserve

Speyside: Insh Marshes RSPB reserve, Loch Insh, Uath lochans, Loch Garten/Loch Mallachie RSPB reserve, Forest Lodge, Loch an Eilean, Dulnain Bridge

Inverness area (south): Findhorn valley, Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve

Sutherland: Loch Fleet, Loch Stack, Loch Laxford, Kyle of Durness, Balnakeil Bay, Tarbet, Scourie Bay, Kylesku

Getting there and getting around:

I travelled up to Glasgow by Virgin trains on 18th June 2016 and returned on 23rd June 2016 having obtained an extremely good value advance return ticket for £60. As usual, I booked my return ticket via redspottedhanky.com and by using Tesco clubcard vouchers on this website, my ticket cost me nothing .... a bargain!

In Glasgow, I hired a car from lunchtime on 18th June 2016 to the morning of 23rd June 2016 from Europcar for £118.57.

Since my last trip in June 2015, train fares had increased by £10 and car rental by £37.88 although some of this was offset by total cashback of £24.23 on both of these and my accommodation. In addition, I received £15 compensation via the Virgin Trains auto delay repay scheme since return train to London was delayed and a £10 voucher from Europcar since the rental car was not provided full of petrol.

During my trip, I had overnight stays at the following:

18th June 2016: Bankfoot Inn in Bankfoot

19th June 2016: Cairn Hotel in Carrbridge

20th June 2016: Park House bed and breakfast in Lochinver

21st June 2016: I again stayed at Beinn Sealladh bed and breakfast in Nethy Bridge

22nd June 2016: Amadeus Guest House in the west end of Glasgow

This is a summary of my itinerary and route:

18th June 2015: Glasgow – Dunkeld – Glen Quaich – Dunkeld – Loch of the Lowes SWT reserve – Bankfoot

19th June 2016: Bankfoot – Dalwhinnie – Laggan – Kingussie – Insh Marshes RSPB reserve – Uath Lochans – Loch Insh – Dulnain Bridge – Forest Lodge – Loch Garten/Loch Mallachie RSPB reserve – Milton Loch, Boat of Garten - Carrbridge

20th June 2016: Carrbridge – Loch Garten/Loch Mallachie RSPB reserve – Findhorn valley – Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve – Loch Fleet – Ledmore junction – Loch Assynt – Lochinver

21st June 2016: Lochinver – Stoer lighthouse – Clashnessie – Drumbeg – Kylesku – Scourie – Tarbet – Loch Laxford – Kyle of Durness – Balnakeil Bay – Durness – Laxford Bridge – Lairg – Inverness – Nethy Bridge

22nd June 2016: Nethy Bridge – Forest Lodge – Loch an Eilean – Loch Morlich – Aviemore – Perth - Glasgow

Weather:

The weather during my trip was the usual typical Scottish mix of sun, cloud, drizzle and rain. Temperatures were generally warm with day maxima around 17°C to 18°C.

Highlights:

During my trip, I was able to record 115 bird species and 12 mammal species.

Trip list - north and west Scotland

With regard to the birds, I was able to add 9 species to my 2016 list.

The main disappointment of my trip was not seeing the frequently reported Icterine Warbler at Laggan despite an extensive search. This is a bird that I have seen many times in Europe but which I have never recorded in the UK.

The other disappointment was failing to see a Crested Tit despite visiting many known locations on Speyside over 2 separate days. This is the first time since 2000 that I have not recorded this species on my annual trips to northern Scotland. The Crested Tit is a relatively thinly distributed bird and can be very difficult to find in the summer months when it often becomes silent and inhabits the high tree canopy in the Caledonian Pine forest.

In addition, I failed to see either Golden Eagle or White-tailed Eagle. With regard to Golden Eagle, I passed through suitable habitat on several days but did not adopt the lengthy “sit and wait” technique usually required to see this species due to my tight itinerary. Furthermore, my itinerary did not take me through any known locations for White-tailed Eagle. I was not unduly disappointed at not seeing either eagle species given a planned trip to Ardnamurchan, Mull and Skye in September 2016 (a trip that produced 6 Golden Eagles and 14 White-tailed Eagles in September 2015).

Mammals included Red Squirrel (1 between Tromie Bridge and Insh, 3 at Forest Lodge, 1 at Nethy Bridge, 1 at Loch Garten and 1 at Loch Morlich) and unfortunately a dead Pine Marten.

The following summarises the notable wildlife species seen on my trip:

Glen Quaich: Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Red Kite, Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Swift

Loch of the Lowes: Osprey, Common Buzzard, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Yellowhammer, Siskin, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Water Rail (heard only), Red Squirrel

Bankfoot to Dalwhinnie: Common Buzzard, Wheatear, Common Sandpiper, Pine Marten (dead road casualty)

Insh Marshes: Curlew, Heron, Lesser Redpoll, Sand Martin

Tromie Bridge to Insh: Red Squirrel

Uath Lochans: Common Buzzard, Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, Siskin, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker

Loch Insh: Osprey, Goldeneye, Oystercatcher

Dulnain Bridge: Dipper

Broomhill to Nethy Bridge: Brown Hare

Forest Lodge: Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, Siskin, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard only), Red Squirrel

Loch Garten-Loch Mallachie: Goldeneye, Common Sandpiper, Tree Pipit, Swift, Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Siskin, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Red Squirrel

Milton Loch, Boat of Garten: Heron, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Litte Grebe, Sand Martin

Carrbridge area: Common Buzzard, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler

Findhorn valley: Osprey, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Grey Wagtail, Common Redstart, Willow Warbler, Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Red Deer, Mountain Goat (feral)

Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve: Slavonian Grebe, Little Grebe, Willow Warbler, Swallow, Sand Martin, Reed Bunting (heard only), Curlew (heard only)

Loch Fleet: Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Teal, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Heron, Hooded Crow, Common Seal

Loch Fleet to Ledmore junction: Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Hooded Crow, Stonechat

Ledmore junction to Lochinver: Hooded Crow, Red Deer

Lochinver to Stoer lighthouse: Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Cuckoo (heard only), Hooded Crow, Oystercatcher

Stoer lighthouse: Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Black Guillemot, Shag, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Rock Dove, Hooded Crow

Clashnessie Bay: Black-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Shag

Clashnessie Bay to Culkein Drumbeg: Common Sandpiper, Red-breated Merganser, Wheatear

Drumbeg: Gannet, Wheatear

Kylesku: Common Seal

Scourie: Rock Dove, Sedge Warbler

Tarbet: Red-throated Diver, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Common Tern, Eider, Oystercatcher, Common Buzzard, Stonechat, Lesser Redpoll, Wheatear, Swallow

Kyle of Durness: Goosander, Common Tern, Oystercatcher, Curlew

Durness: Rock Dove

Balnakeil Bay: Fulmar, Sandwich Tern, Red-breasted Merganser, Oystercatcher

Laxford Bridge to Lairg: Common Buzzard, Common Sandpiper, Stonechat

Lairg to A9 The Mound: Common Buzzard, Raven, Wheatear

Dornoch Firth: Red-throated Diver

Findhorn Bridge: Red Kite

Nethy Bridge: Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Green Woodpecker (heard only), Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard only), Red Squirrel, Roe Deer

Loch an Eilean: Common Buzzrad, Willow Warbler, Coal Tit

Loch Morlich: Red Squirrel

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