Just come back from a fantastic family holiday in Nairn near Inverness, where we managed to see most of the Highland and Speyside specialities in just one full day birding plus some stop offs after days out.
An extended stop at Killiecrankie on the way up saw 2 singing Wood Warbler – what a great place to have lunch and stretch your legs.
The caravan park that we stopped at was great, right by Nairn’s lovely beach and surrounded by Gorse, Broom and some forest full of Yellowhammer and Redpoll. A few pure(ish) looking Hoodies were around with various intergrades and pure Carrions.
The days birding was mostly spent walking in Golden Eagle territory and we saw 3 different birds – an adult and a young bird together and a lone young bird that gave fantastic views overhead – the pics with the Buzzard are quite nice as a size comparison. Also in the area there was 2 Red Kite and 2 Ring Ouzel flying around the rocky slopes.
A quick stop at Loch Garton had the female Osprey by the nest site (not successful this year), a male Redstart flicking about and Siskin and Great-spotted Woodpecker on the feeders.
Finally a look at a Black-throated Diver site only produced a distant view, but the bird had 2 chicks in tow which was great to see.
A stop off by Loch Mallachie one afternoon added 3 flyover Crossbill sp. (sounded like Common to me, but who knows), 2 Crested Tit flitting about in the pine canopy (one calling), Tree Pipits and Spotted Fly.
An Osprey carrying a fish over the A9 on the way to the Highland Wildlife Park was topped by a fly through White-tailed Eagle as we drove around the safari section – despite the picture, it actually showed well, flying pretty much over the car, but I couldn’t get out to photograph it!
An early morning trip gave me great views of Short-eared Owl and 3 lekking Black Grouse distantly on a faraway hillside. Another Shortie we’d seen earlier in the week whilst driving was so pale it almost had the colouration of Barn Owl – I’d have liked to get an image of that bird.
The same morning, I came across this pair of Red-throated Diver settled on a road side loch – stunning in the morning sun with 3 Cuckoo’s as a sound track.
An early morning seawatch from Nairn harbour was fairly quiet with the standard Kittiwake, Gannet, Auks, Eiders and Scoter, but had some nice highlights with flyby Slavonian Grebe and Black Guillemot as well as a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphin.
The last day was spent over at Findhorn on the beach where a nice group of Common and Grey Seal where sunning themselves on a spit, and a few groups of Eider through.
After lunch we watched 5 Osprey fishing in Findhorn Bay whilst we ate some excellent cakes from the village bakery (my pear and almond tart was spot on).
Finally on the way home, we popped into a Slav Grebe site and there was one bird sat out in the open plus a female Goldeneye with 7 chicks – great end to a really good holiday. Only really missed Ptarmigan and Caper, but the cable car was shut for the first and I didn’t even try for the 2nd given current status. Shows that you can see most of the superb residents with not too much effort (and a degree of luck).