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Sunday 28 June 2015

One Of The Better Days! - on 25th June, 2015

Thursday brought round my regular afternoon/evening session with Titus. I had no idea that it would end up so satisfying on several counts!

On my way to Titus's place I called in at my Little Owl Site No.02. I'd featured this site in a post at the back end of last year. Sadly, on my return from Scotland at the end of May, I found that approximately 50% of the roof of the barn that was the owls' home had collapsed, and the owls were nowhere to be found. Over the ensuing weeks, I'd continued to look - more in hope than expectation. So you can image my joy when I eventually located an owl at this site on this day.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.02
Having set off with Titus, no owl was seen at my LO Site No.47, but at No.44 an owl was soon spotted in the deep shade of the oak tree that is its home.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.44
I think Titus was just about to drive off when I spotted a juvenile LO poking its head up - our first juvenile LO sighting of the year!! This was particularly exciting as we had high hopes for this site in 2014, but then the owls disappeared for six months.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile) - my Site No.44
Less than an hour later we had further excitement when I spotted a Little Owl, sitting in a hole in a tree which we've checked on several occasions as being a likely looking location. It definitely looked at home here - so new LO Site No.51!!! However, this is not going to be an easy one to monitor.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my new Site No.51
We were heading for Rutland Water, but just before we reached Langham we spotted a pair of Red Kite fairly close. Titus managed to find somewhere to stop the car and one of the birds obliged. Sadly the skies were cloudy at this point.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - near Langham
We started on the Egleton side of Rutland Water with our main objective being to try and find some dragonflies. I was keen to get more practice with the semi-macro ability of the Sigma 50-500. So far it has exceeded my expectations, the shortcoming being mainly due to my own inexperience. 

The first dragonfly spotted was a Hairy Dragonfly, which didn't play ball, but settled high in a tree where I couldn't get an unobstructed shot. No macro here then! The two dark lines on the side of the thorax of this species (shown in the second image) are a diagnostic feature of this species.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) (male) - Rutland Egleton
A little further on, a Four-spotted Chaser also kept its distance. I'd taken better images of these a couple of weeks previously, but those will wait until (possibly?) a later post.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (female) - Rutland Egleton
The macro came into play briefly with a quick attempt at a mating pair of Common Blue Damselfly, but I only managed two frames before they were gone.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male & female) - Rutland Egleton
I really got to use the macro facility when I found some Common Emerald Damselfly. I don't think that the lens performed too badly? Strangely, we only saw females. This species is one of a group of damselflies known as 'spreadwings' because of the way they hold their wings when settled. However, in the third image this particular individual was holding its wings close to its body. Perhaps this was because it was eating?

Common Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Rutland Egleton
The last dragonfly spotted was my first Ruddy Darter of the year. This too stayed distant, there being a large area of vicious nettles between me and it.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (female) - Rutland Egleton
I also took some photos of a couple of butterflies. I'm quite pleased with the detail in the Large Skipper (a very small butterfly) image. I'm disappointed that the Brimstone was so badly damaged.

Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata) (male) - Rutland Egleton
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - Rutland Egleton
We wanted to fit in a visit to the Lyndon side of Rutland Water too, so left the Egleton side a little before 18h00. At the Lyndon side, we set off towards Waderscrape Hide, stopping to photograph a Meadow Brown on the way.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) (female?) - Rutland Lyndon
Titus continued to Shallow Water Hide, whilst I dropped off at Waderscrape Hide. It was relatively quiet there for a while, but I did take a few images of some Reed Bunting. I think that the first two images are probably of a juvenile, whilst the third (which I include because I've never noticed a Reed Bunting raise its crown like that) is an adult female.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (juvenile?) - Rutland Lyndon
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Rutland Lyndon
Excitement struck again that day, when a Water Vole came out of the reeds and made directly for a plant in the water, which it them promptly nipped off at water level and took back into the reeds. This was repeated three times and, fortunately, Titus came back during the session in time to witness and photograph the event. I was sitting in totally the wrong place, so most of my photographic attempts were foiled by intervening vegetation. Here's a few 'record shots'.

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius) - Rutland Lyndon
With as few owls to check on during our return journey, Titus and I left at around 19h30, stopping to take a photo of a Whitethroat on a wire above the track as we walked back to the car.

Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) (female) - Rutland Lyndon
We stopped for half our picnic at a point where we can observe Little Owl Sites Nos.34 & 36. Nothing was seen at first and then I spotted a LO slap bang halfway between the two sites. It was hunting from a tree, and then disappearing into the hedge. We suspect that it was feeding a fledged juvenile, but we never did work out which of the two sites it belonged to!

En route to our stop for the second half of our picnic, I grabbed some quick images of a Kestrel on a power pole.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - near Lowesby
The farmers at LO Site No.41 had been telling us how one of the LOs had been scolding their cat when it came down the road a couple of nights previously. When we arrived at the site, we sat and had the rest of our picnic whilst watching, in the gathering gloom, both adult owls hunting for food and taking it back to the nest hole. At one point, the farm cat came strolling down the road and one of the owls flew down to within a metre of the road and shouted at the cat as it went past. It then continued shouting at the cat and dive-bombed it, and eventually settled on a telegraph pole just above us as the cat walked past us.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
We might not have seen any rarities that day, but the day had been interesting, amusing, and exciting - certainly one of the better days!

Thank you for dropping by.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Speyside Holiday - end of May, 2015

My wife and I took another holiday based at The Grant Arms, in Grantown on Spey (our favourite destination!) at the end of May. I'm going to try and keep this account brief, but know I'm likely to fail miserably!

Friday 22nd May

Travelling on the Friday of the Bank Holiday Weekend was probably not the most sensible of ideas but, in spite of 25 miles (40km) of 50 mph (80 kph) restrictions for roadworks on the M1 and also for virtually exactly the same distance on the A1(M) - frustrating, but the traffic kept moving - we had a relatively pleasant journey.

We stopped for lunch at The Deli Café in Boston Spa (we always aim to hit this place at lunchtime if we are heading that way!), and were at the wonderful B&B of Tweed View House in Berwick upon Tweed by around 16h30. Graham kindly helped us in with our luggage and we sat and enjoyed a cup of tea before heading out for a fish & chip dinner at a local chippy.

The fish and chips were fine but Lindsay asked for tomato ketchup, and was brought an industrial-sized bottle of what the label declared, in large letters, to be "Just Tomato Ketchup". The ketchup was a luminous pink, and Lindsay said that it was sweet and did not taste of much. She restrained me, however, from writing the word 'Only' in front of 'Just'!

Saturday 23rd May

After a good night's sleep and an excellent breakfast served in our room by Graham, we continued our travels. Our first stop was at the Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh which prominently features in Dan Brown's book 'The Da Vinci Code'. The place was fascinating and certainly worth a visit. I offer a partial external view (no photography allowed inside)

The Rosslyn Chapel
Whilst there, I was taking a photograph of Lindsay with my phone when a foreign tourist approached me and asked if we would like her to take a photo of us both together. Now that's a twist to a familiar story! Anyway, as most of my readers don't have a clue as to what I look like, here we go - I'm the one on the right!

Mr and Mrs P. at The Rosslyn Chapel
Once over the Forth Road Bridge, we headed for Perth, stopping at the Macmillan Café at Quarrymill, just north of Perth by Scone Palace, for a cup of Earl Grey. We resisted the temptation to have one of their delicious cakes here as we would be stopping for lunch soon. However, after refreshments we took a stroll beside the burn that runs through the park here, as sometimes it's good for Dipper. We only found one (a juvenile), but then we didn't wander very far.

Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) (juvenile) - Quarrymill
Our next stop was at the Dalmore Inn, just south of Blairgowrie, where they do a superb 2 course light lunch (and I do mean SUPERB) for £9.95. The meal was well up to their usual standard.

After Blairgowrie the route starts to become somewhat scenic. A comfort stop at the ski centre of Glenshee reaped its rewards. I stopped to photograph a pied wagtail and then went to look behind the ski centre buildings.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) - Glenshee
My target was Ring Ouzel (I saw them here in June a few years back), and this time it was bingo! Just one was seen, but that was enough.

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) (male) - Glenshee
The rest of the journey to Grantown was very enjoyable, but with no further excitement.

After settling ourselves in at The Grant Arms we went down to dinner, where we'd booked a table for ourselves, friends Lynne and Roger, plus Jim Almond who was giving a couple of talks up there during the week. Jim, however, had sent us a message saying that he'd been badly delayed on his journey from Mull, and would be very late, so to start without him. 

Jim arrived before we'd finished so we had time for a natter before going to pay our respects to our beloved Lochindorb. Sadly, it started raining just before we got there, and with high winds and little light, there were no photo opportunities.

Sunday 24th May

After a good breakfast, Lindsay and I set off to re-visit Lochindorb - a place which we managed to visit every day during our stay, except our day of departure! Most of the 'usual suspects' were around and visible - with the notable exception of Black-throated Diver. The strong winds weren't helping the photography and were whipping the water to a foam at its edge.

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) - Lochindorb
An Oystercatcher was doing its usual trick of nesting on a mound right beside the road - close enough that you could lean out of the car window and pat it on the head!

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) - Lochindorb
A Red Squirrel was drinking from a puddle on the road by the lodge, but went off into the trees before I could take its photo.

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) - Lochindorb
It was the time of year that the Red Grouse had young. Several family groups were seen with very tiny chicks, although these were hard to spot when they weren't moving!

Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) - Lochindorb
Continuing from Lochindorb, we headed towards Dulnain Bridge and then set off along the very rural back road that leads to Carrbridge. Many Curlew, Meadow Pipit, and Lapwing were seen, plus other birds not recorded, but I've only a Lapwing image to offer.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - back road to Carrbridge
We then headed for Cairngorm base station, where Ring Ouzel had been reported the previous day. We arrived to find that several had been there half an hour earlier until frightened off by visitors. We hung around for a while, but it was just 6 deg.C and very windy, so decided to move on as we were getting rather cold. At this point I'll mention that, throughout the week, it was windy and temperatures were consistently around 10 deg.C lower than we are used to here at this time of year. Neither of us had brought sufficient warm clothing!

Returning to Grantown on Spey, we 'discovered' an area beside the Spey that we'd not known about. It was a dead-end road that led down to the old cemetery. A stroll in the cemetery was interrupted by the loud attentions of an Oystercatcher - then I realised that there were two of them shouting at us and the penny dropped - Lindsay and I backed off quickly and left the worried parents in peace!

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) - Grantown on Spey
We walked a little further on beside the river, and not wanting to come away empty-handed I took some shots of Grey Heron and Black-headed Gull.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Grantown on Spey
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) - Grantown on Spey
A return visit to Lochindorb only resulted in some images of a distant Meadow Pipit.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - Lochindorb
Monday 25th May

I'd promised Lindsay that we'd visit Cawdor Castle, and as the weather forecast was not very good, this seemed to be the day to do it.

We took a scenic route along very minor roads, striking off west just past Dulsie Bridge. This road, to Drynachan Lodge, follows the Findhorn River. Mistle Thrush (many), Common Sandpiper, Dipper, and Song Thrush were seen.

From Drynachan Lodge we headed north across the moors, spotting Red-legged Partridge (a few), Red Grouse (a few), and Linnet (several). At one point a 'probable' female Hen Harrier suddenly appeared over the embankment on our left, flew low over the road and swooped low down into the valley on our right. By the time I'd stopped the car, I couldn't pick it up again for a positive ID.

Further on, we saw a few Stonechat, and then we were at Cawdor Castle. I admit that I was not really looking forward to the visit, but it exceeded my expectations by a mile. One of the things that made it such a wonderful visit was the 'self-guide' notes in each room. These were not just interestingly informative, but every one had been written with great humour! We must have taken a good hour in this small castle, and just couldn't believe how many people (mainly Americans) were just flashing through without reading the notes. Surely they must have wondered why Lindsay and I were standing in front of the notes having a good laugh?

Cawdor Castle
After our visit, and a picnic in the castle car park, we headed back via our outward route. We stopped where the Stonechats had been, and a male obliged for the camera.

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) (male) - near Highland Boath
Further on we saw the 'probable' Hen Harrier again at exactly the same place, in exactly the same circumstances, with exactly the same results! I never got a clear view of the top of the bird, just a hint of the 'ring tail', but the underside looked right. Lindsay (not a birdwatcher) probably got a better view as I was concentrating on the road, and she picked out female Hen Harrier from the Collins Guide without hesitation.

The road from Drynachan Lodge to Dulsie Bridge yielded two male Redstart (no photos), as well as the Mistle Thrushes again. Beyond Dulsie Bridge we found a group of Curlew making a fuss. I think that they had young. I managed a few shots, but the light was poor. The third in the sequence below just tickles my (strange?) sense of humour! The Meadow Pipit was just looking on as all this happened.

Curlew (numenius arquata) - near Dulsie Bridge
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) -near Dulsie Bridge
You'll probably not be surprised to hear that we returned via Lochindorb.

Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) - Lochindorb
Redshank (Tringa totanus) - Lochindorb
Lindsay wanted to take time for a bath after dinner, so that evening I had no problem in getting my pass signed for a late owling session at a place near Nethybridge that had been so productive the previous year. I wasn't over-hopeful as it was very windy. In the event, an owl showed at 21h05 but it kept very low, which made it quite difficult to spot, as you can see (or maybe not!) in the next image.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - near Nethybridge
The other problem (visible above) was that new fences had been put up in the area. These were higher and had markers along the top (possibly for the safety of the birds?). So with the wind keeping the owls low it was almost impossible to get a photo unobstructed by wires. and white markers.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - near Nethybridge
This area is also good for Black Grouse. Common wisdom is that morning is the best time to see a lek. In my limited experience, evening is a reliably good time to see the males put on a good display. Having given up on the SEOs because of bad light and obstructions, I took a few very distant images of the Grouse.

Tuesday 26th May

Lindsay wanted to do some shopping in Grantown so my pass was signed again and I returned to the SEOs. At this particular location I've found that between 08h00 and 11h00 is the best period for seeing SEOs which are hunting to feed young. In these circumstances, however, I feel that it's imperative to sit quietly in the car, so as not to disturb them. My first sighting was almost on the dot of 08h00 - with the wires in the way again!

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - near Nethybridge
The wind was still quite strong, however, so the birds kept low. I know that I saw at least three owls as they were all there together at one point, but there were probably more. Eventually at around 10h45 an owl ventured to pass at a higher altitude. Sadly it was at a distance and against the light. It soon returned with prey on a similar trajectory.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - near Nethybridge
After this, it seems that the various larders were full, and the hunting stopped. I went back to Grantown to pick up Lindsay at 12h00, and after buying the necessaries for a picnic we headed out.

Dulnain Bridge can be good for Dipper and Grey Wagtail. We saw both, but at a great distance. This is the nearest that the wagtail got.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) (male) - Dulnain Bridge
We next ventured up the Findhorn Valley. At the top car park it was very cold and windy, and we didn't stop long! We saw many Red Deer, a Redstart, two Grey Wagtails, many Mistle Thrush and twelve or more goats. These are said to be feral from long ago, and act as if they are truly wild - they're certainly very nervous! I did, however, manage some images of them. To me, their appearance ranges from 'cute' to 'magnificent'!

It turned sunny after dinner and an evening visit to Lochindorb only yielded common species, but a few images resulted.

Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) (male) - Lochindorb
Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) - Lochindorb
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - Lochindorb
Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) - Lochindorb
Wednesday 27th May

After breakfast we took a cross-country route to the outskirts of Inverness, noting a Red Kite, and probable Wood Warbler near Dulsie Bridge. We then continued onto the Black Isle, and to Fortrose for lunch at the Eilendhub Restaurant - a place we both love. After an excellent lunch, the timing was perfect (the start of a rising tide) for a visit to Chanonry Point to try and see Dolphin. None had been seen that day when we arrived, but we only had to wait ten minutes or so before a couple (an adult and a pale juvenile) put in an appearance. In the difficult light I only managed (poor) images of dorsals and tails.They weren't around for long and, as it was cold and windy, we weren't either. It seems that Roger and Lynne arrived at about the time that we left, spending a couple of hours there, and seeing nothing!

Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) - Chanonry Point
We had a very leisurely return journey, doing mainly touristic things, but calling in at Lochindorb (of course!).

Redshank (Tringa totanus) - Lochindorb
Thursday 28th May

Lindsay had never seen a Short-eared Owl, so we started by visiting the location near Nethybridge. We didn't have to wait long, and the bird was flying higher than previously, although quite a long way away.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - near Nethybridge
Having had this sighting, we set off again and as we approached Nethybridge Lindsay spotted a pair of Buzzards feeding on a dead deer. We had to go a way before we could turn round but, as is typical of Buzzards, the moment we stopped they were away.  As we continued our travels, I spotted one of them hiding in a tree at the field edge.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Nethybridge
Next stop was at Avielochan, which has restricted access and where The Grant Arms has a private hide. The main attraction here is the nesting Slavonian Grebes, and these were showing quite well, although the sun was behind them - yes, we had some sun!

Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus) - Avielochanus
Lapwing were flying around noisily as one of their youngsters was wandering around looking decidedly cute!

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) (chick) - Avielochan
A group of Greylag Geese arrived, a few Goldeneye were present (the males in eclipse plumage) and I stretched my almost non-existent gull ID skills with a year 2 Common Gull (kindly confirmed from my photo by Roger).

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Avielochan
Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) - Avielochan
Common Gull (Larus canus) (2nd year) - Avielochan
I'd noticed that the pretty little blue flowers of Speedwell seemed to be everywhere, so used the sunshine to do a bit of closeup work with the Sigma 50-500.

Common Speedwell (Veronica persica) - Avielochan
From Avielochan, we set off for The Potting Shed for a pot of Earl Grey and some of their famous cakes. The bird feeders outside the window were busy, but the light was bad.

Suitably refreshed, decided to pay a visit to Glenfeshie, above Uath Lochan - a point beyond which we'd not prevously travelled. We soon realised that we'd been missing out, as it was splendid - in spite of the occasional heavy downpour of rain. Several species of bird were seen, including a few Spotted Flycatcher. We found a very pleasant spot by the river where we watched the flycatchers whilst enjoying our picnic lunch.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) - Glenfeshie
After lunch we set off for Laggan, calling in at the temporarily relocated village stores for a coffee before setting off on the General Wade's Military Road, built in 1731. This is now a well-maintained single-track road which stays close to the upper reaches of the Spey for much of the way. We'd never been past Garva Bridge over the Spey, but this time decided to venture considerably further. We were quite surprised by just how good the road was, in spite of not seeing a single vehicle on it! After an hour we decided to turn around fearing that we'd be late for dinner. However, we've definitely got this earmarked for a full exploration as it appears to be passable all the way to Fort Augusta on the Caledonian Canal.

Sightings from the road included Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher, Red Deer, and a brief sighting of Long-eared Owl. Considering the windy, and often wet, conditions, I was quite happy with that!

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - General Wade's Military Road from Laggan
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) (male) - General Wade's Military Road from Laggan
"One day I'll be Monarch of The Glen" 

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) - General Wade's Military Road from Laggan
Flat Rainbow! - by Spey Dam
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) - General Wade's Military Road from Laggan
A visit to Lochindorb after dinner didn't produce any useful images, but we did have another rainbow.

Friday 29th May

This was our last day in Grantown as we would be departing the next morning. A visit to the Moray Coast was decided on. The day started with a report of Broad-billed Sandpiper at Findhorn and, as that was where we'd intended to hit the coast first, that's where we went. On arrival at Findhorn there was no sign of any birders and as my data roaming facility on my phone seems to have given up the ghost I had no other means of checking if it was still being seen. As I'd not got a 'scope with me, searching through the mass of waders on the flats was not an option, so we continued into Findhorn itself.

The sun was out as we parked our car and headed over the dunes to the beach. Several Grey Seal were out in the water, popping their heads up to look at us from time to time.

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) - Findhorn

There were a few distant birds out on the water as we headed towards the spit at the mouth of Findhorn Bay. Suddenly there seemed to be Ringed Plover everywhere, and it immediately became apparent that there was a small colony nesting on the beach here. We were then very careful to only walk on the sandy bits, so as to avoid destroying nests.

You'd think the Ringed Plover, with their black and white faces, would be easy to spot on a pebble beach. For the first time, however, I noticed that, if disturbed, they turned their brown back on you and instantly 'disappeared'! Here's a few images of them in the 'now you see me' position. Another thing that I learned about Ringed Plover is that they can really stretch their neck (see 2nd and 3rd images, below)!

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) - Findhorn
By the time we got to the Chandlery Café, it was time for a pot of Earl Grey before heading back to the car for a picnic lunch. We just got back in time before the heavens opened. A very wet and bedraggled Hooded Crow was wandering around near the car park, but the weather conditions meant that this was the best that I could do.

Hooded Crow (Cornus corone cornix) - Findhorn
A text message from Jim, followed by a phone call from me, determined that a group (including Jim) were onto the Broad-billed Sandpiper. However, Jim said that it was so distant and difficult to spot, plus the threat of rain, meant that he'd not bothered to get his camera out - and twitching photography is what Jim does! On that basis, I reckoned that it would be far more productive for me to earn some brownie-points and continue to do something that Lindsay would enjoy. This led us to Burghead.

We had a wander round the harbour, where just a few distant Eider, and many Cormorant were seen, before heading to the rocky side of the head. We were the only people around!

Burghead Harbour
Back on the beach side of the head, a Swallow and a Crow, were the only birds I found to shoot at.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) - Burghead
We'd intended to continue to Lossiemouth, but on the way Lindsay spotted a sign to Hopeman Harbour. We'd never noticed this before, or seen or heard it mentioned either, so went to investigate. Whilst nothing of interest was seen here it was obviously full of potential, particularly for a winter visit, so we fully intend to return. It had the harbour on the west side and a beautiful beach with rocky outcrops on the east side, and the lady in the gallery by the harbour was the only person we saw whilst there!

Hopeman Beach
Suddenly the weather started breaking up so we set of back towards Grantown. We paid a farewell visit to Lochindorb but little was seen and the light was against us. We'd noted a road just outside Grantown that we'd never ventured down before and, as we still had plenty of time before dinner, decided to take a look. This is another route which I fully intend to spend time on in the future as it looks to be ideal for a number of species, including Crossbill and even, possibly, Long-eared Owl.

The day ended with another excellent dinner with Roger, Lynne, and Jim at the Grant Arms, shortly after which we said our farewells as the other three had long journeys the next morning.

Saturday 30th May

Our journey south was via the same route as our outward journey, stopping for another excellent lunch at the Dalmore Inn. Without the stop at Quarrymill, we were quite early arriving at Tweed View House, where we settled in, and relaxed with a pot of tea.

At around 18h00, as it was looking like a fine-weather evening, we set off for Cocklawburn Beach. I'd been here before when there were plenty of birds around, but I'd since read that the beach can also be good for fossils. There were, indeed, quite a few birds around, although it was still quite breezy in the area. We did also find a few fossils, most of which we left in situ but a couple of which were brought home with us for further investigation. I didn't manage any images of the Stonechats, but here's a few other birds.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - Cocklawburn Beach
Skylark (Alauda arvensis) - Cocklawburn Beach
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) - Cocklawburn Beach
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) (male) - Cocklawburn Beach
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) (female) - Cocklawburn Beach
That night we agreed that we both felt 'fooded out' so settled for a quick snack at 'The Scottish Restaurant' (that's McDonald's to the uninitiated!).

Sunday 30th May

Graham provided us with a good breakfast again, and helped us to the car with our luggage and we were on our way quite early. We were both ready to get back home, and so only made the one 'comfort stop' and were outside the house before 13h00, in time for a light lunch.

From a birding and comfort point of view, the weather had been continually cold and windy and could have been a lot kinder to us, but we'd still had a wonderful break, greatly enhanced by our stay at the excellent Grant Arms with its friendly and efficient staff, and the presence of friends Lynne and Roger, plus Jim. This was my eighth stay there in the past five years, and my next stay is already booked! My thanks to you all. Special thanks also go to Graham and Liz at Tweed View House - yes, my next stay there is also booked!

Thank you for dropping by. I hope you've had the patience to digest this, and found it of interest. Yes, I did fail miserably in my attempt to keep it brief!