After a long day on day five, day six started slowly. A lie in and a late breakfast, meant that we didn’t make it out into the field until about midday.
We drove over to the RSPB center at Loch Garten, where we enjoyed good scope views of the returning female Osprey EJ, which I have seen many times over the last few years. There was little else around, so we headed back at around two.
We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at Lochindorb, so headed up there, arriving at around three. It was bright and dry, and we were soon enjoying distant views of a pair of Black-Throated Diver and a single Red-Throated Diver, all in summer plumage. As always, there were plenty of Red Grouse about too.
As we drove back south along the loch, we noticed an unusual raptor soaring low towards the loch. It rapidly dissapeared behind the trees, and did not appear again as we watched. We were aware that a Rough-Legged Buzzard had been reported in the area, and our suspicions were aroused, by our brief views of this bird. A few minutes later, another birder came along the road and told us that he had seen the bird at the south end of the loch about half an hour before. Slightly frustrated, we decided to stay put and see if it showed up again.
After quite some time, we had seen a Sparrowhawk, several distant Common Buzzard, a Raven, a Kestrel and a Peregrine. I decided to take a wander up the hill to gain a better vantage point, and I reached the top to see a Buzzard of some species hover for a moment and then disappear behind the ridge heading back south. We drove to the south end of the loch, parked the car, and headed up the track onto the open moorland behind the ridge. As we passed the abandoned farm house, a male Merlin darted past – the first male I have ever seen! Just beyond, we heard a plover call, and noticed a pair of Golden Plover in summer plumage.
Using a grouse shooting station as shelter, we waited for another hour-or-so, scanning the sky-line for raptors. This produced several more Common Buzzards and a few Raven, but it was beginning to look like we were not going to succeed. We headed back down the track past the farmhouse. I looked up and noticed two Buzzards drifting past, a way to the south. Getting the scope on them, I noticed that one of the birds appeared longer winged and paler! The darker bird then began to chase it, and they both performed several twists and turns. The pale bird showed a white tail base with a contrasting dark terminal band, pale buff underwing coverts, contrasting with the dark carpal patches and a choclate-brown patch on the belly. It was the Rough-Legged Buzzard!
It was a first year bird, and it continued to show distantly but well, giving excellent scope views. It hunted over the moors for some time, hovering very often and even dropping to the ground at one point. It eventually drifted off south and out of view, so we headed back to the car and off home.