Scotland Trip – Days 1-5 – 16-20/xii/15

After a few days at home, it was time for a short family visit to Scotland. As usual this gave me plenty of opportunity to do some birding, which again proved productive.

After a long and tough drive the night before, I headed out early from Edinburgh, arriving at my first stop – the Slamannan plateau – just after dawn. I spent the next few hours here searching the area for the wintering flock of ‘fabalis‘ (Taiga) Bean Geese. I managed to see a single Stock Dove and several Redwing, but unfortunately there was no sign of the geese in any of the likely locations so I decided to move on.

The next stop was Carstairs Junction. A Ross’s Goose had been seen there a few days previously, but unfortunately there was no sign of this bird either. There was however, a good selection of wintering wildfowl, with several hundred Pink-Footed Geese, smaller numbers of Barnacle Geese and Greylag Geese, and an abundance of Wigeon and Teal. There was also a small group of ten Whooper Swans in a flooded field.

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Two days later, on the 18th, I went birding again, this time in Deshar Wood near Boat of Garten. It was fairly quiet on the bird front, but I did manage to see a single Crested Tit with a small tit flock.

On the far side of the woods, I was able to view the fields where the ‘top loch’ is in the spring. A female/immature Merlin flew past distantly here, though views were very brief, and there was little else about.

The next day (on the 19th), I decided to pay a visit to the floodplain of the Spey in the area surrounding Broomhill. I stopped at the Mains of Garten first, and there was plenty of activity here. There were large numbers of Teal, several Wigeon and Goldeneye, and a distant group of five Whooper Swans which were seen distantly in flight. There were plenty of gulls here too, but they were all Herring and Great Black-Backed Gulls.

I moved north to Broomhill train station next, where there were good numbers of gulls feeding and bathing in the flooded fields. A 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull had been reported here, and it made itself apparent straight away by flying straight towards me over the fields, and circling several times before settling and feeding for a while. Its large size and very pale plumage was striking when compared to the Herring Gulls. Once again, dull lighting hampered the photo quality, but I was still reasonably pleased with the results:

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As it turned out this was not the best bird about.

I moved on down the valley in the hope of finding the Pink-Footed Goose flock. I stopped at Mid Curr, where I noticed a goose flock in stubble fields on the opposite side of the Spey. Getting them in the scope, I realised that it was a flock of Greylags about 350 strong. I decided to give them a thorough scan, and was glad I had when I picked out a smaller darker goose.

It was difficult to see clearly as it was very distant, but after a while it flew a bit closer. I could now clearly see that it had a dark head and neck, dark flanks and upperwings. The bill had a deep base, and an orange band around the tip, identifying it as a ‘rossicus(Tundra) Bean Goose! Despite having come closer it was still quite distant, but I did manage an appaling phone-scoped record shot of the bird (on the left) with two Greylag Geese.

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I was pretty pleased to self-find this bird, particularly after missing out on the ‘fabalis‘ birds a few days before.

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