Scot­tish spe­cials in a unique wood­land set­ting

Bird Watching (UK) - - World War I Centenary - JOHN MILES

Rassal Ash Wood is on the eastern side of the Kishorn River es­tu­ary, about eight miles south of Tor­ri­don. It is found tucked away to the back of Loch Kishorn, where it ex­tends from just above sea level, up a grad­ual and shel­tered val­ley side then into a neigh­bour­ing gorge. This area has be­come part of the ‘North Coast 500’ tourist route, which has had a dra­matic in­flu­ence on the num­ber of peo­ple us­ing the area since 2014 when it was started. It branches off be­fore the Ash wood to Ap­ple­cross and I imag­ine few peo­ple, if any, ac­tu­ally think the area is worth a visit! So, you should have it to your­self, as I did. It is not fa­mous for its birdlife, rather its ac­tual trees, be­ing the fur­thest north in Bri­tain where Ash grows. That should not put you off, though, as there’s the po­ten­tial of see­ing some of the high­land spe­cials. Moun­tains rise around you and with an es­tu­ary to boot, there is the chance of both ea­gles. The trees are a mag­net for small rap­tors like Mer­lin and Spar­rowhawk. You could see mixed tits, finches and sum­mer mi­grants, such as Red­start, Tree Pipit and Wil­low War­blers in num­bers. Cuck­oos will use pipit nests to lay their eggs, and may even pick the odd Pied Wag­tail’s. The area around the wood in­cludes alpine and sub­alpine cal­care­ous grass­lands, moun­tain wil­low scrub, lime­stone pave­ment and also pet­ri­fied springs with tufa for­ma­tion. Along the ap­proach road you will find Wheatear and, pos­si­bly, both Whin­chat and Stonechat. The River Kishorn should have both Dip­per and Grey Wag­tail. The es­tu­ary has a mix­ture of waders with Green­shank, Oys­ter­catcher, Ringed Plover, and Com­mon Sand­piper likely in sum­mer, with the odd Whim­brel, Curlew, Redshank and Black-tailed God­wit drop­ping in on mi­gra­tion. Out in deeper wa­ter, look for divers, with Great North­ern com­mon for eight months of the year, along with both Red-throated and Black-throated drop­ping in to feed. Eider, Shel­duck, Red-breasted Mer­ganser and Mal­lard will also be around.

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