Wee­don’s World

Mike rem­i­nisces about some spe­cial en­coun­ters on the re­cent reader hol­i­day in the Scot­tish High­lands

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - Mike Wee­don is an very keen patch lis­ter and keen wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher in his home city of Peter­bor­ough, where he lives with his wife, Jo, and chil­dren, Jas­mine and Ed­die. You can see his pho­tos at weed­world. blogspot.com

See­ing Crested Tit up close was one high­light of a trip to Scot­land

In late Oc­to­ber, my dear wife Jo and I headed north for an­other one of Bird Watch­ing’s ‘reg­u­lar’ reader hol­i­days based at the Grant Arms Ho­tel, in Spey­side. If you are yet to go, it is a won­der­ful place. Not only is the ho­tel it­self the per­fect home for wildlife lovers, but it is bril­liantly set on the edge of Ana­gach Woods (which hold Caper­cail­lie, Cross­bill and Crested Tit, as well as ‘easy’ Red Squir­rels); and it is within re­spectable driv­ing dis­tance of many of the best High­land bird­ing lo­cal­i­ties. And visit many of those sites we did dur­ing our ‘week’ based at Gran­town-on-spey. A per­sonal high­light for me was a visit to Chanonry Point on the Black Isle. Boy, was it windy, but we found a shel­tered spot to look out to sea, where hun­dreds of ju­ve­nile Gan­nets were feed­ing and pass­ing by very close in­deed. There were also dozens of Guille­mots and sev­eral par­ties of gor­geous Long-tailed Ducks pass­ing through, and the odd Com­mon Seal com­ing to have a look at the mad bird­watch­ers on the beach. An­other of the high­lights was a trip to Lochin­dorb, a small­ish loch a lit­tle north of Gran­town, sur­rounded by moor­land. This is a great place for blast­ing Red Grouse! Blast­ing them with a cam­era, that is, as they feed close to the road. It is one of the de­lights of Scot­tish bird­ing be­ing an­grily told to ‘Go back, go back, gob­agob­agob­agob­ack!’ by these plump, furry-footed beau­ties. We led a lit­tle con­voy of ve­hi­cles go­ing from pass­ing place to pass­ing place snap­ping the grouse, un­til I made an ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sion to push on slightly, to give the folk in the cars be­hind more space and time to en­joy the grouse pho­tog­ra­phy. So, it was only our ve­hi­cle (with four of us in it), that pulled up near the small wood on the loch edge and no­ticed a cou­ple of small birds com­ing out of the lit­tle bushes on our right. One was a Coal Tit, but the other an un­ex­pected Crested Tit, which posed on the tiny pines at the side of the road in front of us, and even picked up what I think was grit from the road, right in front of our car. Crested Tits are one of the spe­cial birds that ev­ery­one wants to see when they visit north­ern Scot­land, and they are de­light­ful char­ac­ters. You could think of them as lit­tle brown jobs, but not with that face pat­tern and that flaky lichen crest. So, I felt a bit gut­ted for the peo­ple in the fol­low­ing cars, who failed de­spite our ef­forts to re­lo­cate our Cresty. I needn’t have wor­ried, as ev­ery­one who wanted Crested Tit (ie ev­ery­one!) was just about guar­an­teed fab­u­lous views that week at the RSPB’S flag­ship Cale­do­nian for­est re­serve at Loch Garten. The Os­prey Watch­point car park had a con­ve­nient fallen log and when we ar­rived the trunk was al­ready well seeded, lur­ing down flocks of Coal Tits for the wait­ing pho­tog­ra­phers. Within a few min­utes, a Crested Tit started vis­it­ing, too, and we all got great views. Half an hour later, a new car came in, and caused some con­ster­na­tion as it passed be­tween the pho­tog­ra­phers and the log, then parked a few me­tres from its branches. Jaws col­lec­tively dropped, as the driver got out, opened his boot and got out his cam­ou­flaged tri­pod with an an­gled mossy branch on top, and set it up a cou­ple of feet from the baited tit log. He sim­ply poured some seed in the top and backed off a few feet to blast the tits drawn up to the new perch. Hi­lar­i­ous and out­ra­geous in equal mea­sure! I led a break­away group up to the Os­prey Watch­point hide feed­ers, where we in­dulged in the al­most re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing Coal Tits come to feed from our open hands. Af­ter a while, I went back to check on the car park log pho­tog­ra­phers. And as I was walk­ing along the path, I heard a call­ing Crested Tit. It was feed­ing ‘wild’ away from the feed­ers, and I en­joyed some good views un­til it de­cided to feed in the tree just next to me! I didn’t have the heart to tell the rest of the group that I was able to pho­to­graph a ‘wild’ Cresty just a few feet away from me, with­out the need for seed or even a cam­ou­flaged tri­pod. Great bird, great times! Oh, and in case you are wor­ried about my Peter­bor­ough area year list suf­fer­ing with these ‘out of area’ ex­pe­di­tions, worry you not. Since my last up­date, I have added Rock Pipit, Hen Har­rier and, in early Novem­ber, Mer­lin. So I have reached 190 for the year, sur­pass­ing my decade-old record. So, there are nearly two months to try to get as close to the 200 as pos­si­ble…

EV­ERY­ONE WHO WANTED CRESTED TIT WAS GUAR­AN­TEED FAB­U­LOUS VIEWS

Above Crested Tit, feed­ing ‘wild’ at Loch Garten RSPB, Oc­to­ber 2018

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