Sunday, 18 December 2011

Inverness Area (Sat 17th)...

The last weekend before Christmas and that means heading into the city to buy all those last bits and pieces for the following weekend. It was decided that I would meet my girlfriend in Inverness (where she lives herself) at 11:00 so that left me with a few hours before the nightmare of christmas shopping to get in some birdwatching, which involved leaving the house at 7:45 in the dark with a very heavy frost on the ground instead of snow that seemed to have fallen nearly everywhere else in the country (which is now falling very heavily whilst I write this).

After thumbing through Gordon Hamlett's excellent book Best Birdwatching Sites in the Scottish Highlands and the RSPB Highland Group's - The Top 52 birdwatching sites in the Highlands a couple nights before I decided to check out a couple areas just outside the main city. The first stop would be Milton of Culloden. This spot is an area of shore East of the Kessock Bridge just off the A96 to Nairn. There is a small layby to park at just after the railway bridge (NH 70545 46745) and you can then walk back towards Inverness either along the shoreline itself or along the the old shore road which is now closed off.

Looking back towards the city and the Kessock Bridge
The best time to be there is a couple hours either side of high tide and unfortunately I did not have that luxury due to plans later on and the tide was right out, but I decided to stroll along the beach and try my best. Upon exiting the car there were plenty of Herring and Black-headed Gulls and Carrion Crows flying around and feeding on the shore. It was obvious there were many birds at the tide line but they were just out of range for my level of ID skills. A mile long walk along the shore produced numbers of Curlew, Redshank, Oyster Catcher, Mallard, Wigeon, Lapwing and 48 Shelduck. I decided to walk the old shore road back which goes through some broadleaved woodland adjacent to farmland. This produced 30 Starling, 6 Blackbird, 2 Rook, Blue Tits, Chaffinches, a single Song Thrush, more Carrion Crows and 3 lovely plump looking Fieldfares in a neighbouring field. The highlight of the walk had to be a cracking view of 2 Treecreepers who were very obliging, allowing me within a couple metres to take some photos (see below).

Treecreeper  - Certhia familiaris

I returned to the car and drove about a mile further East along the road headed to Alturlie Point another spot described in the books mentioned earlier. Alturlie forms part of the Longman and Alturlie Point Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is part of the Inner Moray Firth Special Protection Area (SPA). By now it was 10:15 which didn't leave me long but I stopped at a couple of the laybys dotted along the road and scanned the area which produced similar species as earlier as well as 2 Rock Pipits and a close view of a Curlew at one stop. At the top of the road where it gets very close to the water's edge a good view of a male and female Red-Breasted Merganser rounded the morning off nicely.

Quick turnaround and back into the City to meet my girlfriend and the shopping wasn't too bad in the end!

Curlew - Numenius arquata

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