Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Layby 151...

Apologies for the cheesey title which sounds like a low rate horror movie but today I headed down Aviemore way with my girlfriend for the day. I had heard and read that Ring Ouzel (one of my most sought after species) is regularly seen from layby 151 on the A9 so I had to stop in for a look on my way South. We pulled over into the layby and scanned the scree slopes and the heather either side of the road. First sight was a pair of White Wagtails at the roadside but not Ring Ouzel. We stayed there for awhile and I managed to see some Mountain Hares still in their white coats and then two birds flew over the ridge. On closer inspection it was a pair of Peregrines! A life tick for me and a bird I just never managed to spot before. So no Ring Ouzel but still very pleased and we continued down to Aviemore.

I have lived in the Highlands for just over 23 years now yet I have never been up to the Cairngorm summit. So even though the weather wasn't great we decided to head up there for a bit of fun. We made our way up to the main car park where the weather was very changeable and the summit was shrouded in mist and cloud. I had read that Ring Ouzel, Wheatear and Snow Bunting were very possible from the viewing platform and was excited to get up there. We made our way up on the funicular railway, had a quick look at the exhibition then out onto the viewing platform. Wind chill was minus 6 degrees Celsius with heavy snow and visibility down to 30 metres.

"View" from the top.
The worst bit was there were definitely no birds about that could be seen, but it was still fun and we had a coffee in the Ptarmigan restaurant. After a couple hours spent up there we caught the funicular back down to the main car park.

Whilst scanning over the hillsides I spotted some movement about 100m away in the heather. I tried to keep my focus on it and lost it a couple times but it turned out to be an impressive looking male Red Grouse another life tick for me and my girlfriend managed to spot a female with him too.

Male Red Grouse
Not long after that a small herd of Reindeer came over the ridge and right into the car park which delighted many of the visitors, my girlfriend included.

Within the herd were what seemed to be two very pale (albino?) youngsters.

We then made our way down as it started chucking it down with rain with a couple more Red Grouse seen briefly from the road, and headed for home. A wet day but a good day

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