Monday, 23 April 2012

Weekend away... Part.2

On Sunday (22nd) we decided to take a trip to the Falls of Shin which is located between Lairg and Bonar Bridge and is famous for it's falls and leaping salmon but also has a visitor centre and plenty of forest walks.

We took the long way round bypassing Lairg first with the intention of doing the full loop via Bonar Bridge on the way home. Upon arriving it was fairly quiet to start off. A quick toilet stop and then we headed down the steps to the falls. The river was in full flow and looked impressive as the sun came out. Grey Wagtails were seen again from the viewing platform and also a Dipper which landed not far from the platform with a beakful of invertebrates and then flew up into a clump of moss on the slippery rock which turned out to be it's nest!

Dipper at nest.
We then headed into Achany Wood just beside the visitor centre. The wood is very attractive with native Scots Pine and Birch with Larch and Douglas Fir scattered throughout. Plenty of Blue, Great, Coal Tit, Chaffinch were present as was a small group of Siskin and a Buzzard flew over. In a small clearing near the path two male Orange Tip butterflies were sunning themselves and returning to the car park a single Raven flew overhead and Pied Wagtails were foraging around the parked cars. To finish the visit we had a very tasty ice cream before heading on towards Bonar Bridge.

Achany Wood
Male Orange Tip
After Bonar Bridge the route took us through the small hamlet of Spinningdale. Driving along the road my girlfriend shouts for me to stop and pullover. I had no idea what was going til she directed me to a large Pine tree in a small group of trees in the middle of a field a couple hundred metres from the road. It was an Osprey nest with a pair of Osprey flying around it. I had seen an Osprey before but only at the Loch Garten Osprey centre two years ago. They gave fantastic views from the car and we watched for a few minutes before moving on as to not disturb them.

I couldn't believe my luck at seeing a pair of Ospreys and a nest as we carried on back to the A9. Not long after returning to the A9 my girlfriend spotted another nest with two more Ospreys but this time we couldn't stop but we still managed to see them both, literally 5 minutes after the last, fantastic. It is important to remember that these birds are a fully protected species and should never be disturbed (by law) and exact nesting locations never given out publicly.

As we neared the turn off for Dornoch I decided to instead carry on a little further North for the turn off to Loch Buidhe a site I had read about in Gordon Hamlett's book. We headed up the single track road into the surrounding hills for a few miles. On the way I spotted a Wheatear on a roadside patch of grass.

Female Wheatear
Heading up the road for a couple more miles and we finally came to Loch Buidhe. As well as the stunning views there was also a Common Sandpiper, my first of the year at loch side and Meadow Pipits along the fence line surrounding the forestry plantations.

Loch Buidhe
Common Sandpiper
As we turned round to head back down another Osprey flew over the loch, unbelievable, the only slight disappointment that it didn't crash down into the water to catch a fish! A Kestrel was also spotted on the way down and near the bottom of the valley I saw what I thought was a gull when on closer inspection it was a Fulmar, another first for the year and pulling over there was infact a small breeding colony on a natural inland cliff. Heading back round by the South shore of Loch Fleet the same lay by from the day before produced more Common Seals on the sandbanks. A great end to a great day.

Common Seals
On the final morning Monday (23rd) we had to vacate at 10am so we packed up and headed back to Dornoch for one last walk on the beach. Again plenty of larks and pipits in the dunes and Rooks, Jackdaws and Herring Gulls in the beachside car park. Around the golf course were groups of Linnet and Starling. We headed up the beach and I noticed a hirundine flying over the sand. At first I thought Swallow but it was actually a House Martin which turned out to be 1 of a group of 5, another year first. At that point it started pouring with rain so we headed back to the car but on the way I spotted a dead Puffin on the strand line that looked fairly fresh.

A quick coffee and a cake in Dornoch and we headed back down the A9 when my girlfriend spotted a Swallow flying over the road near to Tain, yet another first of the year and a nice end to the trip which takes me to over 100 species for the year.

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