Sunday, 3 March 2013

Cromarty (27/02)...

Bit of a late post but last Wednesday (27/02) the weather was superb (as it was most of the week) so I decided to head out for a good long walk near to Cromarty. I set off early in the morning and I stopped off at Udale Bay. This is the first time I have been here since they built the new hide and it really is fantastic. Unfortunately all the viewing windows were covered in condensation but it was ok because it was the wrong time of the day to visit with high tide around 1pm so I planned to pop in again on my way back. I still had a look at the bay and there were plenty of the usual suspects, geese, teal, wigeon, mallard, lapwing, redshank and a handful of Bar-tailed Godwits on the banks of the burn.

I headed on to Cromarty to begin my walk. I parked near to the fishing habour and straight away I could see Long-Tailed Ducks off the small pier. All of a sudden a tour bus parked behind me and I was surrounded by 50 or so tourists so I didn't hang around for long and made my way towards Cromarty beach. The walk I had chosen would take me up and over the South Sutor and around the headland to the South shore then cut back across the farmland into Cromarty.

Route map.
From Cromarty beach I could see more Long-Tailed Ducks offshore and small rafts of Eiders on the flat calm water. Plenty of Shag were also fishing just off the beach. On the beach itself there were up to 4 Rock Pipits and small numbers of Redshank.

View from the beach

Towards the end of the beach the route starts going uphill through mixed coastal woodland. Plenty of Chaffinch, Blackbird and Robin singing. Plenty of Tits flitting about in the canopy too. The path is quite steep in places but it's well worth it when you get to the top of the South Sutor. The views are spectacular especially on a clear day like I had. Near the top is a carpark with a viewpoint and a bonus was a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from the top of a Spruce tree.

View from the top.
Looking across to the North Sutor
The route then took me farmland and rough grazing. I could plenty of Skylarks singing and it was hard to remember it was only late February. It was so warm though that it felt like Summer at times. In the corner of one of the fields close to the cliff tops was a small area of open woodland. This small patch held Song Thrush, singing Yellowhammers, Wrens, Tit species, Dunnocks and a handful of Meadow Pipits I flushed from the long grass.

Carrying on along the muddy route I was able to get great views of the South side of the Black Isle and the Moray Firth. As I moved from one field to the next I finally saw some of the Skylarks that I had been hearing.Something also caught my eye jumping around in the bracken which at first I thought was a deer but on closer look it was actually a fox.

The route now started to gradually descend towards the South shore. I was heading for a spot called McFarquhar's Bed. Eventually the route came to a steep descent into this little cove. There was no-one else there so I had the place and the views to myself. A great point to stop for lunch. There is also a pretty impressive cave here shaped by the waves.

I sat down to lunch looked across the water to see if I could spot anything. Some more distant Eiders, fly by Cormorants and plenty of gulls. Then a smaller bird closer to shore caught my eye which turned out to be a Guillemot. I was then treated to several fly-bys from a couple of Fulmars 

After lunch I retraced my steps for a short distance and then headed across the ridge of headland directly back towards Cromarty. On the way down to Cromarty I was rewarded with more fantastic views, this time towards Ben Wyvis.

Ben Wyvis in the distance through the heat haze.
Looking across towards Nigg yard.
Nothing else of note seen on the way back to the car but a very enjoyable walk. It was now time to get back to Udale Bay but as I came up to the carpark at the side of the road it was jammed packed with people and cars and in true Anti-Social Birder style I decided not to bother. Although for anyone heading there soon I did see a record of 12 Smew there just last week which I myself had been hoping to see!

Year List Additions:
77. Bar-Tailed Godwit
78. Eider
79. Rock Pipit
80. Great Spotted Woodpecker
81. Meadow Pipit
82. Skylark
83. Guillemot
84. Fulmar

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