Monday, 15 July 2013

A busy weekend (Part.1)...

Last week was tough at work with temperatures above 20c all week and I was hoping that the good weather would remain as I had a couple of things lined up for the weekend past.

On Saturday (13th) it was off to Kinlochewe near to Beinn Eighe NNR again for a day of free upland bird training run by the BTO. The weather stayed good and myself and my friend Luke headed to the village hall where the event was to take place. Overall there was about 20+ people which turned out to be a good mix of birders, people with some interest, hillwalkers and representatives from outdoor activity companies.

The morning starting with introductions from Ben Darvill and Anne Cotton from BTO Scotland then Ben gave an introduction to the day ahead and some background to the BTO. We were then provided with some general techniques for bird identification before having a short coffee break. After the break we got stuck into some upland bird ID which took the form of a presentation and group work. It was then time for a half hour lunch and then it was off out for the afternoon.

Once everyone was ready we headed up into one of the valleys near to Beinn Eighe on foot to put some of the stuff we had taught into practice. For the first part of the walk there seemed to be not much around in terms of upland birds apart from numerous Meadow Pipits when all of a sudden a shout went up for "RING OUZEL". I caught sight of the bird off to the right which then flew up and over the group to the other side of the track before we lost it in the bracken. The bird was very brown and everyone was in a agreement that it was a female. A first for me and bit of a bogie bird that I hadn't had much luck seeing in the last 3 years. We carried on further when another shout went up for "GOLDEN EAGLE" and in fact there were 2, soaring high above one of the ridges but they gave good views through the binoculars and they really were unmistakable due to the sheer size. There day was turning out to be superb as this was another first for me even after 25 years in the Highlands. But it was to get even better. An employee from SNH had come out with the group and she pointed out an eyrie belonging to the eagle pair about 300m away high on top of one of the crags. This thing was huge, easily 10 foot across and when someone got a scope on it there was in fact a juvenile bird perched out on the edge. 3 Golden eagles with 10 minutes when before I hadn't seen one ever. Further up the track we enjoyed the rare Azure Hawker dragonfliess near to the stream, another first for me. The group was split into two smaller groups and Luke and I were catching up to the lead group as they had stopped after hearing what they thought was the call of a Peregrine and were trying to locate it. Turns out it was 2 Merlin and they burst out of nowhere and we spent a good 10 mins enjoying an aerial chase between the two of them as they almost grappled in the air. More knowledgeable people in the group agreed that they were 2 young birds.

We then made our way back to the village hall in Kinlochewe where Ben and Anne talked about Birdtrack recording and gave more information about the What's Up? project which is encouraging people to record more of their bird sightings in upland areas where data is currently lacking. There was also some more details on the mountain transect survey which is a more formal approach to recording above 750m. So please click the link and get involved if you can, especially if you enjoy hillwalking.

So in all in all the day turned out to be very beneficial in the morning, some superb birding in the afternoon and best of all it was all free. Thank you very much to BTO Scotland, Ben and Anne for putting on the day.

Year List Additions:
122. Ring Ouzel (Lifer)
123. Golden Eagle (Mega-lifer)
124. Merlin

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