Off the train and in the rain. With a few hours of daylight remaining I headed off to the bridge over the Spey on the road to Rothiemerchus. No sooner than I had done an Osprey floated over. Arse, no camera. Another followed soon after. All going off to the fish farm. I only got one bird last time I was here.
I wandered back along the Spey looking for Dipper and got two calling Redwing who flew into the trees on the other side of the river. I know they breed up here but a bit of a shock none the less. Another Osprey wasn't a shock.
Right two days to get: Scottish Crossbill, Crested Tit, Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Dotterel and maybe jam in on an Golden Eagle - though I have Oban as a back up in case this eagle doesn't materialise. Then another day traveling to Oban for Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Black Guillemot, Twite and anything else I can pick up. No problems if you have a car, I am on foot.
First day I planned to walk from Aviemore through Rothie and up Cairngorm, not a great distance but...
... and with luck could clear the Scottish sp in one day. Oh yeagh I am that confident.
Breakfast (got Osprey out of the window), however, is a great leveller. I managed the first part, Rothiemerchus, but too quickly gave up on part two, Cairngorm, as it started pissing down.
Of course after I gave up it became rather pleasant again, but I was miles back along the path to Aviemore.
Didn't take too long this time to find Crested Tit, and by the end of Loch Malachie I'd found about 20-30. Scotland's Crossbill or any Crossbill were another matter. There just weren't that many about. According to to [...............] not all crossbill north of Perth are necessarily Scotties, a guy I met in Garmouth in the spring was of the opposite view - they all were. So basically I was going to have to identify them on call, and if I actually saw any in the trees, which I did but distantly, on structure. By the time I had given up on the assault on Britain's seventh highest peak, I had satisified myself on both counts (thanks to a bit of research I'd done on the train - it has been known!).
More Spotties and even a Wood Warbler in amongst the tit flocks and along the southern shores of Malachie, a Common Redstart or two, and while getting lost down a wrong turn a family of Tree Pipit. For long stretches of woodland track nothing, save me, the wind in the trees, the interaction of water and stone, and the buzzing of insects. No capers though. Always tomorrow!
After breakfast (Osprey while killing time waiting for the Tourist Information centre to open), a quick skip down to the Spey and the Sand Martin bank. The path follows a little burn through the fields for a short while before giving itself up to the river. And what do you know, in the smallest stream I'd seen this last ten days - a Dipper!
I had a bout 20 minutes to enjoy the Sand Martins at their colony before the hourly bus to Cairngorm, the sun shone, it was wonderful. A lone falcon moved through the hurtling mass of martin, I assumed a Peregrine, I took some snaps which showed Hobby. Local rarity I would have thought.
Forty-five minutes later I am getting off the bus and thinking, there must be a walk for "all abilities" up this bugger.
I took it.
Missed the turn and ended up on the same route as last year. It seems I haven't got any fitter, but at least there wasn't a 70mph wind trying to blow me across the mountain. I revisted my sheltered view point behind a tor from last year, with exactly the same results: no Ptarmigan or Dotterel.
This might be tricky.
What I did get was a far-off eagle gradually floating nearer. Sweet.
The news from the top was not encouraging, while a guided tour had picked up a Ptarmigan, Dotterel hadn't been seen for a few weeks. I really wanted to see both. Oban might have to be put off.
It was still a nice day and fortified with lunch I set off for the summit. I needn't have been worried, within a 100 yards I had spotted a Ptarmigan doing very little and a family of 3 Dotterel busying themselves close to the path. Fan-bloody-tastic. I had a small crowd gathered with me now and I was trying to explain to French and Dutch what we were looking at.
Could have gone back down there and then but the summit was just so close, it had to be done and the guided tour had found Snow Bunting and that would have been nice. Summits are a bit dull aren't they?
Back on the way down got a Reindeer out of the train window....