An implausibly silly idea.
Twitch a bird on an island 750 miles away, for the day! And if all goes pants have a little trip round the Scottish mountains. Sounds great, count me in.
With so much on the itinerary it was bound to go pear shaped, but what transpired was declared by one and all as one of the best little trips we've ever had. Does help if some good planning goes into the idea, so I wasn't needed for that.
First an overnight stop in Carlisle and then after a hearty, artery lining, Scottish breakfast we tackled a likely Black Grouse haunt somewhere north of Perth. Plenty of stoopid Red Grouse and somewhat surprisingly a Grey Partridge, but none of their more enigmatic black cousins, so we headed north and higher to Glen Shee for Ptarmigan. The visibility was hopeless, down to a few 10s of metres at intervals, so trying to pick something white on a white background in a white out at times, proved slightly too much. We did get some native Snow Bunting, a few Mountain Hare, and a pile of Red Deer and cold.
On the other side of the mountains things became slightly more hospitable and, as we drove towards Aberdeen, the ever alert Bradders picked up a Red Kite as it soared across the road. Lovely scenery but not much time to enjoy it as we had a ferry to catch. No room for silly school boy errors like missing it!
While the others got outside a few of the local brews in the bar, ever the birder I was having a sneaky one out the back of the boat, hoping for something. Dunno what, but got Eider, Red-breasted Merg and a rather strange looking gull that decided to take advantage of hitching a lift.
A small crowd of birders, booze and a load of anecdotes meant the evening passed quickly then it was back to the dungeon of our berth, which smelled like the inside of an oil tanker. Four large men, one small room - not the best night sleep I've ever had. Bring on the finch!