Now for something completely different. Scotland is quite insanely far north (well, it is if you live in the Midlands).
We stayed at the superb, self-catering Grianan cottage at Balliefurth Farm near Grantown-on-Spey. Top farm, top cottage, bargain price, and a bottle of wine in the fridge when we arrived. Recommended!
Started off nice and easy with a quick stop in Nethybridge - Dipper and Grey Wagtail on the River Nethy. Next stop, RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre at... Loch Garten. It has to be done. I was pleased to see that, after an absence of 38.5 hours, Henry the gentleman Osprey had delivered an 18" trout to EJ, his lady friend, and taken over nest duties. Good.
Went for a wander around the forest and heard a couple of crossbills (note usage of lower-case 'c') but unfortunately didn't get a look at them. Also the usual selection of Common Sandpipers, Goldeneye, Wigeon and Siskins on/around the loch.
We were both eager for eagles so the next destination was the mighty Findhorn valley. Having been to Wales a couple of weeks previously, we're now old hands at upland birds, though singing Ring Ouzels and Wheatears are still the business.
It's a bit like birding in mainland Europe, as you can just pull up anywhere safe by the road, scan around and see good stuff.
By a small burn, two Spotted Flycatchers (year tick!) and a male Redstart fly for insects while a Tree Pipit breaks into song. An Arctic Tern dips into the Findhorn itself in search of fish, catches one and heads off downstream. Rock Pipits flit around the boulders and Curlews and Oystercatchers inhabit the meadows.
Big herd of Red Deer (Monarch of the Glen etc etc). Summer-plumaged Common Gulls pottering about. Very noisy Peregrine calling constantly... Darren catches sight of a big, dark thing which turns out to be a Golden Eagle, but I only got onto it as its tail vanished over the ridge. It was a big tail, mind you - couldn't have been anything else!
Flushed a Woodcock from the roadside on the way out of the valley.
Species added today:
154. Spotted Flycatcher
155. Arctic Tern
156. Golden Eagle