This account, which is in several parts, covers my trip up to Scotland as well as the holiday itself.
I headed north from York at dawn, planning to spend as much time as possible in the Dunkeld area, notably at the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve at Loch of the Lowes. First visited a year earlier I think it's the best place to watch and photograph ospreys. Here are some of the results. The volunteer guide explained that, unusually, both birds were on nest duties and the female liked to go off and have a fly round and have a bathe in the loch. Not sure how often this has been photographed but it was all very exciting for me.
Back at the nest site... Also at this site were redpolls and lots of siskins. The red squirrels were too quick for me when I tried to photograph them out and about. Only at the feeders did they remain still enough for a shot! Originally I had thought of spending an extra day at the end of the holiday going to Strontian for the long-staying american black duck. That evening I decided after messing with the satnav that it was feasible to head west [but not in a straight line!] via the Corran ferry to Strontian, see the bird [a lifer for me] and then head north for Aviemore and Nethy Bridge. Calculations gave me 3 hours to find the bird, often described as elusive, 'frequenting the river mouth or loitering outside the shop.'
Strontian is the tiniest place and barely warrants the importance maps seem to give it! A few buildings and a pull-in car park with a group of kayakers busy unloading. I got out of Tiggy, stretched and spotted a group of birders down the far end under some birch trees. I grabbed my bins and started to walk over. One of the birders gave a thumbs up. I ran over and looked in his scope. Later, I got the camera...3 hours all done in 10 minutes! Accompanied by a mallard - it is a drake, by the way. Note the blue speculum - lifer 432
A greenshank was also out on the wet grassland. I took the Corran ferry for a second time. Black guillemots nest in the old pier that's about 50 metres from the ferry slipway.
We began around Loch Garten looking for crested tits. I managed a reasonable shot of a red squirrel. Crested tits were seen but only fleetingly. Here's one from last year. A drive round an estate looking for capercaillie proved fruitless but our lunch stop, high up overlooking the A9 far below and miles of open moorland, proved amazing as some putative scottish crossbills thrilled us all.
Comfort break at Carrbridge. Some of us saw a pair of dippers. I snapped the bridge with my phone. We ended up at Lochindorb looking for a black-throated diver in rapidly fading light. A very dark red grouse appeared... ...together with its mate. Redshanks and common sands were seen as well as the diver.