The Findhorn valley looking North
I travelled up to Scotland from York calling at 3 planned stops: the first was at Frankfield Loch east of Glasgow to see a blue-winged teal. Unfortunately it didn't show itself although it may have been dozing among the undergrowth at the far side of the loch along with all the other wildfowl. I pressed on!
Next I called at the Kelpies as I'd always wanted to see them.
Nearby I visited the boat lift known as the Falkirk Wheel but I didn't stay too long as I was running a bit late and it was throwing it down!
My adventure really begins! Loch Garten RSPB to try and see some crested tits. The coal tits were tame enough to feed from the hand! 'Cresties' turned up on the feeders...
...but I don't like feeder photos very much so I was pleased to get this shot...
Carrbridge for a coffee.The old bridge was built [so I was told] so that the dead could be buried on the other side of the river, well away from the village. Must have been a precarious last trip!
We headed for Strathdearn and the Findhorn Valley.
I love the Findhorn valley. The light is ever changing and the wildlife always has the potential to surprise. Dippers were spotted on the river as we headed for the end of the road.
Collared doves even found here!
A mistle thrush stood sentinel at the top of a larch.
My first red deer were spotted up on the hillside. This one was very high up and far away...
...but this group of 6 was much closer. On a walk to try to see mountain hares we saw a fox and a skein of geese flew over. No mountain hares were seen, alas. I've never seen one in Scotland although I did photograph some in the Peak District this year. A nice memory...
A group of stonechats were quite active by the river.
Roe deer spotted on the way back to the hotel.
A slightly roundabout journey to Skye. We called at Achnasheen station for a break and to see what birds were about. My first redwings of the autumn.
We took a diversion to Applecross to look for ptarmigans. We were lucky although it was scope views only. Nice flight views of 3 birds showing plenty of white although overall the plumage was far from full winter colour.
They're in this photo somewhere!
Panorama video clips from Applecross car park.
Soon we were on the Isle of Skye although I miss the ferry crossing - going over a bridge somehow detracts from the feeling of being on an island. Our lunch stop provided my first hooded crows of the holiday. I do like hooded crows - charismatic birds so I tend to take lots of pictures of them...
Last port of call was high up at Isleornsay CHECK A cheeky robin kept an eye on us!
Well, it's getting near Christmas!
Outside the hotel: a hooded crow on Broadford beach.
Starting the day where I left off... Another [or perhaps the same one] hooded crow near the hotel. I can't recall exactly what it was perched on...
...and I prefer not to wonder what it's eating!
Early morning at Broadford.
We set off again. Mergansers on a nearby CHECK sea loch.
Mergansers versus goosanders - I was told long ago: mergansers a bit scruffy; goosanders rather neat. May come in handy later.
Old Man of Storr. Photo taken on my phone but I then processed a telegraph pole out of the way. If you look carefully you may be able to tell. I can!
After lunch across from Staffin Island we cut off the northern loop road by taking the minor road C1225 west. We stopped here to look for raptors. Prolonged views of distant golden eagles from near Linicro. Always a thrill however distant.
I took lots of shots like this, hoping it might come closer. However we dropped down into Uig where I was truly thrilled and surprised to get really close eagle views including a buzzard mobbing the eagle. The eagle was unimpressed and soon dodged away. As you will see!
Unknown caterpillar - my best guess is fox moth as it's common and feeds on bilberry and heather. More expert help very welcome!
My photogenic hooded crow was waiting anxiously to be snapped first thing in the morning. Up on the hotel guttering...
This was a day to head more to the South of Skye. In the little harbour at Elgol on Loch Scavaig we saw rock pipits and cows with a taste for seaweed.
Next stop Torrin on the shore of Loch Slapin. Wonderful views in changing light conditions with a few distant waders - mainly turnstones plus a couple of ringed plovers.
Then the sun came out to play!
A lunch stop by the famous Eilean Donan Castle - just back on the mainland and back into the gloom! One of the most photographed castles - I had to try myself just using my iphone and a bit of post processing at home. At first it was misty but the light did change later.
En route back to Nethy Bridge we stopped for a drinks break at Loch Killin, east of Loch Ness. Sika deer and red kites seen in the area.
The river at Loch Killin and the loch itself.
Back at the hotel. From my bedroom window I saw a roe deer bathed in the last rays of the setting sun.
Another grand day!
We set off on a walk from the old Nethy Bridge station along the Speyside Way. The railway closed in 1963. The station today...
...and a very poor quality photograph of how it was once. Photo best seen from about six feet away!
The walk was good for yellowhammers - and frost!
Autumn in the hedgerow
We headed off to look for capercaillies again. This time we were very lucky as in the space of a couple of minutes two male 'capers' flew - one across in front of us and the other left to right on our right hand side. Amazing views of such a powerful flier going low over a more open area of moorland.
Not all my bird photos come out right! I hesitated before including this one taken through the glass of a minibus but this is a cock capercaillie in flight!!
Oh well. Can't win 'em all!
Lochindorb was our next stop - the loch with the ruined castle in the middle. Good for divers in summer. We saw red grouse plus a surprise hen harrier.
In the afternoon we finished up with a crossbill hunt. Not easy to photograph pointing high into the trees - recipe for an aching neck!
Including a vertical take-off crossbill!
The Moray Coast. Spey Bay was our first stop. A large piece of driftwood shouted photograph at me!
One of our party was lucky to spot a snow bunting. The bird was hard to spot among the dead plant material - grasses, red dock stems etc ... but with a bit of patient fieldcraft I managed to get some clear shots.
We stopped briefly at a small loch whose name escapes me. CHECK Mute swans drew the lens...
Lunch beside the River Lossie just before the river mouth. For a while it flows parallel to the sea protected by sand dunes. A family was paddling their little boat across to the dunes. Family dog had to swim!
The area is a busy wildfowl roost. I tried to capture some of the birds we saw.
I like trying to get gulls in flight. The birds were coming for discarded sandwiches! Black-headed gulls in their winter garb.
Lossiemouth Promenade had two seasons' worth of roses.
But even better were the birds just offshore. Brightly coloured eider, long-tailed ducks [they're the smaller ones]. These look like immatures.
Long-tailed ducks in first photo, then eiders, then they join up as one group.
And a rock pipit on the harbour wall.
Journeying back to Nethy Bridge we called at Roseisle near Burghead. The trees had an abstract feel to them like a repeating pattern. This is almost what the camera saw. I'm afraid I've cloned a woman and child out of the top left corner!
Black and white version.
Pretentious, moi?! version! 1980s LP sleeve version, perhaps.
Back to reality for the last time. Mergansers and goosanders together off Roseisle beach. Smart or tatty, remember?
It is much easier to 'kill' the speed of an aeroplane [even a jet fighter] than it is to take a pin sharp bird photo. Drone at Roseisle.
From the ridiculous to the sublime. A peregrine on the last leg of my trip.
Time to go home. But I'll be back.