Time for a catch-up: Twitching Scotland!

I've been so busy over the past few months I've been neglecting to keep my blog up to date and so, after an interesting trip to Scotland this weekend, I decided it was about time I wrote something down.

You never know how useful this stuff can be but I have been contacted on several occasions with requests for help on certain areas I've visited. The most recent one was for the Cuban Grassquit site which was successfully relayed and the birds seen!

Not that this post will offer much of that of course. In the middle of last week, John Wright contacted me about the possibility of going for the American Herring Gull and possibly the American Coot which were both a fair way from home (for them and me!). The weather had been good and so we made plans. though the forecast took a turn for the worse AND the AHG was being rather difficult, we nevertheless decided to head off on Friday evening, stopping at my sister-in-law's place in Glasgow before heading towards Campbelltown on the Mull of Kintyre.

It's a long way. Just short of three hours and that's early on a Saturday morning with no traffic. The wind was picking up and it was rather drizzly but we made good progress with brief stops to look at some flocks of Geese. Campbelltown harbour held a few gulls but all were Herring Gulls. There were a few Black Guillemots and Eider along with a lone Guillemot and female Common Scoter. The American Herring Gull (our quarry in the area) had been elusive of late so we wasted no time in searching out the 'known' haunts. One spot near a school didn't have many gulls but there were lots of Greenland White-fronted Geese, Greylag Geese and a few Barnacle Geese.

Next it was off to the area near the airport where we found a HUGE flock of gulls - mainly Herring with a few Lesser Black-backs, Common and Black-headeds.And then there was the first of five Iceland Gulls (we had three first winters, one second winter and an adult during the day) but still no sign of the first-winter American. We tried another spot but again drew a blank. We toured the area again (with a brief stop for tea and bacon butties) but to no avail so after four hours we decided to head back up the peninsula to tick of the two Snow Geese before returning once again to the Mull.

We'd had a few 'candidate' birds but on a final look around the airport we bumped into a small flock in which was a good candidate - and another birder was watching. John lept out of the car and the gulls took flight to join the larger throng and the other birder confirmed that that was the bird - it had come into the harbour briefly where he'd picked it up before heading inland. We then managed to find it again and had several good views of it - not a classic perhaps as it was starting to moult and perhaps the reason we'd not picked it up earlier. The strong winds hadn't helped all day.

We headed north and stopped overnight in Oban, finding a rather nice B&B that accomodated our early start and at a very reasonable price (Raniven). We hadn't gone far when we noticed Black Guillemots sitting on the quayside - they were very approachable as around 20+ gathered for some courtship display on the jetties and in the harbour.
We eventually set off to Inverness - again just short of three hours on quiet roads. Just beyond was the winter abode of an American Coot on Loch Flemington and it was much more obliging than the gull though didn't want to come out into the open water where it was buffeted by the wind. However it gave us views one might expect of a Coot!
John had seen American Coot many years ago on one of the only other ones to make mainland landfall. The other one was a day visitor to Walney as we unsuccessfully twitched a Crag Martin at Swithland Reservoir in Leicestershire! ALl other birds have bee on the extremities of the country so this birds has been visited by many. In fact it was by fifth American British tick in a row - Killdeer, Buff-bellied Pipit, Myrtle Warbler, AHG and this.

Next stop was Speyside; we weren't going to climb the heights of the Cairngorms (or even take the Ski-lift) as was the original plan as there were winds of 90 mph on the tops so we satisfied ourselves with nice views of Crested Tits and Crossbills (Common ones) at Loch Garten before heading for home.

As we traveled down the A9, we wanted somewhere to stop off and have a break - a Ring-billed Gull just south of Perth seemed a good choice (in fact Hobson's choice), so we headed for Newburgh on the Tay estuary. the tide was high and there were no birds around but after an hour wandering up and down the front, some gulls started to appear and as if by magic, the RBG duly landed in front of us and took a penchant to M&S chocolate Chip Cookies.
We finally arrived home just before 10 pm - just a little knackered!

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