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Day 8 - Day 2 in the Cairngorms

The Cairngorms fail to live up to expectations

semi-overcast 15 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

We had been told that Avielochan was a great place to see Slavonian Grebes, a rare species. We had the hide to ourselves, though quite chilly as the wind was blowing straight in. With the wind blowing towards us, I thought we would have a good chance to see these grebes close to the hide, as other people we had met had done, Eventually, we did see one, possibly two but on the far side of the loch, just recognisable. The only other birds we saw there were Greylag Geese, Black-headed Gulls and Goldeneye but none close enough for acceptable photography, so I will include just the attractive view we had from the hide.


RSPB Abernethy was highly recommended so we moved on there. The young woman at the entry "gate" told us much about how valuable this tiny relict part of the great Caledonian Forest is but, unlike other RSPB places we have been, did not offer a map and didn't seem to have much idea what we could do, other than go up to the Visitor Centre. This site is renowned for its Ospreys and when we reached the centre, we found that we could see nests, out on Loch Garten, through digiscopes or nest cams which we could have watched from home! We watched Siskins and other birds making good use of the feeder just outside the viewing window. There were some walk tracks but we had no idea where these went and, in any case, were still stiff from yesterday, so just wandered down to the edge of a body of water (possibly an arm of Loch Garten but without a map we couldn't say) where there some good views through the forest.


The advice received from our hotel seems to be rather more hopeful than accurate! According to the blurb, at Loch An Eilein we could sit in our car and birdwatch (just up our street!) as with the bird feeders in the car park, we could be certain to see Crested Tits (one of our wish list, as mentioned). We happily and hopefully drove there only to find no bird feeders and mighty few birds! We settled for a walk along the shore of the loch to see the ruined castle on an island. We had to share this with groups of off-road cyclists who were incredibly noisy - it is a family-oriented place so I had half expected something like this but they were rather inconsiderate of others. We did find a quiet area by the loch where we watched a very smart Mallard cruise by, while Siskins and Pied Wagtails hopped around on rocks and shore.


We then decided to try RSPB Insh Marshes where there is a circular hide from which we had panoramic, if distant, views of the marshes below us. We could make out some birds but not sufficiently well for photography. However, just outside the curved window was a set of bird feeders and on these we had close encounters with Chaffinches, Coal Tits and Blue Tits, Siskins, Pheasants (including a melanistic one - darker than usual plumage), a Great Tit and a Robin. This was an enjoyable spot and, if time had permitted, we would probably have made a return visit

As we left Insh Marshes, we spotted Ruthven Barracks - an imposing ruin which, after earlier castles had been destroyed, was created early in the 18th century as a defence against Jacobite rebels. One attack by about 300 rebels was repulsed by a dozen soldiers but when some 3,000 Jacobites, retreating from their defeat at Culloden, attacked they overwhelmed the fortified barracks and left them in the ruins which can be seen today. Unfortunately, like a few places we have been in Scotland, visitors are temporarily barred - mainly while renovations take place.


A somewhat mixed day but overall rather disappointing. Even the scenery that we have seen so far has not been as impressive as expected, although it has been great to see some wonderful woodlands. We have relatively little woodland in Suffolk so it is really nice to see the variety of forest that exists in Scotland.

Posted by SteveJD 17:48 Archived in Scotland Tagged birds scotland cairngorms

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