On Sunday 15th May, Cherry and I drove up to Carlisle as our stop over night on the way to Scotland.

We left at 8.15am and arrived at 3.15pm. It was a beautiful day, sunny and dry and of course much fewer large lorries at the weekend.

On the way up we watched a beautiful mute swan fly over the road near Exeter, flying towards Exmouth in the bright sunshine. Later we saw ravens, the usual crows including a jay and a red kite in Gloucestershire.

As we moved from the M5 to the M6 an unmarked police car shot in front of us and over about a mile slowed all lanes from 70mph to a standstill – very professionally done. Then after a few minutes we were allowed on our way, but on the opposite side there was an eight mile stand still queue.

We arrived at our hotel and left the following morning. Instead of sunshine which we had had all the way to Carlisle we now drove in solid rain all the way to Grantown on Spey.

On 17th May we drove to Findhorn Valley and spotted a Golden eagle within 20 minutes. That day’s spotting is shown on the attached sheets.

Among the other highlights were the superb limousin bulls, Highland cattle with their shaggy teddy bear like calves and the sleeker looking Aberdeen angus herd with cows, bull and more delicate looking calves. Nothing could be further from the truth. All the Scottish breeds are extremely tough and hardy. We saw two separate brown hares large, still and staring at us with their “devils’ eyes”, a bit like a goat. Among others, we saw greenfinches, a bird we have not seen in Cornwall for some three years. Oddly enough after such a long time we had been visited by two different greenfinches on the morning that I am writing this report. Another bird seen was a female ring ouzel. They are rare on Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.

We always enjoy seeing the mistle thrush, substantially larger than our common song thrush. We do see them, but not as often. Hearing our first cuckoo of the holiday was a further highlight, as was the female greenfinch seen feeding on the ground.

On 18th May we visited Loch Garten Osprey Centre and were thrilled to be able to see a sitting osprey. On live video feed the centre showed us young sea eagles on the nest and a goshawk sitting on eggs. We saw another female crossbill.

We then went on to Lochindorb where I, but only I, caught a quick sight of the black throated diver, and our first red grouse pair.

The wind was high and the surface of the loch very ruffled, making sightings very difficult. We would return!

On a small pond on the way however, really just a flooded lower end of a farmed field, we watched a fine collection of ducks, mallard, garganey, gadwall and wigeon as well as the usual waders. We did however spot marsh harriers.

On Thursday 19th, in the morning, we visited Avielochan Hide, exclusively for the use of Grant Arms Hotel guests. There, we had good sightings of the Slavonian grebe, sand martins hunting over the water of this small loch together with golden eye, tufted duck.

Later that day we went to Loch Insh, where the female osprey was sitting on her nest on the island high in a tree with her mate sitting quietly next to her. The other special sighting was a pied flycatcher and a quiet tree creeper kept up our interest.

On Friday 20th, we decided to visit Spey Bay and the north coast drive to Port Gordon and other villages, harbours and bays including Cullen where the famous Cullen Skink, the soup of potatoes and smoked haddock originates. On the trip there we saw an enormous swift, eventually identified as an Alpine Swift. In the bay itself, the most beautiful blue purple lupins were growing, actually on the pebble beaches aside of the bay and set against wonderful yellow gorse both shining in the sunlight, it was a botanical feast. We only saw gulls, mute swans, wheatear and linnet in the bay near the car park.

We visited the Dolphin Centre which was well worth the visit. We did not however, see any dolphins or other whales either.

However, as we drove around to the next bays we watched the fabulous eider ducks, common scoters alongside goosanders. Skylarks lit the sky with their song in the background. We had one sighting of a dolphin, but dozens of seals playing together, bottling and snoozing on the surface of the water.

On our trip back a weasel ran in front of the car and willow warblers were skulking around.

It was not until the Saturday, 20th that we spotted our first red squirrel at the local wood. Later we went to Lochindorb again. It was not so windy but still sunny. On our way we spotted a red kite and a great spotted woodpecker and there we did have very good sightings of the male black throated diver. On the way there we saw a green woodpecker and a cock crossbill; merganser and common sandpiper just before the diver.

We had spotted red deer, red squirrel, rabbits, brown hare as well as the birds related. However, one of the most interesting was being able to walk along the road (closed at the normal entrance) with a huge flock of common gulls, sitting on eggs. I took some good photos.

The whole week was a huge success; the weather was good to us, the Grant Arms Hotel, a fabulous hotel, eatery and retreat with lovely staff and every facility available.
We are already looking forward to next year – we saw ninety-five birds and eleven mammals (including roadside casualties)!

List of animals seen on our trip

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