The best day of the holiday for me started early. Dad and I woke up at 4:30 am for a 'Caper Watch' event at Loch Garten. This was a daily event at the reserve where every morning for six weeks in spring, a warden opens up the centre to help us find capercaillies. A capercallie is a large and rare grouse found in the Scottish Highlands. The male is an impressive looking, turkey-sized bird and during spring, he is busy displaying in an area known as a lek to attract the smaller, camouflaged females. The males can get pretty aggressive at this time of year and they will fight anything that gets too close and perform in their leks more during early mornings. This, however, does not make them easy to see as they tend to hide away in vegetation. The reserve had cameras everywhere and thanks to them, I was lucky enough to be shown not just one from a scope, but a second from a live camera. Both were males and were just a distant head poking out from the heather. They never came out to reveal that fanned tail of theirs but it was still a successful morning of 'Caperwatching' nonetheless.
|At the top with Mum|
We went around Loch Ness in search of Nessie, but she was nowhere to be found. At Loch Ruthven, we saw the only breeding pair of Slavonian grebes in the UK. Dad and I left Mum in the rented car as we made our way down a muddy path to the loch. A group of birders were also here in this isolated location and allowed us to look at them through their scope. Lovely looking birds, but then the moment was disrupted as Mum had accedently triggered off the car's alarm somehow. Our time with the grebes was made brief as we made our way back through the mud to turn the alarm off.
There was one small Scottish bird that I had been hoping to see most of all during our holiday, the crested tit. This is a bird with a punk-like crest that lives in the Caladonian pine forests. Though they are more widespread across Europe, in the UK you can only find them here in Scotland. After our 3rd visit to RSPB Loch Garten, we went down the road to Abernethy Forest, a section of Caladonian forest bordering Loch Garten. It was very muddy, but the good luck continued as we found several crested tits in the tree tops and we even watched one feed a youngster. During my Scottish adventure, I also saw my first ever redstarts, wood warblers and wood anemones as well as a colony of wood ants, leaping salmon and goldeneyes. It was probably one of my best holidays in the UK so far. I would love to go back to Scotland one day as I still haven't ticked off a pine marten or an eagle of any kind from my Scottish list.