Now this was a big trip. Brian asked if I wanted to go to the upper Findhorn Valley, otherwise known as 'Raptor Alley'. The goal was to find a Golden Eagle. Quick check with Jill that there were no other plans and we were good to go. We started at 7.00am and I got back home at 6.30pm. In addition to Strathdearn we called in at Spey Bridge just outside Grantown on Spey to find a Hawfinch. This is where I had seen them on the 8th January and where we had both seen them last year. Brian wanted Hawfinch for his year list. It had been reported that one had been seen three days before. Finding one Hawfinch along the banks of the Spey was always going to be a difficult task. There were Chaffinches, Greenfinches, a Song Thrush, Mistle Thrushes, Blue and Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests but no Hawfinch. On the water we saw a pair of Grey Wagtails, a Dipper and a pair of Mallards. The other notable sighting was a Weasel in the road just as we got to Spey Bridge.
It is another hours drive to the Upper Findhorn Valley. the last ten miles is on a single track road with passing places. The local council seemed to have skimped on the size of the passing places.
At one point we had to back up to let a car past. Now Brian knew what he was doing and I knew that Brian knew what he was doing but that still doesn't help the nerves when you are looking out of the passenger window and the edge of the road is mighty close and there is a 30 foot or more drop into the valley below and the 'your are getting too close' beeper is going like mad because to get the two cars past each other wing mirrors had to be folded in.
But we got there all in one piece. As soon as we got out of the car Brian shouted 'There's a Mountain Hare' pointing up a seemingly barren mountain side. He was right, there was a mountain Hare.
|Mountain Hare taken with a 400mm lens from the car park|
|Mountain Hare Looking Cross|
When we got down to the valley floor and looked back we saw that the Hare had returned to the same spot.
This is when the walking started. It is a one and a quarter mile slog along the track to get into Eagle territory. The only things of interest we saw were two Ravens and some Feral Goats This would make mammal number five if you count the road kill badger and squashed rat.
|Our Walking Companion|
|Brian Scanning the Skyline for Eagles|
Did I mention that the scenery was stunning? It was stunning.
As we had yet to find an Eagle we thought that it would be foolish not to explore the path that continued up the valley. About a mile along here we saw it, a Golden Eagle. I have to admit that we were a little confused. The bird came into sight from behind us and soared above the mountain to our right, it then disappeared from sight. A moment later what we thought was the bird reappeared but this time it was clear that it was only a Buzzard. We had to examine the photos we took of the first bird to reassure ourselves that we had indeed seen a Golden Eagle.
|You are Kidding|
In all we had been out away for about five hours so you won't be surprised to know that the Mountain Hare was still in its mountain side niche.
Total on list 126