Whats that to do with birds you are all saying. Well we hoped to see a few birds as well as getting to grips with snakes. Top of our bird list was Cuckoo and Whinchat.
We got involved in this thanks to the youngest of my offspring, Sydney. Sydney sent me a link to the event which was scheduled for 7th May. On booking a place on the walk I was told that it was fully booked but would I like to put my name down for the 'overspill' walk on 21st.
Glen Esk is over 80 miles away so even though the walk started at 10.00 it was an early start. I knew that the day was going to go well as only four of five miles from home I was joined for a few hundred yard of my drive down the A90 by a Short-eared Owl. Not a year tick but a good bird to get close views of. I have always thought of Short-eared Owls as winter birds in the lowlands that spent he summer on the high moors or across the North Sea in the Scandinavia. There are several birds spending the Summer in this part of lowland Scotland. I don't know if this a a new trend or something that has been going on for some tome.
During the drive up Glen Esk we saw a Stock Dove (a tick for me) As soon as we got out of the car at Invermark we heard a Cuckoo (another tick for me). We never got to see the bird, there may have been more than one, but hearing is enough for my year list.
By 10.00 everyone booked for the Reptile Walk had arrived. You will have noticed that I have only referred to people by their first names in the blog but for this one I am making an exception. The walk was led by Trevor Rose.
|Trevor Rose giving the introduction to the walk and the health and safety briefing|
You could not wish for a better guide than Trevor. Not only did he know about his subject he knew where to find them and was brilliant and getting across his enthusiasm for these often misunderstood creatures. We found within 100 yards of the car park five or six Slow Worms
It is not a worm and it is not all that slow so how it got its name ids a mystery to me. It is in fact a lizard without legs. Trevor gave lots of information about why it was a lizard and not a snake. The two things I remember are that it its mouth is different and unlike Snakes it cannot swallow large prey items (it eats slugs and real worms in the main) and that is has eyelids that Snakes lack. Trevor also told us that its tail as a proportion of its body length is much longer. I never thought of Snakes of Slow Worms an anything other than 'tail'.
Trevor let people handle the Slow Worms, the children in the group especially so that they would know that they are not slimy but felt as he said 'like your plastic toys'.
We came across several Adders on our walk to he end of Loch Lee. Basically Trevor knew his stuff and found them for the group. One of the snakes was out in the open. The others coaxed out.
|Trevor handling an Adder.|
We were allowed to get quite close them but not the last one we found.
This one, a female was ready to strike at anything that came too close. You can see from the blue haze across its eyes that it was ready to shed its skin. This meant that its eyesight was temporally poor which made it a wee bit tetchy, as it would.
This was the end of the guided reptile walk. Rather than join the others and go straight back to the car park we decided to explore the wooded area at the end of the loch.
It was full of bird life. A pair of Ring Ouzels, plenty of Willow Warblers, Chaffinches and a Spotted Flycatcher (at tick for Alex and a tick for me) and quite a bit more.
On the way back down the loch side and to the car park we came across more birds
Still got to see a Whinchat!
During the drive back home we talked as you do about birds to see and so on. Alex car was booked in o get the heating fixed and said that he didn't want to travel far. He might, he said go to Strathbeg for something like a Spoonbill or a Bluethroat.
We got back to Buchan to find that Facebook and Whatsap messaging was full of Spoonbill sightings at Strathbeg. Alex true to his word went there that evening. I didn't pick up the messages until it was getting dark I had to wait for the morning and hope that they were still there. And they were - they hadn't even woken up when I got there.
|Two Little Egrets and Three Spoonbills|
This one was taken with my camera phone.
|One Little Egret and Three Spoonbills|
I also took a shot of the wider view of the early morning at Strathbeg that also give you some idea about how far away they were..
But the day was not over yet. At tea time the social media started up again. This time it was a Bluethroat at Cairnbulg just a couple of miles up the road. Once more I was not in a position to respond immediately so by the time I got there a lot of the local birders had already arrived. Alex was there of course - he did say he would risk his car to go to see a Bluethroat. The bird did not stay in one place for very long it was going from the shore to the dunes and back, from the path to the rocks and back to the dunes and so on. Eventually I did get a photo or two. A smart looking bird with a red spot on its blue throat indicating that it had come from Scandinavia.
As Alex's rare bird predictions seem to be about right I'll have to ask whats coming up next.
Total on list 185