Saturday, 25 May 2013

A weeks Hillwalking and birding

Well third time lucky, with one aborted trip and another abandoned we finally managed a week in Scotland. Travelled up a week last Thursday and the next morning we travelled across Scotland from Perth to Oban to catch the 10am ferry, I had underestimated how long it would take and we were nearly 90 minutes early. Oban harbour held several Black Guillemot on the ferry over I picked up a bird miles away it looked like White-tailed Eagle, but it was just too far away to count.

Me, Joy, Karen and Colin awaiting the Ferry at Oban

Ben More on Mull
We arrived at the foot of Ben More (Mull’s only Munro), it was busy with several cars present. I picked up a year tick by the car with a couple of Twite. Considering it was the first hill of the year we were sitting at the cairn in around two hours, but not before I had another year tick – a fine female Snow Bunting. Didn’t do a fat lot on Saturday but on Sunday Joy and I walked about eight miles down Glen Quaich, we saw Whinchat, Black Grouse and Red Grouse. We went back to my mothers in Perth when I received a text from my birding mate in Scotland Stuart Green, to inform me that he had found a  Scarlet Rosefinch and Red-backed Shrike just north of Arbroath, he didn’t know I was in Scotland!

Joy and I headed off but by the time we arrived it was cold and dull and there was little activity. Mind you between Perth and Auchmithie the Albion went from 5-2 down to United to 5-5 so it was hard to be disappointed. Whilst there I met a local birder Mark Cant who said the Rosefinch was very mobile, we called it a day!

On Monday we were up early to travel to Loch Mullordoch which is west of Cannich – I had arranged for a boat to take us the length of the Loch so we could climb the Glen’s four Munro’s. The seven miles it saved made it do-able in a day. As we were dropped off I had a pair of Black-throated Diver. It was a fair clump up to the top of the day’s first Munro An Socach accompanied by thick cloud. Fortunately because this was a fairly narrow ridge for most of the way there was a good path. We saw a few Ptarmigan near the summit but bird wise that was all that we had. An Riabhachan was next and this took nearly an hour and a half, as the ridge twisted one way then another. It was a big decent and an even bigger rise the to the next hill Sgurr na Lapaich, by this time the wind had picked up and the temperature dropped considerably, I was also starting to feel the pace – this was turning into a big day! On the decent from Sgurr na Lapaich the visibility was poor with the angle of decent alarming, our decent was halted by a snow field, we could not see where it went, the only sign being footprints – heading down! Colin and I used our walking poles and gingerly decended, with Joy and Karen behind, I heard a cry and turning round saw Joy sliding down the slope on her backside followed by Karen. Fortunately, the managed to stop themselves, I thought they were getting a bit cocky, until they informed us they had slipped and not done it on purpose.

Being dropped off by the boat at Loch Mullordoch
The cairn of An Socach 

One of the other four Munro’s that day, the views were the same from them all.
We kept losing height and for the first time it started to clear a little and we could see what was in front of us – the day’s last Munro Carn nan Gobhar, I wish it had stayed hidden as it looked a big climb, as it happened it wasn’t that bad, we were soon on the top and heading down the south-east ridge back to the loch and the car – all in all it took us eleven hours.

The next day I fancied a days birding in Angus, Joy and I arrived at Auchmithie and I was rumbling around in the boot when Joy shouted to me “What’s That” I looked up to see a stunning male Scarlet Rosefinch, no sooner had I got it in my bins it was off, and we never saw it again. We had a good day although we didn’t see any significant birds apart from a Marsh Harrier at Montrose Basin. I did meet Simon the man responsible for the RSPB’s Scottish Reserves at Ethie Mains whilst we were searching for Red-backed Shrike, I had met him last year at Ethie Mains whilst looking for – you guessed it Red-backed Shrike.

Beinn Bhrotain from Monadh Mor

The summmit of Monadh Mor
With the weather forecast going down hill we decided to hill walk again on Wednesday in the Cairngorms. Joy and I needed to two to complete that area and Colin and Karen one hill. Fortunately both hills started at the same point so we travelled up together. They headed north to Beinn Mheadhoin whilst Joy and I went west to Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor. What should have been a straightforward day got off to a bad start when we lost the path and lost a bit of time. We got to the outlying top of Carn Cloich-mhullinn and headed north-west to Beinn Bhrotain. It was then that I realised I had made a mistake, I had taken a larger more detailed map, but due tothe gale force winds I couldn’t open it, we could hardly hear each other speak. Looking ahead there were two humps we headed for the one on the right which proved to be the north-east spur, it wasn’t too much to recover and we were sitting on the summit in little more than four hours.

Joy was starting to panic as we were hit with a snow storm but it cleared a little and I at least got a peek of Monadh Mor and its layout. We set off but by the time we hit the plateau of Monadh Mor it was covered in thick cloud, following the compass we marched north-west, I knew that if we had to we could head north and take the escape route down into Glen Geusachan, something I didn’t really want to do. We were only 100 yards from the summit when the cloud cleared and we had stunning views. We decided not to stop and eat but to head back the way we had come. On the way back I had a stunning female Dotterel just before we were hit by another snow storm. We arrived back at the car in just over ten hours, that night the Cairngorms where hit by blizzards with roads blocked, we were lucky, but it was the end of hill walking for the week!

We travelled home on Friday to find a large Oak tree in the garden lying on its back, I have spend the 24 hours since trying to move it!

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