Thursday, 22 May 2014

19th May – Seana Bhraigh

This is another hill regarded as one of the most remote. The starting point is about ten miles south of Ullapool. We were up at 5.00am and drove north arriving just before 9.00am. We started and it was relatively straight forward until after over three hours walking we arrived in a wilderness. This hill is notorious as it is tricky to navigate. I could see why! We eventually found the gully having overshot by 100 metres of so (much better than the people following us)! We then worked our way north then north-west to the summit arriving after 4hr 40min. After a welcome break for a snack we started to work our way back arriving back at the car at 6.30pm.

Joy on Seana Bhraigh
Me on Seana Bhraigh
Seana Bhraigh from about 90 minutes away.
Surprisingly we saw few birds, a dozen or so Ptarmigan, three Ring Ouzel and a Golden Plover were all we had to show for the day.

The next day we had a slow drive back to Perth birding on the way. The highlights were around a dozen summer plumage Great Northern Diver, Black-throated Diver, Black Guillemot and Crested Tit.

Back at work now but we are in Scotland again in just over a week, were we hope to do a few more hills, just 13 left now and hopefully a little later in the year we will fulfil one of our greatest and hardest challenges. Then come the Corbetts!

Sunday 18th May

Today, after watching the parade through the town centre we cycled down Glen Almond doing a bit of birding I had a few year ticks which made the journey worthwhile.

We saw several Red Kite, Peregrine and Merlin. The river held Dipper and we also saw a couple of Ring Ouzel.

At Glen Quaich we finally saw Black Grouse and a single Short-eared Owl.

A bit of birding and the Cup Final

On Friday after yesterdays efforts we had a quiet morning we then drove down the Sma’ Glen not far from Perth and then up Glen Quiach looking for Black Grouse which we didn’t see. I did see Red Grouse but as it was a nice day we just wanted to relax. In the late afternoon we arrived at Loch of Lowes near Dunkeld and made our way to the hide. The Osprey’s were nesting but there was little else around. This was the place that I first saw Otter nearly 20 years ago and I have been many times since with no luck. We were just getting ready to leave when I spotted a head swimming through the water, Otter I uttered and the hide sprang to life. As it got closer one of the wardens pointed out that it was actually a Beaver! It then proceeded to swim past us pretty closely!

The next day was Cup Final day. Having been born in Perth (left aged 8) I have always been a mad keen fan. My Grandfather used to take me to all the home games and ever since I have always managed to see them a few times every season. There was never a doubt that I would be at the game, I was quietly confident, but happy to see them in the Scottish Cup Final for the first time ever. I just wish my father had lived long enough to see it (he was mad keen as well).

As I was driving we left early parking up and walking about a mile and a half to the ground. I hadn’t realised that this area had been designated for Dundee United fans. We found our seats and sat down just as the rain started. Fortunately the rain ceased just before kick off and the atmosphere was electric, the Saints fans were going to enjoy the occasion win or lose. It was a cracking game, end to end with Saints just about having the upper hand. United hit the post, their keeper made a couple of great saves and just before half time we scored from a corner. The second half started with United hitting the bar, it look a goal from the far end, then we had a goal chalked off! My heart couldn’t take much more, then the ball broke and our centre forwards Steve Mclean poked the ball home and all hell broke loose. I turned to Joy and said that it, we won the cup. I might not have been as confident had it been the Albion, we specialise in loosing two and even three goal leads!

The ref blew for time and that was it St Johnstone had won their first major trophy in their history (130 years). We stayed for the celebrations and then headed back to the car. I was really surprised but Dundee United fans were congratulating Saints fans a real contrast to down south. I suppose they are happy if anyone but the “Old Firm’ win. Then to cap it off, we saw an Osprey just outside Perth on the way back!

On the evening we when down the Cherrybank Inn which was packed with Saints fans, and a piper played “When the Saints go Marching In”. I would recommend the pub to travelling birders going to Speyside it has a good selection of local real ales. At the Broxton Roundabout, rather than turned left on the A9 continue into Perth for about a mile and it is on the right hand side.

15th May – Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil

Finally, after nearly nine months we got our hillwalking underway. We travelled up to Perth on Wednesday afternoon and we were up at 5.30 the following morning. We travelled up the A9 where we were witnessed a rather horrendous car accident. After making sure the driver was ok we continued on our journey.

We arrived at the start point at 8am sorted the bike out and started peddling after two and a half hours the track ran out so we started walking towards Benalder Cottage. We met two friendly lads who had rented the house for a few days fishing in this really remote area. We made our way up to the Bealach Breadbag and tackled the largest of the days hills Ben Alder first.

Joy at the cairn on Ben Alder

The summit of Ben Alder (far right in mist)

The massive Ben Alder
There was no path and so we picked our way up through the crags eventually reaching the plateau. The summit was still well over a mile away and there was a lot of lying snow. The wind was also howling and it was pretty cold as well. We arrived at the cairn and sat down in the shelter for something to eat and were joined by three Snow Bunting. We made out way back to the Bealach and climbed up the slopes of Beinn Bheoil, this wasn’t as big a hill and we arrived around 3.45pm. The views were stunning especially towards Ben Alder across the glen.

The summit of Beinn Bheoil with Ben Alder behind

Beinn Bheoil from Ben Alder
We now just had the little matter of about 20 miles to get back to the car. We arrived back at the cottage at 5.15pm then had 45 minutes of walking over saturated ground back to the bikes. Once on the bikes the majority of the distance back was gradually downhill and it was quite enjoyable especially the last four miles were we hardly had to pedal at all. After a mammoth day we got back to the car at 7.30pm relieved, tired and glad this one was out of the way.

We had seen quite a few birds as well, good numbers of Ptarmigan, 3 Snow Bunting, 2 Osprey, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover and lots of Common Sandpiper

As it was the first hill of the year I would have preferred something a little easier, but we have climbed all the easy hills now!

Recent Sightings

I have had received reports of Cuckoo and Red Kite in the area.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Weekend

Personally I have struggled to get over but in the last week there have been reports of Whinchat and Dunlin. On Friday I had another Hobby over the Reservoir but generally it has been quiet.