Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Day 3 - Cairngorm

A pretty good forecast meant that today was going to be an ideal time to head for the mountains. Martin and Ian Grant had returned from Mull the previous evening and joined us for a walk to the summit of Cairngorm. This is the only way to guarantee the key birds as the lazy train option means you can’t leave the ‘comfort’ of the mountain station. We chose the ‘windy ridge’ path and headed ever upwards, the views towards distant Loch Morlich were breathtaking!

It took us 90 minutes to reach the mountain station with just a Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and Wheatear to show for our efforts!

Nearly there!

After a tip off, we eventually located a couple of male Ptarmigan across the slopes near the station and enjoyed decent scope views. I only had the 100-400mm zoom lens and even though the birds were too distant they flew even further away down the slope.

Signing in to have a cuppa, we relaxed in the mountain restaurant before the final push of 120m to the summit. We didn't entirely escape the rain but nice to see most of the showers falling on Loch Morlich!!

A Ptarmigan visible on the skyline simply melted into ‘nowhere’ as we reached the ridge it was on?

The views were even more exhilarating now but as we neared the summit, we walked into a brief squall taking shelter in the lee of the cairn. It was at this point we realised we had ‘lost’ Martin’! Given the conditions, changeable but generally very good, it was not moment for concern, he wasn’t far away. Eventually, a head appeared and then a hand – it was beckoning us!! Realising he had obviously found something, hopefully it wasn't just a rainbow!

we headed down….. He had certainly found something worthwhile - a pair of Dotterel!

We took a few pictures and then suddenly realised there were more, the final tally was seven.

They were feeding and one or two engaged in display activity so we didn’t approach them, simply sat there watching as they circled around us. Including this smart female....

Shaking the raindrops off....

By 3.45, I suddenly realised time was moving on and booked to give a talk at the Grant Arms hotel at 6.00, it was a rather rapid descent to the station, taking in the final view....

an even more rapid 8 minute descent to the car park and then a ‘sensible’ drive back to Grantown on Spey. The venue was reached by 5.45 and after entertaining a small audience on the delights of ‘Shropshire Peregrines’, eventually booked into the sumptuous surroundings of this ‘comfortable’ hotel – base for the next four nights……