Moors Glens Housing Estates and Lochs 5 January 2023

Black Grouse Bryce 1

The day began in fine form with lekking Black Grouse

After a hearty breakfast at the Grant Arms Hotel on Speyside we set off for the moors. The roads were icy after a clear night and the sky was turning a beautiful orange with the first hints of dawn. We were soon in position overlooking an area of moorland and immediately saw just what we wanted to see: Black Grouse. Nine of these most beautiful and spectacular birds were strutting their stuff before the sun reached their lekking ground. We enjoyed super views of one of our most favourite bird species as they 'danced' and fought on their chosen grassy mound.

We spent the rest of the morning in one of our favourite places for birdwatching, a beautiful and remote glen famous for its birds of prey. At the first stop, we scanned the surrounding hills and forests and were soon rewarded with a fantastic view of a female Hen Harrier. Hen Harriers are another of our favourite bird species and they never fail to provide a real thrill. This particular female was in no hurry and slowly circled over the glen allowing us lots of time to soak up frame-filling views through the telescopes. We also enjoyed watching two Red Kites, three Common Buzzards and a Common Kestrel from the same vantage point along with Ravens, Goosander, Siskins and a Crossbill.

Moving further along the glen, we reached another vantage point and again scanned the surrounding skylines for raptors. Common Buzzards circled over the hillsides and three Common Kestrels were seen hovering over the ridges. And then, boom! Just what we were looking for, a huge Golden Eagle gliding majestically across the big sky with its upturned outer primary feathers making it look for all the world like a jet liner crossing the glen. What a thrilling spectacle. The Golden Eagle literally disappeared into the cloud high above us, leaving us hungry for more. Half an hour later, we had some more. Either the same or another Golden Eagle cruised effortlessly across the glen with scarcely a wing flap. Wow, these birds are awesome, true monarchs of the skies! We also enjoyed wonderful views of a Dipper feeding in the fast-flowing river and close views of handsome red deer stags complete with spectacular antlers, before heading off for a lovely lunch.

Waxwing Kinmel Bay

Here's what we could have seen! Sadly we only had flight views on this occasion

We then headed to the town of Aviemore to look for five Waxwings that had been reported earlier in the day. What a contrast of habitats. From wild spectacular mountain scenery to the housing estates of an urban area. This was certainly not the type of birdwatching we particularly enjoy, and the only sighting of the Waxwings proved to be a brief flyover by the five birds. We soon decided to head off elsewhere and a short drive took us to Loch Morlich in the hope that the Ring-necked Duck that had been seen here a few days ago may have returned. Sadly our hopes were dashed as the lake was still frozen solid. Oh well, that's birding for you. Some ups and some downs. Overall it was still a great day with much of it spent in beautiful scenery.

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