Upland Lochside Bird Walk
What a day we had on our latest Upland Lochside Bird Walk here in west Perthshire. Our guests were Anna and Matthew from the south of England, and they were hoping for some good upland wildlife. We planned a slow walk with as many stops as necessary taking the whole day to get to the end of the glen and back. As soon as we got out of the car we encountered a short-eared owl hunting over the hillside, eventually catching prey and flying quite some distance to its nest and waiting chicks.
Next up, a whinchat was singing away on a wire and gave good views as lapwings flew around giving their strange calls. As we set out down the track, we had two twite land in front of us (a first for our guests) and after posing for a while they were away giving their nasal calls which we were to hear a number of times during the day. Whistling ring ouzels, chacking stonechats and peeping common sandpipers accompanied us as we walked along the loch. Cronking ravens flew overhead, and kites patrolled the high tops and then an osprey flew past us looking for fish on the loch.
After an hour we stopped for a break and were lucky to see a pair of golden eagles who then attacked a passing male hen harrier and were then in turn mobbed by a tiny kestrel. This action lasted for a good 10 minutes before the pair flew down the glen towards their hunting grounds.
Moving on, we encountered a few mountain hares now in their summer coats, but still with pale flanks and white bellies. Stockier and less gangly than their brown cousins, but with the same black ear tips on smaller ears. This species was another first for our guests and a nice sight for us too after all the huge culls of recent years. Willow warblers were everywhere even singing out on the open from rocks where there were no trees available, giving us great views. Redpolls regularly flew overhead given away by their whirring, clockwork call. Along the way we found some palmate newts in the pools which had formed on the track, and even some tadpoles. Anna and Andrea scanned the damp trackside verges delighting in the number of butterwort, sundew, lousewort and heath milkwort plants.
Stopping for lunch, we scanned the horizon and the crags and eventually saw a pair of peregrines on their home cliff. Then a white-tailed eagle was spotted carrying food, soaring high presumably on its way to its nest. Again, a male hen harrier was spotted moving over the high tops. Down at a small lochan we found a newly emerged four-spotted chaser and its exuvia, as well as many newly emerged common blue damselflies with reflective wings and their blue colour still to develop. On the lochan there were teal, mallard, and a pair of herons, presumably the pair we had seen flying over the loch earlier, and in the shallows there were hundreds of tadpoles.
We set out retracing our steps and then saw the white-tailed eagle returning maybe for more food. Another osprey sighting, but this bird was distracted from fishing by the attentions of some common gulls which harried it for ages. It attempted a couple of dives whilst being chased, but no fish were caught. At last, we glimpsed a pair of wheatears chasing each other among the boulders which had been elusive up to this point. A cuckoo was pursued by a meadow pipit over the heather and then from behind us an osprey was spotted carrying a large fish. It circled low over us giving fantastic views until it gained height and was away. Kestrels hunted the crags and then a sparrowhawk was spotted cruising over the cliff top. Our last bird was a male reed bunting singing from a bush near the car park. The weather was lovely the whole time, we had clocked up 20,000 steps and had some great wildlife experiences. What a day!