Dipping in and dipping out

Having spent the morning clearing up soggy carpet and underlay and spoking to a local builder about various repairs, I decided to head into the Cairngorms to Tomintoul where there had been a report of a grerat grey shrike: Quite what one was doing in the middle of the Cairngorms I don’t know. Not, I would have thought, an ideal environment for a bird that wants to catch bees and then store them on briar spikes as a larder. But I guess bees and heather go well together (and a rhyme is a rhyme!), so despite the snowy weather perhaps a Scottish moorland might be OK for a shrike…..maybe! Anyway it didn’t show for me – perhaps it had already decided to head for warmer climes (in “birder” speak by missing it I “dipped out”). Birds like this ending up in odd places is probably mostly to do with weather systems, and sometimes availability of food, or individuals ranging further afield if there’s a food shortage or too many birds in a particular area. I’m sure there are also other reasons that I’m not aware of as well!

Having not seen the shrike I headed to one of the highest parts of the moor between Tomintoul and Kildrummy in the hopes of seeing some red grouse – but they weren’t playing ball either! I might have been disappointed, but the stormy light on the mountains and the low cloud were making for some amazing views.

A view looking east from near Kildrummy today
The view at The Watchers, near Tomintoul, today

The last section of the journey back criss-crosses the river Don, so I thought I would try my luck with dipper – the unique and wonderful river bird that can walk under water! I’ve seen a lot of dippers over the years and I reckon I know a good section of river for them when I see one, and so I stopped at a likely spot and wandered along the bank of the Don. Within about three minutes a dipper flew past, and I then saw it again perched on various rocks. Dipper spotting award! However perhaps this says less about my ability to find a good place for dippers and more about the population density of these birds in the Highlands…..who can say!

New species for March 12th:
Birds: dipper

Birds = 141
Moths = 9
Wildflowers = 23