Diving straight in

For the second and final day of my mini-jaunt around north-east Scotland I got up early and was on the road at 6am (very rare for me to be up that early!). But the great thing was that the (mostly single-track) roads were completely empty and so I was able to dawdle along, stopping at every loch, big or small, to pursue my main goal for the day – finding a black-throated diver.

A viewpoint above Loch Torridon at about 6.20am
This red deer hind surprised me by allowing me (in the car) to get close enough to take this photo with my iPhone

The scenery was truly spectacular, but scan as I might every loch seemed completely devoid of divers until finally, having almost decided that it would not be a diver day for me, I finally spotted a fully summer plumage adult. Superb birds!

black-throated diver

The furthest north-east I got was Poolewe, where I saw several female goosander. These are members of the sawbill family, so-called because of their serrated bills.

A female goosander preening, and below another showing the serrations on her bill

I was not so lucky with eagles, seeing neither golden or white-tailed, but that’s life! I then drove on to the Black Isle, to Chanonry Point at Fortrose. Here the spit of land means that at low tide salmon and other fish are forced close to shore in shallow water. This is a feast for common terns, but also for some of the 200 or so bottle-nosed dolphins who live in the Moray Firth. I’ve seen them here before, but enjoyed seeing several again. It’s hard to get decent photos of them but I did manage one.

bottle-nosed dolphin
Distant gannets passing Chanonry Point and clearly showing how the plumage between juvenile and adult changes

As I finally headed back west in mid-afternoon I decided to stop and do one of my favourite walks, Loch Mallachie, near the RSPB osprey centre at Loch Garten. I was hoping for Scottish crossbill, but had no luck. I did see coal tits and siskin though, and heard crested tits.

Finally I headed home over the hills via Tomintoul.

New species for July 23rd:
Birds: black-throated diver

Birds = 212
Moths = 188
Wildflowers = 260