Nothing to grouse about

Today I took some time off and headed out into the edge of the Cairngorms: My aim was to head up to one of my favourite spots, The Watchers, a viewpoint with some sculptures which we’ve mentioned before. The reason for this is that I wanted to add red grouse to my 2023 list and I had seen a couple there last year. There are a lot of red grouse on the Scottish moors, but I had so far managed to miss seeing any, even during our stay at Dungarthill House.

On the way I stopped, completely impulsively, just outside the village of Tarland (coincidentally where James runs his annual summer cello course, which will be starting in a couple of days!), when I say signs for some woodland walks. I’m glad I did, as there was no one else about and the number of small woodland birds that I saw or heard within the space of about an hour was great: chaffinch, chiffchaff, goldcrest, robin, siskin, four species of tit, treecreeper, willow warbler, wren and great spotted woodpecker.

There are lovely areas of mixed woodland around Tarland, with a wide variety of trails which I must explore further, but – because there are some conifers – I was listening out for crossbills, but unfortunately didn’t see any. However I did manage one new species for 2023 when I spotted a spotted flycatcher, which must then have considered itself truly spotted! This was a species which was threatening to elude me in 2023. They were common and widespread 30 years ago, but have had a steep decline in numbers, though those numbers are still fairly widely distributed around the UK.

spotted flycatcher (photo taken 2011)

I then headed up to The Watchers, where a reasonable number of people were stopping to take photos (understandably – it’s a great spot). I thought my chances for red grouse were quite low, with all the disturbance, but I got out of the car and scanned the moorland with my binoculars. No luck. Then a slight movement caught my eye and there, much nearer to the road than I had been looking, was a red grouse sticking it’s head up above the heather! And when I looked more closely there were four birds together in a small area of moorland.

red grouse (photo taken 2018)

Brenda writes: “Today was a day in transit for me and so my flower watching was on grass verges once again. Tansy is now coming into flower. Usually growing in clumps, it has a cluster of round yellow flowers with no petals on top of the stalk. At last I saw clumps of musk thistle, which has drooping flower-heads, and woolly thistle which looks grey from a distance because it is covered in white ‘wool’ and has large round single flowers.”

New species for July 21st:
Birds: spotted flycatcher, red grouse
Flowers: tansy, musk thistle, woolly thistle

Birds = 209
Moths = 188
Wildflowers = 259