After arriving at Inverness airport on the 2nd we picked up the hire car and went to Ardersier where the highlights were Little Auks, Guillemots, a Black Guillemot, Red Breasted Mergs and along the road several Hooded Crows.
On Sunday the 3rd after a good breakfast 14 of us set off in the 2 mini buses to look at the lecking Black Grouse, unfortunately a heavy squall sent us off on our way picking up Red Grouse as well.
Our next stop was Loch Garten where in the car park were Tree creeper, Coal Tit and Crested Tit
Several hours driving around various woodlands failed to find Capercaillie .
Monday we set off towards Spey Bay and picked up Dipper, Glaucous Gull and Whooper Swan on the floods at Broomhill. Further up the Spey Valley in farmland we saw all the winter thrushes, finches and buntings and both sparrows, on the sea common Scoter, Long-tailed ducks, Little Auks and in the estuary Goosander plus the commoner ducks.
At Lossiemouth in the strong winds we picked most of the common waders incl. a single Barwit, a couple of Ringed Plovers and about a dozen Snow Buntings. Moving around to a more sheltered spot I missed out on an adult Iceland gull while having a pee, but caught up with a juvenile at the pig farm down the road. Next stop was at Burghead where we caught up with loads of Red-throated divers, a Great-northern diver, Purple Sand, Rock Pipit and Redshank!! The guides were really excited at finding a Great Crested Grebe as they hadn't seen one there for a couple of years. Further on around the headland we went into the harbour and had great views of Eider
But the best birds of the day had to be the Little Auks constantly flying by from all 3 sea locations and finally finding this pair just off the harbour entrance.
Tuesday with a bit better weather forecast we set off in the am for another look for Capercaillie but without success. Our first walk of the trip was allowed into Carrbridge Woods where we were treated to views of a possible male Scottish Crossbill. Then off to the Findhorn Valley in search of raptors.
First raptor was a Peregrine followed by Raven then a female Goshawk and a brief view of a Golden Eagle which I missed. Further up the glen we were then rewarded with fantastic views of up to four Golden Eagle and one White-tailed Eagle at one time all in the air together - something I'll never forget. The picture does not do it justice.
Abit further up the Glen we stopped at the end of the road and saw Mountain Hare in their white winter fur, also wild mountain goat.
By now the temperature had dropped and all but the hardy got out of the minibuses to pose for a photo.
A brilliant day with 3 more Scottish species in the bag.
Wednesday morning we left the hotel by 9 and headed for the Cairngorms, to find a near empty car park with a little visibility and gusting winds to 60mph.
A quick scan around couldn't find any Ptarmigan but it was really hard to see with the wind and snow blowing into the scope, a final attempt to walk up a bit higher (the funicular wasn't running until later in the day) found nothing but then on heading back a bird flew over the ridge and was a Ptarmigan so that made 5 out of the 6 Scottish specialities so now time to head back to the coast and near the airport.
We stopped off at Nairn Golf Course, just in case we could find the King Eider that was reported earlier in the week but sadly no luck.
but we got more views of Red-throated diver, Little Auks, Eider, and Long-tailed Ducks.
Also a couple of Hooded Crows
Finally our last new species of the trip was Pale-bellied Brent Geese a flock of around 25
Time now to head off for our 1.5 hour flight back to Gatwick. Approx 90 species seen by me, great company from Paul and Sandra, a pity Bob couldn't make it.