Trip reports

Speyside's Special Birds - Steve Oakes

View of mountains through trees, RSPB Loch Garten nature reserve
RSPB Loch Garten

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

About 30 members 'tuned in' to this wonderfully illustrated account of some of Scotland's iconic birds, given by Steve Oakes, a member of South Wiltshire RSPB Local Group. Steve began at the mouth of the Spey on the Moray Firth where Common and Arctic Terns breed and Great Northern Divers can be seen in all their splendour in May off the coast. He then dealt with Scotland's 'top' wetland, Insh Marshes which hosts breeding Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing, Snipe, Shoveler and Wigeon as well as Water Rail and Grasshopper Warbler.
Abernethy reserve, 1275 square km of Caledonian pine forest, moor, mountain and lochs Garten and Morlich is famous for Osprey though this year they haven't done too well and The RSPB visitor centre nest hasn't been occupied. On the other hand, we had views of the three Crossbill varieties, Capercaillie, Black Grouse and Crested Tits and the shot of two young Goldeneye leaping from their nest box was stunning. The moorland holds Golden Plover, Hen Harrier and Merlin and we were shown beautiful close-ups of Red and Black-throated Divers on Loch Morlich. These two latter are also found on Loch Ruthven, notable for breeding Slavonian Grebe whose winter/summer plumage is strikingly different.
Finally, Steve took us up onto Cairngorm - Ring Ouzel, Northern Wheatear and Red Grouse on the way up and Dotterel and Ptarmigan (dazzling winter plumage this time) on the plateau. We were also introduced to Golden Eagles, all of the 440 UK breeding pairs being in Scotland though too many suspect deaths in the Monadhliath Mts west of the Spey valley. Their cousins, White-tailed Eagles, have recently been introduced to eastern Scotland and there are now five pairs in the Cairngorm National Park.
Peter thanked Steve for his superb presentation and we're all grateful to Peter and Bernie for arranging the meeting. Some of us wondered if this mode of indoor meetings could be a good way forward. Venues, transport and dark nights have been issues for physical meetings; lack of IT access may be an obstacle to Zoom meetings (and we all have to remember to mute audio during the talk !)
The next indoor meeting with Zoom will be the AGM on November 3rd at 7pm.
Jeff Mason