Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Searching for Parrots part 1 and 2

Saturday 23rd July Light SW cloudy, muggy, dry

I make my way to a pine forest north of Nethybirdge. I am looking for crossbills, parrot crossbills to be exact. Beyond a large quarry, up a steep hill and into the forest proper, I pick bilberries that stain my hands and, like miniature blueberries, provide some sustenance. No biting insects here, I spend four hours and see six crossbills. None of them land though, they just chup as they pass, first three, then two then one.
I return to my tent just before heavy rain starts. The rain lasts well into the night.


9.44 Miles 616 feet elevation up and down

Sunday 24th July Light SW drizzle, followed by evening of heavy rain

I make my way to a pine forest north of Nethybridge once more and enter it via a public footpath conveniently placed to the west of the quarry.
To a sort of elevated hide, the sort used for shooting deer, drizzle is falling and two crossbills land on a nearby pine. Unfortunately due to the inclement weather, photographs are poor. Also unfortunately the birds are silent. 
Still they are obviously not common crossbills, having a strong neck and broader bill so maybe I can claim half a year tick. After all they must be either Scottish crossbill or Parrot.
The rain gets heavier and I sit in the hide and count a large flock of mistle thrushes pass by, over one hundred and fifty of them; the largest flock of mistle thrushes I have ever seen.
Six crossbills chup past but don't land.
The rain stops and I head back towards the hidden bike. A willow warbler phoeets nearby and I pish quietly not expecting much. I am soon surrounded by a fair number of titmice, mostly coal tits with chaffinches, more willow warblers and a treecreeper.
Back at the tent my lonely evening is spent reading, typing notes and studying the photographs of the crossbills. What I would give for some equipment to record the sounds the crossbills make when flying past. Is it just my hopes that makes the crossbills that fly by the tent sound so different to the ones I have seen in the Nethy Bridge forest?

6.74 Miles 354 feet elevation up and down

Monday, 25 July 2016

Clegs and Capercaillie

Friday 22nd July Light SW warm, 20C sunny intervals

Elizabeth, the owner of The Ferryhouse Bed & Breakfast, has a Spike Milligan vinyl or two to show me after breakfast. One of them partners him with Jeremy Taylor with songs about Pot and Lift Girls! 
The other piece of vinyl has Spike Milligan narrating Paul Gallico's The Snow Goose. I didn't know that Spike had done such and I find it on Youtube. Listening to it I am somewhat disappointed by the stupid sounds that accompany a moment when the 'Sky Princess' goes into the kitchen. Spike's narration is short with sporadic phrases each followed by orchestral themes. The record fails in my opinion to capture the atmosphere of the saltings and the emotion of the relationship between Fritha and Phillip. More of Spike would have improved it.
Away and off north towards Carrbridge, I enter a large coniferous forest north of the town. I have been given instructions on how to find capercaillie here and proceed to do exactly not what I have been told. I enjoy exploring various parts of the forest. The ground is extremely difficult to navigate, with thick clumps of heather and moss. 

A large stag watches my progress carefully. Clegs, horseflies are following me. I am very allergic to them and hope that my repellent works well. I remember my children calling me Quasimodo due to one bite on my eyebrow years ago during a holiday in Switzerland. Then there was the 'sausage lip' week back in 2010 and I will never forget my balloon hand when fishing one time.
A cleg bites below my left wrist. No blood as I brush it away so hopefully not too much swelling later.
The trees are very dense for a few hundred yards and I enjoy ducking and diving through it finding a few interesting fungi and mound after mound of wood ants.
I come across a huge area of deforestation and devastation. Out in the middle a stag roe deer seems to be stuck, unable to find a way across the area. I watch it from a hidden position as it keeps turning and trying different ways to get out.
A male sparrowhawk glides close by and I walk around the broken trees to get back to an area where the trees have been removed to allow a line of pylons and telegraph wires to pass through. Method in my madness, I want to walk down this tree break from an elevated position, which would allow me to see down a large expanse. The heather and moss clumps are high and there are water-filled dips between them hidden and therefore easy for me to fall into.
Progress is difficult and I keep my hand on my camera expecting a black explosion any second.
It happens! A male capercaillie comes out of a tree from the left. It flies fast to the south, downhill it goes low over the heather. After a hundred yards or so it veers off into the forest. Gone.
Bird number 269 onto the list and another good bird to see.
Clegs persuade me that my time in my forest is up. The target bird has been found and I return to my hidden bike.
I cycle a long way around the Nethybridge and find the place where I camped a few nights ago. Food bought from a shop, I enjoy a picnic in the late evening sunshine before settling down for the night.

19.50 Miles 1003 feet elevation up 923 feet elevation down


The Green year list goes to 269, twenty six ahead of this stage last year.