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Sun 19th July 2009 - SCOTLAND

Posted on July 24, 2009 at 5:30 PM

After yesterday's frivolities it was time to focus and get some serious birding in. Andy and I had planned to head up to the ancient pine forests in search of Scottish Crossbill. I ticked off the species about 16 years ago when I first went to Scotland with the BUBO lads, but back in those uninformed days we were not aware of the presence of Parrot Crossbills in the area. So we wanted to have another look at the crossbills and see if we could sort a few out, especially using the calls. Andy brought his dictophone to try and make some crude recordings to analyse later and maybe we'd be lucky.

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After the late night and beers of the previous day we woke up surprisingly fresh, had breakfast as soon as it opened and headed off northwards. It was great to see the hills of the highlands approaching and we stopped at the pass above Glenshee where we had seen Ptarmigan before. The weather was clearing up all the time and, full of enthusiasm we decided to climb a hill! Halfway up it started getting wet again and the wind was quite blowy and there were no Ptarmigan to be seen. We had a few Ravens and a pair of Golden Plover, and we saw lots of Mountain Hares but it was hard work to find anything.

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A Mountain Hare gazes across to Glas Maol above Glenshee

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It was too blowy on top for any insects to be flying but along a marshy stream we did flush a couple of examples of a pyralid which turned out to be the alpine specialist Udea uliginosalis. Back down at the cafe there was a few moths in the toilets - Grey Mountain Carpets and Red Carpets.

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                            Udea uliginosalis                              Muzza scans the scree for Ptarmigan

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Dropping down into Deeside after lunch we parked up at the car park at Keiloch where we heard it was good for crossbills, and as soon as we got out, one flew across and landed in a tree. It was clearly Scottish or Parrot but we hadn't got all the equipment out before it flew off. So we set off for a circular walk which was excellent for lepidoptera, especially when we walked back across the south-facing slope of the valley with its mixed pine, birch and heather, as shown in the photo below. I had three new species of butterfly on just this short walk - Dark Green Fritillary, Scotch Argus and Northern Brown Argus - totally astounding.

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Keiloch                                                                                                                    Northern Brown Argus

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As well as the butterflies, there was lots of new moths to see - Antler Moth, Heath Rivulet, Chimney Sweeper and Beech-green Carpet were all new species for me. It was a great afternoon for insects and I managed to glimpse a Red Squirrel also.

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Antler Moth                                                                    Chimney Sweeper

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We didn't have any more crossbills on the walk, but back near the car park we did hear a few more. This persuaded us to camp in the car park as we would be on site at first light ready to record. We feasted in Braemar at the "Hungry Highlander" where Andy had the choice of Black, Red or White Pudding and chips - he chose the latter but couldn't decide what it was - looked like battered vomit to me - I stuck with just chips.

Categories: 2009 Summer