Monday, September 20, 2004

Day 3 | Week 2 | A Speyside Wildlife holiday.

We wake to grey skies and rain, but by the time we’ve breakfasted and collected our lunches, its beginning to brighten up so we opt for a day on St Mary’s. The Rosehill end of the Lower Moors Nature Trail is quiet bar a few hirundines zipping around, in which we manage to pick out a lone Sand Martin. Entering the Old Town side of the trail we come across a couple of Goldcrests, Blue Tit and Robin feeding under the tangle of willows. We walk on through past the twisted and lichen encrusted trunks to Shooter’s Pool on which we find a Green Sandpiper and a Snipe. At the hides we find only a single Greenshank so we don’t linger and head out to Old Town. We pop into the galleries and studios along the road to Parting Carn, but birds are few and far between in the bulb fields.

As we reach Carn Friars Farm we hear the Greenshank from the nearby Porth Hellick Pool start alarming. Looking up we see a adult male Peregrine skimming overhead. We cut through Carn Friars Farm where we find swarms of Linnets and House Sparrows feeding in the weedy fields and strips of the bulb rows. A couple of Stonechats bob around the cabbage field.

We arrive at Porth Hellick where we enjoy lunch watching the receding tide. A single Little Egret flaps lazily around in search of a feeding area while at least five Greenshanks chase each other around noisily. Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones pick around the sandy areas and over the seaweed.

An aboriginal inspired mural at Porth Hellick

After a spot of shell collecting we head up Higher Moors Nature Trail to view Porth Hellick Pool from the two hides. From the first we get brilliantly close views of a Green Sandpiper when one lands right in front of the hide only feet away from us. We can see the pale green legs and bill base which presumably gives the species its name (not obvious really!). A Water Rail ‘sharms’ from just left of the hide when a pipit drops in right in front of us and begins feeding along the reed fringe. ‘Tree Pipit!’ I exclaim. I run through the main ID features – thick breast streaks forming distinct stripes, yellow wash to the unders and the ‘soft’ wagtail motion of the tail. We get fantastic views as it creeps smoothly underneath the front of the hide before suddenly taking flight giving its distinctive buzzy ‘speez’ call three times. Wonderful stuff!

Jubilant at the unexpected finding and super views of the Tree Pipit, we head up to the next hide where we see a male Sparrowhawk drift past over the far side of the pool.

On the Holy Vale side of the trail we find a lone Chiffchaff ‘wheeeting’ from the willows by the path. We eventually get brief views if this dingy specimen.

Holy Vale

In Holy Vale we see only a few tits and Goldcrests, and Rat Pond and Content is devoid of anything vaguely interesting (sorry Collared Dove!) but we do find a dead Scilly Shrew near Telegraph Road. We reach the golf course where the St Agnes Buff-breasted Sandpiper has relocated to. We find a small group of birders watching one of the greens, but when we arrive we are told it’s just wandered over the brow of the distant green. Hmmmm. We agree we are unlikely to better yesterdays cracking view and vote for a cup of tea and something sticky. Juliet’s Garden it is then!

Refuelled we pay a visit to the Seaways Bulb Shop where Marilyn stocks up on gifts and we head back in to town, drop our rucksacks off at the guesthouse and head up Garrison Lake for the Wryneck stakeout (same bird seen by me and the previous group last week). We see everything but Wryneck in the favoured fruit tree and with dinner fast approaching we head back to the guesthouse. After a sumptuous Lamb dinner (followed by choccy trifle!) we head back up for the Wryneck. It doesn’t take long before a shape flies into the elms where it is rumoured to be roosting. ‘Wryneck!’ I exclaim, and Andrea, Marilyn and I get brief views before it takes flight and disappears behind the Duchy building on the Garrison. We’ll be back tomorrow for better views!

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