Saturday, 18 January 2014

American Coot Twitch - 12th January 2014

 I've taken some bad photos of birds in my blogging history, but this is one of the top ten worst! But at the same time, you can tell it's a coot with a small bill and white undertail coverts!
 Loch Flemington - Dan Pointon, Chris Bridge and Alex Jones (and a randomer on the left)
 Dan trying to feed the Ring-billed Gull that clearly wasn't hungry....
Snowy Scotland on the drive back!

Last Sunday, Alex Jones drove Chris Bridge, Dan Pointon and I up to Lock Flemington to see the 7th for Britain American coot. We stayed in a Travelodge in Inverness on Saturday night for a dawn start. It makes sense now we look back, but sunrise wasn't until 08:50 so it wasn't an early start at all!
We managed to get the coot almost straight away and it was a fantastic little bird! Surprisingly small, being only 5-10% larger than the surrounding moorhen. Chris and I deduced it was a 1st winter bird, providing it follows the same ageing criteria as Eurasian coot, with grey flecking on the belly and dull grey legs. A really greatbird to see and one I'm really glad I made the tortuous journey to see!

Next stop was Dingwall just north of Inverness to look for the ever present ring-billed gull....of course, the day that we went, it wasn't ever present and we weren't able to find it....

To regain a little more optimism from our trip, we decided to go into the pine forests, looking for the specialities. We decided that with the exception of capercaillie, the rest are mainly pot luck, so we went to a caper site and within about 20 minutes managed to find an incredible 7 including 6 males! This was a much needed lifer for me, so 2 lifers in the day was fantastic! Remarkably, these were pretty much the only birds we heard or saw in the forest! No sign of any crossbill, no crested tits, no nothing!

Finally, we went up to Mt. Cairngorm to the car park at the ski centre to look for ptarmigan. The weather was much worse up here with gusts of 40mph wind, snow and grit and about -3oC! We managed to find 7 snow buntings, a mountain hare and eventually 2 lovely white ptarmigans.

A great trip and I'm really thankful to Alex for driving as it must've killed him! Inverness is farrrrrrr!

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