North West Scotland [part 4]
Back on the road! I first went to say thanks to the couple who had let me phone the AA from their house with no phone reception from this area. This was a double benefit as I was told there was no problem driving to the Rubha Reidh lighthouse while a guide book says no access due to locals! The weather was flat calm so instead of seeing sea bird passage even the Gannets were a long way out! A Wheatear tried to be part of a rock with the lichen adding to his superciliam! No White tailed Eagles which turned out to be a boggy bird on this trip so it back down the road passed my quarry where I had not slept!
Even with little sleep in the hotel I was full of new areas so Inverewe garden was next. The hide at low tide here seems a long way of so I sat in the sun on a nearby seat to eat my lunch. I soon found Greenshank and a mating pair of Dunlin. There were plenty of Oystercatchers and a few Common Sandpipers but the low tide meant there were few birds enjoying the mud and seaweed. It was soon time to flash my membership card and enter the gardens themselves. A mixed collection of Garden birds were seen on route with the addition of several Crossbills thought to be Scottish in this part of the country with so many pines!
I am not a believer of this species as the Americans have a staggering 32 regional crossbills with 9 mentioned in the North American Bird Guide with only White winged Crossbill mentioned as a separate species. There is no Parrot Crossbill mentioned only tree types creating the need for a big bill or small bill to extract seed. I did shout ‘Parrot’ in Abernethy in 2016 when 4 birds showed massive bills but hybridation does occur in Scotland making pure birds hard to respond to.
The big plus in these gardens these days is a heronry found near the jetty. Around 6 nests are found here giving easy views from a set of seats above the jetty. In May small young were visible in at least one nest and adults were flying back forth from the estuary. A walk has been created in the pine wood next door where you do not have to pay the £10+ to enter. Walking any more was getting to me so I carried on my driving. The road carries around Loch Ewe and then there is Loch Gruinard with its famous island contaminated with arsenic!
I soon found a parking place and decided this was going to be my nightly stop as I felt driving was out of the question. Fortunately the bay was ideal for viewing from the van. At least 4 Great Northern Divers were here as well as a pair of Red throats and several waders. The tide was coming in and I was in the right position to watch a Great Northern coming in to what had been exposed rocks to hunt fish and crabs below me! As I have seen from Harris and Mull adult GN Divers hold winter territories to keep their food stocks safe. So this bird certainly knew the area and I watched it for ½ an hour below me catching mainly crabs.
I was parked up around 150 yards from 3 crofts but only in view with one. A couple would walk passed the van and make their dog bark as if to say they would do that all night if I stayed there. The neighbour in view came down and we had a great chat as he used to be a journalist in London and Inverness but now retired. He had no complaints of me staying there and he even gave me the walk I would do in the early morning. The night was very peaceful [and the dog kept away!] Up at 5am I was ready for another adventure!