I have visited the Grant Arms Hotel several times now in the last few years situated in the centre of Speyside, Scotland. I have so far been3 times in the spring normally with Thelma and once in the winter with Ewan my yougnest son who works on Mull with its unique wildlife - http://www.naturescotland.com/ .
I try to cover the same 4 days in spring often covering new areas away from the hotel.The hotel is aimed at birdwatchers staying there and I give a lecture and guided walk to entertain the guests. They have a room full of information on where to bird watch. Another room full of bird books and a lecture room. The locations cover a wide area of this part of Scotland and so far I have done many of the locations advertised in the first room like Port Soy for the famous White billed Divers and north as far as Cromaty for sea duck and east as far as Loch Ruthven for the Slavonian Grebes.
But with a vast Abernethy Forest on their door step there must be places to try and get to worth visiting which many of the guests have yet to tread. Just before this trip I had been sent the new Bothy book for Scotland by Wild Things publications so I was intrigued to find one actually on the RSPB reserve and the book described the walk to get to it? The one in question I walked to was Ryvoan. In the book it was shown via a walk from Glenmore but I did not want to drive all the way over there with so much holiday traffic and pay and display car parks so I looked at the alternative closer to the hotel.
Having such a nice bed back at the hotel my aim was not to sleep out at the bothy but walk out and back in the same day. Although the habitats were mainly pine forest I went knowing that there was the possibilities of some brilliant birds not found in Cumbria where I live. A long walk would take me from Nethy Bridge to Forest Lodge and on from there but I had already done this walk to Forest Lodge on the Saturday walking back via the loop through some amazing Caledonian woodland. So I drove to Forest Lodge and walked on the path sign posted to Loch Morlick and Glenmore. This takes you through some broken forest due to the electricity poles taking electricity to Rynettn. This is now a holiday home with an amazing view onto the Cairngorms.
I had seen Capercaillie on this walk before and there were plenty of Pine Marten scats probable using the old buildings here as a home. Open ground at this old croft offers plenty of Juniper and the chance of that other game bird - Black Grouse. I was soon in new ground heading into a large mature area of Scots Pine where I had my first caper and calling Crested Tit with the odd Crossbill flying over. This gave way to open moorland with scattered 'Granny' pines along with their children and grandchildren gathered often around them. Cock Red Grouse were calling with Cuckoo, Stonechat and Reed Bunting also seen.
Lochain a Chait gave a nice change of scenery before spotting the bothy with Loch Unain beyond the Bothy. The view down towards Glenmore was amazing with pines growing well up its step sides. A raptor speeded across the heather making it look like a Merlin and this time it was not a Cuckoo but a female Sparrowhawk looking out for Meadow Pipits. A Hooded Crow mobbed a Raven but still the Golden Eagle kept out of view! On the way back I flushed a second caper and walked back crossing the Nethy River to come back to the Lodge by yet another trail giving great views of the flood plain creating open areas in the dense pine. I had walked around 8 miles with a scattering of birds and I am sure there are still more to areas explore in this forest on my next visit!