On Monday we wanted to make the most of the sunshine so we drove out along one of the single track roads along Strath Conon, north east of Inverness. We were not disappointed. The sun was shining and the snow was glistening on the mountains and roadside – but remarkably the road was perfectly clear!
At least 10 Red Kites were soaring in the thermals along the A862 toward Ullapool, and two more were spotted way out at the furthest east end of the road, which shows they are spreading their wings far afield. Many, many Buzzards were also enjoying the warmth in the air, and they could also be seen on telegraph poles, trees and fence posts.
In the River Conon, near Marybank, in one of the few spots where the river flowed unobstructed by the ice, we spotted four Golden Eye (2M and 2F) and in the field alongside there were three fieldfare and 70 chaffinches darting between the field and the trees. I was also surprised to see 15 Mallard all together in the river; I normally see them in smaller groups.
When we reached Beauly we were treated to a field full of Greylag Geese (approx 150) and 80 Whooper Swans, as well as 12 Pink Footed Geese, just south of the visitors centre.
As we approached Inverness the firth was full of waders: at least 40 Bar Tailed Godwits, 30 Curlew, 12 Widgeon, 5 Redshanks, loads of Heron – and three Lapwing (of which we have seen very few this year) and our first Teal – 80 of them!
All these birds, great views – and a picnic to boot! A lovely day in the hills of this beautiful country.