Friday 13th March
The road up to the Cairngorm car park had been closed for the previous three days due to the strong winds and the threat of snow. Friday dawned sunny and with no wind. This would be our only chance to get above the snow line and find the Ptarmigan so we made an early start and were in the car park by eight o'clock.
The earliest running of the funicular looked like being at ten thirty so we were facing a long wait or a long walk to get to the top. Fortunately we checked with the local ranger and he pointed us in the direction of an easier walk up to the Northern Corries where he said we would find the Ptarmigan.
Local knowledge is always useful and with an hours steady walking we were above the snowline. At first all we could pick up was the sound of the Red Grouse calling but Dave soon got onto the "screwdriver" sound of a couple of the Ptarmigan and we had distant views.
|Female Red Grouse|
We were having difficulty getting close enough for a picture and decided to split up to cover more ground. I could hear one calling so went higher to see if I could find it. It was then that I realised that it was sitting out on a rock about ten feet away from a group of climbers that had just gone past me. It clearly did not like people in its territory and was giving them a server scolding. They all had their phones out taking pictures and must have thought me an odd sight trying to run through the snow to catch up with them before the bird disappeared.
Dave was a couple of hundred yards away and had even further to travel. He managed to get a few shots but I think his arrival must have been too much for the bird. It probably felt out numbered and made a strategic withdrawal.
We found a few more of the Ptarmigan and got some good pictures but none were as close as the first one.
|This male is in full breeding finery|
Back down to the car park by midday we decided to give the Crested Tits another go. Much to our surprise we found David Gardiner standing in "our" spot. Still it was nice to see someone from home and we spent a pleasant afternoon and evening discussing the birding opportunities.
The Cresties put in some good appearances and there was also a Siskin in the area, a rare sight this year.
|Siskin - this one seems to have a deformed bill and its feet look a bit of a mess as well|
|Crested Tit - Posing nicely for a picture|
|You need to see the bigger picture - a large dollop of peanut butter helps to keep its attention|
Ptarmigan and Crested Tits in the same day. Birding back in Sussex is going to seem a little boring.