Ticking a long chased bird: Little Bunting in Bedfordshire

In 2002 when I was on a Scandinavian birding trip, I thought the Little Bunting wouldn’t be too difficult to add to my life list. The only morning when I got exhausted and some fever the team located a bird around Kuusamo, Finland. I failed to find one later on the very same spot. I also missed several opportunities to see trapped birds in the last couple of years.

A couple of weeks ago a Little Bunting was reported from the neighbor county, Bedfordshire. I simply wasn’t able to find a clean weekend to get there, but this time everything was perfect for a good birding trip. I took a train to Bedford and a cab to Willington. Unfortunately, the location info in the BirdGuide app wasn’t correct and I just realised it later that the grid reference points to the other side of the river. First challenge was to find a bridge near Great Barford.

After a bit of trek I manged to find the footbridge and a single birder at the spot. He couldn’t see the bird during his one and a half hours stay. This wasn’t something I wanted to hear. Luckyly, I didn’t have to wait another 1.5 hours to see the bird. 10 minutes later Common Chaffinches and Common Reed Buntings started to feed on the seeds followed by an indeed little, neat-looking Little Bunting. I asked the birder if he had seen it but he wasn’t sure. As female Common Reed Buntings were also feeding closer to the bushes making it was easy to see the differences in the plumage traits of the two species. What a bird it was.

The characteristic head pattern and bill shape made this bird easy to pick. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

The Little Bunting fed on seeds and wasn’t mix with the aggressive Common Reed Buntins. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

I have to say, this is a loveable little taiga visitor and it was well worth the very early wake up and 10 miles walk. Just after the birder left the sun came out and I could enjoy the perfect views of this rarity.

The colours and patterns of the Little Bunting perfectly blends with the habitat it was feeding on. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

The Little Bunting became the 2,186th bird species on my life list. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

It wasn’t easy to locate this bird once in the bush. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

This is the small bush area where the Little Bunting and other birds fed on the seeds. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

Here is the list of birds I added to eBird at the spot:

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) 2
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) 2
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 1
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 1
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Eurasian) (Picus viridis viridis/karelini) 1
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) 1
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 8
Eurasian Skylark (European) (Alauda arvensis) 4
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 4
Great Tit (Parus major) 3
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus europaeus) 2
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 2
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 1
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita collybita) 4
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 4
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 2
Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla) 1
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 7
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 9

Planning birding trips with the help of birders around the world

When I launched my self-publishing project on the world’s shorebirds I knew travelling w would be the hardest part to fund and sometimes organise. Then a lot of my Facebook connections, and good friends, offered help in case I am planning to cross their local pathces. Indeed some of them are living in the vicinity of top birding hot spots and the local knowledge always bring some excellent and elusive birds what, otherwise, might easily be missed.

The idea is now to map those kind and helpful birders who I can count on during trip planning as well as in the field. Signing up on the map is voluntary and it doesn’t mean any commitment. I also put myself on the map first. I’m more than happy to help traveling birders either here or in Hungary.

Anyone feels happy to support me this way, please share the location of the hometown and make a marker on this open map. Don’t share your exact address just the town of your residence. Please make sure you add your name so I can see who is linked to the map marker.

Me watching Dunlins and Ringed Plovers around Chesil Beach of Weymouth in Dorset.

Me watching Dunlins and Ringed Plovers around Chesil Beach of Weymouth in Dorset.


One of my targets to see the stunning American Avocet. This photo was taken by Ilya Povalyaev and was legally embedded from the photographer's Flickr account. All rights reserved by Ilya Povalyaev.

One of my targets to see the stunning American Avocet. This photo was taken by Ilya Povalyaev and was legally embedded from the photographer’s Flickr account. All rights reserved by Ilya Povalyaev.

Here is the map and the direct link to it.

New eBird hotspots self-challenge

One of my birding resolutions for this year was to submit at least one full checklist every day. I’ve been on target so far but I also made another resolution. I try to submit at least one new hotspot every month. It was a bit late in the month, but today I managed to visit a new habitat with my son close to my home. My initial target was to find the habitat of the Eurasian Woodcock around the Aspley Woods near Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire. I heard good birds reported from here including Dartford Warbler.

The trail runs along the pine forest belt. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The trail runs along the pine forest belt. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The southern end of the woods. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The southern end of the woods. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Favourite feeding habitat for Goldcrests. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Favourite feeding habitat for Goldcrests. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This heathland and mixed forest habitat provided nice bird movements even in this rainy and gloomy morning. We had the usual winter bird community in the forest. The number of British Coal Tits were probably undercounted although we recorded every single calling birds but it wasn’t easy to see them in the canopies. A few Eurasian Siskins and Eurasian Bullfinhes made difference.

By reaching the lower end of the woods we found a wet scrubby area along a temporary-looking brook with wet mossy logs all around. I immediately asked Dani to be quiet and move carefully for a chance to find a woodcock. As we got closer to the ditch of the brook a Eurasian Woodcock was flushed from the spot I was just about to start scanning for it on the ground. It again landed just 30 meters from us and then it flew again an additional 20 meters. I saw it on the ground where it carried on feeding. It might be worth to spend a couple of evenings to find out if this was an isolated record or this is a wintering site.

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Eurasian Woodcock in Finland. This photo taken by Pasi Parkkinen. The photo was legally embedded from the photographer’s Flickr portfolio. All rights reserved to the photographer.

Records from Aspley Wood:

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 2
Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) 1
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 53 (overflying)
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 3 (overflying)
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 1 (overflying)
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 28 (overflying)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) 1
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 4
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 9
Coal Tit (British) (Periparus ater britannicus) 5
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 7
Great Tit (Parus major) 2
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 6
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 6
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 12
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) 12
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) 1
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 2
Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) 3
Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) 3
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 2

After leaving Aspley Wood we carried out crossing the Old and New Wavendon Heath forest habitat to reach Bow Brickhill village through the Bow Brickhill Heath. We saw good number of passerines in a few flocks. 33 British Coal Tits, 2 Eurasian Nuthatches, 19 stunning Goldcrests, 4 Fieldfares, 1 Mistle Thrush and 10 Eurasian Siskins were of mention.

Next door life bird: Ring-necked Duck

A drake first winter Ring-necked Duck was first reported on 19th October 2016 from the Wilstone Reservoir near Tring, and despite it was at a close distance from my home, I had no chance to visit the area until today. Yesterday a kind local birdwatcher, Mal McGar offered us a lift to the reservoir.

Upon arrival I spotted a nice flock of European Golden Plovers circling over the lake. We walked to the jetty where other twitchers had been looking for the duck. They couldn’t find the bird despite it was feeding just next to them. Mal found the bird within seconds and we enjoyed the close view through his scope. On the. Way back to the car we checked the golden plovers and Northern Lapwings. We found some Common Snipes as well.

I could take a few quite bad photos due to low lights but good for the record.

First winter drake Ring-necked Duck, a long chased life bird. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

First winter drake Ring-necked Duck, a long chased life bird. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

My Global Shorebird Counting contribution

Work and family duties didn’t allow too much time in the field but I managed to get out to the nearby hotspot. It wasn’t particularly shorebirdy but I enjoyed to see some birds.

Incoming Canada Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Preening Greylag Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Good numbers of Greylag Goose and Canada Goose arrived from the nearby fields for preening and drinking. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A few Northern Lapwing among Black-headed Gulls and large flock of Canada Goose. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Incoming Greylag Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Successful fishing of Great Crested Grebe. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Adult Great Crested Grebe was peacefully approaching the pool in front of the Viaduct hide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Sandpipers are peak on migration. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Juvenile Common Sandpiper was just in front of the hide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Calling juvenile Common Sandpiper. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is what I found at Manor Farm, Wolverton.

Greylag Goose 170
Canada Goose 638 (Large flocks arrived from the nearby fields)
Mute Swan 16
Mallard 86
Northern Shoveler 23
Green-winged Teal 8
Common Pochard 1
Tufted Duck 5
Little Grebe 6
Great Crested Grebe 2
Great Cormorant 6
Gray Heron 3
Little Egret 6
Water Rail 1
Eurasian Moorhen 26
Eurasian Coot 51
Northern Lapwing 18
Common Snipe 3
Common Sandpiper 6
Green Sandpiper 3
Black-headed Gull 469
Common Wood-Pigeon 20
Common Kingfisher 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker 3
Merlin 1
Eurasian Jay 2
Eurasian Magpie 15
Eurasian Jackdaw 8
Carrion Crow 15
Barn Swallow 9
Common House-Martin 2
Eurasian Blue Tit 20
Great Tit 6
Long-tailed Tit (A. c. europaeus) 24
Eurasian Treecreeper 2
Eurasian Wren 16
Common Chiffchaff (P. c. collybita) 3
Eurasian Blackcap 1
Greater Whitethroat 1
European Robin 18
Eurasian Blackbird 5
European Starling 1
Dunnock 11
Gray Wagtail 1
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 7
Reed Bunting 2
Common Chaffinch 2
Eurasian Bullfinch 2
European Goldfinch 9
Eurasian Linnet 2

125,000th ringed birds

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A moment from Tibor Krúg’s life long passion for bird ringing. © Daniel Szimuly

Two days ago a fantastic milestone has been reached by one of the most experienced bird ringer from my homeland in Hungary. Tibor Krúg, a Hungarian ringer had his 125,000th ringed bird, a Barn Swallow, which was an extraordinary achievement of an individual bird ringer.

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Tibi with his 125,000th ringed bird, a Barn Swallow. © Daniel Szimuly

I met Tibi in the late 80s for the fist time when a few of us decided to start organised summer bird ringing at the local wetland, the Ferencmajor fishponds near the village of Naszály. Tibi has been playing key role in the Ferencmajor Bird Ringing Camp (now a ringing station) since the beginning. In the 90s I had the privilege to work with him and to enjoy his special storytelling and he always made us laugh. His enthusiasm for bird ringing is unquestionable and we would fail to mention a case when he said, “it is impossible to trap that bird…” If he failed, he tried again and again.

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Barred Warbler is one of Tibi’s favourite birds to ring and it is a regular visitor in the bird ringing camp. © Daniel Szimuly

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A day like this could help Tibi to reach his next milestone. This image was taken a few days ago when the ringer marked more than 400 birds. © Daniel Szimuly

Born in 1952, he ringed his first bird back in 1979. It was a Rook, as he remembered, but ringing data was only available from 1980. Twice in his bird ringing career he ringed over 10,000 individual birds within a year. According to him, the best ringed birds were Arctic or Black-throated Loon, White-backed Woodpecker and Yellow-browed Warbler. He also have some remarkable recoveries including a Little Stint ringed in the far Siberian Russia.

During the 36 years of bird ringing he inspired a lot of young birders to start ringing and also taught dozens for proper identification and handling of birds. From here I would like to congratulate Tibi for this great achievement and I wish him to be able to reach the next major milestone in a few years time.

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New technologies, like this special canopy net, helped Tibi to easily get some special birds, like European Golden Orioles, which otherwise would be very hard to trap. © Daniel Szimuly

We need Pokémon-free areas

Pokémon Go drove the half of the world crazy in the last few weeks and although the number of active users are declining these days there are still an incredibly large number of people using their mobile phones for hunting down these little bastards. Using Pokémon Go by millions also means there is a lot higher pressure on the environment than before as above the regular outdoorists a new gaming generation is now spreading out to parks, streets and all sort of locations, for playing Pokémon Go. They are not necessarily the most environmentally sensitive people though…

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Last week, while birdwatching at the Ferrybridge and the Fleet at Portland in Dorset, I witnessed a man and his son entering the mudflat and playing Pokémon Go while disturbing dozens of shorebirds. They entered the tidal zone where shorebirds have just arrived to feed after long hours roosting during high tide. It was far beyond the acceptable disturbance level but they felt they had to get those Pokémons in the middle of the mudflat. Small flock of Dunlin and Common Ringed Plover were flushed from the fresh feeding grounds and had to move to the much narrower muddy edges of the Fleet.

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I’m afraid this is not a solitary observation and most of the users only focus on gaming and don’t really care about the environment with all its complexity. While it is a good thing that the ‘flat-ass generation‘ (as I call them) has started walking off the gaming chairs, they should also be informed how to be a part of the nature in a sustainable way. On the other hand Pokémon Go developers should start to work with conservation organisations to develop Pokémon-free areas. They would care less about the middle of the mudflat if there was no Pokémon popping up there. Theses areas should be excluded where those little cyber creatures could be collected from. It is already a sensitive issue.

Lifers at the sea

Three hours after I arrived home from the Birdfair ‘Birds and Beers’ afterparty I picked up my older daughter, Szandra for a day trip to Portland Bill. We haven’t been out together for years so it was just about time. I targeted to find a Balearic Shearwater which I missed to see in the previous years. Despite the three hours long drive mainly in pouring rain we had a very pleasant weather at our arrival. Sun came out and the visibility was decent although we had a very strong wind. A couple of birders with scope found at a wind-protected area next to the lighthouse.

A view from the lighthouse to the Race. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Early starters at the lighthouse. © Gyorgy Szimuly

There was a large flock of Northern Gannet and some European Herring Gull over the Portland Race. The Race looked spectacular as the top of the waves were sprayed away by the strong guts. Shortly a couple of Manx Shearwater appeared and flew towards the west. One of the birders scanned the race and spotted a most probably European Storm Petrel through his scope. I stood next to him but with my binoculars it was impossible to spott a swallow-sized seabird over themassive waves. He lost the bird almost immediately as disappeared behind the waves. It would have been a life bird for me.

Some very lovely birdwatchers arrived at the spot and some of them seemed to be real experts on seabirds. They soon spotted the first Balearic Shearwaters among Manx Shearwaters. They were not to far and I could see the plumage differences between the Manx and Balearic Shearwater. I had a nice chat with the leading birder of the group and he showed me a few more Balearic Shearwater through his Swarovski spotting scope. I was so happy about the view it provided. He also spotted a storm petrel but I missed it again.

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Balearic Shearwater by Juhani Vilpo

Later this birder and another lovely lady found a larger shearwater with much longer wings than the Manx’s have. I could spot it and even through binoculars it looked to be larger with dark upperparts and contrasting white underwing. The underwing was too strikingly white for Sooty Shearwater. It was a Cory’s Shearwater. Just minutes later a Cory’s Shearwater was reported, heading towards the Race, by the Portland Bill Observatory staff.

Cory's Shearwater

Cory’s Shearwater by Xavier Martínez

eBird checklist from Portland Bill (07:50 – 10:52):

Northern Fulmar 7
Cory’s Shearwater 1
Manx Shearwater 27
Balearic Shearwater 5
Northern Gannet 130
Great Cormorant 3
European Shag 6
Common Murre 1
Black-legged Kittiwake 3
Mediterranean Gull 2
European Herring Gull 68
Great Black-backed Gull 19
Eurasian Jackdaw 2
Carrion Crow 3
Rock Pipit 8
Eurasian Linnet 2

Great Black-backed Gulls were flying against the wind over the Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Me watching the passing shearwaters in a little rock shelter. © Szandra Szimuly

This boat must have a had a very rough ride next to the Race. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Juvenile European Herring Gull in the quarry of the Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Enjoying coffee at the Bill with Szandra. © Szandra Szimuly

Spectacular view to the Chesil Beach and the Portland Harbour with the village. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Spectacular view to the Chesil Beach and the Portland Harbour with the village. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another photo of the Portland Harbour.

Another photo of the Portland Harbour.

From the Bill we drove to the Ferrybridge where waders were waiting for low tide. A small flock of roosting Mediterranean Gull and a few Dunlin with two Common Ringed Plover were close to the bridge. As salt water started to recede small flock of waders arrived for feeding. While we had lunch in the cafe two Ruddy Turnstone and an Eurasian Oystercatcher joined the feeding wader flock. Unfortunately, tourists and visitors don’t respect the small area and disturbance was quite frequent.

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Roosting Mediterranean Gulls at the Fleet. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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A view to the Fleet from the Ferrybridge. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Feeding flock of Dunlin and Common Ringed Plover. © Gyorgy Szimuly

(Ferrybridge eBird checklist (11:39 – 13:30):

Eurasian Oystercatcher 1
Common Ringed Plover 46
Ruddy Turnstone 2
Sanderling 1
Dunlin 136
Black-headed Gull 5
Mediterranean Gull 73
European Herring Gull 6
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Sandwich Tern 2
Eurasian Linnet 2

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Standing on the Chesil Beach of Portland. © Szandra Szimuly

I have been in the darkest emotional depths with hopelessness in the last couple of months but this should be over now. This weekend was and excellent breakthrough and hopefully many will come.

A day for Red Grouses

After our lovely dinner in Tarbet we drove through some spectacular landscapes in northwest Highlands towards Inverness. Our destination was another RSPB reserve near Corrimony just west of Loch Ness. We arrived late in the night with the last lights and were welcomed by the calls of Eurasian Curlews and Eurasian Oystercatchers from the nearby fields.

A relatively birdless scenery near Laxford Bridge, nortwest Highlands, Scotland. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Classic Scotish landscape with Loch Stach in the background. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We woke up early morning to be in the reserve with the highest bird activity. Over the car park 3 Common Merganser chased each other and a stunning Common Redstart were feeding from the fences along the road. This upland reserve is a combination of different habitats such as pine forest, moorland and Caledonian forest plantations managed by RSPB. Growing birch plantations in the moorland make the reserve even more interesting. We failed to see two target species in the forest, the Crested Tit and the Scottish Crossbill. In fact we couldn’t see any crossbills. We also couldn’t manage to see Red Grouses and Black Grouses although we heard them both. Red Grouse called right after we were out of the forest and we heard the bubbling calls of Black Grouses from the opposite hillside. We tried hard in the heather covered moorland but failed to find any grouse.

The small River Enrick runs across the reserve. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Most of the Spotted Flycatchers we saw along the River Enrick. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Mixture of pastures and woodland on the lower elevations of the reserve. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Willow Warblers were singing everywhere from open habitats to birch covered moorland. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Moving further into the reserve we got to the Loch Comhnard where I hoped to see one of the local breeding waders, the Common Greenshank but again, we were not lucky. The route of a cycling event was through the reserve and there were lots of human activity on the trail in the morning. That might have affected our luck, but anyway we enjoyed the 5 km long trekking. 10 Sand Martin and a Barn Swallow were flying over the loch, Little Grebe was feeding with a company of Black-headed Gulls.

The most abundant species in the whole reserve was the Common Chaffinch (26 birds) followed by singing Willow Warblers (22). We had excellent views of singing Tree Pipits, Spotted Flycatchers, Mistle Thrush, European Siskins and 5 Lesser Redpolls. On the way back we saw a family of Eurasian Treecreeper with freshly fledged youngsters.

Loch Comhnard surrounded with heather. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

From Corrimony I drove to the other side of Loch Ness through Inverness in a hope to find a Red Grouse or two. We stopped at the famous Loch Ness which obviously attracted a lots of tourist around the viewing points. Loch Ness itself is probably the simplest and most boring lake in Scotland, so generating this monster story is a quite understandable movement by the locals. From marketing point of view the legend of the Loch Ness Monster works well, judging it from our single visit in a very expensive gift shop.

A view to the famous Loch Ness. As we didn’t try hard enough we failed to see the Scottish monster. iPhone 6s Plus (Gyorgy Szimuly

From Inverness we drove across some extensive heathland when accidentally found ourselves in the car park of the RSPB Loch Ruthven Reserve. Thsi is one of the few nesting location of the gorgeous Slavonian Grebe or Horned Grebe. it was already raining when we walked to the bird hide but was heavily pouring while we were sitting in the hide with two other trapped Scottish birdwatchers. It wasn’t too difficult to find the Eared Grebes in immaculate breeding plumage. An attractive Little Grebe was also swimming just in front of the hide.

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Another lovely and special RSPB Reserve at the Loch Ruthven. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

We didn’t want to waste too much time in the hide so we walked back to car. We got totally soaked in the downpour but we soon left the rain behind and continued searching for Red Grouses.

We experienced the unpredictable face of Scotland. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the way to Fort Augustus we drove through some beautiful upland moorland areas. We came across our first Scottish Red Kite near Aberarder. I made several stops for quick scanning for Red Grouses. On the hillside of Cairn Ardachy I spotted six Black Grouses feeding on the heather. As they were distant we set up the spotting scope and watched them for a few minutes.

In a hope to get a lovely coffee we made a short turn to the Foyers Falls. It was probably the worst experience during our whole stay in Scotland. The aged staff wasn’t too keen to focus on customers and above that some rude customers and the rubbish coffee made this break rapid. The only good thing was about this detour the finding of two singing Wood Warblers behind the coffee shop.

Continuing our way on the road B862 towards Fort Augustus, Dani spotted two Red Grouses just a few hundred meters from the Suidhe Viewpoint to the north. I Stopped immediately and we shortly found the constantly but slowly moving birds. The pair was with 8 chicks. We could enjoy clear view of a few chicks but the adults were quite elusive and escorted the chicks down to the valley. Our hard work paid off after all and Dani got another life bird. Happy times.

This is the only record shot I could take of the Red Grouse while escorting their chicks into safety. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

A wider perspective of the upland moorland where we found the Red Grouses. iPhone 6s Plus© Gyorgy Szimuly

Once we were around we included a short visit to the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct which was opened for public railway services in 1901 after 4 years of construction. The viaduct has been a popular location choice for film makers including the Harry Potter movie series as probably the most known. Birdlife around the area was not any special but screaming Common Swifts and chirping Common House Martins over the viaduct created a nice atmosphere. It’s too bad that a train was passing on the viaduct when we were on our way back to the car.

The Glenfinnan Viaduct from one of the viewpoints. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Under the Glenfinnan Viaduct. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Crystal clear water of the River Finnan running under the viaduct into the Loch Shiel. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

From this point birdwatching was ruined by family issues and we headed back home. All in all this Scottish trip was a wonderful escape from dailly pressure and almost permanent working without any holday since 2010. Based on what we experienced I am sure I will return to Scotland once I am able to get my professional bird photography gear again.

We love Scotland!

Seabirds of Handa Island – Part Two

Northern Fulmars were breeding in loose colonies on the cliffs. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Northern Fulmars were breeding in loose colonies on the cliffs. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

The northwestern tip of the island, the first sport to see seabirds on nest, was a very noisy place with tens of thousands of seabirds, maily Alcids. Handa Island is the stronghold for the British population of Common Murre (Guillemots) with around 120,000 breeding pairs. The whole atmosphere was spectacular, the views on nearby seabirds through our mini Opticron scope was unbelievably intimate. There were as many seabirds on the sae as on the cliffs and skuas often patrolled over the water for some easy meal.

Following our way on the route we headed west and southwest of the island. We have passed the magnificent Great Stack sandstone pillar which alone holds more than 7,000 pars of Common Murre. We had very close views on Razorbills and Atlantic Puffins and Northern Fulmars touched our head while gliding over the cliffs. Rock Pipit songs and calls often broke the noise of the colonies and Northern Wheatears were active on the southern slopes in looking for food.

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Common Mutres roosting rocks. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Sea Thrift Was blooming everywhere on the island. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Spectacular lone seacliff is hosting hundreds of Common Murre. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Close encounters of overflying Great Skuas are not uncommon on Handa Island. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The graceful Northern Fulmar became one of my favourite seabirds. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The wind and precipitation eroded these sandstone cliffs which is perfect nesting place for Common Murres and Razorbills. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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I enjoyed the view of a close Atlantic Puffin and the open ocean. It was really relaxing. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Guillemots are able to occupy the smallest edge for laying eggs. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Hundreds of beautiful Razorbills were also nesting among Common Murres. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The breeding success of everyone’s favourite and adorable seabird, the Atlantic Puffin might be lower this year as Brown Rats returned to the island. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Swimming and feeding Common Murres at sea. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Seabird-scape of Handa Island. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Nesting Northern Fulmar. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Northern Fulmar dispute over the nest burrow.. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Spectacular sea cliffs in the northwest part of the island. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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I believe this is a Heath Spotted Orchid. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Sweet warning to stay on the track. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Scenery from the top of the island. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Incredible vertical seawall holds tens of thousands of seabirds in Summer. iPhone 6s Plus

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What a privilege is finding this cooperative Atlantic Puffin and having a breakfast next to it. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Puffins can melt the hardest heart. Simply beautiful bird. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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An elegant Razorbill was guarding next to its nest. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Razorbills were very active and flew to and off the cliff very often. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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If I had a sharp prime lens… Anyway, these photos are decent results from this Sony camera. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Razorbills were like photo models. They never stood still. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Communicating Northern Fulmar. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Northern Fulmar in flight. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Close-up flight shot of a Northern Fulmar. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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My favourite Razorbill photo from the island. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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This is the Great Stack. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Patrolling Great Skua over the cliffs. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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This Razorbill was just three meters away from us. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Razorbill has an absolutely perfect plumage and it’s hard to believe it is actually a mass of feathers. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Atlantic Puffins are simply lovable creatures. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Razorbills have bright yellow mouth which is useful visual alarm in threat and also during display. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Another angle of the confiding Razorbill. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Incubating Northern Fulmar with its mate. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Singing Rock Pipit on a sea cliff. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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We found a couple of Rock Pipits on the island. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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It’s never enough to photograph Atlantic Puffins. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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It was a bit early in the season to see Atlantic Puffins full of fish in their beak. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Close view on Common Murres or Common Guillemots. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Wing flapping of an Atlantic Puffin. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Another seascape photo from the western side of Handa Island. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

At the southern end the habitat changed from rocky shores to sandy beaches and so its birdlife from seabird colonies to Arctic Tern colony and nesting Eurasian Oystercatchers and Common Ringed Plover.

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Sandy beach on the southern part of the island and the rocks with Arctic Terns. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Adult male Northern Wheatear on its perch. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Adult female Northern Wheatear was busy in collecting food. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Beautiful colours everywhere. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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At the end of the 6km long trekking the Sun was about to shine again. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

The last ferry was leaving at 16:45 and we decided to have a proper dinner in the Shorehouse Restaurant before we left for RSPB Corrimony Reserve. We had a healthy salmon with a mix of vegetables. We still had plenty of daylight for the next few hours of journey enabling enjoyment of the drive in the usually stunning northwest Highland.

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On the way back to the Tarbet port in lovely sunshine. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Nice salmon dish from the Shorehouse Restaurant. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly