A pleasant drive north into the Cairngorms where I took the easy Ptarmigan option at Glenshee Ski Centre scoping an individual from the car park adjacent to The Cairnwell in a howling gale. The weather alternated between pleasant, early spring sunshine, albeit breezy and howling winter gales that lashed snow across the road almost horizontally. A few Ravens here too as I drove through heading toward Linn of Dee at Braemar.
From Braemar I continued north to Grantown and spent late afternoon wandering the paths at Anadach Woods to the east. A couple of crossbill sp, were all I managed to turn up here. I kipped overnight in the car nearby for an early start to try and track down Caper and Crested Tit.
In the event finding neither on Saturday morning I made do with Buzzard and Tawny Owl and more 'crossbills', all restless moving and nigh on impossible to do to species then I moved west, heading for Inverness. I dropped in at Loch Garten and jammed a Crested Tit down the footpaths on the west side with a couple of Great Tits and 2 Siskins. The drive to Inverness was scenic but with little to add to the trip list.
At Loch Flemington the American Coot was embarrassingly easy, providing close views of a less than inspiring bird. It dived a few times before scuttling off into the floating reed debris and bankside twigs to attend to itself for a while.
The drive to Dingwall was peppered with low-flying roadside Red Kites and a quick stop at Tesco Express for some Warburtons with which I hoped to entice the long-staying Ring-billed Gull. Not reported since 20th Feb I knew it was a long shot and I probably cut a sad figure hurling wholemeal around the grassed lawn in front of the local library and skulking at the 'boating pond' that apart from four Herring Gulls was lifeless and unloved.
Cutting my losses around lunch-time i headed south to Strontian and hopefully the
Wanted to give myself as much time as possible on Sunday to catch up with the 1st-winter American Herring Gull at Campbeltown I pushed on through Oban, Lochgiplhead and down into the Mull of Kintyre, tired and trying to get there before dark I pitched up around 18:45 and found a room at a rather rundown pub/hotel.
Up early I hit the harbour in the gloom of six-thirty and with cries of over-flying Herring Gulls sharp and grating in my hearing aid. I was joined after a few minutes by a familiar face, Cliff Davis, who took up my offer of a a seat in the car as we spent the next three and a half hours on a circuit between the airport, floods and various fields holding small gull flocks. For a while it was a struggle, nothing of real interest, I tried to string a white-headed Great Black back at one flood as we pulled up but quickly recanted. Another rotation produced a juvenile Iceland Gull then further down the road back toward Stewarton a flock we had previously scanned suddenly produced this gleamingly white-headed beauty. Probably close to 800m away the views weren't exactly crippling but boy did it stand out. The same field also produced a different juvenile Iceland Gull as well as an adult (visible to left below).
After a few brief minutes there was a bit of a gull melee and off the yank went back in the direction of the harbour. In the harbour a couple of Black Guillemots and a 'sailed' Common Eider were of passing interest. Satisfied we headed off back on the journey home, Cliff taking the offer of a lift after arriving on the bus the previous night.
A little way up the road we stopped briefly to catch up with the Tayinloan Two, white and intermediate morph Snow Geese feeding amongst one of the many Greenland White-fronted Geese littering roadside fields.
A further stop at the east end of Loch Fyne produced another Black Guillemot and a juvenile Great Northern Diver.