9-12 FEBRUARY2013

Trip Leader: Garry Wilkinson



Nine members set off on the P&O boat on Saturday morning. Rain cleared as we came into Loch Ryan and we were able to pick out a Great Northern Diver and several Red throated divers as we approached Cairnryan.

Our plan was to spend as much daylight hours birding round Galloway before heading to Perth for three nights. If possible we would travel up to New Galloway and on up to Abbington and on to Perth giving us a chance for owls etc. en route.  As it was we went down to the Wig were we got Slavonian grebes, Scaup, Common Scoter, Long Tailed Duck, Twite and Skylarks but no sign of the reported Surf Scoter.

Next we looked along Broad Road for any new species but Brent Geese and Mergansers were the only additions. The weather deteriorated and visibility in the hills was virtually nil so we decided the hill route to be a waste of time and instead we travelled directly to Perth and settled into our Hotel, The Salutation, established in 1699 and one of the oldest in Scotland.

The following day after breakfast we called at Scone Palace to look for the elusive Hawfinches but were unsuccessful. We then ventured up to Glenshee just in time for a snow blizzard but managed to see several Snow Buntings and Red Grouse. Red deer were very visible in the snow which provided a stunning backdrop as we watched buzzards and a single Peregrine Falcon before the snow set in and the roads closed shortly after we descended. We headed for lunch at the Vane Farm RSPB reserve at Loch Leven where the feeders had Siskins and a single Brambling. The hides provided good views of several male and female Goosanders but we could not see the Short eared owls on St Serfs or the White Tailed Eagles that were loafing in the area. As the light faded we headed for Errol but torrential rain made visibility poor and the light faded sharply and we returned instead to our hotel.

The following morning we tried again for the Hawfinches at Scone. Stuart and Gerrard heard the birds but again we were unsuccessful with views. We cut our losses and went over the Forth Bridge into Lothian and started birding at Musselburgh. Velvet Scoters, Slavonian Grebes and more Long tailed ducks were added then we moved along the coast to Longinriddy where we encountered more Velvet Scoters and both Slavonian and Red necked grebes. We finished the afternoon at Aberlady Bay with some Pinkfeet Geese, Peregrine, Knot, Golden Plover, Kestrel and a single Short Eared Owl going into deep cover and flushing several Redwings and Fieldfares. Two Bullfinches were encountered on the return walk.

Our last day we diverted off the motorway in search of the Bean Geese flock at Slamannan Plateau but this always elusive flock proved no exception this time around and again we headed straight for Galloway to search for the Surf Scoter again. An untagged Red Kite was a welcome addition to our list over Penwhirn before we scanned the flock of Scaup at the Wig for our quarry. Stuart was the first to spot the superb adult male Surf Scoter on a choppy sea but before long several of the group including myself had reasonable views. This was a lifer for Stuart and we were all pleased to get this delightful North American duck. While the weather defeated us on a number of occasions the good food, accommodation and company more than made up for small number of birds encountered. My thanks to all the participants and to the Hotel staff who made our stay very comfortable.

Garry Wilkinson