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Cairngorm Trip 2014: Day 3

When we awoke to blue skies and sunshine this morning we decided to head straight back up to Lochindorb to see if we could capture some pictures of the Red Grouse in the sunshine, as we knew it would bring them alive! We were not disappointed! Within a few minutes of arriving, we could see the males, often peeping up on raised areas of heather. I learnt yesterday that they actually inflate their red wattles and we saw that in evidence today! The males have paired up with their females and were often calling and displaying to them, inflating these wattles from a simple eyebrow to a rather spectacular crimson rainbow. Photographers  often talk of golden light.. well this morning you could see the effect of this lovely winter sunshine as these birds simply glowed and it completely changed the landscape. I absolutely LOVE these birds… they are great characters and are a dream subject, posing amongst the heather and providing so many wonderful opportunities for shots. I took lots (as you can imagine!) and here are a couple to give you a flavour of what a bit of sunshine can do!

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After a couple of hours, we headed back to Boat of Garten to meet up with Allan Bantick and his wife, Heather. I had been following Allan on Twitter (@allanboat) and was really interested, in particular, with the work he is doing on crested tits. Allan is the Chair of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and if you take a look at his website and blog, you will see he is a very busy man! 

It was great to meet Allan, another person who shares my passion for the natural world, particularly his ‘patch’ ; a wonderful area of woodland just outside his home. This woodland boasts a population of crested tits. Since this woodland is relatively young, although it was able to sustain a population in regards of food, the cresties were struggling to find suitable breeding places. They like to nest in rotten wood… old trees and stumps. Allan has been having great success with nest boxes filled with rough sawdust. He has positioned these boxes all around the woodland and we went to take a look. Amazing that such a simple action could create a breeding space for these little punk rockers of the tit family! In case you are wondering…. the key shape in some is to accommodate their crest! 

I am looking forward to hearing about the success of these boxes this year. Whilst having a cup of coffee with Allan and Heather, Pete was keeping an eye out on his feeders…. and yes!!! I was delighted to see my first crested tit! How wonderful to have them on the feeders in your garden… along with red squirrels!

We enjoyed a lovely walk through the woodlands and I am fascinated with the stunning lichens in this clear air… incredibly beautiful structures..

It was lovely to meet Allan and I am sure we will be keeping in touch from now on..

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With the sun still shining, Pete and I decided to head up to  Burghead Harbour. This harbour is renown for its winter visitors.

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When the sea is rough, lots of great species shelter in this harbour, giving plenty of opportunities for photography. The harbour did not disappoint! As we arrived there were Long-tailed ducks there, and before long, stunning Eiders. We were also treated to a couple of Red breasted mergansers and a Great Northern Diver! The light was lovely, but challenging, with reflections as well as white and black ducks! I may need to do a little post processing when I get home, but here are a few of my shots from today…

My favourites just have to be the Eiders… they are just stunning and listening to them just makes you smile as they have such a wonderful call.

It has been another fantastic day! It is not just the destinations that are fantastic… the scenery on the way there is spectacular as well… and photos just don’t do it justice…

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