Friday, 8 July 2011

Speyside - actually Troup Head

On the Wednesday of our week in Scotland, we forgot about dragonflies and went up to the Moray Firth. It proved a good choice weatherwise, the closer we got to the coast, the fewer clouds there were in the sky. We stopped at Banff harbour first, and tried to track down the company that does boat trips from here. Well, Rob did, while I went off down the harbour arm with my camera.

Banff is a few miles from Troup Head, but the latter has a gannetry and evidently the Gannets find good fishing round here. I got lots of blurry diving-Gannet pics and a handful of sharpish ones.

Kittiwakes were streaming past, almost all of them heading west.

A few Guillemots bobbed about in the mouth of the harbour. This one surfaced with a fish, and then showed me how much larger a fish he had almost caught.

Another couple of seabirds, included for completeness - a line of Razorbills, and a Shag. It was all looking very good for a boat trip, but sadly the boat trip company's posters said 'trips on request' and they weren't answering their phone. So we drove on to Troup Head, and followed a trail across amazingly fragrant flowery fields to the cliff edge. From here we could see (and hear, and smell) a vast avian metropolis on the sheer cliff faces. There followed several very happy hours of seabird-photographing.

Fulmars wheeled by at eye-level, often far too close for my lens, and sometimes so close that they could, if they had been so inclined, have accurately vomited on us. Happily they didn't.

Here's a bit of the sizeable gannetry. The Gannets were busily flying to and fro, though I didn't spot any feeding in the immediate vicinity. Most of the ones flying by were rather distant...

... with a few notable exceptions. Among the pristine white adults were a handful of mottled subadults, presumably just here to size things up and see how the colony works before returning to breed when they're all grown up.

The sea was covered with floating auks, mostly Guillemots and a few Razorbills. Not many auks flew by high enough for photos, though this Puffin came pretty close.

This bit of cliff is Guillemot city (with the odd Razorbill). There were a fair few fluffy chicks among the Guillies.

Here's part of Kittiwake city. They prefer deeper ledges than the auks. There were numerous baby Kittiwakes on view, already exhibiting their boldly patterned juvenile plumage.

A big bad Bonxie - one of five or six Great Skuas we saw today. I think they are here just for some light piracy rather than breeding locally.

The picture was completed by Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. Here's a second-summer of the latter species, looking suitably mean.

Finally the cloud caught up with us and we headed back towards the car, stopping for a Skylark.

What do burnet moths do on cloudy afternoons? This, apparently. In the flowery field we saw dozens of burnets, nearly all of them were in mating pairs.

A Small Tortoiseshell, soaking up what little sun it could.

This butterfly really caught my eye as it glided past, and I was very pleased that it landed on a thistle by the trail, permitting photographs and identification - a Dark Green Fritillary. ('Dark green? It's orange!' said Rob, not unreasonably).

We went back via Banff and I had another photo session on the harbour while Rob went off on a doomed search for a late fish and chip lunch.

I saw some different stuff this time. A couple of Sandwich Terns, a Turnstone and then this Curlew.

Our only seaduck of the day - a tatty male Common Eider.

Back at the car, I made a hungry Rob wait a few more minutes while I photographed this Rock Pipit.

It had a youngster in tow, making our baby-pipit tally for the week an impressive three species.


Phil said...

Great pictures and account Marianne. It made me want to get back up there as soon as poss. Except that I know it would just keep raining.
Love the Gannet shots in particular.

Mike Attwood said...

Wonderful collection Marianne. Pleasure to read as well.