In big and bold lettering. Raptors galore. I had a week in Ross and Cromarty monitoring Schedule 1 birds on a project and myself and a colleague were undertaking occupancy checks on Red Kite and Osprey territories which was awesome. Im back up there next week and cant wait to see how the birds have progressed. We had a number of Kite territories and several Ospreys including one eating a huge Plaice next to its nest, fresh after arriving.
We also managed a single Goshawk and Peregrine, both no doubt close to breeding sites. A mix of weather with strong thermals and lots of heavy showers meant birds were very active in between. My first Sand Martin and Wheatear of the year were spotted whilst trogging round a moor not seeing Black Grouse.
On the way home we decided to have a swing up Strathdearn (or the Findhorn Valley if you prefer), Initially very quiet, all changed when a Peregrine was chasing a pair of Merlin. The Merlins were a male and female whilst the Peregrine was an adult male. All the birds were soon lost in the sky and the morning was marked by a passage of over 1,000 Pink-footed Geese north along with a quartet of Whooper Swans. Despite the wildfowl and the ever present Red Deer, it was the raptors we were here for and again a Peregrine came off the cliff face but it was grey - a young female and she was joined by the adult male who proceeded to assault her. Soon he was joined by a very large adult female who succeeded in chasing the young bird away for a bit.
No sooner had the falcons got going than the Buzzards and Ravens started appearing over the various escarpments. We started getting our hopes up and before you could say Jack Robinson a first winter Golden Eagle starts to try and force the stags over an edge. Soon joined by a Raven who tried to pull his tail feathers we got amazing views as the Eagle circled 100m above us as a skein of Geese flew nervously overhead. 90 minutes of excitement proved too much as we faced the 7 hours home (and on to the Football Ramble live show in Newcastle for me). As we were leaving two large raptors flew briskly over the hills and a jump and scope revealed two sub-adult White-tailed Eagles heading out of the valley, seemingly on a mission. Both birds had cream heads but mostly dark tails and juvenile mantles.