Thursday, 23 March 2017

Weather and Birdlife

Before we went to Inverness, the forecast had not been encouraging. In the event - as so often happens - the weather turned out to be nowhere near as bad as we had feared and we had plenty of dry, bright and sunny periods. It was however, very chilly with a strong blustery wind taking the temperature even further down. As we enjoyed the riverside of the city, we also had a few light, wintry showers blowing through on the wind.
Luckily, these light showers only lasted a couple of minutes at most and before long, we were back in the sun enjoying the blue skies. Looking north from the castle hill, we had a good view of snow on the distant mountain of Ben Wyvis.
The name comes from Scottish Gaelic for 'Hill of Terror' and at some 3,432ft elevation, indeed it must have been pretty nasty up there in these conditions.
Back down to the riverside and we were delighted to see a couple of birds which we are not used to seeing in our home area. Firstly the Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix). Thought for a long time to be at best, a sub-species of the more usual Carrion Crow, Hooded Crows have now been classified as a completely separate species. Easily identified, they are almost all-over grey, except for the head, wings and throat.
Looking out over the fast-flowing water, we noticed an extraordinarily beautiful duck swimming strongly against the current and diving repeatedly for food. This was a male Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula). This is a far-north breeding duck and first nested in Scotland in 1970. Being a tree-nesting duck, they seek out large holes in old tree trunks in which to build their nests. Only around 200 pairs breed in the UK but their numbers are boosted in the Winter to around 27,000 individuals. The male is a stunning bird but they are rather shy so it was not easy getting a shot of this chap as he paddled further away from us.
All in all, it had been a very nice, short stay in Scotland.
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