Invergordon-13Maureen and I just returned from a 12 day cruise to Northern Europe with friends and family.  Bob and I are avid birders and Maureen is fast catching up. Bob is the father of Jeff, the husband on our younger daughter, Danielle. Jeff is the one who instigated the venture. Prior to the trip, on the recommendation of Ken Gunn, I organized a day of birding on shore with Dave Slater, owner of Birding-Ecosse.  The ship docked at Invergordon and it turns out to be near where Dave lives.

Invergorden is near Inverness, and near to the well-known Loch Ness with everyone’s favorite, elusive “monster”.

He picked us up as we disembarked the ship about 8:00 a.m., and returned us to the ship at 5:30 p.m.  We worked our way from Invergordon North to Portmahomack and Tarbat Ness. We passed several different habitats from villages to beaches and wetlands to uplands.  We even saw the sea.  Lots of variety. There was a preserve (missed the sign) which had a small lake and grasses where we saw Slavonian and Little Grebes as well as Goosander with chicks.  Then there was one (Tollie Red Kites Preserve) where the primary purpose was to feed Red Kites in hope of attracting more attention to them and getting more donations and volunteers. Later,we stopped at the Udale Bay Nature Reserve where we saw lots of Lapwings, gulls, Oystercatchers, Dunlins and other shorebirds.

In all, we got over 60 species and, since none of us had really birded Europe before, at least 55 were life birds. 

A little about Dave.  He picked out a niche of birders who do not want to be in a van where only half may get to see a bird.  He uses his private car, a Ford about the size of a RAV4.  Maximum him and three passengers.  You get a personal experience.  He is focused on giving you a personal birding tour.  As we got on with the process of organizing the trip, he told me in email where we would go and prospective bird sightings.  The cost of 110 Pounds Sterling included pick-up and drop-off, all guiding, tea and coffee and snacks, bad jokes and good scenery.  Pack your sense of humor.  It was a laugh a minute (often at our expense) during the drive, but all birding at stops (Except at lunch and snack stops, of course). 

I can’t recommend Dave enough.  As far as off-ship “adventures” went, we agreed this was the highlight of our cruise. 

Contact him at birdingecosse@hotmail.co.uk.  It will be a day you will remember for a long time. His website is www.birdingecosse.co.uk

Thanks,  Dave, and thanks to Ken Gunn for recommending.

To see a slideshow of the day, click here.

Don

Species I recorded:

Common Gulls

Common Eider

Arctic Tern

Oystercatcher

Hooded Crows

Cormorant

House Sparrows

Great Black-Backed Gulls

Sand Martins (Bank Swallows)

Curlew

Blue Tit

Willow Warbler

Grey Heron

Black-headed Gull

Red-breasted Merganser

Red Shank

Pied Wagtail

Yellowhammer

Barn Swallow

Carrion Crow

Wood Pigeon

Goldfinch

Jackdaw

House Martin

Song Thrush

Blackbird (thrush)

Starlings

Chaffinch

Dunnock

Whitethroat

Coal Tit

Common Swift

Meadow Pipit

Linnet

Kittiwake

Shag

Sandwich Tern

Manx Shearwater

Gannet

Stonechat

Rook

Buzzard

Goosander (Common merganser)

Little Grebe

Tufted Duck

Slavonian Grebe

Coot

Reed Bunting

Mute Swan

Red Kite

Sparrow Hawk

Ring-necked Pheasant

Common Sandpiper

Lapwings

Common Terns

Dunlin

Shelducks

Greylag Geese