…and there was more

Yesterday’s blog ended before 9am on Tuesday morning with pine marten off the bucket list. But there was more…

I spent more time enjoying the pine forest but then headed off.  I stopped at Nethy Bridge and looked for dippers from the attractive stone bridge, but with no luck.  Then it was off over the Lecht road towards Aberdeen.

I stopped at Tomintoul for a breakfast of pancakes and bacon, with white frothy coffee, at the Old Fire Station. The walls and ceiling were decorated with firemen’s uniforms and a variety of nozzles from hosepipes.  At that time of day the clientele were mothers with babies and pregnant women.  I patted my own stomach and didn’t feel too out of place before moving on up the road.

Many years before, I had driven this way in my first car – a red Austin 1300. The rain was hammering down and on the passenger seat my portable radio/cassette player was playing Beethoven’s 9th.  As the Ode to Joy cut through the air the rain stopped and a glorious rainbow appeared.

Today, the sun was already shining and Springsteen was singing Badlands as I disturbed a common gull feeding on a road-killed mountain hare.

I was though, heading to the coast just south of Stonehaven to see, I hoped, some seabirds.  Whereas pine martens are an unpredictable treat I was pretty sure that there would be the odd kittiwake and razorbill at the RSPB reserve at Fowlsheugh.

The nature reserve isn’t sign-posted off the main road, so follow signs to Crawton and you’ll find the small car park from where you can walk along the cliff top and look at the nesting seabirds.

There were, indeed, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, herring gulls and shags to see here.  A few young guillemots had already left their nesting ledges and were bobbing on the sea below with their parents.

The signs at the reserve are very clear that you might see a puffin but on the other hand you might not – I did!

A Belgian couple stood near me and chattered away in French that they probably thought that I didn’t understand but I enjoyed overhearing their delight at the seabird colony.  I pointed out to them that there were two types of auk on the cliffs and they soon mastered the difference between the guillemots and razorbills.  I couldn’t re-find a puffin while they were with me but the man pointed out a pod of whales to me, for which I was very grateful!  They were close in shore, about 8 of them, but my whale ID is poor so I don’t know which species they were.

I wondered whether they were minke (because the dorsal fin looked right for them) but I also wondered whether they were pilot whales because I got a blunt-headed impression.  They can’t have been both, but they might have been neither!  Which is more likely – can anyone tell me please?  Or which other species is even more likely?  I’m sorry the description is practically non-existent!

As I walked away from the cliffs the day was warm, almost hot.  A lady passing the other way showed me the condor on her sock because she noticed the condor on my baseball cap and we exchanged condor moments.  But I was in Scotland rather than Arizona.  I could tell because the day had started with a pine marten and I had just seen a puffin and some whales, and not a condor in sight. But it was only midday – who knows what unbiddable nature might provide next?

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15 Replies to “…and there was more”

  1. A little gem of a blog. Where else would you find Scottish B-roads, minke whales and Bruce Springsteen all appreciated so lyrically? Thanks George Monbiot.

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  2. Pilot whale sounds most likely. Minkes tend to be seen alone and you rarely see anything of the head, just the back and dorsal fin.

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      1. Yes, agree with the previous Robin. Pilot whales would be my bet. I've had some spine tingling moments watching both pilot whales and minke whales in Scotland. Killer whales are still in my 'bucket' though. Thanks, Mark for this and the previous blog. Inspired me to get away from the office desk and go for a walk yesterday lunchtime. Iwas rewarded with the sight of damselflies egg laying in the pond. Little blue and green jewels in the sunshine. I can't tell you what species they were but perhaps that doesn't matter, unbidden they brightened up my day.

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        1. Robin - thanks v much. Killer whales top of my bucket list - have missed them several times. I am keeping dragonflies for 'next year' - but I've been saying that for over a decade!

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  3. Really enjoyed you're last couple of blogs- Loch Garten and all its treasures then the east coast..that's why I love Scotland so much-anything that takes your fancy is only a short drive away. Went to Fowlsheugh a few weeks ago, wonderful sights and smells-yes I do like the smell of a decent seabird colony!!

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  4. Looking down from a cliff top you should be able to see the pointy head of a Minke and note the white on the pectoral fins, blunt headed and in a pod sounds very much like Pilot whales as RC suggests.
    Once waited and waited for my wife to make up her mind whether or not to walk down to Loch Mallachie on evening - she decided the midges would be too bad and stayed at home - I went and got my (then) best ever views of an otter in freshwater and a crested tit on the walk back - someone was gutted!!!

    Great memories, not been up that weay for ages and still never seen a pine marten...maybe one day an English one

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  5. Hi Mark,how nice we all seem to enjoy your blogs that are simply how much you have enjoyed your day,it comes over how much you enjoy ordinary wildlife also the rarer wildlife.So pleased for you to enjoy things as well as your serious campaigning.

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  6. How many Pine Martens do you think are killed in Scotland each year? Note the Spring watch found every record of a Pine Marten in Wales was actually a Polecat! The lake District is the best place for a reintroduction in England as it has the last Golden Eagle, the last Hen Harrier and shortly the only White tailed Eagles.

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    1. Not quite John
      There have been at least two DNA confirmed scat samples in Wales in the last few years - see http://www.vwt.org.uk/species/pine-marten as well as many positive sightings from people who would know the difference; West Wales is the UK stronghold for polecat so we are pretty famiar with them!

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