Friday, 21 February 2014

Crested Tits, Loch Garten

Loch Garten and the Findhorn Valley

Day 2 dawned with leaden skies and more strong winds, not ideal weather for being out in the open or for that matter photography. I decided to go to Loch Garten Osprey Centre, the visitor centre is closed during the winter months but staff maintain the feeders that attract masses of Coal Tits a few Crested Tits and the occasional Red Squirrel. The centre has a webcam which can be seen here.

The real action occurs in the car park where keen photographers have set up their own feeders and perches. Over the years the birds have come to expect anyone approaching to have food with them and as a consequence will actually land on the feed as it is strategically placed in the foliage. I took plenty of peanuts and suet blocks with me but the magic ingredient is peanut butter, take the lid off and it is likely that Coal Tits will sit on the rim within seconds. A word of advice is that it is probably best to use the salt free peanut butter that is available from bird food suppliers.

Photographing Cresties is a somewhat difficult pastime, in winter the birds are caching food and therefore make rapid visits to the feeders, grab a morsel and head off to hide the prize away without being considerate enough to perch and pose for the camera.


When everyone had disappeared this chap came out to mop up the peanuts next to my car. I watched him caching, not in a hole in a tree but in the tussocks of marsh grass some twenty feet from where we had all been standing.

Bit of a mouthful.

Of course there is a full supporting cast of Coal, Blue and Great Tits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Chaffinches and Tree Creepers.


 In the afternoon rain set in and I decided to use the time to investigate the Findhorn Valley, in the hope of at least seeing some raptors. Conditions at the car park at the head of the valley were truly miserable, driving rain and sleet in a howling gale. Upside was that I managed to see Ravens, Buzzards and a single Sparrowhawk. Searching the far hillside gave ten Mountain Hares running riot, at least they would be easy to locate on a return visit.

I dropped back down the valley to the wooden footbridge where I located a couple of Dippers on the stones at the entrance to the burn that runs into the main river. All  the DIppers that I found were easily spooked, I guess that the high water levels have covered their favourite perches.

Rather than give up I took the Farr road, desperate to find any birds. The Farr road is not for the faint-hearted but its remoteness normally guarantees a return - not today - just a few flighty Red Grouse. Finally I conceded and returned to the hotel to sort out the Crestie photographs.


  1. Another great chapter....I know that car park well and when I was there in May 2012 I didn't even see one but in years past before digital photography I have seen them there but I don't have any photos so still on my 'wanted' list. Love your pics...keep them coming...chapter 3 please.....makes good reading.

  2. Superb shots and narrative Dave