Friday, 25 July 2014

At Last

I visited the Reservoir yesterday twice and it is still quiet, the 3 Common Sandpiper and LRP were still there in the morning but I didn’t see them in the evening. However, the highlight for me came shaving this morning – I was talking to Joy when I saw a shape in the distance going over the field, I immediately rushed past her to see a Red Kite sail over the field, it seemed to be following the pylons (possibly looking for carrion) it went so far them turned and following the pylons disappeared over the horizon.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

NIght Heron and Mystic Joy

Trying very hard to get used to going back to work, and it wasn’t helped when I received a text from TP to say that a Night Heron had been seen Seeswood Pools just this side of Nuneaton. Joy and I headed there early evening with not a lot of expectation – fortunately I was proved wrong and the bird was showing really well out in the open.

As Joy had posponed a quick trip to Morrisons to accompany me on my quest, she kindly dropped me off at the Reservoir so I could quickly check from the car park. I am glad she did there were 3 Common Sandpiper and a juvenile LRP, two Greylag but not much else. It is the first in many years when we haven’t had any Common Tern feeding here. In previous years we have had good numbers throughout the summer but not this year.

Anyway, 20 minutes later Joy turned up and said I bet you have seen 3 Common Sandpiper and a LRP, I was mystified – it turned out she had met Steve Cawthray at Morrisons who had popped in before me!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Saturday 19th July

After a day of rest we took a walk around the reservoir this evening but it was quiet although I did see four Common Sandpiper.

Thursday 17th July – The Completion

On Wednesday we booked up a B&B in Poolewe in the north-west corner of Scotland we were up at 5.45am and after a hasty breakfast we made a very short drive to the beginning of our final walk. We had left the best until last with A’ Mhaighdean considered to have some of the finest views from a summit in Scotland. It is also 12 miles from the nearest road! In our discussions we had decided that in actual fact we would climb Ruadh Stac Mor last, basically because it is easier to pronounce!

We walked into the farm at Kernsary then through a muddy forest trail onto the open moorland then worked our way for a further seven miles to the secluded bothy at Carnmore in the middle of the last wilderness in the UK. The weather at this point was fair but low cloud was shrouding the hills but the forecast was for an improving picture during the day.

Not that it was uppermost in my thoughts on this day it was quite good for birds, with Black and Red-throated Diver seen plus lots of Dipper and a Cuckoo being fed by couple of Meadow Pipits.

We crossed a man made causeway across the Dubh Loch then started a ascent on a good stalkers path until we reached the stream flowing out of Lochan Feith Mhic-illean. Unfortunately due to yesterdays heavy rain this was in spate and we had to remove our boots and wade across!

We then climbed to the col at 750 metres between our two final hills, it had taken over five hours to get this far and the cloud showed no sign in lifting. We then started to follow the path south-west up the slopes of A’ Mhaighdean and 40 minutes later we were standing by a cairn with another cairn 30 yards away. Neither were substantial and I was not happy, visibility was really poor so I headed off 400 yards to north-east to make sure we were in the right place, the ridge just fell away, I went the other way and it also dropped away. The others were convinced we were at the summit – I wasn’t entirely happy but well you can’t loose a summit can you!

On top of Ruadh Stac Mor looking a little chuffed, 10 minutes later it was a different story!

Ruadh Stac Mor

The view from the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor
Well it has taken us 20 years to get to this position, we descended to the col and started to make the short but steep climb to the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor, I have often wondered what would go through my mind at this point and to be honest it was just a case of concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. Then it was there, the climbing stopped and 40 yards away was the summit and the trig point. We joined hands and walked to the cairn and touched it together, that was it finished! Joy and Karen shed a tear or two, I felt a little emotional myself (didn’t cry though), I really did feel a sense of achievement, then as if someone from above had smiled upon us it cleared and we had some tremendous views. We managed to get mobile phone reception and we phoned our sons and parents. We took loads of photographs and after about 20 minutes we thought about our walk back out. At that point I took a photograph of A’ Mhaighdean for my records. I was horrified, as it came out of the mist I could see were we had been and off to the north-west was a obviously higher, outcrop with a cairn sitting on top of it!

Emotionally I am quite stable but I have never had them switch from elation to disappointment quite so quickly. What a cock-up! The look on the faces of the others when I pointed out that we had to climb A’Mhaighdean again was something else, Colin’s face resembled a startled Pollock! Joy nearly ripped my head of my shoulders pulling the binoculars to her eyes. The Munro’s were having a final laugh at our expense!

Surprisingly the climb back up A’ Mhaighdean wasn’t that bad and when we got there we realised what had happened we had just carried on climbing until we stopped whilst a faint path snaked off to the north-west. However, when we got there this time in contrast to 90 minutes earlier the views were absolutely stunning. I would be lying if it wasn’t an anti-climax and there was none of the emotion of earlier but in a strange way it was more satisfying. By now it was just after 3pm and we made our way back down to the col, half way down Joy just screamed out “Yes, we’ve done it!”

A’Mhaighdean with summit centre left and where we were the first time centre right!

The view from the summit of A’ Mhaighdean

The end!
As we descended from the col we met a walker on his way up with his dog, I had to resist the temptation to shout out we had just completed the Munro’s! We had to un-shoe again to cross the stream then made our way back down to Carnmore and the causeway. On the way down we met a German lad coming the other way, he had left Kinlochewe this morning without food, drink and a map. He was completely lost and was heading to the centre of the Letterewe which is the middle of nowhere.

Ruadh Stac Mor & A’ Mhaighdean in the late evening sunshine. (They are about three hours away)
He was in a bit of a panic and didn’t speak much English. We got him to join us back to Poolewe where he could stay in the hotel for the evening. He said he was ex German army and came from a village outside of Hamburg. After about an hour we realised he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything so we gave him a bottle of water and some sandwich’s and a Snickers. To say he was grateful was an understatement. Colin took Braun and went ahead dropping him off at the Poolewe hotel and driving the mile or so back up the road to pick us up. When we got back to the car it had taken us six hours from the summit of A’ Mhaighdean. It had been an epic 14 hour day but it will live in my memory for ever!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Birding whilst awaiting COMPLETION

The next day we mainly rested but in the evening we went down one of the Glens near Perth but it was poor apart from Red Kite and a Short-eared Owl.

On the Tuesday Joy and I went birding, the intention was to work our way along the Angus coast and then take a trip up Glen Clova looking for eagles.

At Arbroath we were searching for Med Gull and anything else, but it really was the wrong time of the year. A local birder (English) came over and introduced himself and told me that it was really quiet but that there was a Ring-necked Duck at Murton Loch. He gave us perfect instructions and we followed them arrived at the site only to find out it was closed on Tuesdays! Anyway, he done us a favour as it gave us more time in Glen Clova. We walked about three miles from the car park seeing two Goldies but not a fat lot else apart from a Ring Ouzel which was buzzing the eagle high on the ridge.

Later than night we walked along General Wades military road in Glen Quiash seeing another Short-eared Owl and a Twite.

Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg

Well this was it – my last week climbing Munro’s. The weather was looking mixed and we changed our original plans so that we could watch the World Cup Final. We had intended to leave Ben Nevis to be our final hill but logistically it would have been difficult to accomplish this and watch the football.

We were up early and arrived at the Ben Nevis car park at 8.45am but the sky looked heavy and I realised that I would be getting the compass out on more than one occasion.

There was a really good path that after an hour and a half took us to half way lochan. We left the tourists and tourist route and headed north to cut back around under the cliffs of the north-west face of the Ben. I have seen these before and they are mightily impressive. However, today they were shrouded in cloud and clag. We arrived at the CIC Hut got the compass out and took a bearing east and started the 90 minute grind up the west face of Carn Mor Dearg, it was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other and keep on stepping!  I was more than chuffed when we hit the ridge about 20 yards from the summit, I tried not to look surprised and marched to the cairn – three left!
Carn Mor Dearg from the Arete

Joy and Karen on the Arete

The four of us on the summit of Carn Mor Dearg


We met a pair on the summit that had come up the east ridge, he was old (older than me) and had a military bearing – and posh. The other was younger and was probable Canadian. They were a little confused and about to go down the ridge we had come up. He got his map out and realised he was about to go the wrong direction. It is surprisingly confusing when visibility is so poor, as we would find out later in the week!

We then headed south along the ridge then along the narrow arete, Colin and I followed the crest whilst the girls took the bye-pass path. It was quite exhilarating and enjoyable but took a fair while. We eventually crashed intothe east face of Ben Nevis and it was then just a case of picking our way up over the boulder field to the summit – two left. There were quite a few people, not many had followed our route, and most were not equipped properly, this is not a place for ill equipped day trippers!

The descent followed a good path and there was still a bit of snow around. It took close to three hours to get back to the car then we had the drive back to Perth. We were showered and sitting down to food and only missed the first five minutes of the football!
The summit of “The Ben”

Looking towards Fort William from about 2,500ft
Bird wise it had been poor, mainly due to the weather but we did see a couple of Snow Bunting one was sitting on a wall at the summit amongst the tourists.

Monday, 7 July 2014

An interesting Swift

Joy and I took a walk around the reservoir on Sunday evening there wasn’t too much around but I did see a very interesting Swift. It was partially albino, but was was interesting was it had a large white belly patch not unlike an Alpine Swift. There is no question that it was a partially albino Common Swift but an interesting bird nonetheless. I would not be surprised to see reports of an Alpine Swift in the area!!!