Up to Essich and on to Bunachton for a short walk along the road. Curlews were back on breeding sites on the grassy moor and Goldcrests could only just be heard above the sound of the bitter wind. Distant Buzzards were spotted along with a pair of Magpies and a Red Kite.
Down to Dunlichity Church, a sheltered spot where we saw and heard 2 Treecreepers, Blue, and Great Tits, Pied Wagtails, Goldfinch, 4 Buzzards in territorial dispute and a pair of Mandarin Ducks skulking in undergrowth by the river. We hoped to spot a returning Osprey over the fish-stocked ponds near here, but we were out of luck. Lesser Redpolls were heard, along with Crossbill and 2 Mistle Thrushes.
Unfortunately the weather deteriorated when we got to the north shore of Loch Duntelchaig, but we managed to see a large flock of Pinkfooted Geese and a Brown Hare, before retreating to cars for lunch.
Loch Ashie was home to several pairs of Goosanders, along with a Slavonian Grebe in winter plumage, Common Gulls and Cormorants. A walk to Lochan na Curra revealed several Teals, a Little Grebe and a distant Kestrel. On to near Torness to look out for raptors, but the weather was against us.
A last hopeful look for early returned Wheatear was fruitless, but we did see about 30 Oystercatchers on the SW shore of Loch Ruthven along with Tufted Ducks, Common Gulls and Cormorants.
Despite the unhelpful weather, we managed to see 53 species on a very enjoyable, rainbow-filled, day out birding with friends – a bit more than “just gulls and crows.”