DAY 1: After some last minute packing, my family and I drove up to Luton Airport and went through the tedious but necessary check in, security and boarding process. Eventually we hopped onto the plane with some bulky hand luggage and set off to the Cairngorms National Park, where we would be spending the next 5 days.
During the flight, I was amazed by the scale of the Cairngorms mountain range, you really get a sense of it when seeing it from above!
We landed at the small and pleasant airport of Inverness, where, in the relatively unpopulated arrival area, we couldn’t really miss our guide for the week – Duncan Macdonald. He greeted us enthusiastically and really made us feel welcome, before immediately whisking us off to the scenic beach of Alturlie Point for lunch and a quick scan for bird life. This wasn’t scheduled on the itinerary, but as Duncan said – ‘Why not start the experience right away? It would be a shame to waste such a lovely afternoon!’
We saw an amazing amount of species that day – many of which I had never seen before. These were all expertly identified by Duncan at a distance from which I could hardly see the bird! Sightings included a red -throated diver, a great northern diver, Slavonian grebes, a cormorant, a grey heron, widgeon, teal, mallard, goldeneye, a red-breasted merganser and oystercatchers. What a variety! Also, among the moss covered rocks, we discovered redshank and turnstone probing the sand for insects. Behind us lay a stubble field that hosted a flock of carrion crows, with one individual that I recognised as a hooded crow – the first I had ever seen in the UK.
To conclude the day, we were driven in the Speyside Wildlife minibus to ‘The Steading’ – our place of residence. It was a beautiful converted stable that belongs to Peter Cairns, the famous wildlife photographer, and is rented to Speyside Wildlife for their guided holidays. We had a short tour around the building before being called to dinner – the first of many delicious meals to be served by the resident cook, Sharon. Duncan then talked us through what the plans were for the next few days, and I went to bed excited about what the next few days had in store…