Scots pine

My bogie with the weather on higher level routes continued with that wonderful driving soft rain typical of the highlands today. Luckily I was heading downhill from Tomintoul (I think the highest village in the UK) and across Speyside, where there are plenty of native Scots Pine forests. I called in at Loch Garten RSPB centre partly to try and see a few of the specialist birds of pine and also to shelter from the rain for a while. I managed to see a crested tit, though my efforts to point it out to others failed (also added tree creeper at point blank range, and goldcrest (I cannot hear these when riding, but much easier on foot).

Scots pine forest with a good understor
All forests ought to have lots of dead and decaying wood
Loch Garten ospreys are arguably the most famous in the world. The protection on the nest has now been running for 60 years and I know that at least one reader of this blog has taken part in protection (in “earlier” years). It is a little sad that no ospreys are nesting at Loch Garten this year due to the failure of the old female ‘EJ’ to return from migration. The staff were working hard to enthuse visitors about other aspects of the pine forest instead.
I know RSPB are trying to diversify away from birds only, but I think they may have lost the plot a bit here – a little fairy home at Loch Garten. Personally I think the organisation needs to focus rather than trying to be all things to all people.

After Loch Garten, it was on through the rain to cross the Spey (a fine river), cross the Slochd pass (405m), pass through the outskirts of Inverness, cross the Kessock Bridge and arrive at my Finlay and Linda’s house on the Black Isle. Both are ex-colleagues from JNCC, and I was sad to find Finlay a little ill, likely having eaten something bad at the weekend. Get well soon Finlay!

The Spey in the rain
Inverness and the Black Isle are out there somewhere! – view across the edge of Colloden battlefield
The Kessock bridge – the last big bridge of this trip – separating the Moray Firth from the Beauly Firth. No bottlenose dolphins visible in the Beauly Firth today (should have worked harder in Aberdeen), but I did add common seal to the trip list

Statistics: 90.1 km with 828 m ascent. Running total: 2562 km, 24443 m ascent. 133 bird species.

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