Loch Mallachie

Loch Garten is mainly associated with the osprey and is the home of the flagship RSPB reserve set up to protect and provide access to this most remarkable of birds.

But the osprey isn’t the only bird to be seen in this part of the world, and as I’d never been here before I was really hoping to see crested tit and Scottish crossbill in the coniferous forest around the lake. Suffice to say, despite looking long and hard I saw neither. But far from being despondent I see it as an excellent reason to go back there and try again!

Common sandpiper – Actitis hypoleucos, Dansk: mudderklire

In the same part of Abernethy Forest and a short distance from Loch Garten is Loch Malachie, so myself and my companion decided to explore there after drawing a blank on tits and crossbills at Garten.  But instead of them, we found common sandpipers and in my book that’s a fair exchange:

The sandpipers are very neat little waders and there were several of them patrolling the large boulders on the shore of the lake. They weren’t overly impressed with our presence and to show their disquiet made several low looping flights along the shore and around behind us through the woods, which felt like an unusual place to see a sandpiper in flight. So we collected a few photographs and retreated to leave them in peace.

Goldeneye – Bucephala clangula, Dansk: hvinand

On the same piece of shore line as the sandpipers was this female goldeneye with a pair of chicks. The goldeneye overwinters over much of the UK but has a very small breeding population of only a couple of hundred pairs, largely due to a program of nestboxes on Speyside – the goldeneye is unusual amongst ducks in that it nests in holes in trees. There was no male accompanying this family which is pity because they’re spectacular!

It  was a grey, damp, overcast morning in the Abernethy Forest around Loch Malachie and may be because of that it was eerily quiet. There were very few songbirds and the ones we saw most of were wren and chaffinch, which are also common visitors to my garden. But then we saw a spotted flycatcher which is definitely not a visitor to my garden:

Spotted flycatcher – Muscacapa striata, Dansk: fluesnapper

The spotted flycatcher is a migrant breeder to the UK, it overwinters in Africa and is red listed due to overall decline as a result of decreasing prey species caused by pollution and insecticide use (>30% over 10 years). Despite that, the European population is estimated to be 42-66 million individual birds (according to Birdlife International).

Apart from the beautiful wildlife, what I really noticed in the forest was the complete absence of human noise polution (it was silent apart from the wind and the birds), and the smell of the pine forest, and there are few natural aromas as delicious as the fresh smell of pine mixed in with the leaf mould underfoot. But the best thing was the silence!

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12 responses to “Loch Mallachie

  1. I am with you on that gorgeous pine aroma. There is a very old pine forest on the drive over to the east coast of Tasmania that we stopped off to check out (we are to trees what you are to birds 😉 ) and from the moment that we stepped into this environment that almost excluded the sun the trees were growing so close together we noticed the absence of sound. A most awesome experience as well as amazing bright purple and stark white finger fungi and more amonita than I have ever seen in my whole life. What an amazing world we have and how few of us want to actually explore it. Another lovely post and so glad you got to see some rare and most beautiful birds 🙂

    • Hello Fran, that’s interesting – a totally different shade of ‘quiet‘, it can also feel spooky but I like that too when it’s in a forest. And if you have a carpet of coloured mushrooms to hold your attention it doesn’t get much better! More to follow from Scotland in the near future.

      • I love reading about your Scottish adventure. The birds are truly lovely and quite exotic to this antipodean who makes do with blackbirds eating cheese cubes from her kitchen window ledge for her bird fixes 😉

  2. Some very good pictures of the birds, thank you.
    There are supposed to be crossbills on Dartmoor, not far from us. They are on our wish list but so far we have not seen any.
    We were recently walking on the coast path and, as you did, remarked on the lack of human noise.

    • Hello Philip, that’s intetresting, I didn’t know that crossbills occurred down in the south too, I always had them down as a Highland specialist. Please let me know if you manage to spot one.

      Total quiet is a wonderful experience, and if it’s not total, just knowing it’s not the result of human activity can suffice!

  3. *peace and quiet* as us Brits like to say.

  4. Hi Finn,

    A fantastic read as ever and although I’m sorry in having to point this out but your last capture is definitely not a Spotted Flycatcher, it is hard to tell for sure, but to me, it looks more like a Tree Pipit. Aside from that minor issue, yep, I agree, our birds especially (and us humans at times) require some peace in order to simply go about their business.

    Happy Christmas and Happy New Year or am I bit too early?

    Tony Powell

  5. That sounds like bliss, Finn, and reminded me of the temperate rain forest that I visited on Vancouver Island in September. The denseness of the air, the smells, and the silence, were an absolute joy. There was something really special about it. Unfortunately my partner was terrified we were going to meet a bear, so we couldn’t stay long!
    Your site is snowing – sweet! Hope you have a wonderful festive season x

    • Hello Maggie,, it was beatiful and I know what you mean about Vancouver Island – I went kayaking with orcas there a good few years ago and spent a week completely out in the wilds of Johnson Strait and whenever I ventured off the beaches into the forest that smell was all pervasive. And we saw no bears – not the scary kind anyway – just a black one which was anxious to get away from us and all we saw was his rump as he bounded deeper into the trees.

  6. Nice pictures, Finn – but why do they have the snow effect falling over them?! Surely you were there in summer to spot.fly. etc. tho’ you don’t say when this visit took place.

    I think you were unlucky not to cresties, crossbills (of which ever sub-species) and indeed red squirrels in Abernethy, if you walked for a fe w hours in the fires.

    • Thanks Paul. You’re right, I was there in June so the snow does seem a tad incongruous. I guess I was a tad unlucky to miss the cresties and crossbills, but as I said in the post it gives me the perfect excuse to go there again!

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