Grantown on Spey to Cromdale

The bus to Grantown was diverted by Glenferness because repairs were being carried out to the bridge on the A940 below Tombain, the re-route allowing the 18 members some views over the Findhorn Valley, as was the panoramic eastwards view from the A939 over moorland to the Knock. However the latter will soon be lost as yet another wind farm, despite widespread objections and going to a public enquiry, is due to be built on the high moorland here. Members were met at the main entrance to Anagach, beside the golf course, by Basil Dunlop who gave a short history of the woodland and its establishment as a Community Woodland – to conserve the flora and fauna and provide controlled recreation. The dominant tree, the Scots Pine, has some growth form variants, like drooping branches – to shed snow, and the bog pine – a much reduced size which grows on the wet peat of filled in ponds and bogs, lacking the minerals from a normal soil. (On the west coast of Canada a small compact tree called the shore pine grows on raised bogland near the coast; lacking minerals such as phosphorus it is nevertheless exactly the same species as the more vigorous lodgepole pine, (Pinus contorta), growing inland.)

The land form in the woodland is mostly large ridges, eskers of sand and gravel left by the last ice age, with a ground cover dominated by heather, blaeberry, mosses and juniper. One area encountered was not only flat but it was dominated by grass, clearly with different underlying soil. This was a former town dump, grassed over and now attracting roe deer, as shown by young tree damage, and allowing tiger beetles to hunt on the sunlit pathway – but taking to flight if approached.

Also disturbed was a woodcock, flushed from a wet area near the track where it would have been probing for worms to feed young. Not often seen in broad daylight, this bird of the twilight showed its rusty-brown rump as it flew away, having likely been forced by the extremely dry weather to feed in one of the few damp places available, A tree pipit sang from the top of birches near the old croft of Cragroy, just above the river`s edge and where the party clambered down the banking for a lunch stop.

The Spey had much active bird life: 8 goldeneye ducks dived busily at the far bank, 2 common sandpipers flitted between banking and boulder, showing their white rumps, and both grey and pied wagtails performed aerial acrobatics to feast on an abundance of newly hatched stone-flies. Also feeding on the river were a pair of dippers mid-stream, several mallards in the shallows and a pair of common terns, likely diving for trout or salmon parr. Walking by the river back to Grantown, members had a close up view of a willow warbler, singing its heart out from a trackside alder, picking insects off the leaves between bursts of song. The warm weather induced a short bus stop in Grantown, when most members enjoyed a close up view of an ice cream!

Posted in Outdoor Event.