Highland Wildlife and Birdwatch Safaris, Guided wildlife excursions, Aviemore, Scotland
Highland Wildlife and Birdwatch Safaris, Guided wildlife excursions, Aviemore, Scotland

Monday, September 30, 2019

September 2019 saw summer turn to autumn in this area, but with no snow yet and a mixture of sun and rain , and thankfully no real extremes of bad weather apart from a couple of very windy days courtesy of Storm Dorian, it was a decent month in the Cairngorms National park.
Temperatures are considerably cooler at dawn and dusk now though and the first frosts are surely not too far away...
The regular rainfall has helped the rivers to maintain their normal levels for autumn, which is good news for the Atlantic Salmon on their way to the spawning grounds in the upper reaches.
The days are shortening noticeably now, with only around 12 hours (7am-7pm) of usable daylight , but by way of consolation, the heather is still a lovely purple in places, many trees are full of colourful berries, and the leaves and ferns are now in their attractive autumnal hues.....
I was away on holiday 'recharging my batteries', and in southern England visiting relatives and friends for a good part of the month, so my report will be shorter than usual, and will contain some typical general observations and pictures from previous Septembers.....
With just about all the summer visiting bird species gone by mid-month, and the winter visiting bird species only just arriving, full-day local safari bird lists dropped down to their lowest levels of the year (in the 30's), though this could be upped considerably by a trip to the nearby Moray coast, whilst mammal day lists varied between 3 and 7 species, depending on the time of our start and the number of different habitats visited, with early starts usually proving to be more fruitful...

Early autumn in a beautiful local upland glen
To give you an idea of what you may realistically hope to see if you are planning a future September visit, I hope the following more detailed information, illustrated with photos taken at sites in and around the Cairngorms National Park by myself, my friends or my safari clients this month and in previous September's will help...clicking on the picture enlarges it to full-screen.


Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality/upland bird species seen regularly during the month included: Osprey (first week only), Dipper, Red Grouse, Goosander and Goldeneye, we also had a couple of good sightings of Golden Eagle and a few fleeting glimpses of Crested Tit and Crossbill.....
Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting were both reported on local mountain tops, though suitable days and opportunities were rare, and I did not venture up myself this month.
Sadly, Black Grouse and Capercaillie were not seen at all this month, though this is not unusual away from late winter/springtime....


Mammal species seen regularly included: Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Reindeer, Roe Deer, Mountain Goat , Brown Hare and Rabbit......with just one brief glimpse each  of  Weasel and Bank Vole...



September 2019 bird sightings in more detail:

Osprey with fish
A few of our local juvenile Ospreys lingered around their now redundant nest sites and local lochs and rivers for the first week of the month, giving us our last chance to admire these attractive and impressive raptors and their fishing skills, until they return in the spring. It always amazes me to think that these young birds will attempt to undertake a 5,000 odd mile migration unassisted by their parents at the age of around 3 months!!

Female Red Grouse
The Red Grouse on our local upland moors,  still in large family groups, continued to entertain my safari clients, and with seemingly little or no shooting going on in this area this autumn, they were actually easier than usual to see... long may it continue.....



Dipper
Dipper sightings were still a little 'random' early on this month, as the birds seemed to range wide and far, but later in the month we witnessed some more 'territorial' behaviour (loud singing and aggressive posturing) near to some of their favourite nesting bridges....



Goldeneyes only breed in the UK in northern Scotland, and their numbers have increased greatly in recent years, mainly due to the RSPB providing nest boxes on trees around many local lochs, and we again got to see many large families of these very attractive little ducks this month...though it should be noticed that the males are still in their brown-grey 'eclipse' plumage which is very similar to that of the females and youngsters...



Crested Tit
Crested Tit is always high on my safari clients 'wish-lists', with it being a UK rarity and Speyside speciality, but it can be a difficult bird to see in spring and summer,  and although they are now mainly to be found in mixed flocks roaming around the Caledonian pine forests, we also managed to get  a few decent views of them at my favourite feeding stations, especially soon after first light on the colder mornings later in the month...and they should get a little easier to see in the coming weeks...

Still in the forests, despite my best efforts, Crossbills sightings were ( yet again!) usually of the rather frustrating 'fly-over' variety, with them only being identified by their characteristic 'jip' 'jip' calls as they flew overhead between different parts of the forests...so sadly, there were no photo opportunities this month...


Soaring Golden Eagle
Golden Eagles are more commonly seen on my safaris during the shorter days of  autumn and winter, when they have less hours of daylight in which to hunt, and all of the family are active,  but we actually had a pretty good 'strike-rate' on the few safaris I did provide this month, with a favourite upland glen giving us decent sightings on a number of occasions.

Red Kite

Common Buzzard

Kestrel
In fact, raptors in general seemed to be pretty active , with us seeing Red Kite, Common Buzzard, PeregrineSparrowhawk and Kestrel regularly ...with one bonus sighting of a Goshawk too...




Wheatear


Golden Plover


Golden Pheasant

Lady Amherst's Pheasant

Other good birds seen or reported locally this month included: Wheatear (early in the month), Golden Plover,  Golden Pheasant, Lady Amherst's Pheasant , Marsh Harrier, a very late Ring Ouzel,  some very early Pink-Footed Geese , Barnacle Geese, Redwings and Fieldfares....


Birders prepared to travel away from Speyside a little this month, especially to reserves on the Moray or Aberdeenshire coasts would have noticed plenty of incoming waders and wildfowl and a good influx of 'grey' Geese from mid-month... and the first Whooper Swans later in the month...and a little further north  there were a number of reports of Yellow-Browed Warblers....



A local Caledonian pine forest


September 2019 mammal sightings in more detail:



Red Squirrel
As I mentioned last month, with the summer visiting local speciality birds departing this area, mammals become more of a focus on my safaris, and we were fortunate to see a good variety again this month. The  'mammal of the day' award was invariably won by the cute and ever popular Red Squirrel - with many of my safari clients , especially those from outside of Europe seeing these very characterful and attractive 'Highland speciality' animals for the first time..


Red Deer
The end of September usually sees the start of the Red Deer rut, with the stags beginning to 'check-out' and assemble their 'harems' of hinds, sharpen up the tips of their antlers on rocks and trees, and partake in a little light 'sparring' with likely rivals, often accompanied by a tremendous 'roaring', which echoes round the glens... a marvelously atmospheric spectacle....


Still up in the glens, our Mountain Hares, though still in their browny-grey summer coats are gradually turning whiter from their feet upwards as autumn progresses, in preparation for the snow to come, though actual sightings of them were not as frequent, or as good as I would have liked... but that is not unusual outside of the winter months..


Feral Mountain Goats
Our local Feral Mountain Goats however, were a little more obliging...with plenty of decent views of large family groups being enjoyed..with many of my safari clients seeing them for the first time...

Young Roe Deer
Although not as physically impressive as their larger Red cousins, Roe Deer are probably more often described as cute - like Bambi even, but they always prove popular with my safari clients, and we were fortunate enough to see them on several occasions this month, especially soon after dawn, or in remote, quiet areas...


The River Spey

Summary:

Similarly to August, although in all honesty it's probably not the best month for the hard-core birder or 'twitcher' to visit, September in the Cairngorms National Park would still appear to have plenty to offer the more casual or beginner nature-watcher or those looking for a less intense or 'taster' wildlife safari experience, with the chance of a migrating 'rarity' turning up, less tourists around and no early starts needed, in arguably, one of the most colourfully scenic months of the year....


I know a lot of visitors to this area very wisely check out reviews of attractions at tripadvisor before 'taking the plunge' and booking - if you wish, you can check out my clients comments at the link below....

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186537-d3335134-Reviews-
Highland_Wildlife_Birdwatch_Safaris-Aviemore_Aviemore_and_the_Cairngorms_Scottish.html



A moody looking local upland moor


If you think you know someone who may enjoy a taste of what I do, why not treat them to a safari gift certificate? They make a thoughtful and imaginative present, are available for any amount and are valid at any time within a year from date of purchase.... 



Saturday, August 31, 2019

August 2019 was, with the exception of a late-month mini-heatwave,  yet another very changeable month weather-wise in this area, with temperatures again ranging wildly between 6c and 22c,  a fair variety of weather types being experienced, including some very unseasonal early-month floods!.. and a generally cooler, more autumnal feel than normal, with cagoules, hats, gloves, scarves, and sun cream all being needed  at some stage - and sometimes all in the same day!

The days are noticeably shortening now as autumn approaches, but we still have 14-15 hours of usable daylight this far north, with dawn at around 5:30am and dusk at around 8:30pm...

With many of our summer visiting bird species departing here for their wintering areas throughout the month, it was inevitable that local full-day bird lists would reduce down into the 30's, though this could be increased considerably if you visited the Moray coast.

Mammal day lists varied between 3 and 8 species, with earlier starts generally proving more successful, especially for the shyer species.

August is often our best month for Butterflies and day-flying moths, and a good variety of species were seen on the few calmer, sunnier days, though sadly, in lower numbers than I would usually expect.

The Highland scenery is extremely picturesque now, with the heather at it's beautiful purple best, one or two ferns turning coppery gold, a few leaves beginning to morph into their autumn hues, lots of varieties of fungus appearing, and the Rowan trees now fully laden with bright red berries.


Late summer in a beautiful upland glen

To give you an idea of what you may realistically hope to see if you are planning a future August visit, I hope the following more detailed information, illustrated with photos taken at sites in and around the Cairngorms National Park by myself, my friends or my safari clients this month and in previous August's, will help...clicking on the picture enlarges it to full-screen.

Local speciality/upland bird species seen regularly included:
Osprey, Red GrouseDipper,  Goldeneye, and unusually Slavonian Grebe , whilst Red-Throated Diver, and Black-Throated Diver were both seen regularly early in the month but sightings became noticeably less frequent after mid-month as they presumably departed for the coast, and we also had a few brief views of Crested Tit  and  Crossbills and just one view of Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier ...and very unusually, a brief glimpse of a family of  Black Grouse... sadly,  Capercaillie were not seen at all this month, though that is not unusual at this time of year....

Mammal species seen regularly locally included:
Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Red Deer, Reindeer, Mountain Goat and Rabbit with just a few sightings of  Brown Hare and a solitary view of a Bank Vole...


August 2019 bird sightings in more detail:

Osprey with Trout


Juvenile Osprey
Osprey was most frequently voted as 'bird of the day' by my safari clients this month,  understandable  I guess when you consider that these impressively large and attractively marked raptors can also provide additional "wow" factor when seen plunge-diving, eating or carrying fish!... and although the parent birds appeared to have departed by mid-month, the now fully independent youngsters could occasionally be seen near the nest site right up to the end of the month....

Red Grouse

Red Grouse 'hiding' on the moor... how many can you spot?
Red Grouse, still in family groups, continued to show well on our local heather moorlands, and similarly to last year, with their nesting being a little later than usual, and  brood sizes being smaller than normal, we had the bonus of the start of the shooting season being delayed , or even shooting being cancelled altogether on some estates...



Crested Tit
Crested Tits have now joined the 'mixed winter flocks' of  many different bird species 'working' through our local Caledonian pine forests... so... to see the 'Wee Cresties' you first have to  find one of these roving flocks , then listen out for their distinctive chuckling trill , then try and pick them out as they move in annoyingly flitty style through the branches - not an easy task! , but, satisfyingly for myself as a guide, we managed it on a good number of occasions, with many of my safari clients obtaining a difficult and much sought after 'life-tick'... and on the cooler mornings there were even a few reports of one or two visiting peanut feeders for the first time since late winter.......




Still in the forests, with the exception of a couple of reasonable but sadly all too brief views, Crossbills sightings were (again!) usually of the rather frustrating 'fly-over' variety, with them only being identified by their characteristic 'jip' 'jip' calls as they flew overhead between different areas of the forests...so sadly, there were no photo opportunities this month...



Slavonian grebe with well-grown youngster
Our local pair of Slavonian Grebes have usually departed for the coast by late July, but fortunately for us, having had a (very rare) second brood this year, they hung around well into the month, and it was great to see all 3 chicks from both broods growing well and fishing independently..


Family of Red-Throated Divers
Black-Throated Diver

Still on the lochs, as I reported previously, Red-Throated Diver bred successfully locally this summer, and although sightings reduced a little and became less predictable as the juveniles became more mobile, we still saw them, and the sadly, less successful Black-Throated Divers reasonably regularly until late in the month...





Our local Goldeneyes seem to have no problems breeding in this area, the only place in the UK where they do so, and it was good to see them still in large family groups all fishing together throughout the month..


Dipper

On the local rivers, sightings of Dippers were a little 'random', as the adults presumably show the youngsters around their territory, so I would recommend familiarizing yourself with their distinctive 'zit zit' calls to give you more chance of spotting them...

Common Buzzard

Peregrine Falcon


Red Kite



Female Sparrowhawk

Birds of prey are always popular with my safari clients, and visits to favourite local glens and moors produced regular sightings of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard,  Red Kite and Peregrine Falcon, often in family groups,  with just a couple of views of Golden Eagle and a solitary one of Goshawk and Hen Harrier...


Other good birds seen locally this month included: 



Juvenile Spotted Flycatcher


Mistle Thrush



Goosander family


Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Goosander and Honey Buzzard.....



Caledonian pine forest


August 2019 mammal sightings in more detail:

With bird sightings 'slowing down' a little, mammal sightings  always become more important at this time of year, and we are fortunate to have such a good selection to go for in this area....

Red Deer stags

A frequent winner of my safari clients 'mammal of the day' award is the iconic Red Deer, and although they can be seen in more places all round the UK these days, it is still great to see them in their 'proper' home environment of upland glens and mountainsides....and although they are mainly still in their large same-sex groups at the moment, that will be sure to change in a few weeks time....




Feral Mountain Goats
Still up in the glens,we also have feral Mountain Goats, interesting animals that come in a wide variety of colours from white, through grey and brown to black, or any combination of some or all of these colours, and many of my safari clients saw them in the wild for the first time whilst out on safari with me...



Roe Deer buck
Roe Deer are actually fairly common throughout most of the UK, but due to their crepuscular nature, most of my safari clients rarely see them, and they are easily disturbed by human noise and activity...but July and August is their 'rutting' time, and early starts, and quiet drives and walks round secluded areas gave us a few decent views this month..




Red Squirrel
We are fortunate to have Red Squirrels in our local forests, a species sadly absent from most of the UK now, due largely to invasion by the introduced Grey Squirrel (and the Squirrel pox virus they carry), so they are always popular with my safari clients - often getting voted as 'mammal of the day', and forest walks and visits to my favourite Caledonian pine forest feeding stations produced lots of good sightings, often with decent photographic opportunities...though we did have a couple of days when none showed at all...

Being largely nocturnal, and with their summer coat perfectly matching their upland surroundings,  Mountain Hares can prove very difficult to see in the summer months, and we only managed a couple of brief views...with no decent photo opportunities...




Brown Hare
Thankfully, our local Brown Hares were a little more obliging, especially early in the morning, though they rarely stick around once they become aware of us watching them...



Other wildlife:



Scotch Argus

Pearl-Bordered Fritillary

Small Tortoiseshell

Butterflies showed reasonably well, on the few still, warm and sunny days at least!, with the more common species regularly being joined by our 'local speciality' the much sought-after Scotch Argus ......





Summary:

So, although maybe not a favourite month for the hard-core birder or 'twitcher' to visit, August in the Cairngorms National Park would still appear to have quite a lot to offer the more casual  beginner or 'improver' nature-watcher or those with a young family looking for a less intense or 'taster' wildlife safari experience, with no need for an early start, in arguably, one of the more scenic months of the year....




The purple heather at it's best

I know a lot of visitors to this area very wisely check out reviews of attractions at tripadvisor before 'taking the plunge' and booking - if you wish, you can check out my clients comments at the link below....

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186537-d3335134-Reviews-Highland_Wildlife_Birdwatch_Safaris-Aviemore_Aviemore_and_the_Cairngorms_Scottish.html


Grass of Parnassus flower by Mark Keighley




If you think you know someone who may enjoy a taste of what I do, why not treat them to a safari gift certificate? They make a thoughtful and imaginative present, are available for any amount and are valid at any time within a year from date of purchase....