The days are lengthening nicely now, with around 14 hours of usable daylight, and although most of the winter visiting birds had departed by mid-month, the influx of migrant birds north into this area throughout the month helped bird species day-lists creep ever higher, with 50+ species not uncommon on a full day local safari, whilst full day mammal species day-lists regularly crept up towards double figures, with early starts providing best results.
|Dawn at a Cairngorms moorland|
Local speciality and upland bird species seen regularly throughout the month included:
Black Grouse (pre-dawn start required), Red Grouse, Osprey, Ring Ouzel, Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Goldeneye, and Golden Eagle, with just a couple of brief glimpses of Crossbills. Capercaillie, despite several visits to the RSPB Loch Garten Caper-watch, sadly, proved to be very elusive, and It should also be noted that, due to their very secretive nature at this time , Crested Tit becomes extremely difficult to see during breeding season (April-May), and we struggled to see them throughout the month...
Mammals seen regularly by my safari parties during the month included:
Rabbit, Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Red Deer, Mountain Goat, Mountain Hare (now a mottled white/ blue-grey) Brown Hare, Bank Vole and Wood Mouse....whilst a couple of excursions 'out of area' also gave us Dolphins and an Otter.....
Wildlife highlights included:
|Ospreys at their nest by Nigel Wedge|
|Lekking Black Grouse by Steve Nicklin (taken from a hide)|
|Cock Red Grouse|
|Ring Ouzel by Nigel Wedge|
|Slavonian Grebe by Nigel Wedge|
|Dipper by Steve Nicklin|
|Soaring White-Tailed Eagle|
Other 'good' birds seen or reported locally this month included Bullfinch, Brambling, Redpoll and Greenshank, our first sightings this year of all 3 Hirundines, Willow Warbler, Redshank, Redstart, Wheatear and Common Sandpiper, and the first Cuckoo was heard calling on the 28th...
Onto mammals now....
|Mountain Hare by Steve Nicklin|
|Red Deer stag|
|Feral Mountain Goats|
Dolphins are always high on most peoples mammal wish list when visiting coastal areas, and we are very lucky to have probably the best land based sight in the UK nearby ( about an hour drive from Aviemore ) at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle just north of Inverness. A visit to the Moray Firth at the right stage of the tide on the 19th gave us excellent close up views of these entertaining, charismatic and surprisingly large animals fishing for Salmon, though rather annoyingly, a decent photo eluded me....
|Otter on the Isle of Mull|
So, to summarise....It is only when I finally find time to sit down and compile my monthly wildlife sightings blog and look back through the photos that I and my safari clients have taken during the month that I really become aware of what a great time I have had, appreciate how lucky I am to live and work in such a wild and beautiful place, and to spend time out and about sharing it with other like-minded wildlife fans, .... and it would appear that April 2017, despite the strangely changeable weather, turned out to be a really excellent and very enjoyable month for wildlife watching in and around the Cairngorms National Park (and beyond!), With the returning summer visiting birds flooding northwards to join our resident species, the days lengthening, flowers (finally!) blooming, stunning scenery and the weather ( generally! ) improving, I can honestly say that I would not want to be anywhere else in the world than here in the majestic Scottish Highlands at this time of year....
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 and are available for any amount in multiples of £10, and are valid at any time within a year from date of purchase....
|Dawn at Corran Ferry , en route to the Isle of Mull|