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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 2011 was almost entirely dry, warm & sunny, with just a few overnight frosts to contend with - making it an absolutely fantastic month for wildlife-watching. Although the majority of our winter visitor birds have now departed, with summer migrant birds flooding in, our bird day-lists shot up into the 50's , with mammal day-lists also growing, to an average of 8, with one memorable day giving us an outstanding 11 different species!

Wildlife highlights included:

Ospreys returning to their nest sites within the Spey Valley. These magnificent raptors provided us with super views of them nest building, catching fish, delivering fish, & even mating - great stuff! (see pic)

Capercaillie were seen regularly (especially from mid-month) - mainly at the RSPB's excellent early-morning 'Caper-watch' facility, at their beautiful Abernethy Forest Reserve (Open April1 - May 20).

The local Black Grouse performed superbly at traditional 'lek' sites at dawn - my safari clients marvelling at the glossy black cock birds aggressive, strutting, jumping displays, all accompanied by their loud bubbling, hissing calls - one of British nature's must-see spectacles - magic!

Our dawn starts also gave us sightings of two very rare & very sought-after mammals - namely an Otter, seen fishing in the Spey, &..... (for only the 3rd time on one of my safaris), a Scottish Wildcat, seen hunting small mammals at a remote moorland location, it's large size, stocky build, broad head, & thick stripy tail hinting at a truly wild lineage.......

Other 'local speciality' birds seen regularly, and looking splendid in their truly beautiful summer plumage on secluded local lochans, were Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver & Black-Throated Diver - these three 'super-models' of the bird world often featured highly in our 'bird of the day' awards at the end of each safari.

Hen Harrier was a welcome (& sadly rare) addition to our sightings list , with several views on local heather moorland - lets hope they attempt (& are allowed!!) to breed, as they are very attractive , charismatic birds, especially the cock bird, with his grey-white plumage & black wingtips - fingers crossed!

Moorland also gave us regular excellent views of Red Grouse, the cock birds still very aggressive & showy, with their red eye combs seemingly almost glowing!

A 2011 record mammal 'day-list' of 11 different species - Hedgehog, Rabbit, Brown Hare, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Reindeer, Bank Vole, Mountain Goat, Mountain Hare, Stoat, & Red Squirrel.

Kingfisher was a good local 'tick' , streaking low across a local loch - they are not a common bird in these parts.

Incoming migrant birds included: Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Common Sandpiper, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, & Redstart.

Crossbills were seen sporadically, with mainly 'fly-over' sightings, and just a couple of 'thru the scope' opportunities.

Golden eagles were also seen sporadically - they are actually harder to see in spring/summer than in winter, as they have so many more hours of available feeding time, so you need a little luck.....

Overall, I would say that April (especially the 2nd half) is one of the best months for wildlife-watching in this area - it's probably my favourite month of the whole year.

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