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

Monday, October 31, 2011


October 2011 was a kind of 'back to front' month weather-wise - it started cold with snow on the higher tops, was windy throughout, but ended surprisingly mildly with temperatures into double-figures - very unseasonal! The days are shortening noticeably now though, with almost as much darkness as daylight. Inward bird migration continued apace, with many winter Thrushes joining the early Geese & Wildfowl. Bird day-lists increased slightly into the 40's, whilst mammal day-list remained steady at 6-9 depending on our luck.

Wildlife highlights included:

The Red Deer 'rut' is always one of the highlights of any Autumn, and it is surely one of British nature's 'must-see' spectacles, with the magnificent fully antlered stags (see pic) corralling their 'harems' of hinds, defending them from other 'challengers' with much roaring, posturing & even actually fighting, & repeatedly mating with as many of their 'ladies' as possible - it's wonderfully entertaining , if a little brutal at times, and looks exhausting!.

The winter Thrushes poured in from the North, first the Redwings - usually heard before being seen - their thin 'seep seep' calls alerting us to the presence of the flocks flying overhead, followed a few days later by the Fieldfares. I think the berries on our trees & bushes may disappear very soon.....

Whooper Swans appeared on one of our large local lochs on the 5th, their dawn arrival preceded by their amazing 'trumpeting' calls while the flock of around 20 circled - I think I was the first 'local' to see them this winter, as I happened to be quietly fishing... a magic moment.

A trip into the Caledonian Pine forests at the foot of the Cairngorms gave us an amazing close-up view of 2 young Capercaillie - one male , one female - both just gaining their adult plumage - a rare treat to get a good sighting of arguably Britain's most endangered bird species...

A short afternoon visit to Insh Marshes RSPB reserve provided splendid views of a ring-tail (female)Hen Harrier hunting low over the marshland, and actually having a grab for a Mallard from one of the many shallow pools.

Mid-month, I witnessed some Dipper behaviour that I had never seen before - although I was aware that they start to compete for territory in Autumn - I actually saw 2 Dippers, fighting very aggressively - seemingly trying to drown each other!, on the surface in the middle of a good-sized loch - amazing stuff!

The Pine Marten - one of Britain's rarest & hardest to see mammals - was again a regular after-dark visitor to my baited site, putting smiles on many faces, with his arrival time getting progressively earlier as the days grew shorter.

Black Grouse numbers continued to grow at traditional 'lek' sites , as the Cock birds began their long build-up to the 'lekking' season with a little gentle posturing at dawn, especially on the colder mornings.

The mixed Finch & Bunting flocks on local farmland grew noticeably larger, with some now containing over a hundred birds of at least 6 different species.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


September 2011 started with cool, changeable weather, but, rather surprisingly, ended with a very mild & sunny spell, instead of the expected early autumnal frosts, and the days are growing noticeably shorter now.
With the last of the summer visitor bird species departing the area during the month, and just a few of the winter visitors arriving, bird day-list struggled to top 35 - 40 species, while mammal species remained steady at 6-10 depending on our luck.
As mid-late September is one of the 'quieter' times of the year for my safaris, I took some time off to visit relatives & friends down in the south of England, so this report may be a little shorter than normal.

Wildlife highlights included:

Last sightings for this year of summer visitors such as Osprey, Swallow, Wheatear etc - I found myself wishing them good luck on their migration to warmer climes, many as far south as Africa.

Winter visiting bird species began to increase, with good numbers of Greylag Geese & Mistle Thrushes being seen, and the first few Whooper Swans being reported at the end of the month.

Local speciality species still showing well included Dipper, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Crested Tit & Crossbill, with occasional sightings of Capercaillie & Golden Eagle.

The Red Deer stags became noticeably more aggressive late in the month, with the first 'roaring' being heard, and the dominant males seemed to be assembling their 'harems' of females ready for the forthcoming 'rut'.

Crested Tits were noted to be coming to woodland feeding stations more frequently, especially on cooler mornings.

The mixed woodland flocks continued to grow in size, with some consisting of 100+ birds of 6-8 different species - but can you pick out the Cresties?....it's harder than you might think, and knowing their chuckling trill is a must!

Pine Marten was seen several times after dusk at a baited site, and we are now entering the best time of year in which to see them regularly as the number of dark hours increases.

Rowan trees are at their colourful, vivid red berry-laden best now, and the Thrush species are not slow to exploit this bumper autumn harvest.

A short trip West across to Mull produced great close-up views of 3 different Otters(see pic) and a super sighting of a soaring Golden Eagle along with all the expected seabirds such as Gannet, Guillemot & Black Guillemot etc - great stuff!

My trip south gave me the chance to see many species not seen this far north, and also gave me a 'life-tick' in the form of a very rare (& very pretty) Sabine's Gull- nice!