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

Thursday, December 01, 2011


November 2011 was mainly unusually mild & pleasantly autumnal, but turned more wintry as the month went on, with high winds, heavy rain & floods, and then snow on the hills at the end - but still very acceptable , in comparison with the last two winters.........though the days are very short now, with less hours of daylight then there is darkness.
Incoming winter visiting birds kept our day-lists up into the 40's , whilst mammal day-list varied between 4-8 species.

Wildlife highlights included:

The Red Deer 'rut' continued well into November this year, probably due to the mild weather, though it was pretty much over by mid-month,with territories & mating rights established, and the hillsides are now a much quieter, safer, place!

The numbers of (distracted?) Red Deer on the hillsides proved irresistible to one particular Golden Eagle - which I managed to film actually attacking a good sized hind, chasing it at speed down a steep slope, presumably in an attempt to harry it into falling to it's death or serious injury - amazing stuff!

In fact, raptors in general are much easier to see in winter, with the days growing shorter, they have very limited hunting time, so a visit to suitable habitats usually brings results with a bit of patience...with Buzzards, Kestrels, Sparrowhawks & Peregrine Falcons all seen regularly.....even White-Tailed Sea Eagles were seen in one beautiful upland glen, well away from their more usual coastal haunts...

Spawning Salmon - as seen on the BBC's Autumnwatch programme, were very evident in the shallow, wild upper reaches of our local rivers - with much leaping, splashing and fighting for position viewed from incredibly close range - a super wildlife spectacle!

Our local Otters were not going to pass up the food bonanza provided by the (distracted!) spawning Salmon, and on two occasions at dawn, we were able to witness
Otters successfully taking pretty large Salmon from the spawning grounds - a great start to a safari!

Pine Marten were regular visitors to my baited site after dark - allowing me to show a number of very happy customers this very rare & elusive species for the first time - often at very close range - with their visiting times getting progressively earlier as the days grow shorter.

Geese were a big attraction this month, with us seeing some of the rarer species for this area, such as Bean & White-Fronted, alongside the more regularly seen Barnacle & Greylag.

Large flocks of Redwings & Fieldfares were seen , particularly after Northerly winds, so these were presumably visitors from colder climes....

Crested Tits were seen regularly at forest feeding stations, giving good close range photo opportunities (see pic), along with dozens of Coal Tits, that are now so used to me, I can hand feed them with up to 3 on each hand at a time - a lovely interaction with nature!

Dippers continued to sing & perform well at dawn - some of my safari customers had seen Dippers before , & heard their distinctive 'zit' 'zit' calls, but none had ever heard their quite attractive, squeaky, scratchy song - often accompanied by a magnificent orange-pink sun rising over the River Spey - nice!

Mountainside species such as Ptarmigan & Mountain Hare were seen more frequently at lower levels as the tops became more snowy, and both were noted to be rapidly gaining their thicker, white winter coats.

Black Grouse numbers were seen to be increasing at or near traditional 'lek' sites, with up to 6 males being noted on some colder mornings.

The cock Red Grouse were also getting notably more showy & aggressive on the moors, as they start to try & establish territories ready for the breeding season.

The mixed Finch & Bunting flocks were seen to grow even larger on local farmland, with Bramblings now included in their ranks

Waxwings were also reported to be trickling into our area from the North & East, though not in the huge numbers of last year.