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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


February 2012 started cold with a little light snow & some sharp frosts , but soon became milder & less wintry, and actually ended with near -record high temperatures for February!All this almost spring-like weather made life much easier for me as a safari guide than the previous two winters, with us able to access all the best wild, remote areas in search of wildlife. The days are growing longer now, with almost 12 hours of daylight, winter is nearly over.....Bird day-lists increased into the mid-upper 30's , while mammal day-lists were steady at 5-9.

Wildlife highlights included:

Most of our 'local speciality' species continued to show frequently - with Dippers, Crested Tits, Crossbills, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Capercaillie, Goldeneye, Whooper Swan, Golden Eagle, Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Mountain Goat, Mountain Hare etc all being enjoyed by my safari guests, along with many other more common species.

Our winter visitor bird species remained in the area, with Whooper Swans, several species of 'grey' Geese & wildfowl all frequenting local lochs & rivers...


Otters! We were fortunate enough to have several sightings at dawn of not just the more usual lone Otter, but on 2 occasions a family group of 1 adult & 2 youngsters. A magic start to the day!!

Our local 'rogue' male Capercaillie continued to entertain, with with him still occasionally putting on an occasional lekking display! - still several weeks ahead of their more usual breeding season - surely one of British nature's 'must-see' events?

Our local Dippers continued to sing & display at dawn on the rivers, with much male-female interaction and we witnessed possible nest-building occurring under bridges.

Male Black Grouse were noted at or near to traditional 'lek' sites, though not yet in the numbers of previous years at this time....

Male Red Grouse however, seem to be doing very well on the moors, with good numbers seen posturing aggressively at rivals.

Crested Tits continued to delight my customers at forest feeding stations, especially photographers, who took the rare opportunity to get good close-up shots of this rare & 'flitty' species....

Several species of raptor were seen displaying & heard calling in upland glens, with Buzzards, Peregrines & Golden Eagle all noted, along with the accompanying Ravens!

With the weather being reasonably kind, mountain-top species such as Ptarmigan & Mountain Hare (see pic) were easier to see than normal at this time of year, though it should be noted that a fair amount of physical effort & stealth is still required......

The last week of the month saw waders returning to our area from their coastal wintering grounds, with lapwings & a few Oystercatchers being the earliest arrivals....

To summarise, it really does feel like winter is almost over (early for this area!!) & that spring may be just around the corner....

Saturday, February 04, 2012


January 2012 was generally unseasonably mild with just a few frosts, and only the odd, light dusting of snow. This was great news for me, as a wildlife guide, allowing me to take my guests to most of the wild, remote areas that had been inaccessible for most of the last two winters! The days are growing noticeably longer now too, and dawn birdsong seems to be increasing, and though winter is most definitely not over yet, maybe the end of it is in sight......
Bird day-lists remained in the low 30's, and mammal lists were between 5 and 8 depending on our luck.

Wildlife highlights included:

Most of our resident 'local specialities' such as Dipper, Crested Tit, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Golden Eagle, Red Deer, Red Squirrel, Mountain Hare, Mountain Goat etc continued to be seen regularly, putting big smiles on my safari clients faces, as most of them are from areas where these species are not found. Crossbills, however, proved very elusive for some reason, with just a few heard flying....

Unusually for January, we were lucky to enjoy great views of a male Capercaillie in a secluded forest location, who actually began to display - fully 2 months ahead of their 'usual' lekking time!! An amazing sight!(see pic)

Crested Tits were regular visitors to a baited site in a local forest, giving great close-range views and providing good photo opportunities for this charismatic and usually very elusive little bird...

The same site also gave us super views of Red Squirrels, with up to 4 being present at once on occasions, their constant squabbling, fighting & chasing around proving very entertaining.

Record numbers of Whooper Swans & winter Geese were reported at the nearby Insh Marshes RSPB reserve, along with many other winter wildlfowl and regular Hen Harrier sightings.

Male Red Grouse were seen to be getting noticeably more showy & aggressive (& noisy!) on the heather moorland, making them easier to spot - though the local Black Grouse do not seem to have started 'revving up' for Spring quite so much yet, with just a few brief views.

White Mountain Hare proved to be a popular addition to our mammal day-lists, with them scoring high points for cuteness as well as relative rarity.

Another winter-white mammal in these parts is the Stoat, and we were lucky enough to get several brief glimpses of them feeding on road-kill rabbits.

Our local Dippers continued to entertain, with their dawn courtship songs & displays adding even more enjoyment to watching the sun rise over the mountains and illuminate their river home - magic!

Golden Eagle was seen on several occasions in upland glens, with windier days proving better than still days.

Evening Pine Marten watches proved popular at my local baited site, with us having a 75% sightings success rate, though with the days getting longer now, their visits are getting later.