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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 2012 started with high pressure dominating, giving us a week of cold, frosty nights, and glorious sunny days, but soon became less settled, with the rest of the month seeing just about every weather imaginable, sometimes all within the same day! However, the lengthening days did at least give us the feeling that summer is approaching at last. By the end of the month all the summer visiting bird species had finally arrived and bird day-lists crept up into the high 50's or low 60's, whilst mammal day-lists fluctuated between 6 and; 9 depending on our luck.


Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality species seen this month included Dipper, Black Grouse, Red Grouse (see pic), Capercaillie, Ring Ouzel, Osprey, Red -Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Golden Eagle , Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Mountain Goat, Mountain Hare, with a couple of bonus dawn  sightings of Otter on local lochs, though it should be noted that Crested Tit was generally very elusive, with the females on eggs and the males spending all day quietly and secretively delivering food and rarely calling....

Osprey action! Our local Ospreys were viewed mating, plunging for fish, delivering fish to the nest, and towards the end of the month, youngsters were spotted for the first time - all great stuff and surely one of British Wildlife's 'must-see' experiences?!

Our local Capercaillies & Black Grouse were seen to be still lekking almost to the end of the month, a good fortnight longer than usual, probably due to the unseasonably wintry weather fooling them into thinking it wasn't yet Spring, making our dawn starts very rewarding!

Loads of Cuckoo sightings. Any habitat with Meadow Pipits seemed to have Cuckoos watching their nests from nearby treetops or overhead wires, giving us the opportunity of some great views of a bird that is far more often heard than seen....

Fledglings! More species seen with youngsters this month included Red Grouse, Golden Plover and most of the 'garden' species.

First migrant sightings of the year included Spotted Flycatcher & my favourites, the Swifts, especially when heard 'screaming' around the rooftops!

Crossbill sightings increased through the month, presumably as the local cone crop became a more important food source, with some groups numbering 30+, the birds often giving away their location with their 'glipping' calls, and by the sound of emptied cones being dropped from the trees.

Divers: We were lucky enough to have many good sightings of the Males of  both Black-Throated and Red-Throated, though the females would have spent most of the month on the nest....

Ring Ouzels were spotted on several occasions on mountainsides , they too, had presumably put back breeding for a while due to the wintry weather.

Slavonian Grebes were frequently  seen well, though they appeared to be struggling to breed successfully (again!), with the fluctuating water levels leaving their nests either flooded or dried out!
It is no surprise that their inability to adapt to building a floating nest is sadly causing their numbers to drop in the UK.....

Raptor-fest! A dry day after a run of wet days is often good for watching raptors hunt as they are less likely to have fed well during the preceding days - this was just the case at one of our local upland glens - where we were amazed to see Merlin, Peregrine, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Red Kite, Buzzard and  Golden Eagle all within 30 minutes from one spot!

A late May day-trip to the SWT's superb Handa Island reserve on Scotland's ruggedly beautiful North-West coast gave great views of all the seabird colony favourites, including Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and everybody's favourite, Puffins! We also saw Great and Arctic Skuas, Arctic Terns, Gannets, and on the water, many Seals and  even  a bonus view of a Minke Whale! A lovely venue, well worth a summer visit.

I also managed a mammoth (4.30am-7.30pm) day trip to Mull at the end of the month. For anyone wanting to see Otters, Golden Eagle and Sea Eagle in the UK -  this is the place to go! Within an hour of reaching the island we had seen 2 Sea Eagles and an Otter, and our luck continued throughout the day, with a final tally of 6 Sea Eagles, 3 Golden Eagles and 3 Otters,  along with numerous Cuckoos and assorted seabirds - a great day at a truly magnificent wildlife destination!

So that was May, Phew! What a month! I may have said it before, and I may well say it again, but with it's snow, frosts, sleet, hail, rain, sun, stunning dawns & dusks and fantastic scenery and wildlife, I honestly wouldn't rather be anywhere else in the world than Speyside in Springtime!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

April 2012 showed us in no uncertain terms that Winter was not yet over! The month started cold and snowy, mid-month was rainy with floods, and ended with more frosts and hill snow! A rude awakening after the mild March! A fair number of winter visiting birds lingered, and the influx of summer migrants helped swell bird species on our day lists to 50+, whilst mammal day lists remained steady at 6-9 depending on our luck....

April is probably my favourite month for wildlife watching in this area. It is always an exciting time with many rare species returning to their local breeding grounds and many displaying, and therefore at their easiest to see...

Wildlife highlights included:

Local specialities that continued to show well regularly included Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Dipper, Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Osprey, Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Mountain Goat, Mountain Hare etc with Crested Tit, Crossbill and Golden Eagle seen occasionally...

April is THE month for Grouse species in this area - Capercaillie (males and females) were seen     regularly at dawn at the RSPB reserve at Loch Garten (open April 1 - May 19). Black Grouse lekking peaked at the end of the month, with the odd female appearing to spur the males on! Cock Red Grouse continued to display & call throughout...

Secluded local lochs gave us super sightings of Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver and Black-Throated Diver, all in their stunning summer plumage.

Good views of an Otter fishing soon after dawn on a local loch - a great start to the day!

More summer migrants arrived, with Wheatear, Swallow, Common Sandpiper, Willow Warbler and Ring Ouzel all seen for the first time this year....

Our local Ospreys got down to business, with them being seen nest building and mating and we were even lucky enough to see a fish being brought to the nest on a couple of occasions!

Golden Eagles were seen on several occasions in upland glens, with us even witnessing 2 birds 'teaming-up' in an attempt to catch a group of Red Grouse - exciting stuff!

Merlin was noted for the first time this year , with good (if brief!) views of one hot on the tail of a fleeing Meadow pipit.

Fledglings! Mallard youngsters were noted mid-month - all together now - aaaahhhh!

Early risers were able to enjoy a 'proper' dawn chorus for the first time this year - a very enjoyable and under-rated experience!

One sad story to report.... One of our 2 local 'rogue' Capercaillies met an untimely and unnecessary death mid month when it was killed by a dog whose owner apparently ignored signs requesting leads to be used &control to be exercised...........