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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 2012 was another very changeable month weather-wise, with just about every type of weather (except for snow, thankfully!) experienced at some stage - sadly, not ideal for birds trying to feed newly hatched or recently fledged young.......though on a more positive note, with the days at their longest now,this far north there is almost 24 hours a day wildlife-watching available to those with the stamina to enjoy it! Bird day-lists are at their highest now , with mid-high 60's not uncommon, with mammal lists steady at 6-9.....It should be noted though, that to see the 'dawn' species now requires an extremely early start, and the nocturnal species (such as Pine Marten) become very tricky!

Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality species frequently  seen well this month included Dipper, Osprey, Ring Ouzel, Slavonian Grebe, Red Grouse, Red-Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Crossbill, and, unusually for June, Capercaillie & Black Grouse....

In fact,  Capercaillie & Black Grouse were still noted to be in 'lekking' mode - the first time I can recall it extending well into June, presumably, the fact that the weather felt more like it would in April/May was the reason...but, whatever the reason, they were a worthy reward for our early starts!

Red Grouse, mostly in large family parties,  were seen regularly, though they are much quieter and less obvious now, as  they creep stealthily through the deep heather...

Crested Tits finally became easier to see, with many family groups being spotted in our local Caledonian Forests. Learning to recognise  their distinctive chuckling trills being by far the best way of locating them...

Ospreys were frequently seen fishing, plunge-diving  into local lochs, and with most of the parents having hungry young to feed, and 8 or more fish per day being needed, mid-summer is the best time to witness this amazing spectacle!

Crossbills were seen frequently, and on several occasions we actually had prolonged views of them through the scope feeding on Pine cones  - instead of the usual brief  fly-over -  not a frequent occurrence - as any safari guide will tell you!

Ring Ouzels were seen collecting beakfuls of insects and worms in suitable upland habitat,  before flying into the thick undergrowth  - I suspect we may see youngsters soon....

Cuckoos were again seen (and heard calling)  frequently, including one female seen emerging from a Meadow Pipit nest at very close range!

Mountain-top birds: June is probably our best month for seeing  Ptarmigan and Dotterel (and the less reliable  Snow Bunting ), and so it proved, with decent views being achieved, though it should be stressed that this inhospitable and potentially dangerous environment should only be visited in very good weather conditions and with appropriate clothing and equipment....

Fledglings! Many more species now have young, including Dipper, Crested Tit, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Redstarts and our local pair of Black-Throated Divers (see pic courtesy of Tim Neale) - though sadly,  our local Slavonian Grebes do not seem to have bred successfully... again, despite several attempts.....

Local speciality mammals: It is easy for someone like myself to take Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Mountain Hare and Mountain Goat for granted - but it is always brought home to me how relatively rare outside of upland areas these are, when I see the smiling faces of my safari clients as they get to see them for the first time.... especially on one occasion when we witnessed the Mountain Goats climb quite high into trees to get to the tasty higher leaves! (see pic)

Brown Hares were seen 'boxing' early this month! Again, much later than usual....

Pole-dancing Stoat! Mid-month we enjoyed an incredible close encounter with a Stoat that ran across a track in front of us, and then proceeded to wrap itself round a nearby sapling support stick in an attempt to hide from us, but it couldn't resist constantly changing it's position in order to peep round at us -  just like a pole-dancer (so I am told!) - great stuff!

Butterflies: Most of our common species are now (finally!) on the wing , and I don't know whether it is just me... but we seem to see a lot more Orange Tips than we used to....

Mull lured me over again! Please forgive me - for I am too weak to resist the temptation! A mid-month day-trip producing reasonable sightings of Golden Eagle & Sea Eagle, and some really nice views of a gorgeous male Hen Harrier, along with many more common coastal species....