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

Saturday, September 01, 2012

August 2012 started a bit changeable weather-wise but mid month we enjoyed some proper summer weather with a week of warm, sunny days (at last!), though by the end of the month there was a distinctly autumnal feel to the air, with temperatures dropping and the days becoming noticeably shorter.  With the heather now at it's vibrant , purple best and with the Rowan berries now bright red, the area is arguably at it's scenic best. With many of the summer visiting birds departing the area for warmer climes, bird species day-lists dropped down into the 40's or even 30's towards the end of the month, though mammal lists remained steady at 6-9.

Wildlife highlights included:

Ospreys plunge-diving for fish! Although the majority of adult birds depart for Africa by mid-month, we were still lucky enough to witness  juvenile birds  showing us this magnificent wildlife spectacle right up to the very end of the month.

Incredible views of a Golden Eagle chasing a herd of over 100 Red Deer Hinds along a steep ridge before (unsuccessfully) attempting to pursue it's selected victim into tumbling to it's death  - seeing the terrified Deer rear up to try and fend off the attacker, which had it's wings spread wide and talons outstretched, was a superb wildlife moment thoroughly enjoyed by myself and my lucky safari clients!

Decent views of our 'mountain' species - Ptarmigan in good numbers  and a few  Snow Bunting could be found reasonably easily up on the high tops (when the weather was decent enough!) , though the Dotterel appeared to have gone by early August...

One (and sometimes two) Hobbies were spotted hawking for dragonflies over one of our local lochans on a number of occasions, their dashing flight and long, pointed backswept wings giving them the appearance of giant Swifts, and causing panic amongst the remaining Hirundines - magic! - and a rare bird this far north!

Dawn trips to suitable forest and moorland areas produced a few 'bonus' sightings of Capercaillie and Black Grouse for my delighted safari clients , though it should be noted that these species are generally pretty difficult to see in late summer...

Purple poo! The late summer Blaeberry bonanza is taken advantage of by many birds and animals, and walks along quiet forest tracks gave us sightings of colourful droppings produced by Roe Deer, Red Squirrel, Capercaillie and Pine Marten among others.

Local speciality bird species seen included Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver (up to mid month only), with Osprey, Crested Tit , Crossbill, Red Grouse  and Golden Eagle seen fairly regularly throughout the month, though sightings of Capercaillie and Black Grouse were less frequent and usually at dawn only.

Our local speciality mammals proved pretty reliable, with regular good views of Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Reindeer and  Mountain Goat, though the Mountain Hares were less easy to find.... add these  to the more common species such as Rabbit, Brown hare and Roe Deer (see pic), with the occasional sighting of Stoats, Weasels, Bank Voles etc and it was not uncommon for our mammal 'day-list' to be approaching double-figures.

August is a big month for wader migration, and small flocks of various species were often heard (especially at night) and sometimes seen overhead, including one group of 4 Greenshanks over a local loch.

Mixed 'winter' flocks of various Tits, Finches, Goldcrests and Treecreepers were noticed to be growing as the month progressed, though picking out the much sought - after Crested Tits required a certain amount of fieldcraft and a lot of patience!

The Moray Firth Dolphins continued to delight - with the 'hot spot' at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle providing reliably regular sightings, sometimes distant, but occasionally amazingly close! - though only at certain states of the tide....

So, although August is often considered to be a bit of a 'quiet' month for wildlife-watching by some - I think that is far from the case, in this area at least!