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

Friday, March 01, 2013

February 2013 started very snowy and cold - fairly typical for the time of year, but a large high pressure system soon settled over Scotland, giving us glorious cold but sunny weather for the remainder of the month - perfect safari conditions! The deep snow early in the month gave me the perfect opportunities to test out the off-road and snow abilities of my new 'safari-bus' - a Landrover Discovery - I am pleased (and relieved!) to report that it passed with flying colours (see pic).
The days are lengthening now, and we have almost 12 hours of daylight, and with first light at around 7am, you don't have to get up at 'silly o'clock' in order to see the 'dawn' species.
Bird day-lists are still around 30-40 species, and mammal day-lists varied between 5and 8 species.

Wildlife highlights included:

Our local 'rogue' male Capercaillie started to show at his favourite spot deep in a local Caledonian pine forest, with even the occasional short display! (see pic). I am always careful not to abuse the privilege of getting to see and photograph this magnificent, and sadly very rare creature, by acting responsibly in not visiting the site too often, or for too long, and only with small parties. Sadly, not all of the other people I have met there can say the same......

Male Black Grouse numbers were seen to increase at traditional 'lek' sites, with up to 7 being seen at dawn (see pic), a sure sign that the breeding season is fast approaching....

Although Red Grouse do not 'lek' as such, the cock birds were certainly displaying, calling, and acting very aggressively on our local moors, giving good photo opportunities. (see pic)

Crested Tits continued to show very well, sometimes at very close range,  at my favourite forest feeding sites, again, giving decent photo opportunities to those that are quick enough with their camera, as they can be a very 'flitty' species!

Our local Dippers displayed well early in the month, with much bobbing and singing,  then quietened down a little later on, presumably because they had been successful in securing a mate, and breeding had occurred...

Our 'winter-white' species proved very popular with my safari clients, especially the Mountain Hares (see pic), though as they follow the 'snow-line' as it retreats up the hills, it can be a bit of a trek to try and get a close-up!

Our local Mountain Goats usually give birth around this time of year, and we were lucky enough to see several new-born young with the parent animals, all together now- aaaahhh!

There were several reports of White-Tailed Eagles  being seen along the Spey Valley, especially over Insh Marshes RSPB reserve.

Amazingly, we also had several reports of a Snowy Owl on the highest peaks of the Cairngorm Mountain range for just a couple of days, though the deep snow and very icy paths would have made for a very treacherous adventure for that mega-rare 'tick'!

Our winter visiting bird species continued to show well, with Whooper Swans, (see pic) 'Grey' Geese  and various wildfowl species all being seen locally.

We also noted an increase in the number of waders such as Lapwing and Oystercatcher returning to their inland breeding grounds as the month progressed...

Birdsong is definitely increasing , especially at first light, though it would be exaggerating to call it a proper  'dawn chorus' just yet....

Feeding your 'garden birds' is really important in the cold winter months, especially this far north, though one of my Collared Doves obviously failed to notice an approaching Sparrowhawk and unwittingly ended up on the menu (see pic)