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

Saturday, June 01, 2013

May 2013 can probably best be described as 'changeable' weather-wise in this area, starting off mild but wet and windy, calming down mid-month, with an icy blast and hill snow around the 20th, then a warm spell to finish. The days are really lengthening now, with nearly 20 hours of daylight and a 4am start needed to catch the 'dawn' species such as Capercaillie and Black Grouse. The 'late' spring this year meant that many species of birds were actually still lekking, displaying and singing, making them easier for us to see, when in a 'normal' year they would already be on eggs or even already have fledged young. The winter visiting birds have pretty much all departed now, and by the end of the month the last of the summer visiting birds had arrived, swelling our bird species day-lists up towards 60, whilst mammal day-lists varied between 6 & 9 depending on our luck.

Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality bird species seen regularly this month included: Dipper, Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Osprey, Slavonian Grebe, Black-Throated Diver, Red-Throated Diver, Ring Ouzel and Crested Tit, with Capercaillie and Golden Eagle both seen frequently early month.

Dawn views of an Otter on the river Spey on May 1st - not bad for our first mammal seen this month! Especially when you consider that they are almost entirely nocturnal on inland waters.....

Capercaillie were seen well on several occasions at dawn at RSPB Loch Garten's Caper-watch early in the month, including two cock birds actually in combat for mating rights - a cracking reward for the early start! I left our local 'rogue' cock bird well alone throughout the month to ensure that his lekking and  possible mating was not disturbed.....

Our local Black Grouse too, continued lekking throughout May, with bright, frosty mornings being best, and the action only tailing off as the weather warmed up later in the month.

Red Grouse were seen very regularly on our local moors, noticeably though, only the cock birds for most of the month, whilst the females incubated eggs, with the last week of the month giving us our first views of the tiny and very cute newly fledged youngsters.

Our local Ospreys continued to entertain my safari clients, with us witnessing 'plunge-diving',fish deliveries and flights over our heads (see pic) on several occasions - superb entertainment!

Our local speciality water birds - namely Slavonian Grebe (see pic by Bob Smith), Red-Throated Diver and Black-Throated Diver were all seen , though they were not as reliable as usual as the very late spring has seen them delay pairing - up and breeding until the latter part of the month.

Crested Tits, unusually,  continued to visit forest feeding stations during the early part of the month, giving us some unexpected but very welcome photo opportunities (see superb pic by Bob Smith) though sightings noticeably tailed-off late month as they presumably, finally got around to breeding.

Ring Ouzels showed well early month, with the male birds often perching prominently (see pic), whilst uttering their high-pitched fluty call, making them fairly easy to home in on, though they too became harder to see as the month went on.

Golden Eagles were seen well , especially early in the month, with 2 young birds together being noted on a couple of occasions, giving several of my safari clients spectacular  'year-ticks' and some the much sought-after 'life-tick'!

Another raptor seen in our local upland glens during the month was a huge White-Tailed Eagle, which absolutely dwarfed the Common Buzzards that were mobbing it - not for nothing are they often called 'the flying barn door'! (see my very poor, but in my defence, very distant pic)

Other raptors noted included a dashing Hobby, a rare bird in these parts, seen hawking dragonflies over a local lochan on May 17, and a cracking cock Merlin, seen perched on a moorland deer fence, before flying swiftly off, low over the heather, on the 30th.

Unusually, Owls featured on our sightings list a few times this month, with Tawny being seen at dawn in our local forests at dawn on several occasions, and Short-Eared seen quartering moorlands and fields during daylight - always a bonus!

Other migrant birds seen for the first time this year included good numbers of Cuckoos, Swifts, Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts, and a lovely male Whinchat.

Mammals were well represented this month, with Rabbit, Brown Hare, Mountain Hare, Bank Vole, Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Reindeer, Roe Deer and Mountain Goat all seen regularly, and solitary sightings of Otter, and rarer still , a Pine Marten, seen crossing a forest track at dawn!

So, although many people will have complained about the late spring , and unseasonably wintry weather this May, I actually feel that it delayed the breeding season for many bird species, giving us the opportunity to see many sought after local specialities - which would normally have quietened down by now - still displaying and showing well - giving us a superb month of sightings - so this cloud really did have a silver lining! May is probably THE best month for seeing a broad range of bird species, including the iconic Highland endemics, and a trip here then for a safari is highly recommended!

No comments: