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

Sunday, September 01, 2013

August 2013 was much more changeable than the previous month in this area weather-wise, with the odd breezy or showery day, and with  temperatures noticeably cooler, and the days noticeably shortening, there was actually a slightly autumnal feel to things towards the end of the month.....
Mid-month saw many of our summer visiting species migrate away towards their wintering grounds, and as a consequence, our bird day-lists dropped a little more into the 40's or even low 30's, whilst our mammal day-lists varied between 5 and 9 depending on our luck. The heather is near it's vibrant purple best now, the Rowan trees are full of bright orange and red berries, and with plenty of wild flowers and butterflies still around, the Highlands are a beautiful place to be.....

From a purely personal point of view, the big highlight since my last report, was to get notification from Visit Scotland that Highland Wildlife & Birdwatch Safaris has been awarded a 5 Star Wildlife Experience grading following a visit from one of their quality assurance 'mystery shoppers'. Although the main objective of my safari/guiding service is to provide my clients with an enjoyable and memorable day of wildlife-watching in unique and  varied habitats and  beautiful surroundings, it is nice to get 'official' recognition that you are doing a good, professional job of it too.....(see pic)

Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality bird species seen regularly throughout the month included Dipper, Crested Tit, Osprey and  Red Grouse, with Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver and Black-Throated Diver only noted reliably often up to mid-month. Merlin, Crossbills and  Golden Eagle were observed on a few occasions , but Black Grouse and Capercaillie were generally hard to come by...

Mammals seen this month included: Roe Deer, Reindeer, Red Deer, Red Squirrel, Rabbit, Brown Hare, Bank Vole, Mole,  Mountain Goat, Mountain Hare.

Osprey was again probably  the 'star' bird of the month, at least in the first half anyway, with my safari clients enjoying seeing them plunge-fish on several occasions, though one juvenile bird had a close call when it became water-logged, and struggled to slowly 'paddle' itself to the bank - phew!

Crested Tits continued to visit my favourite forest feeding stations reasonably regularly, usually early in the mornings, giving many of my safari clients their first ever sighting of this very rare and very localised little bird. (see pic)

Red Grouse continued to be seen regularly on our local moorlands, though for some reason, they became noticeably more 'twitchy' and less easy to find after the 'Glorious 12th'........(see pic)

Dipper is a bird that those of us who live in upland areas probably tend to take for granted, but it is important for me to remember that the vast majority of my clients actually live in lowland and  urban areas, and are therefore usually very pleased to get good views of these charismatic and hardy little river dwellers..

Capercaillie  is a very difficult bird to find in summer and autumn, but an early start one morning gave us decent, if brief views of 2 female birds taking grit from the side of a forest road.

Slavonian Grebe is a very rare and declining species in the UK, with just a few pairs to be found on suitable secluded Highland lochs, so it was good to see that one of our local pairs had bred successfully this year...(see pic by Bob Smith). Though they had largely left the area by the end of the month...

Red-Throated Diver, and Black-Throated Diver - still in their striking summer plumage -  were both seen with youngsters on local lochs early in the month, though  they were not noted after mid-month...

Crossbills were seen and heard (usually just in flight) on a few occasions in their favoured Caledonian Pine forest habitat, though good sightings were very hard to obtain..

Merlin, our smallest resident raptor, was seen briefly on a few occasions, usually flashing past  in hot pursuit of a Meadow Pipit!

Hobby was noted hawking dragonflies over local lochs on a few occasions, though one was seen to be hunting larger prey , in the form of Swallows!

Red Kites are definitely becoming  a more regular feature over our local hilly farmland areas and moors. They were reintroduced on the Black Isle north of Inverness over 20 years ago, but have, until recently,  failed to thrive due to their fondness for feeding on carrion, this making them susceptible to poisoning on some Grouse moors....(see pic)

Hen Harrier too, is a raptor which should be seen far more regularly over our moorlands than it is, again , probably due to illegal persecution, but one beautiful male bird put in a few brief appearances early in the month... (see pic by Bob Smith)

Although most of our breeding wader species left this area last month , we had a few sightings of Common Sandpiper and Greenshank, presumably birds on passage,  on our local lochs.

Although I didn't manage a trip up myself this month, our mountain top bird species - Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting were reported on a few occasions, though it would appear that the Dotterel had already left the area..

Mixed 'winter flocks' of various Tits , Finches, Treecreepers and Goldcrests, and even  the odd Crestie began to form in our forests towards the end of the month, a sure sign that the seasons are changing....

Purple poo! The annual bounty of Blaeberries in the Caledonian Pine Forests provides a very welcome (and tasty!) food source for our local wildlife, with colourful evidence on the tracks showing  that our local Roe Deer, Red Squirrels, Pine Martens and Capercaillies had all taken advantage of it...

The Moray Firth Dolphins continued to show well on a rising tide at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle and at Spey Bay, with the low river levels causing a tailback of Salmon to congregate at the river mouths waiting to migrate upriver, the Dolphins were not slow to take advantage of this relatively easy food source!

So, to summarise, although August is often to be considered to be  a bit of a 'quiet' wildlife watching month in many areas, it is definitely not the case this far north, with plenty of good stuff still to be seen......