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

Friday, January 03, 2014

Merry Christmas and a happy and wildlife-filled new year to all my readers!
And a big "thank
you" to everyone who used my safari guiding services during the year....

December 2013 will not go down on record as a particularly good safari month weather -wise!
With snow, rain, floods and gales dominating, and with just a handful of decent wildlife-watching days, good sightings were at a premium, so I have therefore decided to file a 'typical' December report, using sightings and photographs from previous, more 'normal' Decembers....
The days are very short at this time of year, with only around 7 hours of daylight, but you can still reasonably hope to see 30+ bird species and 6+ mammal species given decent weather.

Typical wildlife sightings usually include:

Black Grouse at or near their moorland 'lek' sites at dawn, with the birds occasionally actually displaying on bright frosty mornings (see pic above)

Red Grouse too are usually fairly easy to see on our local heather moorlands in December, with the cock birds seemingly becoming territorial and often heard calling and seen displaying from raised areas (see pic above)

Dippers too seem to become very territorial at this time of year, with the cock birds even heard singing their high-pitched rippling warble ( a rare occurrence) at dawn whilst displaying...

Crested Tits are regular visitors to my favourite forest feeding stations during the winter months, with the lure of an easy feed seemingly hard to resist, though it should be noted that they are often very 'flitty', only staying for a few seconds, and are heavily outnumbered by the more common species..(see pic above)

Golden Eagles, and in fact, birds of prey in general, are usually seen more frequently in the winter months, with Kestrel, Buzzard, Red Kite, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk all appearing regularly, the shorter hours of daylight giving the birds less available hunting time...

Ptarmigan, looking resplendent in their winter-white plumage are a realistic target given some calm, sunny weather, though you will need to venture up to the snow-line in the mountains to have a chance of seeing them...

Snow Buntings too are best looked for in the winter months, and are a little more 'user-friendly', in that they can often be found at lower levels than the Ptarmigan , and can be very confiding, sometimes even visiting our ski centre car parks in search of food...(see pic above)

Whooper Swans (see pic above) are seen regularly on our local lochs and rivers, the Highland winter being more clement than their Arctic breeding grounds, where temperatures of -40c are not unusual!

Cold weather also drives other scarcer species such as Brambling, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch and Redpolls to visit feeding stations, and it is not uncommon for me to record all these species visiting my Aviemore garden in midwinter.

Mammals seen in an average December usually include Roe Deer, Red Deer, Reindeer, Red Squirrel, Brown Hare, Rabbit, Mountain Goat, and two more 'winter-white' specials, in Mountain Hare (see pic above) and Stoat, with the occasional dawn sighting of Otter.

The odd Salmon can still be seen in our local rivers, trying to make their way back out to sea, many looking a bit battle-scarred after the rigours of migration and spawning.

Looking back at 2013, I honestly think it was probably my most enjoyable and best year yet for wildlife sightings, and with the arrival of a 'proper' 7-seat 4x4 safari vehicle, and gaining a 5 star wildlife experience grading from Visit Scotland, it will be a hard act to follow, but I am sure it will be fun trying!

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