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

Friday, August 01, 2014

July 2014 started with cool, showery weather in this area, but it soon warmed up and was generally a calm, dry, sunny month, giving us some excellent wildlife watching conditions. Although the days are shortening slightly now, this far north there is still around 18 hours of usable daylight. Bird species day lists dropped a little, down  into the 40's, as some of our wader species moved away from their upland breeding grounds to the coasts, whilst mammal day lists varied between 5 and 9 , with early starts generally producing more sightings. With the heather starting to turn purple, and the wild flowers and butterflies at their most abundant, Speyside really is a beautiful place to be.


Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality bird species seen regularly, many of them with youngsters, were:
Osprey, Slavonian Grebe, Goldeneye, Red-Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Dipper, Crested Tit, Red Grouse and Golden Plover, with  a few sightings of Crossbill and Golden Eagle, and just single views of Merlin and Goshawk... whilst Ring Ouzel, Black Grouse and Capercaillie were not seen at all.....

Mammal species seen regularly included:
Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Red Deer, Reindeer, Rabbit and Mountain Goat, with just a few sightings of Mountain Hare, Brown Hare, Stoat, Weasel, and Bank Vole...


Our local Ospreys stole the show again this month, with the adult birds seen fishing and delivering fish to the fast growing 'scaly' looking youngsters, who by mid-month had fledged and were seen perched (see pic above), flying and fishing for the first time.. I can highly recommend July as THE month for Osprey watching and photography in this area...

Slavonian Grebes, surely one of our rarest and most beautiful British breeding birds, have struggled to breed successfully in this area in recent years, so it was great to see several of our local nesting pairs with young this month (see pic above). We were even lucky enough to see the newly-fledged chicks taking a ride on the back of a parent on one occasion!

Divers in their dapper summer plumage are always popular with my safari clients, and we were fortunate enough to get lots of good views of both Red-Throated (see pic above) and Black-Throated (see pic below) on their favoured local lochs throughout the month, though it should be noted that they are easily disturbed by non wildlife-friendly tourists swimming and boating etc, so early starts in search of them usually gave us our best sightings....

Dippers are probably at their least territorial during mid-summer, seemingly covering a much longer stretch of river than usual,  which can make them more difficult to see than you might imagine.....but my favourite tactic of 'staking-out' a likely stretch of river from a bridge vantage point paid off on a number of occasions.

Crested Tits tend to join up with numbers of birds of several different species in 'mixed flocks' from July onwards. This means you first have to find one of these flocks 'working through' the forest, then you have to try and pick out the 'Cresties' - you really need to know their distinctive songs and calls to have a decent chance of success though....


Red Grouse are always popular with my safari parties, as being a bird of northern upland moors, most of my clients do not have them near to their homes. We are fortunate to have lots of suitable moorland in this area, and throughout the month we enjoyed good close up views of families of these beautifully marked birds (see pic above)

Golden Plover too, are a bird of upland moors during the breeding season, and they are at their most colourful now too. So it was good to get some very nice sightings and  photo opportunities (see pic above)

Crossbills, sadly proved to be a bit elusive again this month, with most of our sightings being of the 'fly-over' variety, and only a couple of all too brief views of birds perched......

Golden Eagle sightings too were a bit hard to come by, with just one decent view achieved, though this is not that unusual in this area at this time of year...

Still on the subject of raptors, a Merlin was seen hunting low and fast over a local moor on the 10th, whilst I was also lucky enough to get a decent view a Goshawk flying powerfully between two forests on the 12th....

Whilst enjoying a family picnic at a secluded local loch on the 20th, I was surprised to hear an unusual repetitive, whistling 'wet my lips, wet my lips' call coming from the marshy area around the feeder stream, which I recognized as that of a Quail - a rare bird this far north.... but despite a good 30 minutes of thorough searching,  sadly, I failed to get a sighting of what would have been a 'life-tick' for my UK bird list.....


July is 'last chance saloon' for seeing all 3 of our mountain top species in one hit, and although I did not get the opportunity to take to the hills to see them, Ptarmigan, Dotterel and Snow Bunting were regularly reported by those that did...

Mammals featured well this month, with early mornings providing most of our best sightings. Roe Deer (see pic above) were heard 'barking' as they 'rutted' in suitable lowland areas. Red Deer were seen in upland glens in large same-sex herds, the hinds with their fast-growing young always nearby (see pic below)


But invariably, the winner of my safari guests 'mammal of the day' award was the Red Squirrel, with these beautiful and charismatic little animals often allowing good opportunities for close-up photography, with one incredibly confiding and brave youngster actually clambering all over me and my safari party on the 10th - an amazing and memorable experience!! (see pic below)


Butterflies of many species were 'on the wing' throughout the month, adding even more colour to local wild flower meadows, including our local speciality, the Scotch Argus (see pic above)

So it looks like July 2014 was yet another excellent wildlife watching month in the Cairngorms National Park, with many memorable moments and lots of local specialities seen and enjoyed.... though I must confess that I always tend to feel just a little sad towards the end of every July , as I know that many of our summer visiting birds are soon to vacate our area and fly south to warmer climes as summer turns to early autumn next month.....