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

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 2015 started unusually mildly in this area, but the middle of the month saw gales and rain, and then winter truly arrived with our first proper snowfall and frosts. Despite the sometimes challenging conditions, by 'cherry-picking' the best days, and designing itineraries round the weather, we still managed some very enjoyable days out, with some excellent wildlife sightings, often amid dramatic winter landscapes.
The days are shortening noticeably now, with only around 8-9 hours of usable daylight, but despite this, we still frequently managed full-day bird day-lists into the low 40's and mammal day-lists of up to 8 species....

Loch Morlich and the Cairngorms

Wildlife highlights included:

Local/upland speciality bird species seen regularly during the month included: Dipper, Crested Tit, Black Grouse, Red Grouse and Golden Eagle,..though Crossbills again proved frustratingly elusive, with our few sightings being limited to the 'fly-over' variety.....

Mammals seen regularly during the month included:
Red Deer,  Roe Deer, Reindeer, Red Squirrel,  Rabbit, Brown Hare, and Mountain Hare, with just a few sightings of Mountain Goat, and one brief glimpse of a Stoat.


Dipper

Our local Dippers are definitely becoming more aggressive now, with much displaying, dawn singing and chasing each other around being witnessed as they presumably seek to establish winter and breeding territories.....

Crested Tit by safari client Russell Harvey

Crested Tits, being a true 'local speciality', were seen pleasingly regularly, especially on the colder days, at my local forest feeding stations, though it should be noted that , being so 'flitty' and quick and never staying very long, getting good photos of them can be quite tricky! Unlike the Great Tits, Robins, Chaffinches and Coal Tits, the latter of which frequently feed from the hand!

Black Grouse are always popular with my safari clients, probably because of their relative rarity and sadly, declining numbers over much of the UK, and our dawn visits to their traditional local moorland 'lek' sites were very successful, with an average of 6 cock birds seen showing and displaying well, with cold, still, frosty mornings generally proving more successful than wet and windy ones, though a decent photo eluded us this month....

Red Grouse by safari client Ron Mitchell
Similarly, our local Red Grouse, now with their white winter leg feathers, seem to be showing more regularly, with our local heather moorlands echoing with the cock birds cackling , guttural "go back go back"  calls as they start to become a little territorial, and some super close-up sightings and photos being achieved as we drive slowly through, using my safari vehicle as a mobile hide...

Golden Eagle
As I have mentioned in previous years, and at the risk of repeating myself... November is in my opinion, THE month for raptor sightings in this area, and so it proved again this year, with my favourite local upland glens providing my safari clients and I with regular sightings, and even the odd (very rare)  photo opportunity, of the much coveted Golden Eagle and White -Tailed Eagle, with these awesome and majestic 'Kings of the skies' providing great entertainment,  numerous 'life-ticks'  and putting big smiles on many faces....
The regular 'raptor back-up cast' of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, BuzzardRed Kite, and even the occasional Hen Harrier and Goshawk, should not be forgotten though....

Whooper Swan family
Although not exclusively winter birds of this particular area, northern Scotland is often the first UK landfall for the Whooper Swans and 'Grey' Geese arriving from their Arctic breeding grounds, and this month saw a further influx of large flocks of birds travelling south to enjoy our (in relative terms!) milder winter weather.

Fieldfare
The same could also be said of the 'winter' Thrushes - with lots more Redwings arriving throughout the month, their 'seep seep' calls often being heard overhead, along with the 'chak chak chak' of the Fieldfares,  and they continued to pillage our rapidly dwindling local berry supplies, much to the continued annoyance of our resident Blackbirds and Thrushes!

Other less common birds seen this month included several good sightings of Bullfinches and Yellowhammers, and a few decent early morning views of another normally elusive bird, the Woodcock - With most birders' views of this rare 'wader' (that doesn't wade!) usually being restricted to brief silhouetted glimpses of them 'roding' over the treetops at dusk, the chance to see a fairly static bird, and enjoy their intricate, cryptic plumage is always a welcome experience....

Onto mammals now....


Red Deer stags
Although the autumn 'rut' is now over and seemingly forgotten by the participants!, it was still a treat to see the magnificent fully antlered Red Deer stags now back in their same-sex herds in their favoured upland glens, with my safari clients often surprised at their impressive size and powerful build....


Roe Deer
Although not as physically impressive as their Red cousins, Roe Deer are probably more often described as cute, but always prove popular with my safari clients, and we were fortunate enough to see them on numerous occasions this month, especially soon after dawn....


Red Squirrel

But, when it comes to cuteness..... our local Red Squirrels take a bit of beating, as they again put a smile on many of my safari clients faces, especially those seeing these attractive and characterful creatures for the first time...

Atlantic Salmon 
November is usually the best month of the year to see our Atlantic Salmon spawning. These remarkable and often very large fish spawn in the shallow waters in the upper reaches of our rivers, at the very spot where they themselves were hatched several years before, having originally spent 2-3 years in the river, then another 2-3 years feeding and maturing out in the mid Atlantic, before undertaking a perilous journey many miles upriver, often involving avoiding poachers and predators and negotiating high falls and rapids on the way - an amazing migration story! However, sightings are very reliant on the rivers water levels - too little water and the Salmon cannot access the upper reaches - too much water, and they can get there... but we can't see them, and after a few sightings early in the month, sadly that was the case for the remainder of the month....

So, although many people I know seem to get the 'winter -blues' as the days shorten and the temperatures drop , as a keen wildlife watcher, it is far from the case for me up here, with November now one of my favourite and, weather permitting, most productive safari months, with lots of great wildlife to be enjoyed, and often in spectacular snowy scenery.....

A snowy adventure in the spectacular scenery of the Cairngorm Mountains


Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 2015 was a very good month for wildlife-watching in this area weather-wise.With high pressure dominating for most of the month, we enjoyed lots of calm and sunny, if occasionally a bit cold weather, with very little wind or rain until the end of the month.
Though the days are certainly shortening now, we still had around 10 hours of usable daylight, and the Highland scenery is still ablaze with glorious autumn colours, and the first dusting of snow on the Cairngorms provided many of my safari clients and myself with some very picturesque landscape photo opportunities.
An influx of winter visitors from colder areas further north, helped full-day safari bird lists increase up into the 40's, whilst mammal day-lists varied between 4 and 9 depending on the start time and number of venues visited.

Autumn colours in a beautiful upland glen

Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality bird species seen regularly during the month included:
Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Dipper, Crested Tit, Golden Eagle, Whooper Swan and 'Grey Geese', with a few glimpses of Crossbill.....

Mammals seen regularly during the month included:
Red Deer (rutting), Roe Deer, Reindeer, Rabbit, Brown Hare, and Mountain Goat, with just a few sightings of Mountain Hare, and one glimpse of a Stoat.

Black Grouse at dawn on a Highland moor

The cock Black Grouse on our traditional moorland 'lek' sites, having been missing since mid June, began to assemble and occasionally even display at dawn, especially on the colder mornings, with my safari clients enjoying seeing an impressive 12 birds on the 23rd, though 2-6 birds is more usual at this time of year..
Red Grouse

Our local Red Grouse appeared to still be in their family groups, and with the shooting season virtually over, they now seem a little less wary and can be less difficult to see, especially when using my safari vehicle as a mobile hide on the tracks through their heather moorland home.

Dipper
Dippers, being birds of fast-flowing, clear-running upland rivers, are largely absent from much of the UK, which means they are always popular with my safari clients, most of whom do not have them on their local patch. Luckily, they are relatively common on our local rivers up here, and we managed some good sightings at some of my favourite local sites, with one or two birds even singing and seemingly displaying some 'territorial' behaviour.

Crested Tit

Crested Tit is a true local speciality, with Speyside being their UK stronghold, but with them generally being part of roving mixed species flocks in winter, they can be surprisingly difficult to see.
However, a post-dawn visit to a forest feeding station increases your chances, and we were lucky enough to get some good views on a number of occasions, especially on colder days. A bonus by-product of regular winter feeding is sometimes being able to feed the incredibly confiding Coal Tits by hand, an experience much enjoyed by my safari clients...

Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle too is truly an iconic bird of the Scottish Highlands, and our regular visits to suitable upland glens paid off on several occasions, with a number of decent sightings, and a couple of amazing views of these majestic (and huge!) raptors being obtained, including the very rare opportunity to view a perched bird through the telescope! In fact, experience suggests that the shorter days of the winter months actually seem to give us more chance of seeing them, as they have less available hours of hunting time....

The same applies to the other birds of prey, with Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Red KiteCommon Buzzard and even Goshawk and Hen harrier all being seen on my safaris this month.
Whooper Swans

Although not exclusively winter birds of this particular area, northern Scotland is often the first UK landfall for the Whooper Swans and 'Grey' Geese arriving from their Arctic breeding grounds, and the middle of the month saw us get our first proper influx, as they fly south to enjoy our (in relative terms!) milder winter weather.

The same could also be said of the 'winter' Thrushes - first the Redwings arrived, their 'seep seep' calls being heard overhead, shortly followed by the 'chak chak chak' of the  Fieldfares,  and they soon set about pillaging our local berry supplies, much to the annoyance of our resident Blackbirds and Thrushes!

Male Crossbill

Crossbills again proved a little frustrating, with our views generally being limited to fleeting glimpses of fly-over birds, their 'jip jip' calls alerting us to their presence. However, on the 30th, we got lucky, when a male bird perched and called from the top of a conifer, giving us great views and a rare photo opportunity.


Onto mammals now....

Red Deer stag

'Mammal of the month' for October has to be the Red Deer,  with their spectacular annual 'rut' providing my safari clients with some terrific entertainment - the fully antlered stags 'roars' echoing through the glens, as they spend much of the month  posturing , fighting off rivals and mating with as many of their 'harem' as possible - surely one of British nature's 'must-see' experiences?

Red Squirrel

...With second place going to that ever popular peanut-munching forest dweller, the cute and charismatic Red Squirrel, who can usually be relied upon to appear for an easy feast at my favourite forest feeding stations.....

Mountain Hare and Mountain Goat were both seen in a favourite upland glen on a number of occasions, though I failed to get any decent photos this month...

Spawning Atlantic Salmon
Salmon continued to make there way up our local rivers towards their spawning grounds, though the lack of water hampered their progress, until some heavy rains at the end of the month raised the levels enough to allow them access to the upper reaches, where we were then lucky enough to be able to see them 'leaping' up falls, and also actually watch them spawning in the shallows..


So, to summarise, helped by the decent weather, and the miracle of migration, October 2015 turned out to be yet another marvellous month for wildlife watching in the Cairngorms National Park, with plenty of good sightings, many memorable experiences and the odd surprise, all set against a beautiful autumnal Highland backdrop.......

Autumn at Strathconon

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 2015 was actually (at last!!) not a bad month weather-wise in this area, being drier and sunnier than most of the months preceding it, and the winds were generally light.
The days are shortening noticeably now though, with only around 12 hours of usable daylight , but by way of compensation, the heather is still a lovely purple, many trees are full of colourful berries, and the leaves and ferns are starting to change into their attractive autumnal hues.....
I was away in southern England visiting relatives and friends for a good part of the month, so my report will be shorter than usual, and will contain some general observations and pictures from previous Septembers.....
With all the summer visiting bird species gone by mid-month, and the winter visiting bird species not yet arrived, bird day-lists dropped down to their lowest levels of the year (in the 30's), whilst mammal day list varied between 5 and 9 species, depending on the time of our start and the number of different habitats visited.

Early autumn on a local moorland

Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality bird species seen regularly during the month included: Osprey (first week only), Dipper, Red Grouse, Crested Tit and Goldeneye, with a solitary view of a Goshawk, and one memorable sighting of a Golden Eagle....

Mammal species seen regularly included: Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Reindeer, Roe Deer, Mountain Goat and Rabbit......


Osprey
A few of our local Ospreys lingered around their now redundant nest sites for a few days early in the month, giving us our last chance to admire these impressive raptors and their fishing skills, until they return in the spring.......

Red Grouse
The Red Grouse on the upland moors, many still in large family groups, continued to entertain my safari clients, though they still seem a little wary of humans...but by using my vehicle as a mobile hide, we were often able to get some decent photographic opportunities...

Goshawk
The same moorland site also gave us good views of a Goshawk on the 4th. This impressive, and usually very elusive bird of prey was seen flying around, chasing Red Grouse, and perching on shooting butt marker posts, giving me a rare chance of a photograph.....

Crested Tit
Crested Tit is always high on my safari clients 'wish-lists', and although they are now mainly to be found in mixed flocks roaming around the Caledonian pine forests, we also managed to get some decent views of them at my feeding stations, especially soon after first light ...

Dipper
The Dippers on our local rivers began to be seen a little more regularly, and appeared to be getting a little territorial, with some singing heard, and aggressive behaviour being witnessed near to prime nest sites, especially at first light...

Common Buzzard

Golden Eagles are probably more commonly seen on my safaris during the short days of winter, when they have less hours of daylight in which to hunt, but a safari on the 4th saw us enjoy fairly close views of a sub-adult bird  'herding' a group of Red Deer hinds towards a precipitous cliff edge in a local upland glen, presumably in the hope that one or more would fall to their death, and provide it with venison for the next week or more! An amazing spectacle, and a life first for my safari clients!! Raptors in general seemed to be pretty active throughout the month with us seeing Peregrine, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, and Kestrel regularly as well...


Onto mammals now....

Red Squirrel

As I mentioned last month, with the summer visiting local speciality birds departing this area, mammals become more of a focus on my safaris, and we were fortunate to see a good variety again this month. The  'mammal of the day' award was invariably won by the Red Squirrel - with many of my safari clients seeing these these very characterful and attractive 'Highland speciality' animals for the first time..

Red Deer
The end of September usually sees the start of the Red Deer rut, with the stags beginning to 'check-out' the hinds, sharpen up the tips of their antlers on rocks and trees, and partake in a little gentle 'sparring' with likely rivals, all accompanied by a tremendous 'roaring', which echoes round the glens... a marvelously atmospheric spectacle....

Still up in the glens, our Mountain Hares, though still in their browny-grey summer coats are gradually turning whiter, from their feet upwards, as autumn progresses, in preparation for the snow to come....

So despite my absence for much of it, September 2015 actually turned out to be a pretty good month for wildlife watching in this area with some very memorable and enjoyable experiences, all in spectacular scenery, and with the winter visiting birds due to arrive, and the Red Deer rut looming, I am already looking forward to October....

River Spey looking very atmospheric....

Monday, August 31, 2015

August 2015 was, yet again, another very 'changeable' month  weather-wise in this area! With seemingly no two consecutive days the same, we did at least have a few proper 'summer' days, though we had lots of autumnal ones, and even an early taste of winter with a few dawn frosts! The days are noticeably shortening now, but we still have 14-15 hours of usable daylight this far north.
With many of our summer visiting bird species departing this area for their wintering areas throughout the month, it was inevitable that bird day-lists would reduce down into the 30's, whilst mammal day lists varied between 5 and 8 species, with earlier starts generally proving more successful. By way of consolation though, August is usually our best month for Butterflies and day-flying moths, and this month followed the trend, with a good variety being seen.
The Highland scenery is extremely picturesque now, with the heather at it's beautiful purple best, the ferns turning coppery gold, a few leaves beginning to 'turn', and the Rowan trees fully laden with brightly coloured berries.

Picturesque lochside view

Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality bird species seen regularly included:
Dipper, Red Grouse, Crested Tit, Goldeneye and Goosander, whilst Osprey, Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver, and Black-Throated Diver were all seen regularly early in the month but sightings became noticeably less frequent after mid-month, and we also had a few brief views of Crossbills and just one of Golden Eagle...sadly, Black Grouse and Capercaillie were not seen at all, though that is not unusual at this time of year....

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

Juvenile Osprey
Osprey was again probably  the 'star' bird of the month, at least in the first half anyway, with my safari clients enjoying seeing them roosting around their nest tree, and even plunge-fishing on several occasions, though the adult birds had largely departed on their southerly migration by late month, with mainly juvenile birds remaining in this area....

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

Black-Throated Diver
It was the same story with our local Red-Throated Divers  and Black-Throated Divers, both species of which, I am pleased to say,  were seen to have bred successfully locally, but they too appeared to have largely vacated this area by the end of the month....

Red Grouse
Our local Red Grouse showed well in large family groups on suitable heather moorland early in the month , though not surprisingly, those on 'managed' shooting moors became noticeably more wary of humans after the 'glorious' 12th......

Crested Tit (by Bob Smith)
Crested Tits, as I explained last month, are now in their 'mixed winter flocks' of  6 or more different bird species 'working' through our local Caledonian pine forests... so to see the 'Cresties' you have to first find a flock, then listen out for their distinctive chuckling trill , then try and pick them out as they move annoyingly flittily through the branches - not an easy feat! , but, satisfyingly for me as a guide, we managed it on a good number of occasions, with many of my safari clients obtaining a difficult and  much sought after 'life-tick'... on some of the cooler mornings though, our mission was made much easier when the odd bird visited a local forest feeding station.... 

Although Golden Eagle sightings were frustratingly brief and hard to come by this month, views of White-Tailed Eagles were actually up on previous years'.......and rumours of a successful breeding pair on Speyside have reached my ears.....I will reveal more in future reports...... 

Although I did not venture up myself this month, I understand that Ptarmigan, Dotterel (up until mid-month) and Snow Bunting could all be found on or around Cairngorm summit, though it should be noted that you really do need suitably friendly weather to have a chance of seeing them, and keeping safe.....

Pair of Bullfinches (by Bob Smith)
Other birds of note seen locally included a very nice pair of Bullfinches  at a forest feeding station, several Red Kites over farmland, and a Goshawk hunting over over a remote moorland.....

Onto mammals now....


Red Squirrel (by Bob Smith)
With many of the summer visiting local speciality birds departing this area, mammals became more of a focus on my safaris, and we were fortunate to see a good variety throughout the month. The winner of my guests 'mammal of the day' award was invariably the Red Squirrel - with many of my safari clients getting their first ever sighting of these very endearing and attractive 'Highland speciality' animals.

Roe Deer were seen regularly, especially early in the morning, and often heard 'barking' as they 'rutted' in suitable lowland areas.

Young Red Deer stags
Red Deer showed well in upland glens in large same-sex herds, the stags still all getting on well, with little hint of what is to happen in a few weeks......

Brown Hare (by Bob Smith)
Though Mountain Hares proved pretty elusive, Brown Hares were a little easier to see in suitable habitat...

Onto micro-critters now.....

Dark Green Fritillary (by Bob Smith)
Butterflies Moths and Dragonflies of many different species showed well on the warmer, less windy days....

Brown-Line Bright-Eye (by Bob Smith)
Black Darter (by Bob Smith)

So August 2015 turned out to be a pretty good month for wildlife-watching in the Cairngorms National Park, with lots of good sightings, many memorable experiences, and the great scenery putting smiles on the faces of my safari clients who were visiting Scotland from all around the world......

Highland heather moorland and loch

Saturday, August 01, 2015

July 2015 was, weather-wise, very much in keeping with the rest of 'summer' in this area this year, in that it was generally unseasonably 'grey', cold and wet, with temperatures and conditions often more akin to late October, with, unbelievably, a few frosts and a light dusting of snow on the highest peaks mid-month!! Fortunately, there were enough decent days for us to 'cherry-pick' for safaris, and it actually turned out to be another very good month for wildlife sightings, and although the days are shortening slightly now, this far north there are 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 territories to the coasts, and although just about every bird species seems to have youngsters now, my fears that the cold weather in the last three months may well have adversely affected brood survival rates for some of the more vulnerable species, seems to have been proved right, with the annual RSPB Abernethy Forest Capercaillie nest survey sadly turning up a shocking figure of zero youngsters... disastrous news for an iconic and nationally threatened species...
Mammal day lists varied between 4 and 9, depending on the length of day, and variety of habitats visited...with early starts generally producing more and better sightings, with again, many species seen with youngsters..
When the sun did occasionally shine, with the heather starting to turn purple, and the wild flowers and butterflies at their most abundant, Speyside really was a beautiful  and unspoilt place to be.

Beautiful Highland glen

Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality and upland bird species seen regularly throughout the month included:  Osprey, Crested Tit,  Red GrouseSlavonian Grebe, Red-Throated DiverBlack-Throated Diver, Ring OuzelGoldeneye and Dipper.
We also enjoyed some regular good views of Red Kite, a few decent sightings of Golden Eagle and White-Tailed Eagle, a couple of fleeting glimpses of Scottish Crossbill, and a brief look at a female Capercaillie with a youngster, though sadly Black Grouse (not unusually) did not feature at all this month....

Mammals seen regularly locally during the month included: Red SquirrelRabbitBrown HareMountain Hare,  Roe DeerRed DeerReindeerMountain Goat, Bank Vole, and our local upland speciality , Black Water Vole.  
While a coastal excursion to the Moray Firth mid-month on one of the few warm and sunny days provided great close-up views of  Seals , and distant Dolphins...

Juvenile Ospreys contemplating their 'maiden flights'!!!

Our local Ospreys stole the show again this month, with the adult birds seen fishing, delivering fish, and encouraging the fast growing 'scaly' looking youngsters to take their 'maiden flights', and by late-month they had indeed fledged and were seen perched, flying and fishing for the first time.. I can therefore highly recommend July as THE month for Osprey watching and photography in this area...

Red Grouse family - Can you spot the well camouflaged youngsters?

Red Grouse are always popular with my safari parties, as being a bird of  upland moors, most of my clients do not have them near to their home areas. We, however, 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.

Slavonian Grebe with youngster 
Slavonian Grebe, one of our rarest and surely one of our most beautiful British breeding birds, have struggled to breed successfully in this area in recent years, so it was great to see one of our local nesting pairs with a youngster this month, though a really good quality photo eluded me.....

Adult Black-Throated Diver with youngster
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 and Black-Throated , both with well-grown youngsters, on their favoured local lochs throughout the month, though it should be noted that they are easily disturbed by non wildlife-friendly tourists dog-walking, swimming and boating etc, so early morning starts in search of them usually gave us our best sightings....

Male Ring Ouzel
Ring Ouzels continued to show well in upland habitats near their nesting and feeding areas early in the month but became noticeably more elusive as the month progressed as they and their recently-fledged young began to roam further afield, and they appeared to have vacated this area for warmer climes by the end of the month....

Crested Tit by Bob Smith
Crested Tits now seem to have joined up with numbers of birds of several different species in 'mixed flocks' from mid-month. This means you first have to find one of these flocks 'working through' the forest, then you have to try and pick out the very 'flitty' little 'Cresties' - you really need to know their distinctive songs and calls to have a decent chance of success though....

Young Golden Eagle
Golden Eagles are probably more commonly seen on my safaris during the short days of winter, when they have less hours of daylight in which to hunt, and most of the sightings we do get are fairly distant, but a look around a local upland glen on the 3rd, a rare sunny day following a very rainy day, saw us enjoy unusually close overhead views of a sub-adult bird... followed soon after by a brief glimpse of not one but two White-Tailed Eagles!!!! Memorable stuff!!!

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...


Curlew
As I mentioned earlier, most of our waders have now moved away to their autumn and winter habitats, but I did manage to get a nice close-up pic of a Curlew early in the month...

Onto mammals now....

Red Deer hinds with young
Mammals generally featured well this month, with early mornings providing most of our best sightings. Roe Deer  were seen frequently, and 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 ....

Hungry Red Squirrel
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 at local forest feeding stations.....


Black Water Vole
Water Voles of the 'brown' variety, although generally in decline,  are not uncommon in most of the UK's suitable waterways, but up here in Scotland, especially the further north you go, we seem to have the much rarer 'black' variety, and I finally managed a few half-decent pics of one this month... You can read more about Scottish Water Voles at http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/wildlife/voles/biology.asp

Common Seals
As I mentioned earlier, a short trip to the Moray coast gave us great close-up views of a Seal colony hauled out on a favourite flat, rocky area. It's always amazing to see how these characterful animals can be so clumsy and slow out of water, but so comfortable and impressive in the water.....


Scotch Argus by Bob Smith
Butterflies at last began to feature, on the few warmer sunny days at least!, with the more common species now being joined by our 'local speciality' the Scotch Argus at the end of the month...


So it looks like July 2015, despite the weather, actually turned out to be another very good wildlife watching month in the Cairngorms National Park, with many memorable moments and lots of local specialities seen and enjoyed....good news!, though I must confess that I always tend to feel just a little sad at 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.....

Heather moorland at it's colourful best