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

Friday, January 30, 2015

January 2015 could certainly be fairly described as wintry in this area! With the average temperature well below zero, and some nights seeing minus 13c, and regular heavy snowfall and occasional gales, good wildlife watching days were few and far between! However, by being flexible, and cherry-picking the best days weather-wise, we did still manage some pretty enjoyable adventures out 'in the field', with the excellent off-road and winter weather abilities of my Land Rover Discovery proving to be a necessity! The days are noticeably lengthening now, with over 9 hours of usable daylight, and dawn is still a relatively sociable 7:30am. Bird day-lists averaged 35-40 species, whilst mammal species day-lists varied between 5 and 9 depending on our luck.


Wildlife highlights included:

Local/upland bird species seen regularly during the month included: Dipper, Crested Tit, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Golden Eagle and White-Tailed Eagle.....with just a few brief sightings of Crossbills... whilst sadly, Capercaillie proved elusive, and the weather was just too bad to attempt mountain treks in search of Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting......


Mammals seen regularly during the month included: Red SquirrelRabbit, Brown Hare, Mountain Hare (white), Roe Deer, Red Deer, Reindeer, Bank Vole and Mountain Goat, with just a couple of brief glimpses of  (white) Stoat....


Our local Dippers continued to entertain, with their rarely-heard rippling warble of a song being projected proudly from a prominent riverside rock at dawn as they proclaim their ownership of the territory....(see pic above)


Forest feeding stations perform two important roles when the weather turns really wintry - feeding the hungry and desperate forest birds, and giving us the chance to see them really close, and even hand-feed them! As well as the more common species, we are also lucky enough to regularly see Crested Tits too - these Caledonian forest specialities giving many of my safari clients a 'life-tick' , and putting a smile on many a face....(see super pic above by Zena Saunders)


Blackcock continued to provide our dawn entertainment, with as many as 8 birds seen displaying at their traditional 'lek' sites on snow on remote moorlands - a great way to start the day! (see pic above)


Our local Red Grouse (see pic above) seemed to react to the bitter cold weather, their lack of camouflage on the snow, and the increased threat from predators on the heather moorlands by grouping up into 'mega-flocks' of up to 120 birds - so although we could go a while without seeing any as we crept slowly along, when we did find them , we often found lots!!



Golden Eagle is an iconic and much sought-after bird in the UK, and the short days of the winter months give us our best chance of seeing them. January continued this trend, and we were even lucky enough to enjoy the spectacle of 2 birds displaying to each other in a remote upland glen on the 24th (see pic above)

White-Tailed Eagles were also seen locally, including a report of a pair of birds seen devouring an unfortunate Greylag Goose on the ice of a frozen local loch mid-month - which I unfortunately missed seeing!!!!


Bullfinches, though not strictly a local speciality, featured unusually regularly on my safaris this month, which makes me suspect that we may have had an influx of birds from colder climes? (see pic above)


The same could be said of Treecreepers, which although not a particularly rare bird, seemed more common this month, and it is always a pleasure to see one close-up... (see pic above)


Our local Mammals must surely struggle to find food when the severe winter weather comes, and we saw several species, including Red Deer (see pic above), Roe Deer and Mountain Goat attempting to dig through the deep snow to get to the vegetation underneath.
Not so our local Red Squirrels though, who are always happy to take advantage of my forest feeding stations and rarely seem to have to go hungry... (see pic below)
I would love to have got some pics of white Mountain Hares on the snow..but unfortunately, their camouflage proved to be just too good this month!


So, despite the extreme winter weather and limited safari opportunities so far, we seem to have got 2015 off to a decent start, with some enjoyable and exhilarating days out and plenty of good wildlife sightings, and all in some amazing 'winter wonderland' scenery.......


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