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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September 2017 was, like the last few months, a bit changeable weather-wise in this area, with thankfully no extremes of bad weather, though it has become considerably cooler at dawn and dusk, and the days are shortening noticeably now ,with only around 12 hours of usable daylight , but by way of consolation, 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 on the Orkneys on a short holiday, and 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 just about all the summer visiting bird species gone by mid-month, and the winter visiting bird species only just arriving,  full-day bird lists dropped down to their lowest levels of the year (in the 30's), though this could be upped considerably by a trip to the coast, whilst mammal day lists varied between 5 and 8 species, depending on the time of our start and the number of different habitats visited, with early starts usually proving to be more fruitful...

Late summer on a Highland river
To give you an idea of what you may realistically hope to see if you are planning a future September visit, I hope the following more detailed information, illustrated with photos taken at sites in and around the Cairngorms National Park by myself, my friends or my safari clients, will help....clicking on the picture enlarges it to full-screen.

Wildlife highlights included:

Local speciality bird species seen regularly during the month included: Osprey (first week only), Dipper, Red Grouse, Crested Tit and Goldeneye, we also had a couple of good sightings of Golden Eagle, and a few fleeting glimpses of Crossbills.....Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting were both reported on local mountain tops, though I did not venture up myself this month, sadly, Black Grouse and Capercaillie were not seen at all this month, though this is not unusual away from late winter/springtime....

Mammal species seen regularly included: Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Reindeer, Roe Deer, Mountain Goat , Brown Hare and Rabbit......with just a few brief glimpses of  Mountain HareStoat and Bank Vole...
Osprey with Trout
A few of our local juvenile Ospreys lingered around their now redundant nest sites and local lochs and rivers for a few days early in the month, giving us our last chance to admire these attractive and impressive raptors and their fishing skills, until they return in the spring. It always amazes me to think that these birds will attempt to undertake a 5,000 odd mile migration unassisted by their parents at the age of around 3 months!!

Red Grouse
The Red Grouse on the upland moors, mostly still in family groups, continued to entertain my safari clients, but with it still being shooting season though, they - unsurprisingly - seem a little wary of humans...but by using my vehicle as a mobile hide, we were often able to get some decent views and photographic opportunities...

Crested Tit
Crested Tit is always high on my safari clients 'wish-lists', with it being a Speyside speciality, 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 on cooler mornings...

Still in the forests, Crossbills sightings were (again!) usually of the rather frustrating 'fly-over' variety, with them only being identified by their characteristic 'jip' 'jip' calls as they flew overhead between different parts of the forests...so sadly, there were no photo opportunities this month...

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

Soaring Golden Eagle
Golden Eagles are more commonly seen on my safaris during the shorter days of  autumn and winter, when they have less hours of daylight in which to hunt, and all of the family are active,  but we actually had a pretty good 'strike-rate' this month, with a favourite upland glen providing decent sightings on a number of occasions.
In fact, raptors in general seemed to be pretty active , with us seeing Red Kite, Common Buzzard, PeregrineSparrowhawk and Kestrel regularly as well...and we also had one sighting of a young White-Tailed Eagle early in the month..

Goldeneyes only breed in the UK in northern Scotland, and their numbers have increased greatly in recent years, mainly due to the RSPB providing nest boxes on trees around most local lochs, and we again got to see many large families of these very attractive little ducks this month...

Other good birds seen locally this month included: Spotted Flycatcher (early in the month), Scaup, Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier.....

Birders prepared to travel away from Speyside a little this month, especially to coastal reserves on the Moray coast or Aberdeenshire would have noticed plenty of incoming waders and wildfowl and a good influx of 'grey' Geese throughout... as well as surprising numbers of Yellow-Browed Warblers....

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 cute and ever popular Red Squirrel - with many of my safari clients seeing these these very characterful and attractive 'Highland speciality' animals for the first time..
Red Deer hinds
The very end of September usually sees the start of the Red Deer rut, with the stags beginning to 'check-out' and assemble their 'harems' of hinds, sharpen up the tips of their antlers on rocks and trees, and partake in a little light 'sparring' with likely rivals, often 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, though actual sightings of them were not as frequent, or as good as I would have liked... but that is not unusual during the 'warmer' months..

Feral Mountain Goats
Our local Mountain Goats however, were a little more obliging...with plenty of decent views of large family groups being achieved....

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

So, similarly to August, although it's probably not the best month for the hard-core birder or 'twitcher' to visit, September in the Cairngorms National Park would still appear to have plenty to offer the more casual or beginner nature-watcher or those looking for a less intense or 'taster' wildlife safari experience, with less tourists around and no early starts needed in arguably, one of the most colourfully scenic months of the year....



If you think you know someone who may enjoy a taste of what I do, why not treat them to a safari gift certificate. They make a thoughtful and imaginative present and are available for any amount in multiples of £10, and are valid at any time within a year from date of purchase....


Sunrise in a Caledonian pine forest