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

Friday, August 31, 2018

August 2018 started as summer with plenty of sun and warm temperatures, but  most definitely ended as autumn with some much needed rain and a much cooler and breezier feel to things, with cagoules, hats, gloves, scarves, and sun cream all being needed - sometimes all in the same day!
The days are noticeably shortening now as autumn approaches, 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 local full-day bird lists would reduce down into the 30's, though this could be increased considerably if you visited the Moray coast.
Mammal day lists varied between 4 and 8 species, with earlier starts generally proving more successful, especially for the shyer species. August is usually our best month for Butterflies and day-flying moths, and a good variety of species were seen on the warmer, sunnier days, though sadly, in lower numbers than I would usually expect.
The Highland scenery is extremely picturesque now, with the heather at it's beautiful purple best, one or two ferns turning coppery gold, a few leaves beginning to 'turn' into their autumn hues, lots of varieties of fungus appearing, and the Rowan trees now fully laden with bright red berries.

A local upland heather moorland at it's beautiful best

To give you an idea of what you may realistically hope to see if you are planning a future August 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 this month and in previous August's, will help...clicking on the picture enlarges it to full-screen.

Local speciality/upland bird species seen regularly included:
Osprey, Red GrouseDipper, Golden EagleGoldeneye and Goosander, whilst Red-Throated Diver, and Black-Throated Diver were both seen regularly early in the month but sightings became noticeably less frequent after mid-month as they presumably departed for the coast, and we also had a few brief views of Crested Tit  and  Crossbills and just one view of Merlin, Goshawk and  White-Tailed Eagle...sadly, Black Grouse and Capercaillie were not seen at all this month, though that is not unusual at this time of year....

Mammal species seen regularly locally included:
Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Red Deer, Reindeer, Mountain Goat and Rabbit with just a few sightings of  Sika DeerBrown Hare and Mountain Hare, and a solitary view of a Stoat, and on the 30th.. rather unbelievably, a very rare daylight sighting of a Pine Marten!!



Adult Osprey trying to coax it's final youngster to fledge...
Osprey was most frequently voted as 'bird of the day' by my safari clients this month,  hardly surprising I suppose when you consider that these impressively large and attractively marked raptors can also provide additional "wow" factor when seen plunge-diving or carrying fish!... and with nesting being a little later than usual this year, we were fortunate enough to see the parent birds still here with their now almost fully independent youngsters until the very end of the month...

Female Red Grouse
Red Grouse, still in large family groups, continued to show well on our local heather moorlands, and with their nesting being a little later than usual, and  brood sizes being smaller than normal, we had the bonus of the start of the shooting season being delayed on most estates...



Crested Tits have now joined the 'mixed winter flocks' of  many different bird species 'working' through our local Caledonian pine forests... so... to see the 'Cresties' you first have to  find one of these roving flocks , then listen out for their distinctive chuckling trill , then try and pick them out as they move in annoyingly flitty style through the branches - not an easy task! , but, satisfyingly for myself 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'... 

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 areas of the forests...so sadly, there were no photo opportunities this month...


Golden Eagle




Peregrine Falcon

We did really well for Golden Eagle sightings this month, with visits to favourite upland glens producing surprisingly regular sightings of single birds , two in the air at once twice, and even three together on one memorable occasion ,despite my frequent 'prophet of doom' predictions that we would probably not be lucky!....in fact, raptor sightings in general were quite impressive this month, with White-Tailed Eagle, Osprey, Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Red KiteGoshawk and Merlin all seen at least once....


Black-Throated Diver



Juvenile Red-Throated Diver - note the characteristic up-turned bill


As I reported previously, both Red-Throated Diver and Black-Throated Diver bred successfully locally this summer, and although sightings reduced a little as the juveniles became more mobile, we still saw both species reasonably regularly until late in the month...

Whereas our local Slavonian Grebes were sadly not seen at all this month, having presumably migrated to the coast once the juveniles were able to fly.....



Dipper

Dipper sightings were a  little more frequent this month, with the precipitation helping the rivers to rise a little nearer to normal levels they reappeared in the areas where I would usually hope to see them..

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...

Although I did not venture up Cairngorm Mountain myself this month, I understand that Ptarmigan, Dotterel  and Snow Bunting sadly appeared to have deserted the normally damp and insect-laden , but now bone-dry drought hit areas where we usually find them... 


Spotted Flycatcher



Other good birds reported locally this month included: Spotted FlycatcherRed-Necked Grebe, and Nuthatch (very rare up here)....



August 2018 mammal sightings.....

With bird sightings 'slowing down' a little, mammal sightings  always become more important at this time of year, and we are fortunate to have such a good selection to go for in this area....



Stag party?
A frequent winner of my safari clients 'mammal of the day' award is the iconic Red Deer, and although they can be seen in many places all round the UK these days, it is still great to see them in their 'proper' home environment of upland glens and mountainsides....and although they are still in their large same-sex groups at the moment, that will be sure to change in a few weeks time....



Red Squirrel by Jennifer Holt
We are fortunate to have Red Squirrels in our local forests, a species sadly absent from most of the UK now, so they are always popular with my safari clients - often getting voted as 'mammal of the day', and visits to my favourite Caledonian pine forests produced lots of good sightings, often with decent photographic opportunities...


Feral Mountain Goats

Also very rare and localised are Mountain Goats, interesting animals that come in a wide variety of colours from white, through grey and brown to black, or any combination of some or all of these colours, and many of my safari clients saw them in the wild for the first time whilst out on safari with me...
  
Roe Deer
Roe Deer, on the other hand, are fairly common throughout most of the UK, but due to their crepuscular nature, most of my safari clients rarely see them, and they are easily disturbed by human noise and activity...but early starts, and quiet walks round secluded areas gave us some decent views this month..







Brown Hare



Mountain Hare - apologies for poor picture quality - taken through windscreen
Being largely nocturnal, and with their summer coat perfectly matching their surroundings,  Mountain Hares can prove very difficult to see in the summer months, and we only managed a couple of brief views, but Brown Hares were a little more obliging, especially early in the morning....



Other wildlife...


Scotch Argus
Butterflies showed reasonably well, on the few still, warm and sunny days at least!, with the more common species regularly being joined by our 'local speciality' the much sought-after Scotch Argus ......

So, although not a favourite month for the hard-core birder or 'twitcher' to visit, August in the Cairngorms National Park would still appear to have a lot to offer the more casual or beginner nature-watcher or those with a young family looking for a less intense or 'taster' wildlife safari experience, with no need for an early start, in arguably, one of the more 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, are available for any amount and are valid at any time within a year from date of purchase....

Our recently upgraded Land Rover Discovery in a beautiful local upland glen



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