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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

June 2019, With the exception of a mini-heatwave at the end of the month,  continued the cooler and wetter than average theme from last month, with just about every type of weather except snow being experienced at some stage, and temperatures ranging from a chilly 4c to a scorching 28c!!
So the advice I gave last month about being prepared for, and having the clothing to handle anything and everything weather-wise was again very relevant this month.

However , there were still plenty of safari-friendly days of weather for it turn out to be yet another excellent month for wildlife sightings, as I'm sure you all enjoyed seeing on the BBC's marvellous Springwatch tv programme, which was based in my local patch, and did a great job of showcasing the wonderful variety of habitats and wildlife species to be found here.

With nearly 20 hours of usable daylight and all of our summer visiting bird species on territory, bird day-lists are just below the highest in the year now, with full-day (10 hours with starts no earlier than 6am needed) multi-habitat safaris regularly producing over 50 species - many with youngsters - and June is definitely 'fledgling month' - so if you enjoy seeing baby birds, this is definitely the month to visit!

Mammal day-lists ranged between 4 and 9 species depending on the length of safari and variety of habitats visited, with early starts, as usual, proving to be most productive for the 'shyer' and more crepuscular species.

The combination of sun and  rain helped to retain the lush, green appearance of the spectacular highland scenery and kept the river levels topped-up, whilst the wild flowers are approaching their colourful best now, and a few patches of purple heather began to appear on south-facing banks.

A few more butterfly and day-flying moth species were noted on the sunnier days, though sadly, again in smaller numbers than I would usually expect....


A picturesque local loch

To give you an idea of what you may realistically hope to see if you are planning a future June visit yourself, I hope the following more detailed information, illustrated with photos taken this month or in previous Junes,  in and around the Cairngorms National Park  (and occasionally beyond) by myself,  my friends or my safari clients will help (thanks for the pics everyone!) - clicking on the picture enlarges it to full screen.



Local speciality and upland bird species seen regularly this month included:

Osprey, Slavonian Grebe
Ring OuzelRed GrouseRed-Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Goldeneye, Dipper, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler, with a few sightings of Golden Eagle,  Crested Tit and  Scottish Crossbill, ....it should be noted though, that, apart from brief glimpses, we (not unusually) failed to 'properly' see  White-Tailed EagleBlack Grouse or Capercaillie at all this month....

Mammals seen regularly on my safaris during the month included:
Rabbit, Brown Hare, Mountain Hare, Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Red Deer, Reindeer, and Mountain Goat , we also managed just a couple of brief views of  Bank Vole, and one very enjoyable early morning view of an Otter with a fish at a local loch ....Whilst a few 'out of area' coastal trips also produced plenty of Seals....

June 2019 bird sightings in more detail:


Osprey resting between fishing missions
Osprey is probably the 'star bird' of the mid-summer months up here  - with my safari parties being fortunate enough to see them sat in and around the nest, plunge-diving spectacularly to catch a fish, or delivering a fish to the nest on several occasions, and towards the end of the month we began to see the rapidly growing 'downy' youngsters heads popping up in the nests for the first time this year....a marvellous sight!



Slavonian Grebe with cute 'humbug' chick by Bob Smith
Slavonian Grebes, in their beautiful summer plumage, were seen and enjoyed regularly by my safari parties on their favoured quiet lochans,  the males frequently observed delivering food to the female birds on their nests hidden deep in the sedge beds ,  and we could finally confirm much-needed breeding success for this (UK-wise) rare and threatened species, when we finally got to see the incredibly cute humbug-striped youngsters - great news!


Male Ring Ouzel with downy youngster by Steve Ball 
Ring Ouzels in family groups often showed well in upland habitats near their nesting  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....



A beautifully coloured female Red Grouse



Red Grouse family

Red Grouse were not too difficult to find in suitable areas of heather moorland, despite their impressive camouflage,  and if you could spot the heads of the adults above the dense heather, and looked carefully, you then usually got to see their large families of very cute, fast-growing youngsters too...





Red-Throated Diver by James Ball

Black-Throated Divers by Bob Smith
Both Red-Throated Divers and Black-Throated Divers in their striking summer plumage, were seen reasonably regularly on suitable secluded local lochs,  though they were not totally reliable, and  we generally had our best views on calmer days, with little or no ripple on the water, and usually had our closest encounters early  in the day, when human disturbance was it it's lowest....and very pleasingly, we got to see evidence of local breeding success , in the shape of several fluffy Red-Throated chicks , though sadly, it would appear that the Black-Throated have not fared so well in this area....


Goldeneye family
Goldeneye are a 'local speciality' breeding bird, and we enjoyed good views of families of these very attractive little ducks throughout the month

Crested Tit (finally!!!) became a little less difficult to see on our Caledonian forest walks, though they could still not be described as 'easy', as the recently-fledged youngsters learned to forage for food with their parents in family groups, often alerting us to their presence in the Caledonian pine forests with their distinctive rippling trills....but please be aware that you need to be able to hear and recognise this to have a decent chance....don't worry, I will use the app on my ipad and mobile phone to train you up!!




Male Scottish Crossbill






Female Scottish Crossbill
The same could be said of Scottish Crossbills, usually one of the more tricky species to see well regularly due to their unpredictable 'irruptive' behaviour,  but by listening out for their trademark 'jip jip' calls and for falling pine cones....we actually managed decent sightings on a number of occasions this month, and even a few rare photo opportunities!!


Dipper
Dippers featured reasonably frequently on my safaris this month, with our local rivers producing great close-up views of the fast-growing families of these characterful and endearing little birds, that always prove to be popular with my clients, many of whom do not have them on or near their local patch, as they are generally restricted to upland areas...


Soaring Golden Eagle by Liz Rodgers
Golden Eagle and White-Tailed Eagle are iconic 'Scottish' birds which always seems to be on visiting birders 'wish-lists', and we are fortunate to have a number of suitable upland glens nearby, however.... it should be noted that, with most females still on eggs, or with very young chicks, and 20+ hours of daylight available for the males and sub-adults to use for hunting, the chances of us just happening to be in the right place at the right time to see one are are fairly low during  spring and summer  (when compared to the autumn/winter months) and generally raptor sightings in this area were pretty hard to come by this month, ..except for one amazing occasion, on the 28th, when we were lucky enough to witness a Golden Eagle repeatedly attempting to snatch a new-born Red Deer calf from it's mother!!!



Other birds of prey seen reasonably regularly on my safaris this month included OspreyCommon Buzzard, Kestrel, PeregrineSparrowhawk and Red Kite, with just a couple of brief glimpses of Merlin , Short-Eared Owl and Hen Harrier......




Snow Bunting


Dotterel



Ptarmigan

June is probably the best month to have a chance of seeing all 3 of our mountain top bird species - Ptarmigan, Dotterel and Snow Bunting - but the weather was rarely suitable, and unfortunately, the Cairngorm Funicular railway is still out of action awaiting major repairs ,which would have meant a long and gruelling walk up .......but I thought I would include a few photos from previous June sightings, to give you an idea of what is possible given easier access and more favourable conditions...




Cuckoo


Spotted Flycatcher by Bob Smith


Wood Warbler by Steve Ball




Common Sandpiper



Pied Flycatcher by Steve Ball


Other 'good' birds of note seen locally this month included CuckooGolden Plover,   RedstartBullfinchCommon Sandpiper,  
Spotted  Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler, some of which can now be tricky to see in large parts of the UK....




A beautiful local upland glen



Adventures out of area:



RSPB Fowlsheugh on the Aberdeenshire coast
June is also probably the best month in which to visit a coastal or island seabird colony, and I can highly recommend a trip to any of the many seabird colonies around Scotland's coast , often with impressively high and wonderfully scenic cliffs and where you can enjoy the unique sights, sounds (and smells!) of good numbers of Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots ,Gannets and yes, everybody's favourite - Puffins
Not forgetting of course, the usual 'back-up' cast of species such as Wheatear, Stonechat, Skylark, Eider, Rock Pipit, Terns, LInnet, Snipe and Ringed Plover...

The Ythan Estuary on the Aberdeenshire coast
Whilst a trip east across to the Ythan estuary on the Aberdeenshire coast failed to provide us with a sighting of 'Elvis' the King Eider, we did enjoy seeing Common Eiders, Little, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns and the huge groups of Seals....


Tree Sparrow
And the nearby Loch of Strathbeg gave us, among other things,  our first sighting this year of Tree Sparrows....




Pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly and a ladybird

Butterflies were seen on some of the warmer and less windy days, with the more common species being joined by Orange Tip and Pear-bordered fritillary among others...




June 2019 mammal sightings in more detail:


Red Squirrel with nesting material

Red Squirrels always seem to feature on my safari clients 'wish-lists', not surprising I suppose as they are sadly largely absent from most of the UK now, and just happen to be very attractive, entertaining and endearing little animals that can usually be relied upon to appear at forest feeding stations for a free meal, though we often get more 'natural' random sightings whilst on forest walks and drives too...



Feral Mountain Goat
Feral Mountain Goats too are rare across much of the UK, being largely confined to remote upland areas, but we managed to see them on most of my safaris this month, with many of my safari clients seeing them for the first time.





Roe Deer doe





Red Deer stags


Red Deer hinds
My clients always love to see Deer too, and early starts and a variety of different habitats on the itinerary can give us the chance of seeing up to four different species, though it is usually the local speciality Red Deer and (re-introduced) Reindeer that prove to be the most popular....though due to their crepuscular and nervous nature,  Roe Deer are still quite rare and enjoyable sightings for many people....


Brown Hare by Mike Witwer
Brown Hare sightings were a little less frequent this month, probably because we were not out and about quite as early as in April and May, but we still had quite a few decent views...



Mountain Hare
Mountain Hare sightings too, were largely restricted to early mornings, and it doesn't help that their mottled grey, brown and white coats provide great camouflage against the lichen-covered rocks in their upland habitat..



Otters very rarely feature on my safaris as they tend to be largely nocturnal and quite secretive on inland waters, however , we got lucky on the 21st, enjoying great early morning views of one with a fish on a local loch....nice!
I also saw one fishing in Mallaig Harbour on the 2nd, during our 'lunch break' stop before the return trip to fort William on the Jacobite' steam train ride, on a rare day off....bonus!



A local moorland

Well, similarly to last year, I reckon June this year was as good, and maybe even better than most other June's for wildlife-watching in this area - With the unseasonably cool and wetter than average weather recently setting nesting back a good couple of weeks, much of the month felt more like late May, with us seeing and hearing more species still displaying, singing and nesting than usual. Add in  the breeding success of most of our local speciality species,  and the fact that this was my 'busiest' June ever for safaris - thanks to all my clients from around the world! - I am writing this with a big smile on my face and a warm, contented glow inside....


Thanks to all my safari clients for helping to make this latest award possible


I know a lot of visitors to this area very wisely check out reviews of attractions at tripadvisor before 'taking the plunge' and booking - if you wish, you can check out my clients comments at the link below....Many thanks to all those that have made the effort to post me a review..... just cut and paste it into your web browser...

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186537-d3335134-Reviews-Highland_Wildlife_Birdwatch_Safaris-Aviemore_Aviemore_and_the_Cairngorms_Scottish.html






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....