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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 2011 was almost entirely dry, warm & sunny, with just a few overnight frosts to contend with - making it an absolutely fantastic month for wildlife-watching. Although the majority of our winter visitor birds have now departed, with summer migrant birds flooding in, our bird day-lists shot up into the 50's , with mammal day-lists also growing, to an average of 8, with one memorable day giving us an outstanding 11 different species!

Wildlife highlights included:

Ospreys returning to their nest sites within the Spey Valley. These magnificent raptors provided us with super views of them nest building, catching fish, delivering fish, & even mating - great stuff! (see pic)

Capercaillie were seen regularly (especially from mid-month) - mainly at the RSPB's excellent early-morning 'Caper-watch' facility, at their beautiful Abernethy Forest Reserve (Open April1 - May 20).

The local Black Grouse performed superbly at traditional 'lek' sites at dawn - my safari clients marvelling at the glossy black cock birds aggressive, strutting, jumping displays, all accompanied by their loud bubbling, hissing calls - one of British nature's must-see spectacles - magic!

Our dawn starts also gave us sightings of two very rare & very sought-after mammals - namely an Otter, seen fishing in the Spey, &..... (for only the 3rd time on one of my safaris), a Scottish Wildcat, seen hunting small mammals at a remote moorland location, it's large size, stocky build, broad head, & thick stripy tail hinting at a truly wild lineage.......

Other 'local speciality' birds seen regularly, and looking splendid in their truly beautiful summer plumage on secluded local lochans, were Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver & Black-Throated Diver - these three 'super-models' of the bird world often featured highly in our 'bird of the day' awards at the end of each safari.

Hen Harrier was a welcome (& sadly rare) addition to our sightings list , with several views on local heather moorland - lets hope they attempt (& are allowed!!) to breed, as they are very attractive , charismatic birds, especially the cock bird, with his grey-white plumage & black wingtips - fingers crossed!

Moorland also gave us regular excellent views of Red Grouse, the cock birds still very aggressive & showy, with their red eye combs seemingly almost glowing!

A 2011 record mammal 'day-list' of 11 different species - Hedgehog, Rabbit, Brown Hare, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Reindeer, Bank Vole, Mountain Goat, Mountain Hare, Stoat, & Red Squirrel.

Kingfisher was a good local 'tick' , streaking low across a local loch - they are not a common bird in these parts.

Incoming migrant birds included: Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Common Sandpiper, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, & Redstart.

Crossbills were seen sporadically, with mainly 'fly-over' sightings, and just a couple of 'thru the scope' opportunities.

Golden eagles were also seen sporadically - they are actually harder to see in spring/summer than in winter, as they have so many more hours of available feeding time, so you need a little luck.....

Overall, I would say that April (especially the 2nd half) is one of the best months for wildlife-watching in this area - it's probably my favourite month of the whole year.

Friday, April 01, 2011

March 2011 started cold & wintry with lots of snow which thankfully, gradually disappeared from lower levels as the weather slowly warmed up as the month went on. We actually ended the month with temperature creeping into double figures, and though winter is coming to an end , this far north,it's not quite spring yet. With our winter visitor birds still lingering, and the first few summer visitor birds arriving, bird day-lists crept up into the 40's, with mammal day-list steady between 5 & 8.

Wildlife highlights included:

An amazing , (once in a lifetime?) encounter in a local forest with an incredibly impressive & aggressive cock Capercaillie, who displayed magnificently , allowing me the rare opportunity to photograph & video this iconic & very rare 'local speciality' at VERY close range (he approached me!), and really enjoy his tail-fanning, strutting, popping, belching antics as never before - up until the point that he obviously took exception to my presence & physically attacked me, forcing me to retreat to a safe distance - an unforgettable experience!!! (see pic)

Dawn chorus! After many months of virtually silent mornings, a combination of warmer, longer days & the urge to establish a territory & find a mate inspired our local songbirds to do their stuff & cheer us all up after a long, hard winter.

E.J., our local 'celebrity' Osprey returned to her nest at RSPB Loch Garten at the end of the month - here's hoping for another successful breeding season! Several other Ospreys were also reported in the last few days of the month.

Also returning to lochs in the area were other 'local specialities' such as Red- Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, & Slavonian Grebe - all very popular with my safari customers, especially as they are now in their superb summer plumage.

Tree Pipit, Wheatear & Sand Martin were all also reported for the first time this year.

The cock Black Grouse were becoming noticeably more showy, noisy & aggressive at their 'lek' sites as breeding season approaches.

Numbers of wader species such as Oystercatcher, Lapwing & Curlew were seen to visibly increase along local river floodplains, and much displaying was noted.

Our other (resident) 'local speciality' species - Crested Tit, Crossbill, Goldeneye, Dipper, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Golden Eagle, Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Mountain Hare etc continued to show well.

Whooper Swans continued to show well on favoured local lochs, though they will soon be leaving us for their breeding grounds farther north.

I managed a short trip down to south-east England towards the end of the month, mainly to visit relatives & friends, but I did manage to sneak in a few birding trips where I added a few species never or rarely found up north such as Wood lark, Nuthatch, Ring-Necked Parakeet etc to my year-list.