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

Thursday, June 30, 2022

June 2022 saw us enjoy another decent month of weather in this area, with the winds generally light, plenty of dry sunny weather, with  just the odd breezy or drizzly day, and with no extremes experienced, it was pretty much ideal for wildlife-watching.

It should be noted though, that it can be pretty cool early in the mornings after a clear night, and we even had a slight ground frost on one occasion, so layers of clothing is still recommended.

With nearly 20 hours of usable daylight and all of our summer visiting bird species on territory, bird day-lists are usually just below the highest in the year now, with full-day (8-10 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' up here - so if you enjoy seeing baby birds, this is definitely the month to visit!

A visit to SWT Handa island on the 1st of the month, gave me another chance to enjoy the beautiful west coast scenery,  spectacular seabird colonies and add Great and Arctic Skua to my 2022 year-list.

The combination of plenty of sun and occasional rain this month gave the spectacular highland scenery a lush, green, almost spring-like appearance, and kept the river levels topped-up, whilst the wild flowers are finally starting to bloom now, and a few patches of purple heather began to appear on south-facing banks towards the end of the month.

A few more butterfly and day-flying moth species were noted on the sunnier days,

A picturesque Highland loch

To give you an idea of what you may realistically hope to see if you are considering a future June 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 June's will help....clicking on the picture enlarges it to full-screen. 

Local speciality/upland bird species seen regularly during the month included:

Osprey, Red Grouse, Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Goldeneye and D|pper, with a few hard-earned sightings of Ring Ouzel, and Crossbills, just a couple of glimpses of Crested Tits and one brief early morning encounter with a female Black Grouse with chicks....sadly, but not unusually,  Capercaillie was not seen at all, and , as is normal for this time of year, we only managed a couple of brief distant views of Golden Eagle and White-Tailed Eagle....

Mammal species seen regularly included:

Rabbit, Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Reindeer, and feral Mountain Goatand we also had a few early-morning sightings of Brown Hare and one of Mountain Hare , Whilst a trip to the  west coast  produced views of both types of Seal.

June 2022 bird sightings in more detail:

On the lochs...

Midsummer at a local loch

Osprey family

Osprey delivering fish

Osprey by Chris Hole

Osprey delivering top-up nest material

Osprey with partly-eaten Trout

Osprey is usually the 'star bird' of the mid-summer months up here, and that proved to be the case this month, with my safari parties often fortunate enough to see them sat in, on or around their nest, occasionally plunge-diving spectacularly to catch a fish, or delivering a fish or more nest material to the nest on several occasions, and from mid month we started to see the rapidly growing 'downy' youngsters heads popping up in the nests for the first time this year....a marvelous and heart-warming sight!

Slavonian Grebe family

Slavonian Grebes

Slavonian Grebes, in their beautiful summer plumage, were seen and enjoyed regularly From a safe, legal and respectable distance,  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 were delighted to confirm much-needed breeding success for this (UK-wise) rare and threatened species, when we got to see the incredibly cute humbug-striped youngsters early in the month...

A typically distant view of Black-Throated Diver

Young Black-Throated Divers

A rare close-up shot of a Black-Throated Diver

Black-Throated Divers in their strikingly beautiful summer plumage, were seen reasonably regularly on suitable secluded local lochs,  though they were not totally reliable, and it should be noted that generally we had our best views on calmer days, with little or no ripple on the water, and usually had the closest encounters early in the day, when human disturbance was it it's lowest...and thankfully we were able to confirm local breeding success when one pair were spotted with 2 cute grey chicks on the 11th....

Red-Throated Diver

Red-Throated Divers, however, proved to be a bit elusive this month, with just a couple of very distant views achieved, and no evidence of any local breeding success confirmed yet...

Goldeneye family

Goldeneye too are a 'local speciality' breeding bird, with Highland Scotland their only UK breeding area, and our local nest boxes proving popular, we enjoyed good views of families of these very attractive little ducks throughout the month.

Up on the moors....

A rainbow over a Cairngorms moorland

Female Red Grouse with 3 chicks by Chris Hole

Male Red Grouse by Chris Hole

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 popping up like periscopes above the dense heather, waited patiently, and looked carefully, you then usually got to see their brood of very cute, fast-growing youngsters too...

A rarely seen female Black Grouse

Black Grouse generally only show at dawn between midwinter and the end of May, but we got very lucky early in the morning on the 20th, when we happened across a female with 3 chicks crossing a track...

In the Caledonian forests...

Nice light in a local Caledonian forest

Crested Tit by Bob Smith - Photo from June 2016

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, but please be aware that they are extremely 'flitty', rarely sitting still for photo opportunities, often only alerting us to their presence in the Caledonian pine forests with their distinctive rippling trills.... and 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!!

Female Crossbill

Probably my best ever photo of a male Crossbill!

The same could definitely be said of 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....although most of our sighting were of the frustrating fly-over variety, we actually got lucky and managed decent sightings on a number of occasions this month, and even had a few rare photo opportunities!!

As is usual, we failed to manage  any sightings of Capercaillie this month,.....

Please note: In order to help protect them and keep sensitive sites 'off the radar', I no longer take clients on specific Capercaillie-hunting missions, and although we do visit suitable areas of forest, I would only rate our chances of seeing one on my safaris as "very slim" at best, and during 'lekking' and breeding season, I will be 'responsible'  by staying out of 'sensitive' areas at dawn between April and July to allow this now very rare and elusive bird to (hopefully) lek and breed in peace....

In the birch woods:

A local birch wood

Male Pied Flycatcher

Singing male Pied Flycatcher by Steve Nicklin

Although Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher are more usually found in the ancient Atlantic oak woods on the west coast of the UK, we are usually fortunate to get a few in our local birch woods from May-August, and with a bit of persistence, and by using our ears to follow their distinctive calls and songs, we managed to get a few decent views of Pied Flycatcher on and off throughout the month, and although I haven't actually seen any fledglings, their behaviour suggested that they are feeding young...

Wood Warbler - photo from June 2017

Wood Warbler however, has proved unusually difficult for me, and most other local birders, to find locally this year, and I am sad to say that I have yet to see, or even hear one yet....so I have include a photo from a previous June for illustration purposes...

On the rivers...

The River Spey


Feeding time for a young Dipper - Photo by Steve Nicklin

Dippers featured reasonably frequently on my safaris this month, with our local rivers often producing decent close-up views of  adults with beaks full of food, and 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 in the north and west of the UK.


With a UK distribution similar to Dipper, Goosanders too, are a bit of a local speciality, and we were fortunate to see some good sized family groups from mid-month...

Up in the glens...

Midsummer in a beautiful local upland glen

Soaring sub-adult Golden Eagle

Perched sub-adult White-Tailed Eagle

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 with 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 them 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...but we did manage to get a couple of distant views of sub-adult examples of both Eagle species..... 

A hunting Short-Eared Owl

Red Kite

Common Buzzard

Other birds of prey seen reasonably regularly on my safaris this month included OspreyCommon BuzzardKestrel, Sparrowhawk,  and Red Kite , with a couple of glimpse of Peregrine, and just one view of a Short-Eared Owl on the 21st...but I have still yet to see a Merlin this year!!

Up in the mountains....

A  spectacular view from Cairngorm Mountain summit

Snow Bunting - Photo from June 2015

Dotterel by Bob Smith - Photo from June 2016

Male Ptarmigan - Photo from June 2016

June is probably the best month to have a chance of seeing all 3 of our mountain top bird species in one trip  - PtarmiganDotterel and Snow Bunting -  It should be noted though, that the Cairngorm Funicular railway is still out of action and is undergoing major repairs , meaning no Ranger-led Guided walks from the top, which instead, means a long, steep and gruelling walk up from the car park, and I only managed one trek, on the23rd,  on which I saw several Ring Ouzels , 2 Snow Buntings and a Wheatear, but sadly , and despite much searching, 'dipped-out' on  Ptarmigan And Dotterel....similarly to this time last year,  it was incredibly dry up there and possibly lacking in suitable food, but I thought I would include a few photos from previous June sightings, to give you an idea of what is (or used to be) possible ...

Please be aware though, that several (5+) miles  of strenuous hill-walking is required, so a good level of physical fitness is needed, and some basic survival/navigation skills preferable, as well as suitably friendly weather, 

Male Ring Ouzel

Young Ring Ouzels waiting to be fed - Photo by Colin Mount from June 2017

At slightly lower levels, but generally still above 1,500ft/450m,  Ring Ouzels can often be seen in their upland and mountainside habitat, especially early in the day before human disturbance, though when compared to April and May they are now  definitely harder to find, as most will no longer be singing or calling, and sightings are mainly restricted to adult birds collecting beakfuls of worms to take to their newly fledged youngsters.

On farmland....

Typical local farmland

Curlew chick - Photo by Colin Mount from June 2017

Lapwing chick by Jan shields - Photo from June 2017


Plenty of  Oystercatcher and Lapwing families were seen, though Curlews seem to be in smaller numbers than in previous years....

Other good/scarce birds seen/reported locally this month included:

A Red-Necked Phalarope, a long-Tailed Skua, a Black Redstart and a Garden warbler....

A few photos of more common birds seen locally this month: 

Tree Pipit


Common Sandpiper

Siskin by Steve Nicklin

Spotted Flycatcher by Steve Nicklin

Adventures 'out of area':

Handa Island

Handa Island

Being quite busy with safaris, I didn't have too many opportunities to venture far this month, but did manage one trip up to the north-west coast to SWT's wonderfully remote and beautiful  Handa Island.

Common Guillemots



Arctic Skua

Great Skua

Black-Throated Divers and Red-Throated Divers were seen on lochans en route, and  Ringed Plovers and Common Sandpipers  were seen feeding around Tarbet harbour car park, and even the short ferry crossing gave us super close-up views of Arctic TernsSeals, and Common Guillemot , and once on the island,  we went on to see more Red-Throated Divers,  SnipeRed Grouse,  WheatearsSkylarksArctic Skuas and Great Skuas nesting on the moors. 

Once at the impressively high (350ft+) cliffs and coastal stacks, we were treated to the unique sights, sounds (and smells!) of a seabird city, with good numbers of  FulmarsKittiwakesRazorbillsGuillemots  and yes, a few of everybody's favourite - Puffins!

June 2022 mammal sightings in more detail:

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrels always prove to be popular with my safari clients, with many seeing them for the first time while out with me. Feeding stations well stocked with peanuts always give you the best chance, but we often get a few random sightings whilst walking or driving through suitable forest habitat too...

Red Deer stags

Red Deer hinds with a youngster - Photo from June 2020

My clients always love to see Red Deer too, with the iconic 'Monarch of the glen' stags being a sought-after sighting, and although they are not at their magnificent best as they are still growing new antlers at this time of year, they still proved popular, as did the large groups of hinds gathered in their favourite birthing areas, with the first new-born youngsters.... 

Feral Mountain Goats

Feral Mountain Goats are rare across much of the UK, being a living remnant from the crofting age, and largely confined to remote upland areas, but we managed to see them on a good number of our trips this month

Roe Deer Doe with youngster

Roe Deer are actually reasonably common across much of the UK, but their nervous, wary, crepuscular nature, means that they are rarely seen well, unless you are out and about early or late in the day....

Brown Hare

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 managed a few decent views in quieter locations...

Mountain Hare

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

Carrot time for Murdo!

Hairy Highland Coo's always prove to be popular with my safari clients, especially those who do not have them close to home, so don't be afraid to ask me if you fancy going to see them, and maybe even get to feed and 'pat' them,  as I have a couple of great sites....

Rare/nocturnal mammals:

Badgers - Seen at a local dusk hide

I get a few enquiries about the possibility of seeing  Badgers and  Pine Marten from my safari clients, many of whom I suspect are unaware that they are actually a largely nocturnal creature, and although we do get the occasional (maybe one or two a year) dawn glimpse of one, you would definitely have a much higher chance of seeing them at a specific dusk Badger/Pine Marten watching hide - Please contact me for more information.

Similarly, our inland Otters too are mainly active during the hours of darkness, and again, although we do get a few early-morning sightings on local lochs and rivers each year, looking for them feeding in a suitably quiet, kelp - filled bay on the coast on a rising tide, but at any time of day, would give you a much better chance.

Whilst we are still on the 'tricky to see stuff', the Scottish Wildcat too, as well as being incredibly rare now, is also generally nocturnal, and the fact that I have had a mere handful of  (dawn or dusk) sightings in 18 years of providing wildlife safaris should give you an idea of how difficult they are to see.

Other wildlife:

Small Copper by Bob Smith

Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary by Bob Smith

Red Admiral

Common Spotted Orchid

Midsummer is peak time for butterflies and wild flowers in this area, and a typical June, given some sunny and calm days, usually sees us enjoying sightings of  Red Admiral, PeacockPearl-Bordered Fritillary,  Small CopperCommon Blue and Orange Tip among others, ...and a splendid range of wild flowers including  several types of Orchids....

Leaping Atlantic Salmon - Photo by Margaret Holland from June 2016

Midsummer is also a good time to witness leaping Atlantic Salmon making their way up to the spawning grounds in the upper reaches of Highland rivers. They can be seen well at a number of well known sites...

The iconic Scottish Thistles are now beginning to look their best


The BIG news is that all tourism/hospitality/activities in Scotland are open , are now  free of restrictions  and that I have now completed over a year of (thankfully!) increasingly busy and extremely enjoyable safaris with clients with no major issues arising.

With all national travel restrictions lifted too, Scotland is officially 'open for business' for visitors from all over the UK, and from abroad.

For those considering a visit, these wildlife/outdoor tourism websites may prove useful:


NatureScot (outdooraccess-scotland.scot)

Can Nature Help Health? | Nature Prescriptions - YouTube

Scotland, Yours to Enjoy. Responsibly. - YouTube

Cairngorms National Park Authority

Highland Wildlife Park


The Scottish Highlands has had very few COVID-19 cases in comparison to most of the UK, and on my safaris we tend to visit remote , wild habitats well away from the more popular tourist areas, and usually have very little interaction with other people, and this is something that I intend to continue.

Midsummer in the Cairngorm Mountains


Looking back through my photos whilst compiling this blog report, I think it is fair to say that June 2022 was certainly another excellent month of wildlife watching, with a splendid variety of wildlife seen, and mostly in good weather. It was certainly great to see the much-needed breeding success of some of our rarer bird species , to  utter a few "ahhhs" at the cute fledglings of so many more common birds,  and  enjoy the feelgood factor of just spending time out and about enjoying the long summer days in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park among all the lovely wild flowers and spectacular scenery....  but... the real highlight for me , as always, was sharing it with other like-minded people from all round the world, seeing their smiles and hearing the occasional sharp intake of breath, or "wow" as they saw something special.....


I know a lot of visitors to this area very wisely check out reviews of attractions/experiences at Tripadvisor before 'taking the plunge' and booking - We now have over 250 reviews online, so if you wish, you can check out our clients comments at the link below....



Buying my photos:

Prints of any of the photos (taken by myself) shown on this blog, going right back to 2015,  reproduced on high quality photographic paper,  with a choice of sizes up to A3, and satin pearl or glossy finishes available, can now be purchased from me at very reasonable prices. So if you see an image that might look nice in a frame (provided by yourself) on your wall, please make a note of the year and month of my blog in which it appeared, and email me for more information.

Gift Certificates:

Safari gift voucher

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 as full or part-payment for an excursion, and are valid at any time subject to my availability, with a one year from purchase expiry date.