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Wildlife News from Upper Deeside
After a relatively mild winter the Red and Roe Deer look in good condition to start the new year, and with the exception of a Great Grey Shrike a few miles down the road and a hand full of Waxwing, there was little of bird excitement over the winter.
The improving weather saw the first hardy visitors of the year like Pied and Grey Wagtail together with the early waders like Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Curlew getting onto their territories and commencing display. The record breaking weather of the last week of March must have felt like summer was already here and then in the first week of April we find ourselves plunged into the depths of winter with 6'' of snow and freezing temperatures.
Such things do not deter the hardy Black Cock with excellent display continuing on most Lecks through out.
With the Ospreys back at Loch Garten we should be seeing them more regularly now and it should not be l;ong before the Wheatears and other smaller migrants make their return to brighten up the spring days!!
Red Deer Rut, Autumn at it's finest
The funny old weather of the summer look to have favoured the rutting Reds, with the stags looking in fantastic condition. A couple of "Imperials" (stags with 14 points on their antlers) were looking really fine amongst their "Royal" counterparts. These fine views of Scotland's most majestic of beasts was superbly supported by the Black Cock starting their displaying activity, ready for next year. The local Dippers caught the pre breeding bug, with a number of individuals starting to sing.
A constant steady stream of Scandinavian Thrushes, Redwing and Feildfare were supported by good numbers of Blackbirds on their migration through the area stripping the short supply of Rowan berries in no time.
A notable increase in Kestrels cropped up in mid October with numbers of individuals showing well together with the odd Hen Harrier and Goshawk. Golden Eagles were a little elusive but a couple of lucky clients got great views.
With the prospect of snow soon!!! the Mountain Hares and Ptarmigan have started to change their coats ready for the winter, hopefully the Snow Bunting flock should crop up again soon.
Summer! What summer
Although the weather has been "a little changeable" the wildlife continues to show well, The Black Grouse continue to display with peaks of 54 and 61 showing well, for a couple of photography parties (see gallery for some of the highlights). Scottish Crossbills also proved amenable and the Dippers in the area have well fledged young, as do a whole host of the other smaller species in the area. The Great Spotted Woodpeckers are bringing their young to the feeders in relays, at our base of operations, as are the Siskins and Greenfinches, whilst the Blackbirds are feeding their second brood and a new species for our base, Swallows are sitting tight, incubating eggs. Ospreys have been showing well in the valley, raising suspicions that they are breeding nearby.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG
The new year began as the old one finished, still with plenty of snow around. Whilst this can make spotting the wildlife easier against the white background, the roads were treacherous and the lay byes and pedestrian gates almost impossible to use! Fortunately this provided alternative entertainment with the Skiing at Glen Shee which has its' own wildlife highlights, Ptarmigan whilst tricky to see in their winter finery at least betrayed their presence with their wonderful growling calls. Snow Buntings, flocking up and fluttering around the main Car Park looking for tit bits, and the Mountain Hares copying the Ptarmigan with their hide and seek mentality.
The feeding statiion at our base continued to provide entertainment with the Great Spotted Woodpecker putting in an appearance from time to time and the local party of Long Tailed Tits cropping up several times a day, showing off their agility with all manner of acrobatic antics.
Autumn Highlights 2010
The last few weeks have seen some fantastic Red Deer Rutting spectacles, and for a hand full of clients, some of whom have been coming to this area for 20 + years, this
was still a first time experience. The early morning sorties, (07.30 isn't too bad!)· showed these magnificent animals off to their best, in all of their testosterone filled glory! The sounds of the roaring stags was as much of an experience as the views gained through the telescope. Two of these trips were lucky enough to see Golden Eagle and most trips managed to see views of Black Grouse, on a couple of occasions these birds were even indulging in some unseasonal display.
Other wildlife news from the area included the seasonal movements of good numbers of Redwing, Mistle Thrush and· Fieldfare, the latter species in lesser numbers. A pair of Peregrines were interacting with each other and upsetting the local Buzzards over "DNA base of operations", whilst the local male Dipper was having an early season tune up on the Dee River which is in spate at the moment. The Great Spotted Woodpecker continues to visit our feeders together with increasing numbers of small birds has excited the interest of the local Sparrowhawk.
All in all there is still plenty to see, if one picks the right day weather wise, and with the early snow showers , this only adds to the scenic beauty of the trips!
The fantastic Spring highlights of the breeding birds with their attendant songs, displays and interaction with their young gave superb ornithological spectacles.
As we now enter autumn with the changable weather, the comencement of the various shooting seasons of game bird and deer, some of these species become harder to find and the experienced eye must search that little harder for those wildlife highlights. Luck can play its part however with some lucky clients being placed in the right spot at the right time to see 2 Otters playing in the water below the bridge the Discovery was parked on, The highlight of the year so far but with no camera at hand, one to escape recording for all to see!
Other notable highlights have included arial battles between Golden Eagle and Peregrine, many family parties of Buzzard, Dipper and Grey Wagtail, Ptarmigan and many Mountain Hare this year.
The Autumn Red Deer rut is almost upon us, velvet has been shed from antlers and whilst roaring has been a little absent so far, Stags have been strutting their stuff, parallel walking and making great show of their good condition, with a hand full of minor skirmishes.
Autumn migration will soon be here and with the quantities of Rowan berries weighing down the bows, it should be another bumper year for the Scandinavian thrush migration.
The garden feeding station has got busier as the year has progressed, the pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers that nested across the river on Balmoral estate appearing more frequently and now returning with their offspring to take advantage of the home made peanut feeders. Our first Red Squirrel started to visit about a month ago and whist he became a regular at the time, he seems to have found pastures new. We must hope he does not go the same way of our infrequent Pine Marten, who having visited once or twice (leaving a calling card to prove the fact). We must assume was the same one that was found a couple of weeks later dead at the side of the road about 400metres along the road, in very close proximity to a road kill rabbit! Time will tell weather there are more Martens out there!
With the roads and more importantly the lay-byes becoming clear of snow and ice there was greater enthusiasm for getting out and chasing that illusive wildlife.
On Safari, the Red Deer have begun to shed their antlers as the new ones are growing through and the Roeare well on the way to finishing the growth of their new set of rutting gear. Both species seem to be a little behind the normal time scle of things and one can only guess it is down to the late snows of March holding things back. The Buzzardsare well in to their displays and the Glen Muick Trrecreeperswere buisy re lining their old nest in the barn, oblivious of my transfixed clients watching on.
The latest safari of the month was a bit of a gem with all the target species cropping up in the right places and performing well, including the Black Cockdisplaying in good numbers on a couple of Lecks, Snipe drumming and Crossbills showing themselves of in the early spring sunshine, Whilst Ptarmigan and Ring Ouzel,though allways hoped and looked for, are far from garanteed! These two species put in an appearance to boost one of my oldest and most regular clients' list for her trip!
Whilst spring dragged it's heels in coming, with continued cold spells, the early arriving migrants like Wheatear, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, might have wished not to have rushed back from Africa quite so much.
Despite the cold, the garden birds began to sing and Robin, Blackbird and Chaffinchhave been buisy nest building, the Robin making use of my open fronted nest box. Initial observations have also shown Great and Bluetits in a couple of other boxes and·one looks forward to the arrival of some of the other spring hole nesters return.
With the worrst winter on record for nearly 50 years, the large quantities of snow limited the oportunities for safaris and guided walks in the early part of the year.
Fortunatley working at Glen Shee ski resort helps to keep the wolf from the door and great opportunities to refresh my sking skills and get some exercise too, Golden Eagle, Ptargigan and Snow Buntinghelped to keep the birding interrest going!
Wildlife watching was restricted but the quantities of snow gave addvantages in terms of tracking movements and in some cases helped to show certain species activities up to a greater extent.
Otter tracks showed up along most sections of the Dee, proving their presence but not making them any easier to see!! Their activities were also indicated by the remains·of a Salmon tail in the field below·the house, in close proximity to their regular sprainting spot!
Red and Roe deer have been visiting the woods behind the house and the harsh conditions brought in many species of bird to the feeders including Mr and Mrs Great Spotted Woodpecker and George & Mildred, the pair of Red Legged Partridge who are doing a great job at clearing up any of the spilt bird food.
November may seem like a month when wildlife starts to be less visible, however despite the autumn storms we have been seeing big numbers of members of the thrush family migrating through the area having crossed the North Sea from Scandinavia. Fieldfare and Redwing have been the most noticeable, moving through in flocks of 100's at a time.· The Rowan bushes with their heavy burden of berries have taken their fancy and there are a couple of pictures I managed to get by staking out one of the trees with a hide (available to view in the gallery). The action moved on as quickly as it started with the tree near my house cleared of berries in only three days.
Highlight of this month so far however, was the sightings of OTTER and WILDCAT whilst out on separate Safaris. The latter was a lucky sighting, right place - right time. The otter was as a result of deliberate searchingthe right location paying dividends, although watching the creature for 20 minutes at 10.30 in the morning did come as a bit·of a surprise!
The Red Squirrels have been very active recently, collecting and cacheing peanuts from the feeders ready for the winter ahead. The changing weather has brought in more birds to the feeders including Brambling, another Scandinavian visitor, similar to a·Chaffinch but much more colourful.
Here are some fantastic wildlife photographs as a taster, now·published in a new gallery page together with many more, why not check them out soon.
Highlights in September included Golden Eagles interacting with their young on the wing, Tens of thousands of thrushes migrating in from the continent Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird. The Red Deer Rut in full swing, with the roar of the stags echoing across the glens and the crash of antlers as they come to blows over the rights of the females!
|Last Updated on Friday, 08 June 2012 14:22|