April in the Cairngorms

April has been unseasonably warm and dry as I am sure a lot of us appreciate as we spend more time at home or outside. This does mean that in the Cairngorms there have been some interesting wildlife sightings by our guides as we notice the wildlife on our doorsteps with the mild southern winds drawing in summer migrants.

Cuckoo (Simon Eaves)

As we spend time home we are noticing, more than ever, the wildlife on our doorsteps. The dawn chorus of birds has been starting before five in the morning and we are enjoying the birds at our feeders, as well as noticing what is flying overhead. It’s great to see Blackcap, Willow Warbler and even an unusual sighting of Waxwings to our gardens while our guide Simon heard this cuckoo on his doorstep on the 19th of April, equalling his earliest ever in Speyside. This is a notable sighting as the fine weather has meant more migrants have started arriving early. The earliest recorded cuckoo in Speyside in recent years was the 8th of April in 2004.

Close up Slow Worm in bush

Having more time on our hands, and nice weather, a lot of us have taken to our gardens doing odd jobs, gardening and of course keeping an eye out for wildlife. One fascinating sight was this Slow Worm as it emerged from hibernation and it was fantastic to get such a close view as it stayed in the same place all day soaking up the sun. It was unusual to see it in a bush as they are normally seen in grass or on stone paths, this one spent its day in an elevated location. In the garden stream the first frog spawn has appeared. As the first tadpole started to emerge, they appeared to congregate in the middle of the spawn as a way of presumably keeping warm from the running water.

Tadpoles congregating in the centre of spawn
Wood Anemone, Wood Sorrel and Common Dog Violet

April is a month when the countryside starts to become full of colour as new tree buds start to emerge and wildflowers fill the ground with colour. A stroll round the garden or on daily walks and seeing wildflowers such as wood anemone, primrose and wood sorrel opening. If you have been following our daily Facebook-live videos you may have seen Roy introducing a variety of flowers including the Common Dog Violet, a delicate purple flower common in grassland and woodland clearings. Moths and butterflies begin to take flight, such as Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Orange tip. Guide Duncan was out a family walk near his home taking note of the richness of butterflies when he saw this Comma butterfly. There are not many Comma records in the highlands, but they are creeping north so hopefully they will become more regular.

Comma Butterfly (Duncan Macdonald)

If you would like to follow our social media videos you can find the link through our website, where we would love you to share your recent sightings.