December in the Cairngorms

As the year comes to an end, we look back at December in the Cairngorms. With the festive period being in many people minds, it is also important to get into the countryside and observe what is going on in the natural world around us.

Mountain Hare standing out

Compared to the Winters of 2009/10, the past few Decembers have been relatively mild for the time of year. The days may have been cool but with only a couple of days of snow showers the mountains aren’t looking as white as they should be. May of 2019 had more snow than December and the hope of a white Christmas is becoming less of an occurrence. Keen skiers are missing the snow and so it the wildlife. Mountain species such as the Mountain Hare and Ptarmigan rely on the winter’s snow to stay camouflaged away from predators. They are harder to find with less snow as they head to the high plateaus to get more shelter.

Whooper Swan (DM)

There has been plenty of rainfall over the course of the month, causing inland flooding and new wetland areas to appear. Areas such as Insh Marshes stretches for miles and can hold a variety of winter visitors. Whooper Swan, Greylag geese and Wigeon are all common sights here in the winter months. However, with the high water levels a couple of Long-tailed ducks and an American Wigeon have stopped off here.

With the couple days of snow that we had in December, animal prints were visible in the fresh snow and following the pathways is a great way to see what nocturnal animals’ activity is like at this time of year. Mammals like the Badger and Pine Martens are quieter at this time of year but whether its their prints in snow or catching them on trial cameras, it’s always exciting to see them.

Pine Marten on Trailcam in the snow

As we move into a new year here at Speyside Wildlife we start to think towards a new year of holidays, day guiding and further sightings of nocturnal animals. To keep up to date on our activity during the year, follow us on social media and visit our website.