January in the Cairngorms

The first month of the year has been a mix of sunshine, showers, storms and snow. With the unseasonable weather continuing, buds are popping out on the tree and flowers and Snowdrops are brightening up our gardens.  We also welcomed back for the last season the BBC Winterwatch team from Abernethy, showing the best wildlife in the area.

Snowdrop in the snow (Kate M)
Parrot Crossbill (Duncan Macdonald)

Throughout December and January, there has been several Crossbill singing in the high treetops and displaying. Crossbill are early breeders, taking advantage of the best cones but with the unseasonably mild weather this displaying is early. Common and Parrot are the popular species to look for in the Cairngorms, with scientists still to determine the status of the Scottish. A close-up prolonged view of a Crossbill’s bill can help to distinguish between the species, but their flight call can be the deciding factor. So, watch out this month for Crossbill at the tops of the trees as they use their well-designed beaks to peel apart cones from pine trees.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

As I sat taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this January, I enjoyed listening to the drumming of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, first of the year. Between late January and April Woodpeckers will defend their territories for the breeding season ahead, by knocking their beaks at speed against trees. The sound echoes as they experiment with different surfaces, often hollow standing deadwood. Their skulls are cushioned so that they don’t get concussion from the continual drumming through the season. Other woodland birds have also started their spring songs with what has been a mild January, but I am sure they will get a shock when the cold weather eventually arrives in the Cairngorms.

Snow capped hills (Kate M)

With plants and wildlife getting confused by the milder weather, what will February bring? Follow us on social media or check out our website for information about day guiding in the area with us.