Temperatures in the Cairngorms this month have barely got above zero degrees Celsius, looking set to remain through February. Along with temperatures, the snow has turned our landscape into a winter wonderland as winter really takes hold in the Cairngorms National Park. With thermals on, exploring our local patch has been breath-taking but very cold.
Most wildlife has been keeping as warm as possible by not venturing too far, but evidence of them has been everywhere. Footprints, digging marks and even wing marks from a Pheasant has been fascinating to identify and gives us an insight into what the wildlife is doing without seeing the animal. Sally enjoyed her local walk around Loch Garten where tracks on the frozen loch and in the snow turned out to be Otter. They are very elusive in the area, so it is great to see that they remain active. There have been plenty of Badger tracks from the doorstep, Pine Marten and Brown Hare.
The bitterly cold nights have been making the garden birds very hungry. If you have visited the Cairngorms you may know of the very tame Coal Tits that love to eat seeds from your hand, or in this case, the top of your hat. Sometimes Crested Tits even come down close to where the food is. Over the weekend Speyside Wildlife and many in the UK took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. An important citizen science project to help our garden bird populations and observe those in decline. Highlights of our watch were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Sparrowhawk and even Red Squirrel.
At a time when we are staying close to home, it is great when the wildlife comes to you. The Winter visitor from Scandinavia, the Waxwing, has made an appearance locally feeding on berry-rich foliage. These three have stayed around since the new year and the sunshine really shows off their crests and beautiful colours. One evening whilst watching the sun setting over a frozen Insh Marshes reserve one of our guides spotted something emerging from small holes in the ice. It was an Otter that had ventured onto the ice and could be seen running to each reed bed in hope of food.
The ice and snow conditions have been nice to explore especially when we are not travelling anywhere. The ice crystals that have formed on surfaces, sparkling in the low winter sunshine and tree branches weighed down with heavy snow were like a scene from Narnia. We hope you can visit us soon, but until then enjoy our updates on our blog and Speyside Wildlife Facebook page.