December days are short, so it is good to make the most of the daylight hours and fresh air to go wildlife watching. Although we have been staying to closer to home, watching birds in the garden, short walks close to home have been beneficial to get out of the house. We had some calm weather with frost and snowfall to end the year, making for some gorgeous scenes and interesting things to look out for in December.
Coast Waders (Lapwing, Oystercatchers, Curlew)
Before current restrictions, we managed to run our winter wildlife course, where a field day took us to the coast near Inverness. Our coastlines are full of waders during the winter months, the milder shores essential for feeding. If you manage to catch the tide at a good time, you can have an era of waders pushing in towards you as they follow the shallow water to feed. You may even be lucky to spot an Otter! Waders that we find inland in the Cairngorms during summer move to the coast, including Oystercatchers, Lapwing and Curlew. We were lucky to see some beautiful scenes as well like this sunset.
One of the crisp calm mornings, Simon and I wrapped up and took a walk into the northern corries of the Cairngorms to look for Ptarmigan that may have moved down in the cold spell. Unfortunately, they managed to elude us that day, but in the low winter sunshine, a Mountain Hare stood out. In its full winter coat, it was failing to be camouflaged amongst the copper heather. It did give us great views and was still in the same spot two hours later on the return trip. A small flock of Snow Buntings was another highlight and Reindeer feeding near the car park!
Snowy woodland path
Pine Marten prints in the fresh snow
Later in the month, the snow came just in time for Christmas, creating a winter wonderland for locals. As mentioned in a previous blog, fresh overnight snow is a great way of looking for wildlife from your doorstep. Footprints from birds, Red Squirrels or other exciting mammals like Badger and Pine Marten Even taking a small walk through the woods to enjoy the sights of the fresh white snow sticking to the tree branches, and the crunching of snow underneath your feet.
Hopefully, the snow stays for a little longer for us to enjoy on our daily walks and watch from the windows. Keep up to date with our blog and follow us on social media for future posts.