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  • Writer's pictureAilie Brown

Delightful December

Frosty mornings and cool crisp air decorates Speyside during the month of December. After colder nights, smaller birds are forced to forage for food early in the mornings. Bird feeders become a frenzy of activity. Bird watching, walking and generally being outside can help compete with long hours of darkness. Cold air and snow falling gives our scenery a sense of calm.

A spiders web covered in frost.
Intricate spiders webs can be seen in detail with frost (Ailie Brown)

Shorter daylight hours coupled with bare trees makes bird watching a breeze. Birds have a limited time to seek food and therefore can be a bit easier to spot. They then move onto their night-time shelter, often roosting in flocks. Bird boxes can be used for communal roosting for little Wrens and Tits.

A yew tree showing off its red berries.
Every part of the Yew is poisonous except for the fruit of the berries (Ailie Brown)

Berries on trees are a little less abundant than during Autumn, but can be found on the traditional Christmas bush of Holly. Blackbirds, Redwings, Feildfares feast of the harvest of red fruit. Yew trees show off lovely red arils (the names of their berries) as well. This is the only part of the plant which is not poisonous and attracts birds, squirrels and mice which also use the Yew’s bushiness for protection.

A view of marshes in afternoon sun light.
Marshes are home to a number of ducks, geese and birds of prey (Ailie Brown)

Winter in the Cairngorms is a wonderful time to spend in hides looking out over our wetlands. Marshes flood, making it home to many ducks, geese and birds of prey. Teal, Goldeneye, Mallards, Wigeon mix together while feeding and enjoying the cover of reeds. Geese and Roe Deer potter in surrounding fields and birds of prey such as the elusive Marsh Harrier hunt, causing disruption and chaos amongst the flocks of ditsy ducks.

Roe Deer are the same height as the tell grass, helping them to stay hidden.
Roe Deer are the same height as the tell grass, helping them to stay hidden (Ailie Brown)

Walking along the River Spey is my favourite place to be and my favourite type of habitat. Winter on the Spey sometimes throws up little surprises such as Otter and Kingfisher. Kingfishers stay in their breeding territories all year, however, when small lochs or streams freeze over, it forces them to move on in search of food, making it an ideal time to look out for the flashes of blue or a perched individual over an unfrozen area of water. Seldomly seen on the river, Otters tend to be fair weather creatures, so cold nights, snowy conditions, force otters to search for food on good days. More likely to be seen during the day during the Winter, these nocturnal and crepuscular mammals will be easier to spot in the month of December. The snow sometimes also gives them away! Our Guided Days Out offer the perfect opportunity to get outside and enjoy the Cairngorms National Park.

The river Spey with frost on the edges and trees in the background.
The River Spey with frosty fringes (Ailie Brown)

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